This has been a most trying evening. Mama continues furious that Darcy has gone away again without extending an offer of marriage. I say, bless him. She goes on and on, and I do wish she would invite the vicarage guests to dinner to ease the strain on me as she does not yammer quite so much in company. Or perhaps the presence of others makes it easier for me to ignore her. Selfish, Anne!
(from A Will of Iron)
Quick summary: In this darker variation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Linda Beutler puts Anne de Bourgh front and center. A Will of Iron lets readers into Anne’s head through her journals, which make their way into the hands of Charlotte Collins and Elizabeth Bennet after her sudden and shocking death. Anne had a lively mind, made astute observations about the people around her, and wasn’t shy when it came to taking her future into her own hands. As the residents and guests of Rosings Park and the Hunsford Parsonage try to come to terms with the events leading up to Anne’s death, they soon face even darker realizations while simultaneously seeking out happiness for themselves.
Why I wanted to read it: I enjoyed Beutler’s previous takes on Pride and Prejudice (check out my reviews of The Red Chrysanthemum and Longbourn to London), love the variations that expand on Austen’s secondary characters, and couldn’t resist imagining an even darker side to Lady Catherine de Bourgh.
What I liked: Beutler wastes no time in shocking readers, and I was glued to the pages from Anne’s very first journal entry. The dark twists and turns of this novel are both shocking and morbidly funny, and there are plenty of love triangles and romantic entanglements to lighten the mood. Beutler does a great job blending the darkly comic events with the sweet romantic scenes. The novel is set just after Elizabeth rejects Darcy’s first proposal, and watching them find their way back to each other amidst all the other happenings was exciting.
What I disliked: Nothing at all (except trying to summarize the plot without saying too much).
Final thoughts: A Will of Iron is a must-read for fans of Austen-inspired fiction, who, like me, continually seek out unique variations of Pride and Prejudice. I must say that I’ve never read anything like this novel before, and I was surprised by how many times I was shocked and then laughed out loud at the absurdity of it all. It definitely wasn’t what I expected, which made me love it more. I can’t wait to see what Beutler writes next!
Disclosure: I received A Will of Iron from Meryton Press for review.
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