Yes, another book review! Why? Because books are cool! And because we read while we’re waiting for stuff to boil, or to rise, or to bake, or sometimes, when we have no other company, to entertain us while we eat.
While I’m certainly not changing the focus of this page from food, I think I’ll start putting up a few more book reviews, as things cross my path that look particularly interesting. At the moment, I have three books lined up that I’m itching to write about, and this is the first.
Miss Darcy’s Companion has just been released, but I have had the honour and privilege of reading an advance copy. I have come to know and respect – and yes, like! – the author very much, so my review might be tainted by this bias. Nonetheless, I’ve tried to keep my thoughts about the book as balanced as possible, and if you like Pride and Prejudice variations, definitely give this a shot. Her writing is lovely and her stories fun.
You can read the first three chapters on her website, and I have an exclusive excerpt here. This passage comes from closer to the end of the story, and Elizabeth is speaking to Mr. Darcy about his decision to engage her as a companion for Georgiana. Enjoy.
“Pray, let us not equivocate. I know you did not engage me due to my vast accomplishments or the introductions I can make to the preeminent hostesses in society. I trust my time with Georgiana has provided her with some degree of confidence in society. She seems more at ease to me, but I fear I shall hinder your efforts as you embark upon this enterprise; please know that I would not take it as an insult if you chose to replace me with someone more qualified for what lies ahead of her. As her friend, I will see her as often as she wishes and wait until the season is over to seek a new position.”
“How ungenerous of you, Miss Elizabeth!” he exclaimed with a teasing smile. “You insult me with your insinuation that I am not perfectly able to select for my sister the one qualification which matters above all else.” Elizabeth, not wishing to seem in need of his reassurance, did not seek an explanation from him. “May I tell you?” he asked.
“By all means, Mr. Darcy. I await your description breathlessly.”
“My sister needed a friend, Miss Elizabeth. She lacked someone with whom she could confide her cares and open her innocent heart, besides, of course, a ham-fisted brother. I wished to see to all my sister’s needs but never thought to provide a sympathetic young lady to share her interests and energy. You helped her to overcome a propensity for timidity, instilled confidence, and provided your own example to imitate when her own courage could not sustain her. She needed someone like you, unfailingly kind, affectionate and sensitive, prodigiously intelligent, and with considerable wit and address. You cannot know the difference you made. From the first moment she espied you in the park, my shy little sister became a different person; fighting with me for what she knew she not only wanted but needed as well. Never in her life had she stood up to me, and, though I resented you at the time for it and was appalled she would defy me, I see now that she was correct to do so.”
“You are full of kindness to me, Mr. Darcy, and I must say, you disparage yourself in a manner that is most uncharitable. Are you begging for compliments, I wonder?” Her eyes sparkled, matched by a warm smile. “I shall offer only what you are due. I know I was the last person you wished for your sister, and, in meeting you, I was terrified by your fearsome countenance and quelling hauteur.”
“That is quite a compliment, Miss Bennet. If the rest of your speech proceeds in the same vein, I will tell you now to keep your tongue between your teeth. Believe me, my dear; I have heard those compliments the entirety of my life, and there is no need to be further puffed up in my consequence,” he said in an ironical tone.
“No, no!” she exclaimed. “It is only that I must set the stage. You see, at once, I noticed the warmth you displayed when you gazed upon your sister, and I admired the protective instinct which motivates you. One must make allowances for a man who, so young himself, had the full responsibility for such a sensitive child.” She paused. “Blessed with an abundance of sisters myself, I can only imagine what an ordeal this is for you, and yet she is the loveliest, sweetest girl, and her faith in you is not misplaced,” she said with sincerity.
“I am afraid you are under some illusions, Miss Elizabeth. My sister is so much younger that I saw her only during school holidays. When my father’s health declined, I came down from Cambridge for the year before his death. After he passed, she remained at Pemberley while I returned to my studies and my friends. It was selfish; I see that now. Indeed, she saw but little of me, but when we were together, I encouraged her hoydenish behavior which she has not forgot. When I finally put University behind me, it was to tackle a great many new responsibilities. Thoughtlessly, I left her to a succession of governesses whom I believed would mold her into the young lady my parents always wished her to become. This was done with little regard for her tender sensibilities nor her unhappiness with their strict, unloving care they provided. Failing that, I then sent her to school to which she was most unsuited, being so shy and retiring. There she made few friends and was utterly miserable and lonely. It was my intention, upon removing her from Miss Dimwitty—I should have paid more attention to her name before selecting her establishment—to set up Georgie in her own household in London to cram her full of accomplishments and be free to continue about my own business. When you joined us and brought out her brightness and self-assurance so readily, I beheld Georgiana in a different light. For the first time, I saw her not as a perplexing child outside my grasp of understanding. I rethought my plan and became determined to keep her in my company convinced I had much to atone for.”
“Then we must agree to disagree,” she replied. “You may relate the history, but I know that what I saw pass between you and Georgiana was not the work of a day, no, nor a year, but was of some duration. Neither would Georgiana place her trust and dependence on your opinion had you not in some way earned her respect.” Sensing him draw back his shoulders in anticipation of offering further argument, she placed her hand on top of his. “No, no! Let me finish. Why even her conviction that you would forgive her defiance in choosing me shows the deep connection you share with one another. So let me enjoy the last word if you please, Mr. Darcy, for you shall never convince me, and it is the gentlemanly thing to do after I declare it to you.” She laughed up at him and was startled by the look of tenderness on his face. A look she could not misconstrue as being meant for Georgiana.
“By all means, Miss Elizabeth, it would be unhandsome of me to argue with you, nor should I like to disabuse you of your belief in my good character, for that would not serve the purpose at all!” He said smiling.
“Now we have had our walk together, I fear our relationship will be misconstrued if we continue as we are. Shall I walk beside my sister again and you join your own?”
“If it is your wish, though it is no concern to me what other people think, Miss Elizabeth,” he remarked enigmatically, turning to do as she bid.
So, without further ado, here’s my review of Miss Darcy’s Companion by Sophia Meredith.
Miss Darcy’s Companion is another lovely what if story by Sophia Meredith, putting a new spin on the characters and beloved tale of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.
What if… Mr. Bennet had died before the events in the original tale, bringing Mr. Collins to Longbourn almost immediately upon taking the living at Hunsford, and sending Jane and Elizabeth into the arms of their London relatives to find positions for themselves so as not to be dependent on their odious cousin?
And what if… Elizabeth caught the eye of a young girl, recently out of school and needing a companion?
And further, what if… that young girl’s brother found himself unaccountably drawn to his sister’s new friend?
In this beautiful retelling, Ms. Meredith explores these “what ifs,” bringing new life to our favourite characters and sending us on a wonderful journey through the eyes of Miss Darcy’s Companion. The entire company is present for their moments on stage, including Lady Catherine, in something of a starring role, Miss Bingley with her claws out, and Mr. Wickham, twirling his handsome moustache while plotting evil. There are also some delightful cameos by new characters, including some of Darcy’s family and the ever-fascinating Beau Brummel, who is fascinated by one of Elizabeth’s more unusual talents. What talent might this be? You’ll have to read the book to find out!
As well as telling a lovely tale, Ms. Meredith delights us once again with her beautiful use of language. At times laugh-out-loud-funny, she evokes the elegance of Jane Austen and the effervescence of Georgette Heyer’s sparkling dialogue.
If I have any quibbles, perhaps the ending is a little more drawn out than I wanted, but that might be more my desire to rush towards the Happily Ever After than any fault in the novel itself.
Enjoy this book. I know I did.