REVIEW: Expectations by Frances Murray
This book is for those readers of Pride and Prejudice who might want to know what happened after the weddings of Jane and Elizabeth Bennet. In it they will again encounter Mr. Bennet and his heir, Mr. Collins, the formidable Lady Catherine de Burgh, and Mr. Collins’ wife, Charlotte. There will be glimpses of Lizzie and Jane, and their husbands as well as of Mary, Kitty and Lydia and the Gardiners. However the story must needs have a new heroine and concerns itself more with Phoebe, the daughter of Lady Catherine’s estranged niece and a naval officer. The author hopes that she has not taken too many liberties with Miss Austen’s characters and that the readers of this pastiche will enjoy it as much as she has enjoyed writing it
I should note that there is a “qualities issues” notice for this book at Amazon but aside from 2-3 word run-ons, I think this stems from the choice of period spellings deliberately used such as chuse for choose. There isn’t too much of this though.
Dear Ms. Murray,
Years ago I read and enjoyed three of your older novels written in the 1970s, one of which, “The Burning Lamp,” I reviewed here in our early blogging days. Then I saw you have some newer books available and I jumped at this one without (I’ll be honest) really reading the blurb too closely beyond the fact that it’s a regency and you wrote it. When I decided to pull it out and give it a try, I was surprised at what I’d bought: a novel using Jane Austen characters.
After trying a few of these Austen genre books way back when, I had decided that for the most part they weren’t for me. So, hmmmm, what to do? Remembering how much I liked the other books, I forged ahead – and found myself liking it. I think what worked for me best was the fact that the story focuses on some of the secondary characters and introduces a new subset who you can play around with.
Older heroine Phoebe Parker and her mother are at a standstill. After Captain Parker died in the service of his King and Country, his widow was left to raise their five children on a pittance. With the two younger daughters married respectably, the twin boys have a chance – thanks to the intervention of their father’s old shipmate – of positions as midshipmen. To accept will entail both boys being fitted out, an expense that can’t be born. With no other option, Mrs. Parker fires off the last “shot in her locker” – as her husband would have said – and appeals to her aunt.
Though they fully expected this august lady to reject their request, a return letter offers to pay the boy’s expenses and give them a small stipend on one condition, that Phoebe become this lady’s companion for a year. Since the family had cast her mother off when she married beneath her, Phoebe isn’t thrilled but needs must and she can endure a year in order that the boys be established in careers which will allow them to become independent.
Phoebe is well aware of the lady’s reputation but the lady is unaware of Phoebe’s intelligence and propensity for finding enjoyment in the absurdities of life. Lady Catherine de Bourgh might finally have met her match.
I liked Phoebe from the start. She’s practical, determined, but still not one to martyr herself for life. As she reminds her mother, being Aunt de Bourgh’s companion is only for a year and, to get her brothers set for life, Phoebe can last a year. She goes into the position with eyes wide open and proceeds to make it work for her. Phoebe also makes friends with Charlotte Collins and quickly sees that Charlotte’s husband is an utter fool, albeit one who can be managed just as Aunt is.
Some P&P characters are a greater part of the book than others but most are at least mentioned with little hints of what has happened since Jane and Lizzie were married. Most of this is what I might expect with a few notable exceptions which are needed at various times in this book to move the plot along. There are no zombies or sex scenes though several of the Bennet girls and Phoebe’s sisters are “increasing” and other period euphemisms. There’s a simultaneously funny and somber scene wherein Mr. Bennet sits with his son-in-law during Lizzie’s labor and both takes Darcy’s mind off what he might lose if Lizzy dies as well as bares his own marriage faults.
Though the narrative does start to wander a bit towards the end, it gets nicely wrapped up with a marriage that I had seen coming for a while. The period feel and style are good and I finished the book with a smile. B
NOTE – if you’re planning on trying this and don’t want spoilers, don’t read the Amazon reviews.