Today I am posting my thoughts on Rose Fairbanks recently published novella, The Gentleman's Impertinent Daughter. I am looking forward to reading a full length story from this author. My thanks goes to Rose for sending me this story to review. (While I was sent the book, this is my honest and unbiased opinion.) Read an excerpt from the story here!
"When Fitzwilliam Darcy visits Hyde Park with his sister, he expects nothing more than a quiet walk on a fine day. Instead, he meets a young woman who challenges his ideas and pulls his sister out of her melancholy. He soon realizes Elizabeth Bennet is the only woman in the world with whom he could spend the rest of his life.
Elizabeth, clever and self-assured, refuses to change for the sake of gaining a husband, a prospect she finds impossible regardless. With wit and independence rather than fortune, she is entirely convinced no sensible man would have her, and she cannot respect a fool. Can Darcy prove to be this impossible man? Or is a figure from his past an insurmountable obstacle to a future with The Gentleman’s Impertinent Daughter?
This was previously posted on various forums in a draft as St. Michael's Little Summer."
This was a sweet story and I really enjoyed it! I am very impressed given the length - I don't usually like novellas as they often feel rushed, as there isn't enough time to develop the story or the characters, but this one really didn't feel rushed at all.
I think the route the author decided to take the story down really worked for the length of it; the idea that they haven't met at Meryton, where Darcy famously insults Lizzy, means that they can get off to a better start. Also, as they hit it off much better and like each other straight away, there is a lot less pride, prejudice and misunderstanding, which was perfect for a story of this length.
What I most enjoyed about having Lizzy and Darcy meet in a completely different situation was the effect this had on Darcy; the events of this story after the meeting in Hyde Park are pretty much like we know it to happen in Pride and Prejudice. However, as a result of their Hyde Park meeting and Darcy's consequential wish to please Lizzy, his behaviour when he does arrive at Meryton is as it ought to have been; he is much more civil to the country folk of Meryton and he even views Lizzy's family in a more forgiving light, as really Mrs Bennet isn't any worse than his own aunt, Lady Catherine! As well as Darcy's altered behaviour in such scenes, there are also some fun twists to other events, such as Lady Catherine's visit to scare Lizzy away from Darcy - this is brought about in a new and interesting way and by a most unexpected character as well! Another factor in this variation which I really enjoyed was that Darcy meets the non-embarrassing members of Lizzy's family, the Gardiners, first, and also that Lizzy gets to meet Darcy's sister, Georgiana, much sooner - and before Lady Catherine!
The author, even in such a short story, highlights quite a few interesting thoughts and comparisons that I had never really thought about or noticed before. For example, when Lizzy is worried about the possible loss of the Darcys regard for her after they have met the rest of her family, Georgiana points out that both her and Mr Darcy are still friends with Bingley despite his unfortunate sisters!
I have already mentioned how Darcy's behaviour changes as a result of his accidentally meeting with Lizzy, but as well as the influence she has over him starting to take effect much sooner (and without the need for him to be accused of being proud, arrogant and ungentleman-like in a most horrible refusal!), there is an interesting idea played around with in that Darcy has always believed that birth, rank and lineage do not automatically make people more superior than others, however because of how he was brought up and of what society would say, he hasn't spoken up about his own views. I found this twist on Darcy's character as an explanation for his pride an interesting path to explore.
Lizzy is just as lively as we would expect her to be. She is her outspoken, witty, impertinent self. She is particularly pragmatic in this story with her views on society and how the world is changing, and it is this attitude which is what captures Darcy's attention when he happens to overhear Lizzy having such a conversation with her aunt Gardiner.
As I have already said, I love that Lizzy and Darcy's first meeting gets off to a much better start when Darcy is immediately drawn to this beautiful young woman playing with a child with her petticoats six inches deep in mud! As the relationship develops between them you can't help but love them; their teasing of and debating with each other, and later their flirting, are very sweet! The debates they have are brilliant and the author's own intelligence shines through in them. We know they cross verbal swords in canon, however this time Lizzy isn't purposefully trying to annoy, mock or invoke disapproval from Darcy which makes a change!
I have already mentioned how we see Lizzy's influence on Darcy from almost the earliest moments of their acquaintance, but Lizzy is also influenced by the much more positive and trusting - and unprejudiced! - opinion she has of Darcy, particularly when both Wickham and Caroline Bingley come along to try and warn her off! This isn't a story full of disagreements, problems and angst, but there are some obstacles the couple must face, which keep things interesting. I am glad this was the case, however, because this is only a short story; if it was all angst from page one till the very end it would have felt like a rather unrealistic happy ending for them, and also the blurb suggests there won't be as many problems as he isn't nearly as proud, nor her as prejudiced! As it is, the journey of their friendship and love doesn't feel at all rushed or unbelievable in my opinion as I think the author got the balance right.
I mentioned briefly how it was nice for Lizzy to meet Georgiana much sooner, at the very beginning in fact when she meets Darcy. Georgiana features throughout this whole story and I always enjoy getting to read more about her. I felt so sorry for her as we see just how upset she is by a certain event thanks to a certain scoundrel and how affected she has been. She and her brother seem to have a really strong bond as we see Darcy equally as affected by seeing his sister so upset, especially when he feels he is the most to blame! Georgiana is very sweet though, and what was lovely was her immediate ease and comfort with this stranger they meet, a Miss Elizabeth Bennet. We see her grow in confidence as Elizabeth's lively nature helps to bring her out of her saddened state. Those two really become great friends! We also get to see Georgiana turn her hand to match-making - much more subtlety than Mrs Bennet! - as she can't fail to notice the immediate connection and bond between her new friend and her brother. She plays a very important role in their relationship in fact!
Where would we be without Wickham and Caroline Bingley causing trouble; they do, and plenty of it! They were particularly well portrayed as my 'hatred and anger meter' hit pretty much top and I wanted to slap or kick (or worse!) at various points in the story! They get their due however, don't you worry!
There was a very sweet - and very important - new character called Michael, one of the Gardiner children. He was adorable! His childish innocence and often inappropriate comments or questions were great and very funny!
I have said how the author's intelligence is clear in even such a short story, but also this was very well written and the historical accuracy was brilliant. The characterisation was also very good, my favourites being Darcy and Georgiana. There were some fun twists and slight changes to canon as well, which I really enjoyed. If this is what the author can do in under 100 pages I can't wait to read a full length novel!
If you have a spare hour or so and want a nice break one afternoon or a quick bedtime read then this is the book to choose!
I wish Rose all the best with this story, and any future ones!
Your affectionate friend,