“I would be far happier with half of your heart than the whole of anyone else’s,” he added softly.
(from The Best Part of Love)
The Best Part of Love by A. D’Orazio is a variation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice that is so very delightfully different from the original novel but maintains the traits of the characters we know and love. In this variation, Elizabeth Bennet is Lady Courtenay, widow of Henry Warren, Earl of Courtenay. The conspiracy surrounding her husband’s death force her to be separated from her young son, and after two years of hiding and mourning, Lord and Lady Matlock impress upon her the importance of finding a second husband, one who can protect her son and his inheritance. She returns to her family’s home in Hertfordshire, where she seeks refuge for a few months before the London season, coming to terms with the reality of her new life and finding comfort in simply being Elizabeth Bennet once again.
Then Mr. Darcy accompanies the Bingley party to Netherfield, and unaware of Elizabeth’s true identity, he immediately falls in love with her. However, his seemingly endless ability to insult her at every turn and his duty to marry someone of a higher social standing pose major obstacles to his happiness, and things aren’t made any easier when he learns she is Lady Courtenay, someone worthy of his notice. Darcy embarks on a mission to improve her opinion of him and become a better man, one worthy of her notice. Meanwhile, Elizabeth must learn how to move on with her life and understand the nuances of love. But soon the truth about Elizabeth’s marriage is revealed, and their newfound happiness is shattered.
Oh, how I loved this book! It is an emotional journey, and D’Orazio makes sure readers accompany Darcy and Elizabeth through all of the ups and downs. I teared up several times while reading this book, both tears of happiness and tears of sorrow. I felt like I was there as Darcy evolved into the best of men, accepting Elizabeth’s feelings for Henry and not expecting her to forget him — and when the truth left him tortured and alone. Elizabeth’s transformation from grief to sheer joy to despair was equally well done. D’Orazio also cleverly twists the characters to account for Elizabeth’s changed circumstances, with Mrs. Bennet looking down on Mr. Bingley due to his connections to trade and wanting Jane to make a better match, Jane storming off to Netherfield in the rain to follow her heart, and Darcy being accused of setting his sights on Lady Courtenay’s fortune.
The Best Part of Love hooked me from the very first page, and there was so much scandal, danger, romance, passion, and agony that it was hard to put down. D’Orazio takes her time developing Darcy and Elizabeth’s relationship, especially given his bad first impression and Elizabeth’s need to process her loss, but the novel is perfectly paced. Some readers may have a hard time with Elizabeth having been married to another man and having his child, but I urge them to put those feelings aside and dive into the book head first. The Best of Love is among the best of variations, and I expect it will have a place on my Best of 2017 list!
About The Best Part of Love
Avoiding the truth does not change the truth
When Fitzwilliam Darcy meets Miss Elizabeth Bennet he has no idea that she — that indeed, the entire town of Meryton — harbors a secret. Miss Elizabeth, a simply country girl from a humble estate, manages to capture first his fascination and then his heart without him ever knowing the truth of her past.
When she meets Darcy, Elizabeth had spent the two years prior hiding from the men who killed her beloved first husband. Feeling herself destroyed by love, Elizabeth has no intention of loving again, certainly not with the haughty man who could do nothing but offend her in Hertfordshire.
In London, Elizabeth surprises herself by finding in Darcy a friend; even greater is her surprise to find herself gradually coming to love him and even accepting an offer of marriage from him. Newly married, they are just beginning to settle into their happily ever after when a condemned man on his way to the gallows divulges a shattering truth, a secret that contradicts everything Elizabeth thought she knew about the tragic circumstances of her first marriage. Against the advice of everyone who loves her, including Darcy, Elizabeth begins to ask questions. But will what they learn destroy them both?
About the Author
Amy D’Orazio is a former breast cancer researcher and current stay at home mom who is addicted to Austen and Starbucks in about equal measures. While she adores Mr. Darcy, she is married to Mr. Bingley and their Pemberley is in Pittsburgh PA.
She has two daughters who are devoted to sports which require long practices and began writing her own stories as a way to pass the time she spent sitting in the lobbies of various gyms and studios. She is a firm believer that all stories should have long looks, stolen kisses and happily ever afters. Like her favorite heroine, she dearly loves a laugh and considers herself an excellent walker.
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Disclosure: I received The Best Part of Love from Meryton Press for review.