Is this how love dies? Does it falter on the road of complacency and acquiescence? If I do not tend to him as once I did, is it not he who has made me feel thus? A feeling of darkness and loneliness is welling up inside me, and I know not how to push it down.
(from The Elizabeth Papers)
Quick summary: Based on Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, The Elizabeth Papers follows both Elizabeth Darcy, as her marriage to Mr. Darcy appears to be faltering due to her inability to give him a son, and Evie Pemberton, a London artist and a descendant of the Darcys who learns that there are secrets in her family’s past when private investigator Charlie Haywood enters her life. Charlie has been hired to investigate the Darcy Trust, which Fitzwilliam Darcy established in 1860 to ensure his female descendants would be cared for. Soon, Charlie and Evie find themselves on the way to Pemberley in search of a mysterious document that Elizabeth had wanted destroyed in her final moments. Featuring excerpts from the diary Elizabeth began in 1817, letters Darcy wrote in 1860, and a narrative set in 2014 as Charlie and Evie attempt to uncover the truth about the Darcys’ marriage, The Elizabeth Papers explores love and loss and how even the happiest of marriages have their troubles.
Why I wanted to read it: I absolutely loved Jenetta James’ first novel, Suddenly Mrs. Darcy, so I knew I would be in for a treat. And the summary sounded absolutely delicious!
What I liked: I loved everything about The Elizabeth Papers! It draws readers into the mystery from the very first page. I kept hearing that this is the kind of novel that makes you ignore everything and stay up way past your bedtime to finish it, and that is so true! I finished the book at 1 a.m. despite having to rise at 5:30 a.m. for work because I just had to know what happened. I would tell myself that it was lights out after one more chapter, and one more chapter turned into the whole book!
I enjoyed reading both Elizabeth’s diary and about the rocky start to Charlie and Evie’s relationship and their determination to find Elizabeth’s papers. I especially loved how James showed that even Austen’s beloved couple likely didn’t have a perfect marriage, and by telling that story from the point of view of Elizabeth, readers are able to see her insecurities and her frustration while having little clue what Darcy is thinking or feeling, which creates just the right amount of tension. I also loved getting a glimpse of the Darcys and their family years into their marriage, so they are no longer bright-eyed newlyweds but older and wiser and settled into their life together. Charlie and Evie’s story was exciting and even had some similarities to Darcy and Elizabeth’s, and Charlie’s client, Cressida Carter, is very Caroline Bingley-esque. The dual narratives were seamlessly connected, and the shifts between the two were timed perfectly to ensure readers can’t put the book down.
What I disliked: Absolutely nothing! It’s another winner from Jenetta James!
Final thoughts: The Elizabeth Papers is a captivating novel that calls into question Darcy and Elizabeth’s assumed happily ever after in a way that is brilliant and fresh and unforgettable. It will definitely be on my Best of 2016 list and is easily one of the best Pride and Prejudice inspired novels I have ever read.
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Disclosure: I received The Elizabeth Papers from Meryton Press for review.
© 2016 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.