I've wanted to read this book forever as the idea really intrigued me. the Bennett's situation was bad enough, but what if it got worse? The Collins are at Longbourne, the Bennett girls split up among relatives, and Jane is married to a shop keeper! Elizabeth is living with the Gardiners, helping her aunt with the children. A chance encounter with Bingley brings the cast of characters together again.
Awesome premise and the obvious research into the time period added a great deal of social, historical, and even economical aspects that were wonderful to read. The characters were recognizable and mostly themselves (see below for exceptions), though obvious changed slightly by the circumstances of the 'What If' scenario. There were touching moments, hilarious ones, and painful ones.
I really wanted to like this book.
But man, it thwarted me at every turn! Two elements especially kept me from liking this a and one was a massive part of the story. First, Bingley was written completely off. Quite frankly, I all but hated him by the end of the book! Yes, Jane is married and about to give birth to someone else's child - a tragic thing as you finally both know your feelings for the other. But that doesn't give you a license to act as a cad, as nearly ungentlemanly as some other characters in this piece. His actions completely discounted hurt of her reputation, her feelings about the matter, and even his principles are thrown aside with only a vague defense of "I love her" given. If you turn into a creepy stalker and watch her while she sleeps are we suppose to write it off as protective?
But he comes out looking good compared to Darcy's family. Yes, I know during the time period it was fashionable to have a wife for your heirs and household and a mistress for love. In some manor houses, young females of the downstairs world might have more to do with the beds then make them. But these were things done carefully and you made sure they wouldn't come to light. It was also true that marriages made for convenience could work out and not every man in a high position couldn't keep it in his pants!
So why did every single one of Darcy's relatives fit the stereotype to mustache-twirling villain proportions? His Earl uncle is so disgusting, so outside of the realms of decent behavior, there would have been no way that anyone would have been connected with him, even with his title. And if the whole family was like that, then Fitzwilliam was either adopted or never raised in the same house as his father and brother. It would have been humorous if these actions weren't central to the story.
Combined with some statements made, the book almost seemed like class warfare. Darcy was immune because his heart grew three sizes and...he's handsome? It just seemed overblown, overdone, and almost against what Austen is suppose to be about. If handled right, I think it could have been shocking in a way that made you think and consider the time period differently. Instead, this plot point made the whole thing feel trite and like some terrible B movie or something.
So while parts of it were good and gave you a look at what the worse case scenario could have been for the Bennett girls, I just can't in the end like this book. How she had Bingley basically lose all the sense he had and the kindness and goodness that were central to his character and her stereotypical rich people who were evil to the point of farcical villainy.