As it is impossible to discuss this book without spoiling the previous two, if you have not read them I suggest you proceed directly to my Mercy's Embrace Giveaway post, where you can take the Elizabeth Elliot quiz and be entered win a complete collection of these delightful continuations of Persuasion. Those who have already read the first two books can safely read the rest of this review.
The Lady Must Decide is a raucous jaunt, just like the proceeding novels. The dignified Elliot family finds themselves in all kinds of outlandish situations, from Sir Walter suffering in a mail coach to Elizabeth stealing a dog. When we left Miss Elliot at the end of So Lively A Chase, Mr. Gill had finally revealed himself as Admiral McGillvary. This story begins with Elizabeth slowly (very slowly) coming to grips with the truth. Once the reality of the hoax sinks in, she needs to grapple with the trust issues that arise from McGillvary's use of a false identity. Unfortunately, everything that could possible go wrong seems to in this book, hindering their ability to come to an understanding until almost the very end. I don't want to give too much away, but in the course of two hundred pages there are carriage accidents, fires, foiled elopements, and near drownings, to mention just a few notable incidents. Louisa Musgrove's cracked skull seems tame indeed! The action progresses quickly, making the book almost impossible to put down. My only complaint is that while Elizabeth and McGillvary find a happy conclusion, many of the other ends are left hanging. I'm dying to hear more from Sir Walter, the Musgroves, the Wentworths, McGillvary's half-brother Ronan, his daughter Cleora, and Yee, the butler, as all their tales are largely unresolved. Let me use this opportunity to humbly beg Ms. Hile to continue the story, allowing us to follow these loose ends while glorying in Elizabeth and McGillvary as they take their place in society. Three books are simply not enough to satiate my interest in the world she has created.
Not only have I come to adore Elizabeth Elliot (a feat I once thought impossible), but I simply can't get enough of Admiral McGillvary. He is a phenomenal hero. I love this scene in which he and Elizabeth attend a ball, defying the gossips who are alive with news of her broken engagement to Mr. Rushworth:
The Dance floor was crowded; Elizabeth could see no opening in any of the sets. "Perhaps we should wait-" she began, but McxGillvary cut her off.Sigh. I love this couple. I want more from them just like I want more from Austen's original creations: more Darcy and Elizabeth, more Emma and Knightley, and more of Miss Elliot and Admiral McGillvary. Mercy's Embrace is definitely one of the most entertaining Austen sequels I have read. Thank you, Ms. Hile, for your contribution to the genre!
"Not on your life," he said, leaning to speak into her ear. "Once one decides to engage the enemy, one cannot hesitate. I thought you knew that."
"What?' she said blankly.
He caught hold of her hand. "Come," he murmured, "keep your courage up, my dear! This might be a desperate enterprise, but we'll see it through."
Elizabeth's cheeks were burning. He was holding her hand, heedless of the interested eyes all around. he was smiling, too...a particularly attractive smile. Indeed, his eyes were shinning with a light that quite took her breath away. Elizabeth tore her gaze from him, unsure of what to think. Truly this was a desperate enterprise-did he think she could forget? Elizabeth put up her chin.
"That's the spirit," he said. "Let's give the gossips something to talk about."
The music began just then, and Elizabeth's panic increased. All around them dancers began to move...and the two of them were standing on the dance floor with nowhere to go.
"Come," he said, and pulled her by the hand. And then she saw it-a set near the centre of the room had an empty spot. She glanced again at Patrick's face; he was grinning. "You see?" he said, leading her to her place and pivoting in time to make the required bow. "Tactics."
"Tactics," she whispered, wishing she were as much at ease as he.
"And now," he said, taking hold of her hand once more, "let's show them how it's done, shall we?"
"I wish I had your confidence," she confessed shyly when they were joined in the dance.
The smile disappeared from his lips but not from his eyes. "What can possibly go wrong?" he said softly. "We are together. And together we are unassailable."