It's two days before the Netherfield ball. Darcy is already deep in battle with his burgeoning feelings for Elizabeth, who is well established in her dislike for our hero. Of these days Austen tells us:
Just because the adverse weather keeps Kitty and Lydia from pursuing a walk and Elizabeth from the enjoyment of Wickham's company, does not mean that the young lady who walked three miles in mud to Netherfield would be prevented from making the most of any lulls in the storm to at least enjoy three turns, as Mr. Woodhouse would say, around her family's own grounds. It is also very easy to believe that a restless Darcy, cooped up with Miss Bingley and repressing his feelings for Elizabeth, would likewise head out (on horseback, of course) at anytime the weather permitted, perhaps accidentally straying out of Netherfield's park and onto neighboring lands. Behold our intrepid heroes, caught in the sudden downpour that both should have expected and forced to shelter together until it passes. They do not reach an instant understanding but, nonetheless, the groundwork is laid for the future. Of course, two such characters must create some of their own impediments to happiness, and there are certain relatives that will insist on interfering, so it is not all smooth sailing. Ms. Lilian flushes out her tidy prose with fully developed Gardiners and Matlocks, as well as some rather steamy encounters between the young lovers.
If there had not been a Netherfield ball to prepare for and talk of, the younger Miss Bennets would have been in a pitiable state at this time, for from the day of the invitation to the day of the ball, there was such a succession of rain as prevented their walking to Meryton once. No aunt, no officers, no news could be sought after; -- the very shoe-roses for Netherfield were got by proxy. Even Elizabeth might have found some trial of her patience in weather which totally suspended the improvement of her acquaintance with Mr. Wickham; and nothing less than a dance on Tuesday, could have made such a Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday endurable to Kitty and Lydia.
A few characters really stand out as particularly delightful in this text, namely Lady Matlock (who often shines) and little Rebecca Gardiner, a charming little girl who prefers to be called "just Becky" and provides a great deal of the book's comic relief. The former's forceful personality is aptly demonstrated when she declares, "Oh, for heaven's sake, Darcy, take her hand and be done with it. You are acting like a schoolboy!" Becky is also rather direct in her speech, and when the two ladies meet great fun ensues:
"Lady Ellen, allow me to introduce to you my youngest cousin, Rebecca Gardiner."Ms. Lilian and I have been engaged in an email conversation about the role of sex in Austen adaptations which I hope to post at a near, if still unknown, date, and so will not dwell on the matter here. All I will say is that while Rainy Days is rather steamy at times, it is mostly due to the very passionate make out scenes between Darcy and Elizabeth, who thankfully do not precede their wedding vows. I hope to be able to announce soon when the post will be up, as the "sex issue" is a question I have been struggling with for a very long time. For those of you who, like me, are uncomfortable with Darcy and Elizabeth's intimacy, I urge you not to allow it to deter you from reading this delightful book. The sex is not nearly as overt as it can sometimes be and the plot remains strong even if you do glimpse over some of the kissy parts.
"Pleased to meet you, Miss Rebecca Gardiner." The girl remained silent, and Lady Ellen turned to Elizabeth. "Does Miss Rebecca Gardiner not know how to speak?"
"Oh, I know how to speak," Becky finally answered, "but you are so beautiful that I forgot the words."
Her little face was so honestly impressed that Lady Matlock smiled in delight.
"Why thank you, dear! That is the most charming compliment I have heard in quite a while."
"Oh," answered Becky, suddenly talkative again as she felt herself on secure ground, "I am very good at compliments; everybody knows that. But you should know my name is Becky, not Miss Rebecca Gardiner."
Elizabeth decided to interrupt, as a talkative Becky could be a dangerously voluble one. "Lady Matlock, please forgive us. My cousin can be very...forward when she likes someone, and she tends to speak about many things that are not entirely proper."
"Is that so, Becky? Well, Elizabeth, you must not apologize for that. I have always liked girls who hold decided opinions and know how to talk about many things."
"Do you let your girls talk about many things?" asked Becky, suddenly ignoring both Elizabeth and Darcy, her interest completely drawn to her new acquaintance.
"Unfortunately, Becky, I have no girls - only two boys."
"Becky, Lady Matlock is Colonel Fitzwilliams's mother," explained Darcy.
The girl looked from him to the lady, and back to him, and then her face brightened in revelation. "Oh... You are trying to make fun of me like my brothers. She cannot be the colonel's mother!"
"Why do you say so, Becky? Lady Matlock is the colonel's mother," said Elizabeth.
"She cannot be! Because she is beautiful and the colonel is old! He is as old as Mr. Darcy."
A disconcerted expression spread over Darcy's face, trying to follow her logic. "So I am old now, Becky? A few days ago, you said I was pretty!"
"You are pretty! But you are old, too, and so is the colonel."
On the back of the book, Ms. Lilian quotes John Updike: "Rain is grace...without rain, there would be no life." While Updike might seem a world away from Austen, the quote is very appropriate, capturing the early ambiance of the story - the glories and terrors of an intense storm, very like those of love. You know how film adaptations of Austen like to depict our heroines, at moments of emotional intensity, drenched by rain ( i.e. the 1995 Sense and Sensibility and 2005 Pride and Prejudice)? That's because a rain storm so aptly evokes the power and ferocity of our emotions when we succumb to romance. In this tale, Lizzy has little option but to quickly revise her first impression of Mr. Darcy and fall madly in love with him.