My rating: 4 of 5 stars
One thing you often read of in both the original Pride and Prejudice and various fan fiction is how witty Elizabeth Bennet is, and how this was one of the major things that attracted Mr. Darcy to her. Jane Austen was certainly capable of making her witty, but not many fan fiction authors have this skill. I was delighted to see that Sophia Meredith is one of the exceptions. The best part, for me, of reading On Oakham Mount was the authors ability to truly show Elizabeth's conversational skills and wittiness.
In this variation, Elizabeth has received Mr. Collins proposal of marriage the day following the ball at Netherfield. However, this time Mr. Bennet does not come to his daughter's rescue, but encourages her to accept Mr. Collins. Once again, as the neglectful and indigent father he is, Mr. Bennet is thinking about his own comfort and how lovely it would be to be left alone in his study for the remainder of his days. With Elizabeth married to Mr. Collins, his family would be settled for his eventual demise and he could pursue his own interests in peace.
Hurt and shock over Mr. Bennet's lack of support propels Elizabeth to seek solitude on Oakham Mount where she can cry to her heart's content. She is starting to see the wisdom of the match with Mr. Collins, regardless of how personally disgusting the man. Her plan is to indulge herself in her sorrow now and then accept her lot and her permanent state of unhappiness with a man she cannot abide.
Seeing a woman in distress while taking a final ride before leaving Hertfordshire, Darcy heads to the mount to see if he can be of assistance. Elizabeth desires no assistance from Mr. Darcy, but is too polite to totally send him away. During their conversation several of their misunderstandings are resolved and Elizabeth begins to see Fitzwilliam Darcy in a much better light. In the meantime, Darcy is struggling internally with his feelings for Elizabeth and wonders if it would be possible to marry her so she would not have to marry Mr. Collins. He suggests a marriage of convenience which is accepted, after a slight misunderstanding, and the two settle on a betrothal.
However, in the meantime, Mr. Bingley gets it into his head that he will propose to Jane now, prior to leaving for town. Jane and Bingley promise Elizabeth a season in town for her to meet other men. Feeling honor bound to allow Darcy to bow out of the engagement, Elizabeth releases him. Since no one is aware of their betrothal, she feels now would be the time to allow him to back out. Mr. Darcy, however, takes this badly and leaves Meryton in turmoil. Both are unsettled and distraught about how the engagement ended. The question addressed through the remainder of the story is: why are both so unhappy about the engagement being ended? Is there something more between them? Can they find happiness apart or should they be together? A further misunderstanding about which Bennet sister married Mr. Collins compounds the problem.
As I mentioned at the beginning of the review, the dialog is wonderful. I love how Elizabeth wittily handles Darcy and his relatives. She is particularly at her sharpest while sparring with Lady Catherine de Bourgh. One of my favorite scenes, though, involves another misunderstanding between ODC when Elizabeth mistakes Darcy's proposal for a proposition.
I very much enjoyed On Oakham Mount. I saw a couple of errors, but maybe they are my misconceptions - I did not think Ann de Bourgh was due the title of Lady as I did not think her father's position provided for it. Lady Catherine is a lady due to her father being an earl, but Ann does not obtain that title from her mother. But, other than one or two minor things, I very much enjoyed this story and highly recommend it. I look forward to more JAFF from Sophia Meredith.
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