Today’s team review is from Noelle, she blogs at http://saylingaway.wordpress.com
Noelle has been reading The Elizabeth Papers by Jenetta James
The Elizabeth Papers is a book in the genre of the Eyre Hall Trilogy by Luccia Gray and Death Comes to Pemberley by PD James. But it does more than just extend from the end of a classic Regency novel – it combines with modern story line in a perfect blend.
At the end of Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy are blissfully married. At the beginning of The Elizabeth Papers, Darcy writes to his solicitor of his wishes to establish a trust for his female descendants, based on his observations of the uncertain futures of his wife’s four sisters. His marriage is chronicled in the diary of the pregnant Elizabeth, who begins by recounting the joys of a happy marriage and a family of two daughters. The author then jumps to 2014, when one of the female Darcy descendants, the greedy Cressida Carson, hires an investigator, Charles Haywood, to determine if some of the Darcy female descendants are falsely collecting from the trust. She wants him to find evidence that Victoria, fifth daughter of Elizabeth and Fitzwilliam, was not actually their daughter, based on a one hundred and fifty- year-old rumor. This will increase her share of the trust. One of Victoria’s descendants in Evie Pemberton, a young artist just coming into her own, and Charles misrepresents himself to her to begin his search.
The segue back to 1819 is smooth and the reader once again becomes entwined in the lives of the Darcy family: Wickham, the amoral husband of Lydia, Elizabeth’s sister, dies and Lizzie gives birth to yet another girl. This outcome weighs heavily on Lizzie’s mind since she knows her husband needs an heir.
All of the characters in Pride and Prejudice return in this book, fully realized, and the modern characters are drawn with insight and warmth. I would describe more, but I don’t want to spoil the story for potential readers.
Remarkably, the novel transitions smoothly from the intimacy of Lizzie’s experiences, written in the first person, to the third person narrative of Charles’ and Evie’s growing relationship and their ultimate trip to Pemberley Hall in their search for the evidence of Victoria’s birth. I loved tension at the end of each chapter, not wanting to change eras, as the story moved back and forth. The introduction of an old portrait of Lizzie surrounded by her five daughters, painted by an eminent portraitist of the time, is a jewel tying the two stories together. Kudos to Janetta James for making being able to use these disparate mechanisms work so well in writing this highly literary and entertaining novel.
Was there deception in the Darcy marriage? Can Evie and Charlie find Lizzie’s diaries in the walls of present-day Pemberley? Was Victoria a legitimate daughter? You have to read The Elizabeth Papers to find out, and I highly recommend you do so!