To Refine Like Silver // by Jeanna Ellsworth
Read Via: Kindle Unlimited
Overall Rating: 3.5/5.0
Characters True-to-Original Rating: 3.5/5.0
Clean Rating: PG, but purely because of discussion of rape in the past. This is a 100% clean book with no sex or bad language or even really any innuendo.
Synopsis (via Amazon):
If Mr. Darcy had met Elizabeth Bennet in his beloved Derbyshire, would he have recognized her as the love of his life instead of dismissing her as someone “not handsome enough to tempt” him? This alteration of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice adds a little spirit, flirtation, and charm to everyone’s favorite characters.
Early in the summer of 1811, Elizabeth Bennet travels to Derbyshire to help her aunt and uncle settle in as new owners of Saphrinbrooke. Elizabeth is soon introduced to the estate’s nearest neighbors: Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy and his sister, Georgiana, who is suffering the results of a fateful trip to Ramsgate. Having endured several life tragedies herself, Elizabeth reaches out to the young lady of Pemberley. Under her radiant influence, both Darcy and Georgiana begin to look for help outside themselves.
To Refine Like Silver is a romantic and spiritual journey where more than one of our favorite Regency characters must learn to fully rely on God. Their trials bring depth to the beloved story, and Mr. Darcy ultimately learns that our trials do not define us; rather they refine us.
So yes, basically our story starts before Darcy travels to Netherfield with Bingley. In this version, Elizabeth’s Aunt Gardiner has inherited a small estate from an uncle. Elizabeth has come to stay with them while they settle into their new home. While there, she meets Darcy and his sister, and Darcy is immediately drawn to Elizabeth. Meanwhile, Georgiana is suffering from crippling depression from her experience at Ramsgate, and Elizabeth works to befriend and help her.
This is a very gentle story. In this version, Elizabeth’s father was actually a minister for many years before he inherited Longbourne. Elizabeth’s entire life is defined by her faith in God, and it is a very prevalent part of the story. Her encouragement to Georgiana is based on helping Georgiana see her worth in God’s eyes, and the importance of understanding that trials help us to grow and become stronger.
I ended up feeling pretty so-so about this variation. I picked it up because I read another variation by this author, Mr. Darcy’s Promise, which I reviewed on my real book blog. This book was definitely a lot heavier on the religious themes. And while I agreed with most of them, I did sometimes feel like Ellsworth was pushing a little too hard. There was a lot more conversation about serious life issues than there was actual story. Most of the action actually took place before the story starts (namely Georgiana’s incident at Ramsgate, which is more serious in this version). So while this was alright, it was basically just one conversation after another without a lot actually happening.
It really seemed like too much had happened to Elizabeth in the past. She gets to have multiple past tragedies, and it seemed a little extreme that so many bad things would have happened to her. There was also a strong emphasis on the acronym F.R.O.G. (Fully Rely On God) – I can’t find any history of the origin of that acronym, but I doubt that it was in vogue in 1811?? So that felt a little weird, too.
I appreciated that Ellsworth didn’t have trusting God become an immediate thing that Darcy and Georgiana did, or that their faith suddenly meant that their problems went away. Instead, Ellsworth emphasizes that problems are an important part of life, enabling us to become stronger, better, more empathetic people.
One thing that made me roll my eyes, though, was Elizabeth’s insistence that everyone is “basically good.” This isn’t actually a Biblical theme at all – there are quite a lot of passages devoted to the fact that only God is inherently good; our human inclination is towards selfishness – so it rather annoyed me that she kept insisting that this was the one thing that got her through life. Consequently, Ellsworth also used this to make sure that everyone is more or less redeemed by the epilogue – in the end, there are no “bad guys,” and I just didn’t really buy it.
In the end, a moderate recommendation, but only if discussions of Christian themes isn’t going to offend or annoy you, because that’s a big part of what this book is about.
Spoiler Review: (complete with capital letters, exclamation points, and question marks)…
Okay so the main problem with this book was rape. Two of them! Ellsworth gave the impression that slavering men were wandering the hillsides searching for whom they may rape. I mean seriously.
First off, it turns out that Georgiana was raped by Wickham at Ramsgate. This just made zero sense. Wickham was courting Georgiana and had convinced her to elope with him. Having him seduce her would have made far, far more sense. But it felt like Ellsworth had to make sure that Georgiana wasn’t remotely culpable for the situation, so instead she has Wickham creep into her room in the dead of night and take advantage of her… say what?! So why was Georgiana still planning to elope with him? And Wickham never uses this situation to his advantage – Darcy doesn’t even find out about it until months later, when Georgiana finally tells Elizabeth what happened – so what was even the point? There was not reason for him to rape her, so the whole situation felt extremely contrived just so that Georgiana could be extra depressed and full of despair. It really seemed liked it would have made more sense for Wickham to have seduced Georgiana and for her to feel guilty and depressed about that. I think the story would have had more power if Georgiana was partially responsible for her situation, because then she would have also had the realization that God is willing to forgive any and all trespasses. Instead, it’s just Georgiana deciding that a bad situation doesn’t define who she is.
Secondly, guess what – Elizabeth was raped, too! But other than making her really, really depressed, it otherwise apparently didn’t impact her life at all. I guess no one ever found out about it? Because in most Regency situations, this ought to have ruined her reputation, but it didn’t do anything to her. It was also frustrating because Elizabeth wanted to tell Darcy about this thing that had happened to her, but he just doesn’t want to hear it, so jhe kind of blows her off repeatedly. Eventually he realizes he is being selfish and listens to her story, but for so long it just felt like he was putting his fingers in his ears and hiding from reality.
All in all, Ellsworth creates very dramatic backstories so that we can have all these deep and thought-provoking conversations, and it’s alright, but they feel a little contrived. And because they’ve all happened in the distant past, the reader doesn’t really get the same emotional impact as would happen if the bad stuff happened during the actual story.
Like I said, a so-so retelling, but not particularly one I wanted to return to again.