Darcy was now a man who merely existed and had forgotten how to live. The fire in his life had flickered out when Elizabeth’s smile floated away across the miles. And Darcy did not care.
(from Second Impressions)
Second Impressions is a novella variation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice that throws some huge obstacles at Darcy and Elizabeth and even puts an original character front and center. In this variation, Jane and Bingley are married with twins and another child on the way, but Darcy for some reason did not return for Elizabeth when Bingley returns for Jane. Thinking Darcy no longer loves her, Elizabeth impetuously flees after the Bingleys’ wedding to live in Boston with her cousin, Emeline Poston. When Elizabeth returns to England two years later, determined not to miss the birth of her next niece or nephew, she finds Darcy to have drastically changed. He hardly ever comes out into society, has a drinking problem, is plagued by nightmares, and ignores his baby daughter. But Elizabeth’s return and her determination to make things right with Darcy begin to change him, and he starts to hope that being a family is possible.
Meanwhile, Emeline is determined to see Elizabeth happy with Darcy. She is a very modern woman with no concerns about propriety and no plans on ever marrying. She is fiery, opinionated, and will never submit to a man. But when she bumps into John Dalton on the street, she fears she may have met her match, though a shady figure from her past and her worries over Elizabeth’s happiness conspire to prevent her from finding happiness herself.
George shakes things up so much in this variation that I couldn’t put it down. I figured Darcy and Elizabeth’s troubles would work out in the end, but I had absolutely no idea how things would play out for Emeline. Second Impressions also shines in its portrayal of Jane Bingley as a scheming matchmaker, still lovely and all that is good but with a hint of a wild streak. The scenes where Elizabeth helps Darcy become accustomed to being a father were heartwarming, and Emeline and John’s passion steamed up the pages.
However, there were a few things that kept me from loving the story. I wanted to know why Darcy didn’t pursue Elizabeth when Bingley returned to Jane and what pushed him to marry. Without any real details about his marriage, I had a hard time believing that he would fall so far and be such an absent father. Moreover, even though I loved Emeline and her spark, she seemed way too modern for the time period, and I had a hard time believing that people would be so willing to overlook her scandalous lack of propriety.
Still, I really enjoyed Second Impressions and admire George for taking such liberties with Austen’s characters. It definitely was an exciting and memorable novella, with strong original characters and an intriguing plot. I look forward to seeing what George writes next.
Disclosure: I received Second Impressions from Meryton Press for review.
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