Can't Stop Reading P&P Variations…

The Good, the Bad, and the ?!??!?!?!?!

The Elizabeth Papers // by Jenetta James

29011518Type: Sequel to original story / variation with different characters

Setting:  Regency / Modern

Read Via: Kindle Unlimited

Overall Rating:  4.4/5.0

Characters True-to-Original Rating:  4.0/5.0

Copyright:  2016

Pages: 224

Clean Rating:  Mature, but mildly.  I actually thought the whole book was going to be fine, with just a bit of innuendo here and there, but towards the end there is a hasty lead-in that cuts off before the final act (barely).

Synopsis (via Amazon): 

“It is settled between us already, that we are to  be the happiest couple in the world,” said Elizabeth Bennet at the conclusion of Pride & Prejudice – but was it true?

Charlie Haywood is a London-based private investigator who has made his own fortune – on his own terms.  Charming, cynical, and promiscuous, he never expected to be attracted to Evie Pemberton, an independent-minded artist living with the aftermath of tragedy.  But when he is hired to investigate her claims to a one hundred fifty-year-old trust belonging to the eminent Darcy family, he is captivated.

Together they become entwined in a Regency tale of love, loss, and mystery tracing back to the grand estate of Pemberley, home to Evie’s nineteenth century ancestors, Fitzwilliam and Elizabeth Darcy.  As if traveling back in time, another story unfolds within theirs.  All was not as it seemed in the private lives of Mr. and Mrs. Darcy, but how can they ever uncover the whole truth?

How could they know that in 1817 Elizabeth Darcy began a secret journal?  What started as an account of a blissful life came to reflect a growing unease.  Was the Darcy marriage perfect, or was there betrayal and deception at its heart?

Can Evie and Charlie unearth the truth in the letters of Fitzwilliam Darcy or within the walls of present-day Pemberley?  What are the elusive “Elizabeth papers,” and why did Elizabeth herself want them destroyed?

The Elizabeth Papers is a tale of romance and intrigue, spanning the Regency and modern eras, reminding us how the passions of the past may inspire those in the present.

Review:

First off, what even is the deal with the ridiculously long synopsis??

The Elizabeth Papers was a surprisingly enjoyable read.  The premise is excellent.  We have three methods of forwarding the story: letters from a very elderly Darcy to his solicitor, entries by Elizabeth in a private journal in the middle years of her marriage, and a straight third-person narrative of the story of Charlie and Evie, unfolding in the present.

I quite enjoyed Elizabeth’s voice.  The idea that she was writing this all in a diary honestly did feel like a stretch some of the time – I don’t remember ever recording word-for-word conversations in my journal, but, you know.  On the whole, I really liked both Elizabeth and Darcy in this version (especially Darcy, of course), although I had a minor beef with Elizabeth that belongs in the spoiler section.

Overall, the Regency story unfolded basically exactly like I expected it to.  I was not surprised by a single “twist” in that section.  However, it was still decently written, and I enjoyed the little snippets from the lives of others in the Bennet-Darcy clan.

The modern story was also really good.  I quite liked both Charlie and Evie, and the whole set up for them meeting felt completely natural.  The synopsis misrepresented a few salient points, one of the most important being that Evie never hired Charlie – someone else hired Charlie because both the client and Evie are recipients of a generations-old trust, funded by Fitzwilliam Darcy to benefit all of his female descendants, and the client believes that the ancestor who ties Evie to the trust was actually an illegitimate daughter of Elizabeth Darcy, thus meaning Evie shouldn’t be getting the money.

This is important, because that’s part of the fun of this modern retelling – James very gently gives us parallels between Darcy/Elizabeth and Charlie/Evie, with the idea of him being well-off and snobby and making a poor first impression on Evie.  Charlie also has a friendly, happy cousin who inadvertently spills the beans on Charlie, and there are a few other little things, just enough but not too much.

For me, the ending of the book was the weak bit.  While I really liked the way the book ended, I felt like those endings came really abruptly.  I would have liked a little more of a gentle incline to the conclusion, as the jump felt rather jarring.  I rarely say this, but I think this book definitely could have been longer, or perhaps just needed a little more balancing – I think there could have been a lot more of the modern story.  A lot of Elizabeth’s entries felt kind of like padding just to give us something to read against the modern bits.

On the whole, though, I was quite impressed with this story.  It was enjoyable and entertaining, and the shifts between past and present stories was done quite well.  Recommended.

Spoiler Review:  (complete with capital letters, exclamation points, and question marks)…

Okay, here’s the main thing I have to complaint about.  One of the big parts of the story in the Darcy/Elizabeth bit is that Elizabeth has given Darcy four daughters and no sons, and she’s starting to feel really scared that she’ll never bear an heir and he’ll hate her or whatever, which is, of course, utter nonsense but whatever.  After the arrival of #4, we have to listen to Elizabeth whine quite a lot about how angry she is at Darcy because he is going to pass over his daughters and give the bulk of the inheritance to Georgiana’s son, just because he’s a boy.  And this goes on for months, of Elizabeth acting all offended and self-righteous, when Darcy has never said or implied any of these things and has never shown anything but love and joy for his daughters and the wife who gave them to him, so I’m not sure where she gets off with all this complaining about something that not only isn’t true, but that she never bothered to even kind of find out if it was true before complaining.  And that’s the bit that really felt like filler, because it doesn’t really have anything to do with the story??  I think maybe the author was trying to convince us that there could have been enough of a rift between the Darcys that Elizabeth having an affair is a possibility, but that never felt even kind of true, and it was pretty obvious from afar that Lydia was going to be the bearer of that questionable daughter.  I guess I just wished I’d had a little more of Darcy and Elizabeth being happy.

Secondary complaint is definitely just the rushed ending.  The last bit could have easily been a few more chapters.  Like most things got resolved really satisfactorily, but abruptly.  I didn’t care for the distance of not really knowing for sure that Charlie and Evie get together long-term.

Overall, though, a surprisingly enjoyable sequel/variation.

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