Tuesday, February 7, 2023

Book Review: Not in Want of a Wife by Amanda Kai

What if Darcy and Elizabeth pretended to court?

Mr. Darcy is not in want of a wife. At least, not one that only loves him for his money. Ever since he came of age, Darcy’s been an object of prey to fortune hunters– greedy ladies and their scheming mamas who would do anything to get their hands on his ten thousand a year and his luxurious estate. Tired of being the most eligible man in any room he walks into, Darcy decides the only way to stave off the fortune hunters is to make himself unavailable to them.

Elizabeth Bennet is convinced that only the deepest love could persuade her into matrimony, and since that has yet to appear, she would do anything rather than marry without affection. Unfortunately, all her mother's thoughts are bent on finding rich husbands for her and her sisters. With the arrival of Mr. Bingley and Mr. Darcy causing a stir among all the mothers of Meryton, Elizabeth knows it is only a matter of time before her own mother pushes her to try to capture one of these rich gentlemen for herself at all costs.

Seeing themselves in virtually the same predicament, Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth come up with a convenient arrangement: they will pretend to court while Mr. Darcy is staying at Netherfield. Mr. Darcy will get a reprieve from the relentless husband hunters, and Elizabeth can satisfy her mother with the notion that she has landed a suitor.

But when the time comes for their partnership to end, the feelings that were merely an act have started to become a reality. Will Darcy and Elizabeth find a way to express the feelings that are in their hearts, or will they part ways for good?

There is no shortage of Pride and Prejudice variations, much to the delight of many Janeites who enjoy the exploration of what Austen’s characters might have done if new life choices had been presented to them. Such is the case with Amanda Kai’s speculative work Not in Want of a Wife. In this adaptation, Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet agree to a fabricated, temporary engagement for purposes that do not include a romantic attachment between each other. While this solves a few problems, it leads to complications due to unexpected developments within their circles of friends and family. Likewise, as is the case in many narratives of this type, the faux lovers are surprised to find a tender regard growing between themselves as well. This produces a collection of issues in need of resolution.

As those issues are addressed, Author Amanda Kai offers a realistic and entertaining tale in Not in Want of a Wife. She is undoubtedly an admirer and respecter of Jane Austen’s source material, as each character remains fairly consistent with the way Austen presented them. Direct and modified quotes from Pride and Prejudice are sprinkled throughout the text, which often brought a smile to this reader. Kai also interjects her own flavors, including material that incorporates none other than the work of William Shakespeare into the story. A Bardian “callback” near the conclusion of the novel was particularly sweet. The complications and resolutions offered are consistently Austenesque in tone, delicious, and very believable in light of the original text. The manner in which all of the plot threads were completed was deftly handled and satisfying. 

For my conservative readership, I can report that Not in Want of a Wife is consistent with the type of content that Austen herself presented. Adult issues are mentioned, but are not highly detailed or gratuitous in nature. Language on the printed page is conservative, with epithets not described directly. The romance level is very sweet and appropriate for all ages. There is one moment of violence, but its presentation is relatively minor and almost humorous. 

This critic has one general quibble with Not in Want of a Wife, and while it is singular, it will inhibit me from offering a rave review. Although Amanda Kai does mention in her Acknowledgements that beta readers assisted her in revising historical inaccuracies throughout the text, I felt that this area and other aspects of the writing sometimes were not very strong. On more than one occasion, 19th century English characters were uttering 20th century American idioms. Other issues of weak grammar were also very distracting. The story itself, its construction, and the nature of the characters were very well done. However, the writing technique left this reader wanting on more than one occasion.

That one criticism may not be a concern for many readers. In fact, some may not even notice the issues I have indicated. The novel is an enjoyable read, with many moments of humor, suspense, and romance. Amanda Kai has written a sweet Austenesque tale that highly respects the source material. At the same time, she has forged her own path in a way that is creative yet honors the world that Austen fashioned. As she continues to hone her skills, I look forward to what this talented author has for her audience next.

About the Author

Amanda Kai’s love of period dramas and classic literature inspires her historical romances and other romances.  She is the author of several stories inspired by Jane Austen, including Not In Want of a Wife, Elizabeth’s Secret Admirer, and Marriage and Ministry.  Prior to becoming an author, Amanda enjoyed a successful career as a professional harpist, and danced ballet for twenty years. When she’s not diving into the realm of her imagination, Amanda lives out her own happily ever after in Texas with her husband and three children. 

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