In the spring of 2008 Rebecca Ann Collins began authoring a 10-part series of novels, sequels to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.
- The Pemberley Chronicles (Apr 2008)
- The Women of Pemberley (Apr 2008)
- Netherfield Park Revisited (Sept 2008)
- The Ladies of Longbourn (Oct 2008)
- Mr. Darcy's Daughter (Nov 2008)
- My Cousin Caroline (Sept 2009)
- Postscript from Pemberley (Dec 2009)
- Recollections of Rosings (March 2010)
- A Woman of Influence (June 2010)
- The Legacy of Pemberley (Nov 2010)
Clearly, Ms. Collins’ pen is quite prolific. I marvel at her ability to frequently bring these stories to her readers, and I wish I’d been aware of the series at its inception two years ago. As it is, I begin my experiences with The Pemberley Chronicles in the ninth installment, A Woman of Influence.
The title character is Becky Collins Tate, daughter of the ostentatious Reverend Collins of Pride and Prejudice. In her 40’s, Becky is now a widow, striking out into the world on her own, liberated from an unpleasant marriage. She’s had her share of tragedy and personal missteps, but she’s ready to begin a new life in her newly purchased home, Edgewater, in the county of Kent.
Set in the mid-1800’s, A Woman of Influence is only somewhat distanced from the events in Austen’s original novel. Many of her characters are in attendance, but they rarely take center stage in this narrative. However, their presence was very helpful. They provided the bridge needed to connect the reader to the next generation of characters, the children and grandchildren of the Darcys, the Bingleys and the like.
There are two main story lines in Collins’ novel. One involves Becky’s involvement with a young woman who has been unjustly separated from her husband, charged with a crime he didn’t commit. Mrs. Tate uses her compassion, intelligence and influence to come to the aid of this victimized family. While the truth might be on their side, politics and covetousness have the upper hand, making Becky’s task a difficult one.
Another plot line concerns the heart of Becky herself. After years in a dispassionate marriage, Becky is not only pleased with her new life of freedom, but she also feels disinclined to ever open her heart and become someone’s wife ever again.
Although I came to The Pemberley Chronicles near the conclusion of the series, I did enjoy A Woman of Influence as a standalone title. There were times when unfamiliar plot points from previous books both helped me and hindered me in understanding the history of the characters. Ultimately it was my knowledge of Pride and Prejudice that was the most helpful factor in grasping the story.
Collins is clearly a well-educated lover of Austen’s work. Her manner of writing is very similar to Austen’s, although slightly updated. Her character development is deliberate, allowing each individual to be well understood. While there were two main story lines, they were well balanced within the entire narrative, weaving around each other. And while it certainly wouldn’t be characterized as a thrilling page-turner, Woman of Influence was consistently enjoyable and pleasant to return to at each reading. I look forward to her concluding volume, The Legacy of Pemberley. The only question remaining in my mind is,
“Do I read books 1-8 before or after Legacy?”
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This title was provided to me by Sourcebooks Landmark.
No obligation other than an honest review was required.