But on the day she is to leave Longbourn forever, young Elizabeth, grieving and confused, runs off into the Hertfordshire countryside. Fitzwilliam Darcy gives chase, telling his father he will have her back in an hour or two. Luck and fate, however, are not on his side and capturing Elizabeth Bennet turns out not only to be more difficult than he could ever have imagined, but events conspire to turn her little adventure into his worst nightmare.
The prideful man and the girl prejudiced against him, meet much earlier in this rethinking of Jane Austen’s masterpiece. Elizabeth grows up under the ever-watchful eye of Mr Darcy, from fifteen to twenty-one. She errs and falters, there are stumbles and trips, but could this ‘disobedient little hellion’ one day become mistress of Pemberley and the keeper of his heart?
For those of us in the adult population, we were all teenagers at one time. For many, those were tumultuous years, full of self-discovery and the beginnings of independent thinking. Much to our parents’ consternation, we may have presented more than a few challenges as we made our way through the process of maturing. Such is family life, and such is the situation that the Darcy family finds themselves in when a very young Elizabeth Bennet comes to live at Pemberley at the tender age of fifteen, in this Pride and Prejudice variation, The Coming of Age of Elizabeth Bennet by Caitlin Williams. In Jane Austen’s original story, Elizabeth meets the Darcy family (and specifically Fitzwilliam Darcy) at the age of 20, when she had reached a certain level of self-knowledge and maturity. In Williams’ work, young Lizzy has much to learn in that regard.
The Coming of Age of Elizabeth Bennet spans approximately six years, wherein we are treated to the development of Miss Bennet as she unexpectedly goes to live at Pemberley after the death of her father. Unlike in Pride and Prejudice, going to this grand home is not a happy occasion for her. Not only is Lizzy enduring a great loss, but she must also say farewell to her home and the rest of her family as well. These events were put in motion by her father’s last wishes, in an effort to see that she would be well taken care of by his old friend, George Darcy, father of Georgiana and Fitzwilliam. She fights going to the Darcy home so forcefully, events are put into motion that will change her life and the lives of the Darcy’s forever.
Caitlin Williams has produced quite an epic tale in her latest work. While Elizabeth may not travel far from Pemberley or London in this lengthy and enjoyable novel, as readers we are taken on quite a journey through time and Elizabeth’s development over the years. At the outset of the story, Lizzie almost reminded me of author Winston Graham's Demelza Poldark, in her scrappy, unrefined behavior, determined to be a contrarian almost wherever she went. Unlike Demelza in Poldark however, she is not as grateful for the opportunity to be living with her new family, and she certainly doesn’t entertain any romantic notions toward young Darcy, who is approximately 6 years her senior. In truth, I found her somewhat exasperating and a bit of a brat, nothing like the composed, well-spoken Lizzy we’re used to seeing. But this underdeveloped Lizzy is realistic. She’s a teenager. She’s grieving her father and loss of freedom. In many ways, she’s quite a mess. (Perhaps the rankling I felt came from my own feelings as the parent of a teenager…?)
One of the few things I didn’t enjoy was the amount of time that Fitzwilliam Darcy spent away from Pemberley. He was frequently absent on business, often for more than a year. He did have business to attend to, but he was avoiding Lizzy as well. As such, she spends more time with the elder George Darcy, Georgiana, and cousin Richard “Colonel” Fitzwilliam. Each time young Darcy returns home, he finds her somewhat altered, more mature with each year gone by. She resents him greatly for being a part of her new existence, for his judgmental attitude and his propensity to order her around. For the majority of the novel, they simply do not get along. While their animosity wasn’t a problem for me, I would have enjoyed seeing them spend more time together over the years.
