Apr 16, 12
Read from April 01 to 16, 2012
"Plot = Conflict that forces your Character to Change." I said that a year ago in a blog post underlying the importance of conflict in fiction. It's a dictate writers of fanfiction have an especially hard time following, because 1) They love the characters and want them to be happy, and 2) Their readers love the characters and want them to be happy.
I must now confess to completely forgetting my own rule when I began reading An Arranged Marriage by Jan Hahn. In this Pride and Prejudice variation, Mr. Bennet dies suddenly just days after Darcy's ill-fated proposal in Kent. Elizabeth returns to Longbourn to suffer his death and Lydia's later scandal with her mother and sisters, but she does not travel to Derbyshire with her aunt and uncle that summer. Therefore, she has no cause to believe Mr. Darcy's proud demeanor is changed at all, and since Darcy still orders the Gardiners not to make his part in Lydia's marriage known, she has no reason to believe in the depth of his goodness and devotion to her. Upon hearing of the Bennet ladies' dire straits, he offers to marry her yet again, and she accepts--for their sake.
I frowned and tutted through the first half of the book when she doubted his goodness and his very nature. How could she think such things about Darcy? Didn't she know he was the very best of men? (Another confession, dear reader: I may have the slightest bit of a crush on Mr. Darcy.)
The answer, of course, is that she did not know. Once I remembered that and realized how very smoothly Ms. Hahn had introduce conflict into the Darcy marriage, I stopped frowning and simply marveled at the story. I loved reading the little moments when she realized how wrong she'd been about her husband, and their reconciliation was among the more romantic scenes I've ever read.
There is a depth to this novel that one does not often find. The struggles between Elizabeth and Darcy take place on many levels, and even when the central trust issues are resolved, there is more to keep the story going. The reader has the delightful opportunity to watch a happy couple work through some of their smaller disagreements, in a manner that is entirely realistic.
An Arranged Marriage is told in first person, and while this is not my usual preference, it truly works in this novel. Elizabeth's voice comes through so clearly, we can easily see the same wit and humor her late father loved her for. The sly humor combined with the sweetness of the romance made this one of the best books I have read all year.