My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This is the kind of story I save my five star ratings for. I may not give out 5 stars all that readily because I want to apply them to stories that really move me. The definition of 5 stars is "I loved it" and that is true of The Elizabeth Papers.
The Elizabeth Papers is a story of modern descendants of our beloved Fitzwilliam and Elizabeth Darcy. However, the resolution of their story requires our modern day characters to research and reveal the story of our dear couple, which is told through segments of Elizabeth's journals and a few of Darcy's letters. Jenetta James interweaves the Regency and current day stories in a manner that allows the truth and the intentions to be discovered together. The two time periods are written well, such that we can feel the difference between the two as our reading switches between them. The Regency period retains a softness of candlelight and gentle living contrasted with the tragedies of medical limitations and lack of conveniences. The modern day shows the reverse, in the harsh aspects of modern texts, emails, cars, etc., but amazing breakthroughs in science and medicine.
As Fitzwilliam Darcy's life was coming to its inevitable conclusion, he reflects on the difference between the situation of his five daughters compared to the five daughters of the Bennet family which included his wife, Elizabeth. He is struck by the possible financial insecurity of women in a world where men inherit everything, and women are at the mercy of these men. His daughters are all well-settled, but what about the future females of his line? He therefore creates the Darcy Trust, providing financial security for his female descendants in perpetuity.
Cressida Carter (the Miss Bingley of our story) is one of Darcy's descendants who is receiving a share of the Darcy Trust. However, she has heard rumor that Victoria, the fifth daughter of Elizabeth, may not have been Fitzwilliam's daughter. Charlie Haywood is a present day private investigator who has been engaged by Cressida to help discover the truth of the fifth daughter. She hires Charlie to locate proof that will help disinherit the females from Victoria's line, thus providing her and the other descendants a bigger piece of the trust. Charlie pursues his investigation by locating and meeting Evie and Clemmie Pemberton, the current beneficiaries from Victoria's family. But, his investigation is seriously hampered when his feelings for Evie and his concern for Clemmie's medical needs get in the way.
As other readers may experience, I had an inkling very soon into the story as to the true identity of Victoria. My early thoughts were this was a bit predictable, but then I realized the author most likely intended this very impression. Because, fundamentally, the story we read involving both the Regency and the modern eras is less about this mystery than it is about the kindness of the Darcy's, both then and now. It is not Victoria's identity that matters in the long run, but the importance of family sticking together and taking care of each other. The kindness of Fitzwilliam Darcy in setting up the Darcy Trust is carried into the present day as we see the kindness of Evie and the present day Darcy's of Pemberley. This kindness saves Charlie Haywood, and resolves Cressida's greed while still valuing her as a family member.
The quality of writing in this story is simply superb. We are drawn into Elizabeth's world through her own writing, as she tells the story of her fears as a woman who is giving her husband a whole family of daughters just like her mother. We see through her eyes how Fitzwilliam's selflessness is revealed and how their love feeds into future generations. The reader meets the current generation of Darcy's, some struggling, some greedy, as they try to beat each other to the truth of Victoria's parenthood. In both eras, the author allows us tremendous insight into the thoughts and feelings of the characters. And, we see how doing the right thing with love allows for an unambiguous resolution for future generations.
Definitely highly recommended.
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