What if, during their disastrous first proposal, Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet were hit by a real disaster – a flash flood that trapped them together in Hunsford Parsonage? How would they respond? How would they survive together? And would they still, against all odds, learn to love one another?
Many Austen fans will by now be familiar with Abigail Reynolds’ series, The Pemberley Variations, a group of novels which reimagine how the events of Pride and Prejudice might have been different if only one or two details were changed. In the ninth installment, Mr. Darcy’s Refuge, Darcy travels to Hunsford Parsonage to propose to Elizabeth, but this time, he makes his way through a rainstorm. After he finishes confessing his love for Elizabeth and, in the process, insulting her family, Elizabeth begins to refuse him when disaster strikes. The storm outside has become a deluge, flooding Hunsford, forcing the villagers up to the high ground of the parsonage, and blocking the road to Rosings. Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy are now trapped together in this house, forced to care for Mr. Collins’ parishioners and to live together in this painfully awkward situation until the flood waters recede.
I don’t think it’s giving away too much to say that by the time the weather improves, these two have come together (Darcy and Elizabeth will always find a way), but then other obstacles begin to stack against them. Though Mr. Darcy is not reliant on his family’s support, they all heap their disapproval on him anyway. Lady Catherine makes an appearance to register her annoyance with the marriage, while her brother, the Earl of Matlock (Colonel Fitzwilliam’s father) appears on the scene and offends everyone with his crude suggestions about the couple’s engagement. Mr. Bennet also makes his way through the flood waters to condemn the match (Mr. Darcy has not asked his permission, after all) and then spends the rest of the novel attempting to forbid his most favored daughter from marrying Mr. Darcy. Continue reading