I recently was contacted by the lovely Sarah Johnson asking me if I would review her new book, Chosen, for her, and I was happy to! (I was given a review copy but this is my honest, unbiased opinion/)
This is the first book in a series titled 'Leaving Bennet Behind.' Each story will tell of how each Bennet sister finds her match and leaves the name of Bennet behind! Chosen tells us of Elizabeth Bennet's story.
"The Bennet family changed dramatically when Mr Bennet nearly lost his life. The rekindled love between him and his wife encouraged a unifying bond amongst their five daughters. Their story unfolds as each eligible young lady walks down the aisle, taking her husband’s hand and forever leaving the name of Bennet behind.Fitzwilliam Darcy was a tormented man. His sister’s recent accident and the lifelong difficulties she was now to face plagued him. While visiting his friend, Darcy crosses paths with a young lady. He is immediately captivated and soon seeks out an introduction and dance with Elizabeth Bennet. Could it be that his parents, though they are no longer with him, are leading him right to the arms of a family who can help both he and his sister heal from all they have suffered? Will the instant connection Darcy and Elizabeth both feel for each other be able to weather the storms that come when a secret past connection is revealed?"
First off, the writing. The language was generally very good and appropriate; it flowed well as I read. I did enjoy the author’s style; we get to see into the thoughts of many different characters through this book which was really interesting as we got to know them all very well, but more on that later. As we see the perspectives of so many, there is a lot of switching between different points of view, but this was done well. Once I was into the story and used to her style, which didn't take long, the jumps between characters felt smooth and it was easy to follow.
Back to the multiple perspectives; as I said, it was really interesting to get to know so many characters in such detail, and especially to see into the thoughts of some more unusual characters. As a result of this, there are lots of conversations between a real range of characters. I enjoyed it a lot. Seeing more into the thoughts of Caroline Bingley was fun! And we get to know Mary Bennet a lot more, which I really loved. (But while it was a story with many characters, Darcy and Lizzy are still the main two!)
As well as this, we hear about the backgrounds and pasts of many more, which really gives them depth. However, I say we get to know the characters much better, but the characters we get to know are often very different from the ones that we know in Pride and Prejudice!
I was intrigued by the premise of this story. Illness and serious accidents can really alter a family. I know this myself from experience! It makes you re-evaluate your priorities and makes you realise what is actually important in life. This is why so many of the characters are so different, especially the Bennets. Although they are very different from the original, it was a nice change to see the Bennets actually getting on, and of course there are still aspects which are recognisable. Due to the circumstances, Mr Bennet’s accident, the changes in the characters seem very reasonable and believable.
Some of the most interesting characters who have been most affected by the accident would be Mr Bennet himself. The way it has improved his relationship with his wife is really sweet, as well as seeing how it has affected his view on how he cares for his daughters. The Bennet family as a whole are a really close-knit family, which makes a lovely change; we get to see interesting relationships between other sisters like Jane, Elizabeth and Mary. Even Kitty and Lydia are much more subdued and even likable!
The Darcys, as well, are affected by a similar accident which has befallen Georgiana. Poor Georgiana has been through a lot and I really felt for her. The accident seems to greatly alter Darcy's priorities and so when he meets Lizzy, his mindset is very different from canon.
The relationship built between Mr Bennet and Georgiana is very sweet as they can relate as both have been through a very similar accident. Mr Bennet also becomes like a father figure to Darcy, which is nice to see given Darcy has been without a father for so very long.
As well as Mr Bennet being very useful for the Darcys, whose accident has only just happened whereas Mr Bennet’s happened a few years ago, Elizabeth also becomes a real comfort for Darcy as she had to experience what Darcy is going through when her father had his accident.
The characters really are different - I mean, even Mr Bennet and Lydia are getting on! Of course, the evil characters stay evil - that's Caroline, Wickham, the ones that we don't like, as well as some surprising new ones actually! Other particularly interesting changes to characters are others like Mr and Mrs Hurst who have a very sweet relationship. I have already mentioned Mary who has her own little story being set up in this one. (I will go into details about specific characters shortly.)