That being said, Williams’ writing during Darcy’s years away was still very captivating. She held my attention very well, and I never labored with the pages that didn’t include Darcy. There was plenty of material for her to work with, not the least of which was the emergence of Mr. Wickham, Fitzwilliam Darcy’s nemesis. While he doesn’t pull his usual antics with Georgiana as he does in the original Austen work, he wreaks plenty of havoc while present with us in the narrative. And like in the source material, Elizabeth does get taken in by him to some extent. Readers will have to discover how far he goes in his efforts to bring mayhem to the Darcy clan.
Of course romantic elements do come into play before long. This wouldn’t be much of an Austenesque novel if they didn’t! I enjoyed the romantic tension that was eventually brought into the relationship between Darcy and Elizabeth, so much so that I wish those chapters had gone on longer. I was enjoying the book so thoroughly, I longed for the story to continue into Lizzy’s 22nd year and beyond. Williams provided tantalizing romantic details without being overly steamy, and I truly appreciated that. While I wouldn’t recommend this title to very very young readers, it’s one of the more family-friendly Austenesque novels I’ve read in recent years. The marriage bed is honored, and we are still given a bit excitement as well.
The Coming of Age of Elizabeth Bennet was a delight to read and is a quality work. This is my first foray into Caitlin William’s writing, and I look forward to reading more of her. She honors the spirit of Austen’s characters very well, and provides an entertaining read for modern audiences. This Janeite and parent of a teenager gives a hearty seal of approval!
About the Author
Caitlin Williams lives in Kent, England, with her family. She fell in love with all things Regency as a teenager, but particularly admires the work of Jane Austen and the way she masterfully combines humour and romance, while weaving them through such wonderful stories and characters.
Pride and Prejudice is Caitlin’s favourite novel and she finds Mr Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet so deliciously entertaining that she likes to borrow them from Ms Austen and enjoys the challenge of putting them in different places and situations.
Her debut novel, Ardently, was written as a hobby, usually with her laptop balanced on the kitchen worktop, typing with one hand, a glass of wine in the other, while she also attempted to cook dinner and keep her children from killing each other. The success of Ardently was as much a surprise to her, as it was to anyone else, and she has been thrilled and genuinely thankful for the positive responses and reviews it generated.
Her second novel, The Coming of Age of Elizabeth Bennet, is a portrait of a much younger Elizabeth, who is thrown into an extraordinary set of circumstances due to the premature death of Mr Bennet, and she hopes you all enjoy it very much.
Connect with Caitlin Williams
Caitlin Williams, author of the highly-praised book, Ardently, tours the blogosphere from June 13- June 26, 2016 to share her newest release, The Coming of Age of Elizabeth Bennet. Fourteen book bloggers, specializing in Austenesque fiction and romance stories, will share excerpts, guest posts, an exclusive interview with the author and book reviews from this highly awaited Austen-inspired novel. Eight ebooks are also being included in our giveaways and entry is available to anyone who participates in this blog tour.
Blog Tour Schedule
June 13/ My Jane Austen Book Club/Launch Post & Giveaway
June 14/ So Little Time... / Book Excerpt & Giveaway
June 15/ Just Jane 1813/An Exclusive Interview with Caitlin Williams
June 16/ Pemberley to Milton/Book Review & Giveaway
June 17/ Margie's Must Reads/ Book Excerpt & Giveaway
June 18/ The Calico Critic/Book Review & Giveaway
June 19/ Babblings of a Bookworm/“The Education of a Young Lady” Guest Post & Giveaway
June 20/ Half Agony, Half Hope/Book Review
June 21/ More Agreeably Engaged/ Book Review & Giveaway
June 22/ My Kids Led Me Back to Pride and Prejudice /Book Excerpt & Giveaway
June 23/ Liz's Reading Life / “A Nod and A Wink to Austen” Guest Post & Giveaway
June 24/ Diary of an Eccentric/Book Review
June 25/ Laughing With Lizzie/ “The Young Master” Guest Post & Giveaway
June 26/ A Covent Garden Gilflurt’s Guide to Life/ “A Most Scandalous” Guest Post