Sunday, January 24, 2010

Longbourn's Unexpected Matchmaker by Emma Hox

Longbourn's Unexpected Matchmaker is a "What If?" tale whose premise is remarkably like my own, in that Darcy and Elizabeth get off to a much more promising start, dancing together at the Meryton Assembly. Here is where the similarity ends (other than the fact that both stories, of course, end in the couple finding happiness together). Emma Hox uses two characters to help facilitate their understanding: Colonel Fitzwilliam, who accompanies Darcy and Bingley to Netherfield, and Mr. Bennet, the "unexpected matchmaker" of the tale.

The story is really one of redemption for Mr. Bennet who, in Pride and Prejudice, though a loving father, neglects his family as a means of securing his own, rather selfish, comfort. Some "What If?" stories (Chance Encounters by Linda Wells most notably) expand on his shortcomings almost to the point of villanizing the man, something I always perceived as a bit unjust. There is nothing in the original text to suggest that Mr. Bennet is malicious, just indolent. Ms. Hox makes clear her intentions for the novel on the back cover of the book, "Emma has for a long time been disappointed in Mr. Bennet. Longbourn's Unexpected Matchmaker gives Mr. Bennet the personality Emma always envisioned the witty father of Elizabeth Bennet should truly have."

The concept is fun and the book is a fast, entertaining read, but I must admit to being rather frustrated with this story. There is a lack of adherence to the details of the original text that I find aggravating. Some of this might be editing mistakes, of which there are a multitude, like calling Mrs. Hurst Louise instead of Louisa, but they nonetheless interfered with my enjoyment of the story. Also, while Ms. Hox goes to great lengths to redeem Mr. Bennet, through rather far fetched means, she punishes Lady Catherine in a manner I find completely unbelievable and rather outrageous. And I ask you, fellow Austenites, would Mr. Darcy ever use the expression "amen to that, brother"? He does so twice in the course of this text.

Despite my qualms, I must say I highly approve of Ms. Hox's tasteful handling of Darcy and Lizzy's relationship, by which I mean there are no invasions of their privacy: no explicit depictions of amorous encounters. I also found her characterization of Elizabeth as a tree climber rather fascinating - certainly an unorthodox pastime for a lady of the time but rather charming nonetheless. Georgiana is far more daring and adventurous than usually portrayed, which is fun, and Anne De Bourgh is given the opportunity to shine in a manner usually denied her. If you are, like me, addicted to the "What If?" concept, then this book is an appropriate addition to your JAFF library. On the other hand, if you are an Austen purist, I think this novel will likely be the source of more spleen than joy.


  1. You wrote a wonderful review! "Amen to that, brother?" Really?

    I like the fact that Mr. Bennet is redeemed, that is something you don't see very often.

  2. Really Meredith.

    I really liked the concept of this book, which might be why some of this stuff bothered me so much. The little mistakes and inconsistencies disappointed me.

    Thanks for the positive feedback. I really appreciate it.

  3. Amen to "Mr. Darcy would never say Amen to anything" - that's a southern baptist thing, I think. Though my recognition of anachronism isn't the best - I used to think "The moon is made of green cheese" was a modern expression and disliked it in S&S2008, but I looked it up and it was in use long before.

  4. I did a quick search on Molland's (just to confirm) and Austen never uses the word "amen" once in all her texts. And she only uses the word "brother" to refer to actual brothers. I'm pretty sure it's safe to say that the phrase is not period.

  5. I just received the edited version of the story so most of the errors that so many talk of are gone. I must say I thought it was a delightful read.

    I laughed at the "amen to that brother" it is most definitely not a statement from the times, but I saw it as funny how it was being used.

    I really enjoyed this book and will read it again.

  6. Glad to hear it but I have to ask - the edited version? Is the published version NOT the edited version? I'm confused.

  7. From what I understand it was self published then picked up by a small regional publisher and redone. The redone book became available the middle of January, but is officially published April 15th of this year.

  8. You do not have to post my comment if you do not want to.

    Thank you for reading and reviewing my book, I greatly appreciate each and every person's feedback. I am glad that you found some aspects of it that you enjoyed. All of the comments and feedback from people help me as I write more. I must say this was a fun and new experience for me.

    Thank you again for taking the time to read my story.

    It may be a pun on the book since you identified the grammar errors but I would like to let you know that your title of the post is spelt wrong (if indeed you did not do it on purpose).


  9. Anonymous - thanks for information. This is rather frustrating, as I only purchased the book lately. I would have rather waited until the new version is out in April, as I certainly would have enjoyed the book more with a few tweaks.

    Emma - Thank you for commenting! I have never not published a comment (and hope I never need to). The reason I approve my comments is because I like to respond to them and comments on older posts can get lost without email notification. I corrected the missing X in the post title - thank you for bringing it to my attention. It is a wonderful demonstration of the kind of mistakes unintentionally made when self editing.

    I am very curious about what "anonymous" has commented regarding the rerelease of this book. I am not at home as I write this so cannot refer to my copy, but wasn't this always published through Rhemalda? This is my first knowledge of the publisher, and I have never before known one to do a second edition with additional edits so soon. They seem a rather remarkable publisher.

    I would love to chat with about this process if you are willing. Please feel free to email me at any time ( Perhaps you might even be interested in being a guest blogger? Then you could elucidate on some of the aspects of the book I found problematic.

    By the by - I too love Mr. Bennet and am happy to see him defended. If your story caused me to actually sympathize with Lady Catherine - well, that says something fairly remarkable too.

    Best of luck to you.

  10. When you find out, please let me know if the version they are selling on amazon right now is the edited version or not.


  11. Hi Meredith - If I can confirm the information, I will certainly pass it along. My guess right now would be that you should wait until the April release to buy the book.

  12. I also enjoyed the book but it was almost "too happy" for me. There is no struggle in the the courtship and relationship which does not do the characters of Lizzy and Darcy justice.

    Things I enjoyed:
    * the tree climbing!
    * the idea of the roses he sent to her before the ball.

    Things I didn't love:
    * Lady Matlock's instant approval of Lizzy and her history with the Gardiner's
    * Mr. Bennet matching up Lizzy and divulging personal information so lightly.

  13. Thanks for the comment Kelly. I also was uncomfortable with how quickly Mr. Bennet agreed to openly discuss his family with a virtual stranger.