For Fans Of
A Pride And Prejudice What-If Story
What if... Aunt Gardiner, who after all hailed from Lambton, was well acquainted with the Darcy family, and knew of Wickham's misdemeanours? How would the story have been different?
This tale begins with an exchange of letters between Elizabeth Bennet and her favourite aunt, discussing the happenings in Hertfordshire as the Bennet family become acquainted with their new neighbours, the Bingleys and their house guest Mr Darcy.
This book has the excellent quality of (aside from being well-written and edited) highlighting one of my favorite--and usually under-appreciated--P&P characters: Mrs. Gardiner. It is a book without too much angst or conflict, in which order and common sense rule (as one would expect if Mrs. Gardiner is around) and in which our favorite characters end up happy. I thoroughly enjoyed every minute.
Mrs. Gardiner has always been my favorite relation of the Bennet family. Her influence has been noted by most JAFF authors as the main reason the two oldest Bennet sisters are who and what they are, two sensible and well-mannered girls worthy of society.
In this adaption, she is also, in a distant and convoluted way, related to the Darcy family of Pemberley. Our story begins with letters back and forth between Elizabeth and her Aunt Gardiner. Elizabeth writes about what is going on in the family and Mrs. Gardiner tells her about the antics of her children. As Elizabeth begins to write about the new residence that let Netherfield, she begins to plant the seeds of Jane’s affection for Mr. Bingley.
As time goes on, Elizabeth begins to mention a Mr. Darcy in her letters. She does not hold back in her description of his pride and his insulting her at the assembly. Aunt Gardiner tries to make sense of it in comparison to the Mr. Darcy that she knows. Aunt Gardiner writes a good report of him in Derbyshire, Lambton and Pemberley. Then Elizabeth writes regarding a Mr. Wickham who recently joined the local militia. Aunt Gardiner responds immediately. An express arrives for Mr. Bennet declaring that none of the girls should be in society with Mr. Wickham and she will be arriving the next day to explain in person. This of course puts the house in turmoil.
When Aunt Gardiner arrives and has a private conference with Mr. Bennet and Elizabeth she lays out before them how Wickham has abused her sister and the Darcy family. Mr. Bennet goes into action and restricts the movements of his daughters from going into Meryton and tells them to have nothing to do with Mr. Wickham. Lydia, of course, goes off and declares it is all lies started by Mr. Darcy and refuses to believe that Wickham is a scoundrel and a rake. No one can persuade her otherwise and Mr. Bennet puts his foot down and grounds her and refuses to let her go to the Netherfield Ball. Mrs. Bennet supports his actions toward her silly child and determines to tell everyone she knows that Wickham is bad and not to be trusted.
Aunt Gardiner attends the Netherfield Ball with the family and is reunited with Mr. Darcy. He learns that Elizabeth heard his remark at the last assembly and apologizes to her. He has returned Bingley to Jane, Wickham’s lies have been exposed, and with their pride and prejudice out of the way, ODC is now able to go forward toward their own HEA.
It is funny to see how everyone worked to circumvent Mr. Collins and his attempt to court/propose to Elizabeth. They were always one step ahead of him. In fact the Darcy set-down was well done and I’ve not seen it played out that way before; it was hilarious. This was such a delightful quick read. I really enjoyed it and will read it again.
Wickham’s punishment was well deserved and so creative. There were several scenes that I’ve never seen played before in any JAFF. I loved the way the author spun the story and gave new options for our characters. I don’t want to spoil anything…it was just so much fun.