Aside from the changes in characters due to illness, another interesting aspect which I enjoyed was the idea of fate. Without wanting to give too much away, Darcy lost his parents very young and has been very lonely with a lot of responsibility ever since. As soon as Darcy meets Elizabeth, he feels an instant connection to her, as if it is his parents who have led him into her path, that it is his parents who have ‘chosen’ Elizabeth for him - hence the title! This made for some really, really sweet conversations and a very touching ending - but I don't want to give all the good stuff away! I would say that the Darcy, in this story, could be seen as a lot more sentimental and almost emotional, however it worked with the premise and didn't feel out of place - I'm telling you, serious illness makes you rethink what actually matters! (And I have to say, the sentimental Darcy is really rather cute - some of the things he says to Lizzie are just adorable! You will love him!)
As is hinted at in the blurb above, Darcy and Lizzie do have a slight past connection - another reason why he feels an instant connection to her. It is kept as a bit of a mystery and I was intrigued throughout the story trying to work out what exactly the connection was - it kept me hooked, but I don't want to spoil it for you!
Right now to some more specifics about characters, and of course we must begin with the hero and heroine!
Although Elizabeth has been through much as a result of having to deal with her father's accident, she is still the witty, high-spirited Elizabeth that we know, expect and love. One big alteration is that she likes Darcy straightaway - no pride, no prejudice, no misunderstandings for a change! Something I particularly enjoyed about getting to know this Elizabeth was the past memories of her childhood which really showed her character. There was some lovely stories about her climbing – and getting stuck in! – trees! We also learn of her Grandma Bennet who she was very close to, and the stories painted of their time really helped you see how it shaped her into the Lizzy we know, and it was sweet to have a glimpse into the young Lizzy.
I have already mentioned that Darcy is quite different from the rather proud man that we expect. But you can't help but feel sorry for him as you read his thoughts about his past and how he had to deal with the passing of his mother, and then his father and all the responsibilities as a result of becoming Master of Pemberley so young, and now the accident with Georgiana! His thoughts and feelings are particularly well described. Again, seeing into the thoughts of Darcy is always interesting as he is quite an elusive character until very much towards the end of Pride and Prejudice. You really get to know this Darcy, and although he is different, he is still a Darcy we can easily fall in love with - I did pretty much straight away!
I mentioned early that Elizabeth liked Darcy immediately, as did Darcy with Elizabeth. They get off to a much better start, and do dance at the Meryton assembly! I have now read a few variations where the relationship between Darcy and Lizzie is a lot smoother and the problems come from other areas rather than misunderstandings between themselves, and I really like to read this. Their courtship and relationship through the first half of the story is very sweet - Elizabeth helps to bring Darcy out of his sad state of mind as a result of Georgiana's accident, and Darcy is very, very charming! Some of the conversations they have are really just too cute, as well as often very funny! Another thing I always enjoy in the book is when Darcy and Elizabeth engage quite a lot before the end - I much prefer that to them marrying on the last page of the book! They get engaged almost in the middle of this book, I believe, and it was lovely to see how their relationship changed once they were engaged, and don't worry, the second half is far from boring - the drama doesn't stop as they have other problems to face, but at least they could face them together! I don't know what else to say other than Darcy and Elizabeth are just adorable. They are very much a young couple in love - and we all like to read a happy Darcy and Lizzy don't we?!
Now aside from Darcy and Lizzy, the beloved characters such as the Bingleys obviously still come into the story. Beginning with the not so charming Caroline Bingley - she is as scheming and awful as we want her to be and expect her to be. Bingley, on the other hand, is just Bingley - very much in love with his angel, Jane. It was a lot of fun to see into the thought of Bingley a bit more; for one, about his feelings for Jane, but also about his opinion on his own sister, Caroline! As I already mentioned, Mr and Mrs Hurst are surprisingly lovely and have a really sweet and very different relationship and I enjoyed it. They aren't too keen on Caroline either, and this resulted in some funny scenes and conversations!
