From the desk of Katie Jackson:
For a Pride and Prejudice enthusiast, there is nothing quite like an unusually talkative and passionate Mr. Darcy to pique one’s interest. And it becomes particularly intriguing when the story is told almost exclusively from his perspective. Ironically, it is perhaps his most blundering speech that is mercifully interrupted in this variation, A Timely Elopement, from master storyteller Joana Starnes.
The tale begins in the parlor at Hunsford Parsonage near Rosings Park in Kent with the only two occupants; a visibly agitated Mr. Darcy and a startled and wary Elizabeth Bennet. Darcy has been at Rosings with his cousin Colonel Fitzwilliam to visit their aunt Lady Catherine de Bourgh and their cousin Anne, while Elizabeth visits her friend Charlotte Lucas, newly married to Elizabeth’s cousin and one-time suitor, Mr. Collins, Lady Catherine’s parson.
Darcy’s unexpected and ardent marriage proposal to Elizabeth is fortunately interrupted just before he manages to insult her with his ungentlemanlike manner, although she cannot forget that morning’s revelation from an unwitting Colonel Fitzwilliam that Darcy’s intervention had ruined her sister Jane’s chances for happiness with his friend Charles Bingley. Colonel Fitzwilliam barges in at that fortuitous moment to announce, “We have reason to fear that Anne has eloped. To own the truth, with Wickham.” (Kindle 82) Shock settles over the group as they consider the dire situation of Anne de Bourgh, known only as a sickly but wealthy heiress, possibly eloping with George Wickham. Lady Catherine later exclaims, “All saints preserve us! A steward’s son! What was the girl thinking?” (Kindle 496) Unbeknownst to her, he was the same fiend who had attempted to elope with Darcy’s sister Georgiana, also a wealthy heiress, from Ramsgate the previous summer. Thus, Darcy ceases his proposal just after confessing his love for Elizabeth. He briefly apprises her of the previous situation between his sister and Wickham before hurrying off to search for Anne, unaware that his aunt is about to summon his ladylove to accompany her to London for the same purpose.
Lady Catherine in distraught-mother mode has as acerbic a tongue as one might imagine. Nonetheless, the two ladies have a frank conversation during their travels, and there are surprising hints of a softer heart hidden away beneath Lady Catherine’s sharp exterior. When she discovers her brother’s London home is unexpectedly occupied with revelers, Lady Catherine and Elizabeth find themselves the unannounced houseguests of Mr. Darcy at his London townhome, Darcy House. The circumstances allow Elizabeth to become comfortably acquainted with his sister Georgiana, as well as to have another private conversation with Darcy.
“The reversal was uncanny: she, lost for words – he, more communicative than ever. Uncanny and bordering on the alarming. Finding herself lost for words was a profoundly alien sensation. She did not like it in the slightest. At her continued silence, he said softly, ‘I see I am making you uncomfortable. I should beg your pardon for speaking too freely, both now and a few minutes ago. But I have longed to speak my mind for a fair while. And it is a vast relief to do so.’” (Kindle 730)
Darcy is completely oblivious of her feelings regarding his overbearing manner and his prejudice against those he views as her inferior relations. He is thrilled by her presence in his home and envisions a lovely future together there. Little does he realize that his arrogant pursuit of Elizabeth has rankled her beyond all endurance, and she requests to move to her Aunt and Uncle Gardiner’s house in Cheapside. It will require an epiphany with a “violent surge of self-recriminations” (Kindle 2073) to open Darcy’s eyes, both to the reality of his own romantic hopes as well as the astonishing story behind Anne’s timely elopement.
I thoroughly enjoyed this talkative version of Mr. Darcy. He was done admiring Elizabeth’s fine eyes from across the room, and his words, although often ill-judged, just overflowed. However, it was at times quite aggravating to experience the story from his perspective. He was utterly devoted to Elizabeth throughout, but he was also utterly delusional. “As for the depth of his devotion, what greater proof of it was he to give than his willingness to align himself with indecorous country bumpkins and a number of tradespeople?” (Kindle 901) Darcy was attracted to Elizabeth without initially understanding that much of what made her the person he loved was directly influenced by those she held most dear. His eventual epiphany and contrition were satisfying to witness. “She verily glowed tonight because she was happy. What sort of a selfish beast would take this away from her, and expect her to find ample compensation in what he had to offer?” (Kindle 2076) This was a lovely and thought-provoking story about wholeheartedly committing to understanding the depths and nuances of a loved one on the journey to a beautiful happily-ever-after.
4 out of 5 Stars
A Timely Elopement: A Pride and Prejudice Variation, by Joana Starnes
Independently Published (June 3, 2020)
eBook (175) pages
Cover image courtesy of Joana Starnes © 2020; text Katie Jackson © 2020, Austenprose.com