Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A Match for Mary Bennet

A Match for Mary Bennet by Eucharista Ward

I purchased this book a while ago, as it was a P&P sequel, and because I thought that Mary should have her story too.  Why didn’t Mr. Collins ask her instead of Elizabeth?  What will happen to her now?  Once I received the book from that special little brown box many of us love (Amazon.com), this book went to sit on my shelf for some time.  One reason was that there were so many other books, particularly ones that I have checked out from the library, and the other reason is that I missed “An Inspirational Pride and Prejudice Sequel” on the front cover when I ordered it.

I am not religious... will get that right out there.  And an ‘inspirational’ tale made me nervous.  I have tried to read ‘inspirational’ novels before, and couldn’t get through them, as I felt suffocated by the religiosity of those novels.  I know, I know... but it is not something I am comfortable with, being preached to while trying to enjoy a nice piece of fiction.  I did, however, pack this book to move across the ocean with me, thinking that I might just pick it up one day to ‘see’!

For the new year, I thought that I would participate in a couple of reading challenges, and decided to start with my TBR shelves before I purchased another book.  I grabbed A Match For Mary Bennet... kind of like a splinter... get it over quickly.  Well, it ended way too quickly, if you ask me.  I was VERY pleasantly surprised with this gem!

Ms. Ward did a fabulous job with Mary Bennet.  Her Mary Bennet was introduced to us in her story, much like the Mary Bennet of Pride and Prejudice, quoting from various religious texts, but never quite getting it in to the right context.  The book opens with Mary Bennet in her early 20’s and travelling between her home in Longbourn, to Pemberley and to ‘Otherfield,’ Jane and Bingley’s home in Nottingham, (The Bingleys moved to Nottingham in order to be closer to Elizabeth and Darcy).  The whole time, Mary is thankful that Elizabeth ‘sacrificed’ herself for her family and married that odious Mr. Darcy.  

While Mary is at home, Mrs. Bennet is constantly nattering on about Mary and how she needs to work on catching a husband...how she should smile more and make polite conversation.  At various balls, Mary starts to take notice of the people around her, and starts to talk with various gentlemen.  Often, she misunderstands what people are really saying and ‘reading’ their actions.  Throughout the book, Mary begins to really see what is going on around her, though, mostly at the urging of Mr. Steven Oliver, the new rector for Kympton, a living provided by Mr. Darcy.  

Mary sees that Elizabeth really is in love with Mr. Darcy.  She learns to see that Lydia is not all happiness at being the first married, and Mary tries to find her place in life.  Will she be the unmarried sister who moves from house to house, living with various sisters?  Will she find a place of her own, with her own living and settle to a solitary life?  Will she marry “ne’er-do-well with his horses and his foppishness and his daft family”? (Mary’s various refusals of this gentleman are hilarious!  But I won’t tell you if she will ultimately refuse him or accept him to help a family member)

It was wonderful book that I DEVOURED!  Ms. Ward did a very nice job of weaving her story, making Mary blossom, and putting Mary’s faith in the story.  Knowing that Mary is the more religious sister of the Bennet family, Ms. Ward kept true to her nature, but was not ‘pushy’ (for want of a better word).  The storyline kept flowing nicely and there were several subplots to keep it interesting and kept this reader guessing.  Luckily, it ended as I had hoped, as I really had no idea how it would end until the final chapters.  Plus, Ms. Ward took it a little further, to give us an idea of how the story would continue for her well-drawn characters.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone who loves Pride and Prejudice.  It was a very nice sequel that showed all of the original characters and introduced a few new faces.  I cannot wait to re-read it one day, after I reread P&P, as this is the best sequel that I have come across (and I have read quite a few!)!

5 STARS!

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