Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Book Review - Expectations of Happiness by Rebecca Ann Collins

From Sourcebooks:

International bestselling author of the Pemberley Chronicles series explores the beloved characters of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility. Acclaimed for historical accuracy and emulation of Jane Austen’s voice as well as the depth of her depictions of the complex and evolving society of the day—especially what life was like for women—Collins imagines three sisters dealing with what happens when a spirited girl grows into a scandal-prone young lady who defies society’s rules and must then pay the consequences.

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After her delightful ten-volume Pemberley Chronicles series, Rebecca Ann Collins has returned with another Austenesque sequel, Expectations of Happiness.  As I very much enjoyed the selections that I did read from her first series, I was thrilled when it was announced that Collins would be revisiting the work of Jane Austen.  In preparation for spending time with the Dashwood family again, I refreshed my memory of their story by watching the two latest film adaptations of Sense and Sensibility.  True, it’s inferior to reading Austen herself, but I’m able to multi-task (read: get some ironing done) while a DVD is running, unlike while reading.  Of course, this heavily influenced my mental casting of the characters, as is evidenced by the listing below.

I had high hopes for Expectations of Happiness, and for the most part I was not disappointed.  Once again, Rebecca Ann Collins’ writing is elegant, comprehendible and thoroughly delightful.  Her pacing is perfect, as she takes her time with character and plot development without becoming ponderous. The characters seem to be on par with their temperaments from the original novel, having all the amiable qualities, neurotic tendencies and desires as before.

Unlike Sense and Sensibility, this sequel spends a large amount of time focusing on the life of Margaret Dashwood, the youngest daughter.  Several years have passed since her elder sisters married, and she is now a young woman seeking her way in the world.  Miss Dashwood continues to harbor a curious and academic personality, pursuing her education and career fervently.  She is so focused on her aspirations in fact; she has taken little notice of eligible men in her life.  When Margaret finally does become attracted to a young man, certain details about his life bring about complications to keep her from him.

Collins also spends much time with the elder Dashwood sisters as well.  Now married to their love interests from Sense and Sensibility, their lives progress much as we might expect them to.  Elinor is still playing the role of elder (and very maternal) sister to Marianne, and Mrs. Colonel Brandon still has the heart of a passionate, sometimes foolhardy romantic.  Despite being older, Marianne is not necessarily wiser than she has been in years past.  She gets herself into some inappropriate entanglements, and Elinor must balance her desire to protect and guide her sister with the understanding that Marianne must make her own way as an adult.  Collins handles these relational and societal minefields with dexterity and charm, with lovely Regency dialogue and manners.

My one reservation to a wholehearted, unreserved ovation comes from a decision made near the end of the novel.  I will not offer any plot spoilers, but suffice it to say, I was a bit disappointed in one particular choice that Ms. Collins’ made for one couple in her story.  While I’m grateful that she handled this particular situation and its details in the way she did, I still regret that she chose to go this direction with her characters.  I didn’t find it shocking or inconsistent with their personalities, but at the same time I didn’t see why it was necessary.

Regardless, Expectations of Happiness was a delightful novel, a worthy sequel to a well-loved classic.  I highly enjoyed revisiting these characters, and even got a chuckle out of a few winks to Pride and Prejudice and Rebecca’s Pemberley Chronicles series.  If you’ve enjoyed Ms. Collins in the past, you’ll find this to be another enjoyable addition to her list of titles.  As we Janeites celebrate the 200th anniversary of Sense and Sensibility, this is a great way to spend time with these amusing characters once again.

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Calico Casting Call – For the Movie in My Head
(With the appropriate age and look for their characters)

Elinor Dashwood Ferrars – Emma Thompson
Marianne Dashwood Brandon – Kate Winslet
Margaret Dashwood – Emma Watson
Mrs. Dashwood – Gemma Jones
Edward Ferrars – Hugh Grant
Colonel Brandon – Alan Rickman
John Willoughby – Greg Wise
Sir John Middleton – Robert Hardy
Mrs. Jennings – Elizabeth Spriggs
Fanny Ferrars Dashwood – Harriet Walter
John Dashwood – James Fleet
Mr. Palmer – Hugh Laurie
Charlotte Palmer – Shirley Henderson
Lucy Steele Ferrars – Imogen Stubbs
Eliza Williams – Caroline Hayes
Claire Jones – Claire Danes
Nicholas Wilcox – Leonardo DiCaprio
Daniel Brooke – Dan Stevens
Dr. Bradley King – Bernard Hill
Mrs. King – Andie MacDowell




  1. i loved the way the S&S film with Emma Thompson allowed little Margaret Dashwood to have some special moments in some of the key scenes

    so it's very good to know that she is given so much attention with this book

  2. Oh yes! Very much so. She's a dominant character here, with much attention indeed!


  3. I see what you mean about the decision toward the end of the book; I don't think it was necessary, but it didn't bother me. I really enjoyed this book because you can tell Collins' has a great grasp of the original and truly loves the characters.

  4. Anna:

    Thanks for your thoughts!


  5. Dear Laura,

    Many thanks for your generous review and perceptove comments. The response of readers ( and several reviewers) to "Expectations of Happiness" has been far in excess of my own expectations- and I have been delighted by personal emails and letters from readers. Thank you again and very best regards,
    Rebecca Ann Collins

  6. Rebecca:

    Wow! Thanks so much for stopping by. I'm honored. I loved this latest title and hope that you continue more S&S sequels in the future. There's room for them in the genre for sure!




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