I used to think that one of the best compliments I could give a book was to say I read the whole thing in one sitting because it was so good. I read the first 3/4ths of An Arranged Marriage in one sitting and then purposefully slowed down to savor the last bit over several days because I didn't want it to end. I believe I have a new best compliment.
The blurb from the back of the book: Immediately after Elizabeth Bennet refuses Mr. Darcy's proposal at Hunsford, her father dies, leaving Longbourn entailed away and little fortune to sustain his widow and daughters.
Six months later, the Bennet family receives a visitor with a most unusual offer that promises to save the family from financial and social ruin. Elizabeth's sense of duty forces her to enter into an arranged marriage with a man she does not even like [Mr. Darcy].
Told from Elizabeth's point of view, An Arranged Marriage is a compelling twist on Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. Can Elizabeth overcome her feelings of anger, resentment, and suspicion toward her new husband and - the most bewildering sensation of all - a growing attraction for the last man in the wolrd she ever wished to marry?
Rehash vs. Revisit: A+
Nit Picky Little Things: A
Wonderful Little Moments: A
The Moment I was Hooked: A+
Characterization: The story is told in Lizzy's words. By enjoying this first person point of view, the reader is lured into her misunderstandings and becomes a partner in her turmoil. While a quick reaction may be that Elizabeth Bennet, much like Austen herself, would never have married for less than love, a rather compelling case is made for her decision that fit well with her personality.
While most of the reviews on amazon.com are rather good, a few people claimed that Elizabeth acted childish in portions of the story. I disagree. I have read quite a few of these P&P follow up books over the past few years. A collection of writers have used the idea that if Lizzy were forced into a relationship prior to or without her choosing, that she would go kicking and screaming. I tend to agree with this assessment. I didn't find her petulant, but confused a bit sardonic. Ex: "How pleasant it would be if we could just sit there quietly for a while, but no, he would speak."
Mr. Darcy. What can I say? He is brooding, haughty, handsome and stares deeply at Lizzy. And when he speaks he does not dissappoint.
Because I saw the BBC/A&E 1995 Colin Firth & Jennifer Ehle version of the movie before ever reading the original Pride and Prejudice, the cast of that mini-series are the voices I hear when reading the lines of the characters to this day. I completely could have believed anyone of those cast members speaking the words that Mrs. Hahn wrote. It actually made me wish there was such a performance.
Plot: Because of her father's early death in this novel, Elizabeth's period of contrition and consideration for Darcy's letter post proposal in Hunsford is truncated by her mourning. The reader gets to travel through these revelations with Elizabeth. It added tension back into a story for me as a reader even though I could guess at how all would end. It was the same sort of suspense I felt in most of the fairly predictable Austen stories. It isn't so much the end destination but the getting there that is the magic.
It is a deeply romantic plot. I am not sure what the appeal of people getting to know one another after marriage is to me. On paper, it sounds highly unromantic even though it has been featured as a story line in many things before. (In the movie Green Card, on my favorite plot line of Prince Richard and Cassie on Guiding Light.) Just as Darcy and Elizabeth's romance defies the social class conventions of the early 1800's, so does this arranged marriage's future.
Rehash vs. Revisit: Revisits only - which is the way I prefer. A few lines were cleverly re-purposed. Overall, Mrs. Hahn assumes the reader is at least familiar with Pride and Prejudice.
Nit Picky Little Things: There are a lot of book covers to compete with in a book store, even among the Pride and Prejudice sequels. While the picture was perfect, I did not care for the title font. It made the book look personally (or cheaply) printed verses a mass publication. And yes, I know that is a very nit picky thing to say coming from a person who can barely spell.
Wonderful Little Moments: "...her face falling like a pillow robbed of its feathers", the carriage ride, billiard lessons, Lizzy's affliction, "It is all your father's fault," not arguing with a saint, Darcy explaining the layout of rooms to Elizabeth.
Originality: While the plot line isn't unique, even to Pride and Prejudice sequels, it was the best and most satisfying version I have read. And when I say, not unique, it is not meant as uncomplimentary. Vampires stories, murder mysteries, fairy tales all follow plots that we have known before. It is the handling of them that is what draws me in as a reader. Mrs. Hahn handled this one very much to my liking.
The Moment I was Hooked: The first page drew me in with its humor and set the stage for the whole of the story.
If this book was a movie - it would be rated PG-13. For those looking for romance and a little heat without well described scenes of intimacy, this is the book for you.