Monday, May 12, 2014
The Second Chance by Joana Starnes - with giveaway!
Once again, the wonderful Joana Starnes seamlessly blends the characters from two of Jane Austen's novels; first Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion in The Subsequent Proposal and now Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility in this brilliant story, The Second Chance.
"Soon after the Netherfield ball, a troubled Mr. Darcy decides to walk away from a most unsuitable fascination. But heartache is in store for them all, and his misguided attempts to ensure the comfort of the woman he loves backfire in ways he had not expected...
Why is it that the worth of a true blessing is never felt as keenly as when it seems to have become quite out of reach? In this tale of ‘Pride & Prejudice’ meets ‘Sense & Sensibility’, Mr. Darcy is compelled to reflect on this very question, as he struggles to come to terms with the effects of his wrong choices, and fervently hope for a second chance at finding happiness.
“Well, Sir, what shall it be? The joy of music or of the printed word?” she asked, in a manner so highly reminiscent of their past interactions as to make him almost giddy with renewed hope.
“The joy of you! My greatest folly was to ever walk away from it!”"
Starting off with the writing! I remember being very impressed with the writing in The Subsequent Proposal and it was just as brilliant, if not better, in this story! The style is just wonderful to read; it feels almost effortless as it flows so well and the language is perfect. It doesn't feel as though the author was trying too hard to fit with the era or imitate Jane Austen's style which was great, because I find when authors try too hard with it, it doesn't seem natural and flowing, but more forced. As well as flawless writing, Joana has an amazing talent for description, particularly getting into the characters heads and explaining their thoughts and feelings - she does it so powerfully! In addition to sad and intense emotions, there is also just the right amount of humour, which the author also does very well!
This story begins to explore a different path much earlier in the plot than most variations I have read (which is a lot by now!) which made a nice change. We join the story at Netherfield Park where Jane is recovering from her illness, and very quickly the story takes a bit of a twist! Whilst at Netherfield, Elizabeth receives a letter, rather reminiscent of the one received at Lambton regarding Lydia's elopement, but this time it contains the news that Mr Bennet has taken ill.
Given that we are much earlier in the story, Elizabeth is considerably less prejudiced against Darcy - Wickham hasn't come along yet, after all! Add to this the compassionate and caring side to Darcy which is seen for the first time when he comforts Lizzy after hearing about her father, Elizabeth's opinion of Darcy begins to improve much sooner as she realises that perhaps there's more to him than meets the eye. (And I can't tell you how happy it made me for Elizabeth, when Wickham does turn up with his 'tale of woe', to actually realise how peculiar it is for this relative stranger to suddenly blacken Darcy's character in such a way and after so slight an acquaintance! A sensible thinking, unprejudiced Elizabeth for a change!)
As the plot strays away from what we know to happen, other characters stories' pan out in different ways, as is to be expected, and characters such as Kitty, Mary and Bingley come into their own! (But I don't want to give all the clever and interesting changes and twists away!)
As I mentioned above, this author is really skilled at description. A lot of the beginning of the story is from Darcy's point of view and we get to see his inner turmoil and fight with this growing attraction for the unsuitable Miss Bennet! I really, really felt for him! It was interesting to see familiar scenes between Darcy and Elizabeth at Netherfield but from Darcy's point of view; what was he thinking during the walk through the Netherfield grounds when Darcy and Caroline meet Elizabeth and Louisa? And was Darcy really as oblivious to Elizabeth's presence during that long, silent half hour in the library, shortly before she is due to return home, as he appeared to be? (Incase you were wondering, no he wasn't!)
This continues through the story as he tries to deal with the choice he made to walk away from her, and then further still when he faces problems which are getting in the way when he is trying for his second chance with Elizabeth!
Elizabeth also has a very interesting journey through this story. It was fascinating to read about her thoughts, again so powerfully expressed, and how she copes with her fathers illness. What was also lovely was the effect his illness has upon the whole Bennet family; naturally illness puts things in perspective and we see the Bennet sisters grow closer and even Mrs Bennet is affected in ways you would not imagine! As the story progresses and the Bennets have to adapt to a new life, the altering relationships and dynamics between the Bennet's was really nice to read about.
Darcy and Elizabeth go through a lot - this book is certainly not without its angst! There is also an on-going game of cat and mouse for a while as Darcy chases Elizabeth round the country, literally- this was frustrating but also rather amusing at times!
