Updated: Jun 8, 2020
Review by Christina Boyd:
Anyone who claims to know Jane Austen’s work is all too familiar with the ill-fated ‘Hunsford proposal’ scene in Pride and Prejudice. You know the scene? Mr Darcy comes to Miss Elizabeth Bennet when she is alone in the parsonage and professes his love amongst a litany of unromantic and arrogant reasons why he has struggled against his feelings... In Joana Starnes’s new release, A Timely Elopement, his ill-worded delivery of a proposal is interrupted when the colonel barges in and declares their cousin Anne has eloped.
Later, when Elizabeth unexpectedly finds herself as a guest at the Darcy townhouse as a companion of sorts to his formidable aunt, Lady Catherine de Bourgh, Mr Darcy soon realizes that he has dodged a bullet by not proposing to Elizabeth, a woman who was misinformed about him and had thought him the last man in the world she might marry—and takes this new found intelligence as an opportunity to show her he is a man worthy of her.
“He would secure his hearts desire—secure her—and if the world at large could not understand that happy men did their duty better, then they could go hang!”
Starnes has long been a household name when it comes to Jane Austen inspired fiction. Her banter between Darcy and Elizabeth is second to none, and their romance is swoon-worthy without the saccharine syrup that so often one finds in this sub-genre. I love how Starnes shows Elizabeth as a woman who does not willfully misunderstand, rather she studies Darcy’s words and deeds to see he very well might be the best man of her acquaintance—even when another admirable suitor is introduced into their circle—all the while bestowing Elizabeth’s charm and wit we love and expect.
In London and later in Hertfordshire, Darcy and Elizabeth cannot but have private conversations, secret looks, and pulse-raising moments:
“She gasped, not so much at the question as at the feel of his thumb brushing over her lower lip, once his hand had curved around her cheek. She saw him swallow hard and unwittingly did likewise, her throat suddenly dry. For all his admirable traits she discovered in him, she was reminded in a flash that he was strong-willed, often domineering, and patently accustomed to having his own way. Everything about this unnerving moment worked to confirm it. His hand on her cheek—an almost propriety gesture, and far too intimate for a proposal that had not been accepted. His demand for an answer—insistent and so very premature. His eyes flicking to her lips time and again, as if any moment now he would forget himself and kiss her.”
In this smart comedy of manners and intrigue, Starnes shows us the folly of judging by first impressions and this, like her previous Austenesque romances, delighted me with the tender, fledging relationship between Darcy and Elizabeth. The inventive twists are a welcome surprise and absolutely believable. A Timely Elopement is humorous, with the perfect measure of angst, a gloriously smitten Darcy, a bright and sparkling Elizabeth, gorgeous interaction with Georgiana and the colonel, and features a cousin Anne de Bourgh who I genuinely applauded. I loved this! Loved. Just the timely Austenesque fix I needed to read in a world gone mad.
About the author: Joana Starnes lives in the south of England with her family. She swapped several hats over the years (physician, lecturer, clinical data analyst) but feels most comfortable in a bonnet. She has been living in Regency England for decades in her imagination, and plans to continue in that vein till she lays hands on a time machine. She loves to look for glimpses of Pemberley and Jane Austen’s world, and to write about Regency England and Mr Darcy falling in love with Elizabeth Bennet over and over and over again. You can find Joana Starnes on: Facebook at www.facebook.com/joana.a.starnes and www.facebook.com/AllRoadsLeadToPemberley.JoanaStarnes Goodreads at www.goodreads.com/author/show/7076897.Joana_Starnes Twitter at www.twitter.com/Joana_Starnes Instagram at https://instagram.com/joana_starnes/ Austen Variations: https://austenvariations.com/joana-starnes/ Or on her own website at www.joanastarnes.co.uk