Sunday, January 10, 2016

Book & Audio Book Review: He Taught Me to Hope by P.O. Dixon

The legend of King Arthur meets the timelessness of Miss Jane Austen's endearing works in this delightfully entertaining Pride and Prejudice adaptation.

What if Elizabeth is promised to another when she meets Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy, the one man who captures her heart and imagination like no other?

Are the chances of Darcy and Elizabeth finidng their happily-ever-after as dire as they seem, or is there a measure of hope by way of a strong and enduring bond between them?

He Taught Me to Hope: Darcy and the Young Knight's Quest takes you back to a magical time of enchantment and romance and lets you fall in love with Darcy and Elizabeth once again.


I must say, He Taught Me to Hope is not what I expected, which I will explain momentarily. Initially however, I must share that after reading P.O. Dixon’s work Bewitched, Body and Soul, I naturally anticipated quality Austenesque writing, and she has once again delivered. Dixon knows how to craft her characters and story lines in ways that are not seen in many authors of her genre. She is quite the talent, and I wish I’d read this title sooner. It’s also whetted my appetite for more of her work, and as such I’m thankful that she is the author of over two dozen titles, including full length novels, novellas and short stories. He Taught Me to Hope is also the first in a short series of books, so I look forward to spending more time with the world she has modified here.

The unexpected aspect of the novel is its ties to King Arthur. Given the title and the description of the book, I was almost anticipating a complete “mashup” of characters, with Darcy truly taking on the role of King Arthur and Elizabeth taking on the role of Guinevere.  I assumed there would be a magical sword, and a possible wizard or two.  How Dixon would be able to pull this off I did not know, but the idea was intriguing and I looked forward to seeing how this idea might transpire.

Darcy as King Arthur is indeed referenced many times in this Austenesque tale, but it comes on behalf of the young Ben Carlton, son of the widowed Elizabeth Bennet Carlton.  Ben has a fierce imagination, and quickly brings Mr. Darcy into his imaginary world when they meet one day while Ben is out and about playing on his own. Darcy later meets Elizabeth Carlton, not knowing she is the mother of the boy he has come to care for very much.  Unfortunately, Elizabeth is engaged to marry another, which is where the book’s love triangle begins.

He Taught Me to Hope is not so much a magical tale in the sense that Darcy does not interact directly with elements of the Arthurian legend, but it is magical in that P.O. Dixon’s story is a wonderful one. I was surprised at her choice of fiancĂ© for Elizabeth at the beginning, but this provided delectable tension and a very satisfying plot turn within that relationship. While I felt that Darcy and Elizabeth catered to little Ben a bit too much, he was not completely spoiled by any means, but I did find him a bit annoying at times.  I felt he received more coverage in the book than was warranted, but on the other hand, I loved the relationship that was built between him and Darcy.  As the mother of two boys, I enjoyed the "love triangle" between Darcy, Elizabeth and Ben, which caused me to want Darcy and Elizabeth to have their happily-ever-after even more.

In true Austenesque fashion, much is made of Darcy’s tie to his cousin Anne De Bourgh, who frequently feigns illness so that she would have Fitzwilliam by her side. She becomes completely deluded, assuming that Darcy belongs to her, and that he has no right to pursue anyone else, much less a widow of little to no social standing.  This story line took a dominating position at the end of the book and went on a bit longer than I would have preferred, but its resolution was very satisfying and worth the wait.

Ms. Dixon does have a few spicy romantic scenes within the story, so in that sense I would give this title a PG-13 rating, but the amount of content in this area is very limited. She spends her time building characters, their relationships and the narrative, so romantic tension is very natural and not gratuitous by any means. This shows her talent in writing, that she has no need for repeated scenes of tawdry bodice-ripping in order to craft a lush romantic tale.

Once again I am very satisfied in P.O. Dixon’s work.  Do not expect an Arthurian mashup when you choose this novel, but do expect an excellent story with a memorable take on Jane Austen’s characters from Pride and Prejudice.

Audiobook Review Note:

The audio book version of He Taught Me to Hope is performed by the talented Pearl Hewitt.  Hailing from Newcastle Upon Tyne in England (but now residing in the U.S.), Pearl has read other works of Austenesque fiction from such authors as Abigail Reynolds and Maria Grace, in addition to several by P.O. Dixon.

My initial reaction to Jane’s voice was one of adjustment.  Her English accent is quite formal, and at first I wasn’t sure if I would enjoy it. After a while I adjusted to the sound, and it became very much a part of my experience with the story. I would switch between reading the text at home and listening to the book in the car, and while reading the book I would hear her voice in my head.  The only character whose voice never really settled for me was the voice she chose for young Ben.  I frequently found him irritating.  But this may have been a function of him as a character, as I felt that he was placated and catered to far too much in the story. It may have nothing to do with Jane’s choice of voice for him.  That being said, I enjoyed her performance very much, and I look forward to hearing more from her in the future.

For more detailed thoughts (including more from me) on the Audible version of He Taught Me to Hope, check out the reviews HERE.

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  1. I'm glad this was an overall enjoyable read. Children in romance stories can be iffy b/c of the distraction, but also cute. Interesting that there is another man to compete and Anne has a strong presence. I'll have to check it out.

    Nice review, Laura!

    1. Thanks! I think you'd like this one. Very well done.



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