Be still my heart. I have just finished one of the best Pride and Prejudice retellings I have ever read.
If you are an Austen fan and haven’t read Lara S. Ormiston’s Unequal Affection, do so immediately! You won’t regret it.
It was so good, so deliciously written, I could hardly contain my joy while reading. And dare I say it, I think even Jane herself would like this retelling.
In case you aren’t aware, Jane Austen and her work are so popular there is a sub-genre of fiction dedicated to her. There are literally hundreds of sequels, retellings, modern adaptations, abridged versions, inspired-by novels and fanfiction all revolving around Miss Austen’s books. So what makes this story better than the hundreds (maybe even thousands) of others?
The short answer? Genius. Pure genius.
The longer (and perhaps better) answer is that this brilliantly written retelling captures the tone and wit of Austen’s original and keeps our beloved characters true to their original selves (or at least as much as possible when one is rewriting a story).
The book begins right after chapter 34 of Pride and Prejudice, when Mr. Darcy proposes to Elizabeth at Hunsford. Instead of giving him the epic, stinging rejection she delivers to Darcy in the original, Elizabeth controls her shock and anger and asks Mr. Darcy for time to consider his proposal. Moved by his passionate declaration of love and motivated by a desire to help her family and ensure her own security, she accepts his proposal. But not without telling him honestly that she does not (yet) love him. She gives him the opportunity to rescind his offer of marriage. He does not.
What follows is the slow and subtle romance of our favorite hero and heroine. Mr. Darcy by no means escapes Elizabeth’s scathing criticisms of his character and attitude, especially in his behavior towards her family, and Elizabeth still undergoes a personal revelation over her misunderstandings of both Darcy and Wickham’s characters. But this time readers are privy not only to Elizabeth’s inner struggles and feelings, but Darcy’s as well. For anyone who has longed to get inside Darcy’s head, prepare to be satisfied. Ormiston’s Darcy is every bit the proud, inscrutable, dynamic hero we always believed him to be, and now we are privy to his innermost thoughts.
The book alternates between Elizabeth and Darcy’s point of view. I particularly loved this because it delicately revealed the romance growing between them in the midst of their struggles over their impending marriage. Darcy’s “scruples about their relationship” are not all disdainful pride. Both Elizabeth and Darcy face censure over their engagement. Rumors fly about Elizabeth being a gold-digger while Darcy sneered at for being ensnared by someone beneath him and disappointing the expectations of his family. But like in the original, Darcy and Elizabeth are true to their own hearts. Elizabeth realizes she has been vain and prejudiced; Darcy realizes he has been selfish in his love and wrong in his pride; both discover the folly of judging too soon. And in the end, true romance blooms and happily ever after is achieved.
Unequal Affection takes us on Darcy and Elizabeth’s journey moment by moment, in intricate, intimate detail. With all the witty, authentic dialogue we enjoy in Austen’s originals as well as comedic relief and the perfect amount of romantic tension, Ormiston cannot fail to please. I whole heartedly recommend this book to any and all Jane Austen fans, in particular those who keep Pride and Prejudice near and dear to their hearts.
I couldn’t possibly read this again too soon, and I can plan on doing so over and over. And isn’t that the ultimate sign of a good book?