This isn’t a love story, but the end of one.
Thank you to Beau North and Netgalley for an advance copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I didn’t know how much I needed this book until I was already into it, and I would easily recommend it to anyone who loves a good historical fiction novel. I do highly recommend reading Longbourn’s Songbird before reading this book. It isn’t a direct sequel, more of a companion novel. Still, you should probably get Lizzie and Darcy’s side of the story before crying over Richard’s part, yes? And because I am going to try really hard not to spoil the first book, but it IS a bit difficult to gush and not.
by Beau North
Published Date: July 9, 2019
Read Date: June 2019
Genre: historical fiction
Page Count: 405 pages
Rating: 5/5 Moose
How well do you really know your parents? (Not) Dealing with PTSD, Ben Fitzwilliam packs up his life and moves back to his dad’s home in Annapolis, Maryland. Ben starts to find peace and purpose as he dives into the letters his father left behind, exploring the possibility of writing a book about his life. As he meets and falls in love with Keisha, he explores the heartaches and PTSD of his father, Richard Fitzwilliam’s life.
Bennet Fitzwilliam – a Pulitzer prize winning journalist and only son of Richard Fitzwilliam. He’s dealing with PTSD after 9/11.
Keisha Barnes – Annapolis PD officer who agrees to help Ben explore his father’s life through letter.
Richard Fitzwilliam – William Darcy’s cousin. Fought in both WWII and the Korean War. The younger son and a bit of a playboy, always charming. Fiercely loyal to his family.
Rants, Raves, and Reviews
I rarely read books that are considered sequels to Austen novels, especially Pride and Prejudice. This is primarily because the story seems done, but mainly because every sequel I have read tones down Lizzie and Darcy’s personalities. Even knowing this, I was incredibly excited for this companion novel. Longbourn’s Songbird is one of my favorite P&P retellings because it captures the spirit of the original novel while also updating it and adding readable twists. My favorite thing to say about the novel is that for the first time I would have been okay with Lizzie not ending up with Darcy. So I had big expectations for this novel.
This book is told in dual timelines, though it is primarily about Richard. Ben’s life is, in some ways, a quick and easy portion of the book, coming in at intervals when Richard’s world is almost too much. Or well, at least at the part where I was about to cry on the subway. In some ways, if there has to be a weakest part of the book, it’s Ben’s story line. It serves a purpose to show that the family lines still continue and still are more or less dysfunctional. And to show how the last of the Fitzwilliam is doing, something that is a repeated point through out the book. Richard wants to leave his dad as the last Fitzwilliam, then Richard accepts his position as the last Fitzwilliam, and then when he has Ben, his legacy lives on.
Okay, that makes it sound short and sweet (and maybe a bit spoilery) but it does sum up the book: understanding and embracing what Fitzwilliam means.
And as with most women in the book, I am just beyond smitten with Richard. He’s charming and brilliant, with that ridiculous air of vagrancy that really rich people can make seem so appealing. I knew some of his story from the first book — his brother and father’s death, fighting in World War II…basically most of the 1940s are a deeper dive from the first book. And yet it never feels like a rehash; I never felt like I was trying to skip ahead to the next part. In fact, it’s even more painful, because I love Richard even more by the time we hit his and Slim’s story. And I was so scared to see the aftermath of its fall out. We are told this book isn’t a love story. We know from the beginning that Richard died unmarried, that Ben was a product not necessarily out of love in the traditional sense. And yet I still held on hope for Richard to get….something.
This book also focuses on all the characters we love from the first book. How are Jane and Charles? Charlotte, Anne, Lizzie and Darcy? Does Georgina find her stride, her own place in the world? All these characters are there in some capacity. Richard lives in New York with Anne and Charlotte before going off to Korea, and then recovers there after. Anne and Charlotte help him recover mentally and physically. I love their trio. Who is really helping and depending on whom? It rotates as the book goes on. I honestly don’t know how I feel about Anne by the end of the book, (begrudgingly like her, maybe? Find her pompous and spoiled definitely) but I am love Charlotte. I won’t go too much into her as to avoid spoiling the first book, but if there is a third person whose story needed to be told, it is hers.
He can’t hurt me now, not that I know my own worth.
And Georgina! I never have cared for how a sequel has treated Georgina. She always comes across as meek and timid, ruined by what Wickham did. Someone who needs Darcy to keep her from falling. Not this Georgina, which is a huge relief. We find out she’s married from Ben, but I didn’t actually expect to find out about how she met her husband.
Your sister isn’t sad, you cabbage. She’s in love.
Even knowing this book was about war and lost loves, I didn’t expect to shed as many tears as I did. And yet this book didn’t steer me away from love, or feel like it wasn’t still hopeful in the end. Lost time, lost love…these are usually anxiety triggers for me, things that send me into a bit of a spiral. But surprisingly, this book didn’t do that. Richard’s life isn’t worthless or incomplete, even if he never marries. And that? That is why I love this book.
I’ve recently been toying with the idea that I want my relationship status to be “fell in love with my soulmate a decade ago. It didn’t work out, and I’m happy being alone.” Of course, this would require me to admit that I believe in soulmates, which I don’t. Either way, this book was a perfect read for someone feeling that way. This book has so much heartache. But it also had so much good in it too. It’s not really a romance but is still a book about relationships. About regrets. About learning to live with it all. About learning to let it all go. And the added bonus of loving P&P characters doesn’t help.
Now to try really hard to not read Longbourn’s Songbird again RIGHT NOW because I have way too many new books to read.
Content Warnings for war, PTSD, 9/11 discussion, mentions of both physical and mentally abusive relationships