What I thought was really clever was how the story we know between Jane and Bingley is sort of transferred to Darcy and Lizzy. It's Darcy who is persuaded (admittedly by himself!) to leave her, and then he realises what a mistake he has made and returns in the hope of a second chance, much like Bingley does with Jane! Joana very cleverly weaves in some of the conversations and the situations which we recognise from being between Jane and Bingley in the original, for example, he says "we have not met since the 26th of November, when I had the honour of dancing with you at the Netherfield Ball" when they finally meet again (and the chase is over!)
Other characters we love are brilliant in this story. A favourite would be Colonel Fitzwilliam! I always love to see more to his and Darcy's relationship and it was particularly interesting in this one due to certain actions on Darcy's part and problems which arise, and this results in some rather tense and difficult conversations between the two which was new and different to read. Another favourite is Georgiana, and her relationship with Darcy and also the Colonel. You can see how strong a bond the three have and I always love seeing more of them!
Another lovely change was that Darcy and Lizzy sort out their misunderstandings quicker and thanks to the better first impression at the beginning, come to an understanding much sooner. But is it then plain sailing for the couple? Of course not! There is still almost half the book to go which is filled with problems for the two, thanks to the likes of Lady Catherine and Mr Collins, members of Darcy's family, members of Lizzy's family and past mistakes which come back to haunt them! But they face these problems together which is lovely for a change. It also means we get to see the charming and more open Darcy for longer rather than just in the last few pages of the book! (Darcy is so very sweet and loveable in this story - so charming!)
As you might have guessed, the romance and passion is this story is wonderful, while it is completely clean. Tensions build as more and more problems seem to arise but Darcy and Lizzy manage to find a few private moments and steal a few kisses - and get more and more impatient for the wedding! (There are a few amazingly romantic and passionate meetings in the library - but I shall say no more!)
I realise I haven't actually touched much on the fact that the characters from Sense and Sensibility come into this story. If you worry about the characters being brought together you really shouldn't worry! It really works amazingly well as the characters from Sense and Sensibility blend seamlessly with the Pride and Prejudice ones. It seems so natural and right - like it was meant to be! Elinor and Marianne chatting away with Elizabeth and Kitty in one corner, while Lydia and Mrs Bennet are gossiping with Mrs Jennings in the other! The image just works, doesn't it? (Well, you may question Kitty but her character undergoes an interesting change, one which I loved!)
I really enjoyed having Bingley, Darcy, Brandon and Ferrars all in one room at the same time - that was fun to picture! Colonel Brandon and Colonel Fitzwilliam were old friends due their professions and having met during the war, which isn't an unreasonable idea!
The best part was when all the principal characters from Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility end up round one dinner table - hilarity and brilliance ensue! It just works and the characters really suit and complement one and other! It you still don't believe me, just read it and see for yourself!
(I will just put in here to fear not, for Wickham, Lydia, Lucy Steele and Robert Ferrars all make an appearance and cause trouble at one time or another! How, I will not tell.)
I have mentioned it a little, but I will just say again how I loved the clever use of situations and conversations we know but between different people and in different contexts. I enjoyed and really noticed it, in this variation in particular. A favourite had to be the classic Lady Catherine confrontation, but this time Darcy is on the receiving end!
I don't want to give anything away and so all I shall comment about the ending is that you will love it! After all the problems and anguish and the journey Darcy and Elizabeth, as well as me the reader, have been on, you really feel very happy for them and so content and satisfied - more so than I usually do with the end of a book! I think the length of the story helped with this, as you really get to know them, and the story isn't rushed at any point. It ends in a perfectly satisfying way, and with a very sweet epilogue to wrap up the different characters stories very neat and tidily!
Joana Starnes really has done it again. Humour, romance, tension and a wonderful mix of characters and story lines - it's got it all! I really got into this story (can you tell?), partly down to the length - but even though it was double the length of The Subsequent Proposal I still didn't want it to end - but mostly because this was so well written and such a clever, brilliant and different story.
All I can say is thank goodness it seems there is another story from this author coming out soon, and the extract we are given at the end for this new story, "The Falmouth Connection", really sounds intriguing and I can't wait!
Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant and very unique. Just read it.
I am very lucky to be able to offer a giveaway of an ebook copy of this story (internationally)!
To enter please leave a comment below and include your email address so that I can contact the randomly selected winner and which format you would like if you are the winner.
The giveaway will end on the 19th of May.
I wish Joana all the best with this story as well as any other stories in the future!
Your affectionate friend,