Unequal Affections

By Lara S. Ormiston

Why did he have to be so charming in some ways and so insufferable in others? She was sure she had hurt far more than just his pride. Would it always be so hard?

I admired and enjoyed this alternative imagining of Elizabeth and Darcy’s romance very much. Very. What if Elizabeth took the more practical approach of her friend Charlotte and accepted Darcy’s proposal at Hunsford?

She had been proposed to by a stranger. A very rich, very handsome stranger who was very much in love with her. She could not possibly accept him—but, suddenly, she could not possibly refuse him either, not now. This was, she knew clearly, a chance unlike any other she would ever receive. She could not turn him down for the satisfaction of it. She had to think.

You will need fear nothing as my wife, neither poverty nor loneliness, dishonor, or disloyalty, unkindness, neglect . . . you will be the most cherished wife in all of England.”

Who could resist such a declaration? She’s only human. After a week of soul-searching, she accepts Darcy. Not only for the good she can do her family, especially Jane, but because she starts to see Darcy in a new light. She thought he despised her. She was so wrong. How else has she misjudged him? Before she can truly come to love Darcy as he ardently wishes, he has to change. And changing the habits and attitudes of a lifetime is by necessity slow going. But I never found it tedious. It really felt like this is how it would have gone. In the original, Elizabeth’s words in summarily rejecting Darcy’s proposal shake him to the core, and he starts to change. Just as ”the letter” starts Elizabeth on her path. In this book, it is a much different process. How Elizabeth finally gets through to him is a great scene.

As for Darcy, he had been completely unable to speak. Elizabeth’s words had cut through him like knives, shaming him deeply, and shame was not an emotion he was accustomed to experiencing…Was it possible that he, who had studied throughout his life to improve his mind and character, had overlooked such an essential flaw?…He had not understood her then, but he did now. His refusal to talk was an active unkindness, a deliberate slight on the value of those he had thought beneath him. He had not thought their feelings even worth the effort of a few polite remarks and a smile or two. He certainly had not been willing to consider lowering his own dignity to promote theirs. Nor . . . his brows furrowed deeply in pain . . . nor to promote Elizabeth’s happiness either.

This book includes many high points of Austen’s novel. Particularly delicious is this version of Lady Catherine De Burgh and Elizabeth’s confrontation in the garden. And in this one, we have Darcy’s reaction to his aunt’s unmitigated gall and ill manners “which rather threw anything anyone in the Bennet family had ever done in the shade” when he walks into the middle of the fray. All of the characters remain true to Austen’s creations. And the more time we spend with Mr. Bennet and Lydia the more contemptible they are revealed to be. I liked how Lizzie started seeing her father more clearly and lost a lot of her respect for him. At one point, she even intervenes and protects her mother from Mr. Bennet’s mockery. There is even a dramatic rescue of Lydia and an exciting confrontation with Wickham as well, but in entirely different circumstances than the original.

I also found the dialogue, vocabulary, and narrative very authentic to Jane Austen’s style. The book is too long and repetitive but it rarely got tiresome. I admit that I found Elizabeth’s change from confusion to liking, to loving Darcy way too gradual to be believable or sympathetic. But Ormiston’s treatment of Darcy, I thought, was brilliant. His admiration, love, and passion for Elizabeth remain steadfast throughout. In this, he proves, again and again, the ardent words of his proposal in Austen’s work. Even when Elizabeth’s fearful secret is revealed to him: that not only did she not love him, but how much she actively and publicly disliked him, he doesn’t blame Elizabeth but himself. Elizabeth has to accept the fact that her actions and manners were not above reproach either and have caused great pain.

This is easily the best reimagining of or sequel to Pride and Prejudice, I have ever read. I hate to call it Fan Fiction, although it is, because it doesn’t do it justice. When I looked for more of Lara Ormiston’s books, I was so disappointed to learn she hasn’t written anything else.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

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