I have already touched on Mr Bennet and how he plays a role in the story, but one of the most interesting and enjoyable changes has to be the relationship of Mr and Mrs Bennet. We know that Mr Bennet was attracted to a pretty face and a lively disposition when they were younger, but it is lovely to see the love they would have felt initially, at least for a little while on some level, rekindled. Seeing them work together as parents – and very successfully – to their daughters was really lovely.
Back onto Georgiana; I have already mentioned how it is impossible not to feel sorry for her. The accident has left her incapable of walking, and they are unsure if she will ever walk again. Her development in the story as she comes to terms with her disability is touching and her relationship with Elizabeth and the other Bennet daughters, particularly Mary later in the story, is just wonderful. I always like to get to know Georgiana better as she seems like such a lovely girl in Pride and Prejudice. I am greatly looking forward to seeing how her story continues in the other novels of this ‘Leaving Bennet Behind’ series.
As well as the characters we all love, there are some wonderful new additions to the story. Colonel Fitzwiiam, of course, still comes along but so does his delightful brother Alex Fitzwilliam. It was lovely to see Fitzwilliam with a brother; there was a lot of fun brotherly banter going on! Alex himself was a wonderful character and became quite a major part of the story in his own way and takes quite in interest to one of the other Bennet ladies, and I'm greatly looking forward to see how that goes on in the future stories!
Another new addition is Lord and Lady Rosebery, The Fitzwilliam parents. They were lovely. Their relationship with their son, as well as with their nephew and niece, Darcy and Georgiana, was very nice to see. We really don't meet much of Darcy's family so it was nice to get to know him more through some of his nicer relations - we don't get the best impression from Lady Catherine!
Darcy and Elizabeth are the central characters of this book, but the story which will be picked up in Volume II, Jane and Bingley, is touched on through this book as well, as is the one which I believe will be central to Volume III, Mary’s story. The way she has set up all these other plots and also some other exciting mystery which hasn't been resolved has certainly kept me into wanting to read the next volumes once published, to find out what happens to the other Bennet girls and how they leave the name of Bennet behind. She certainly has me hooked!
I really have enjoyed the story and as you can probably tell, I can't wait for the next volumes of this series. Back on this story in particular, I really enjoyed the better start between Darcy and Elizabeth as well as the relationship between Mr and Mrs Bennet. The idea of how illness can affect so many and change the attitude of so many was really interesting to read about. All the new characters were lovely and the fact that we get to know so many of them so well was brilliant and quite different as many variations I read very much focus on just Darcy and Elizabeth, and at a stretch Jane and Bingley as well.
There was mystery, drama, plenty of romance, humour and brilliant characters - what more could I ask for? I am on tenterhooks waiting for the next installment in this wonderful story - but don't panic, although this is Volume I in a series, this story has its own happy ending, no cliffhangers - for Lizzy and Darcy at least!
Sarah also has also just published a novella which sounds like a lot of fun! I will be reading this soon as well so watch for my review!
"A sudden and fierce snow storm causes Elizabeth, Jane, and Lydia Bennet, as well as their would-be rescuers, Mr Darcy and Mr Bingley, to take shelter in an empty cabin. Lydia’s suggestion to pass the time with games might be just what Bingley needs to prove Jane truly cares for him. Will Elizabeth’s prejudices of Mr Darcy hold up under the scrutiny of being stranded with him? What changes could possibly come from the effects of ‘Snow Storms & Kissing Games’?"
**GIVEAWAY - ends Thursday 21st August ** Sarah has provided me a wonderful giveaway with four prizes!
First prize is a paperback copy of Chosen.
Second prize is an ebook copy of Chosen.
Third prize is a paperback copy of Snow Storms.
And fourth prize is an ebook copy of Snow Storms.
This giveaway is open internationally.
To enter, leave a comment below and the winners will be picked randomly. Please leave your email address. If you are one of the lucky winners, I will pass on your email to Sarah who will be in touch. Good luck! Thank you again to Sarah for this giveaway, and I wish you all the best with this story as well as the future ones!
Your affectionate friend,