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It has  been my experience that Austen fans fall into two groups; those who admire her brilliance, read and re-read her novels and are amazed that other writers would even dare to try to imitate her style, then there is the other group who love the characters, the period setting, they want to know what happened afterwards and they read sequels, prequels, re-tellings etc.

If you are in the first group, then this novel is not for you. Ms Hox’s writing is very different to Austen’s. However, if you love the characters and want to know how Darcy and Elizabeth interacted after their engagement, then you will enjoy this story.

Here is the blurb …

Would Pride and Prejudice have been different if Colonel Fitzwilliam had accompanied Mr. Bingley and Mr. Darcy to Netherfield?

What would happen if Mr. Darcy made friends with a mysterious member of the Meryton neighborhood who refuses an introduction but who has a close relationship with the Bennet household?

Elizabeth Bennet, the second of five daughters to Mr. Thomas Bennet has caught the attention of the rich and handsome Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy almost from the moment he laid eyes on her, but when he purposefully misinterprets her families expectation of her marrying well and slights her in a way unknown to those who have always loved Jane Austen’s acclaimed Pride and Prejudice, he must leave forever or make amends. Sulking in the library he determines to leave the place and give her up, but is waylaid by a member of the Meryton neighborhood who claims an intimate acquaintance with the Bennet family and offers up advice on how to win Elizabeth’s heart.

Longbourn’s Unexpected Matchmaker puts a spin on Pride and Prejudice that no one would ever expect as Colonel Fitzwilliam attends Mr. Bingley and Mr. Darcy to Netherfield, Elizabeth Bennet is witty enough to detect the motives of Mr. Darcy’s long time enemy Lieutenant Wickham and Georgiana Darcy is bold enough to defy her brother and cousin and comes to Meryton in the midst of a storm. Not to mention Caroline Bingley, Lieutenant Wickham and Lady Catherine are all working against our hero and heroine ever finding their own happily ever after.

I like a good ‘what if’ scenario. I thought Lost in Austen (the recent television series where Amanda Price a modern day heroine swaps places with Elizabeth Bennet via a door in her (Amanda’s) bathroom) very witty and clever. In this scenario Colonel Fitzwilliam is also part of the Netherfield party and Mr Bennet develops an anonymous friendship with Mr Darcy where he provides much insight into the Bennet family. For example, he explains why Jane and Elizabeth are superior in manners and education to their younger sisters, why the estate is entailed on Mr Collins and why Elizabeth is ‘no horse woman’.

Mr Bennet plays a much larger role in this version of the Pride and Prejudice story being the titular matchmaker. I’ve always thought highly of Mr Bennet – yes he is indolent and shows his lack of respect for his silly wife, but he loves Elizabeth and Jane and he is clever and witty. Besides, in this verison, I liked his sparring with Mr Darcy.

Like many of the recent television and movie adaptations of Austen, this retelling gives you much more of the male perspective. Colonel Fitzwilliam and Mr Darcy have many serious conversations (thus revealing important plot points)  plus the story is occasionally seen from Mr Darcy’s point of view.

As you can imagine, once Colonel Fitzwilliam and Mr Bennet ‘s roles change then the whole chain of events is altered. Elizabeth and Mr Darcy quickly fall in love, as do Mr Bingley and Jane. Mr Wickham is still a villain; even more so in this version because we know he is evil right from the start (we overhear a conversation between Colonel Fitzwilliam and Mr Darcy describing his attempt to elope with Georgiana) unlike the original where we (the reader) along with Elizabeth  accept surface appearances.

Ms Hox uses a mix of Austen’s dialogue and her own. She also changes which characters say what, for example Colonel Fitzwilliam rather than Mr Darcy says the following …

“Your list of the common extent of accomplishments,” […] “has too much truth. The word is applied to many a woman who deserves it no otherwise than by netting a purse or covering a screen. But I’m very far from agreeing with you in your estimation of ladies in general. I cannot boast of knowing more than  half a dozen who are truly accomplished.”

In fact the dialogue in this novel is very weak. It is stilted and wooden and entirely lacking in any kind of wit. For example,

“Thank you, Mr Darcy, I would be pleased to accompany you if you are indeed seeking my presence despite my recent unladylike display.”

Darcy chuckled at her response. “Yes, I am indeed seeking your presence after your unladylike display. In fact it is that unladylike display I would speak to you about.”

Elizabeth cringed “Mr Darcy, I apologise that you were made to witness …”

“Miss Bennet.”

“The inappropriate manner in which …”

You get the picture.

The writing is quite poor which is a shame because it detracts from an interesting and imaginative plot. There is also too much ‘telling rather than showing’ which I’m sure is a cardinal writing error. I know it has been re-edited, but there are still a few distracting errors, for example…

Before she could make it there, Darcy was on his feet with Elizabeth in his, embarrassment now being the furtherest from her mind as she felt his warm lips upon hers.

In his what?

And this sentence is just awkard (Austen is never akward) …

“Now, let us ready for breakfast to futher occupy ourselves”.

To my mind this was a first draft (a bit like First Impressions) which should have been put away and re-worked at a later date.

Having said that, the relationship between Elizabeth and Mr Darcy is lovely and will satisfy many a romantic and once the plot moved beyond Pride and Prejudice territory I enjoyed it much more – in fact I think Ms Hox should write a regency romance (in the style of Georgette Heyer) independent of Austen (does that make me sound like James Stanier Clarke?).

One Response to “Longbourn’s Unexpected Matchmaker – Emma Hox”

  1. I have to say that I like extending the story, so I’ll have to give this one a shot. Thanks for your post!

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