Miss Mary Bennet is the last unmarried Bennet sister. She believes she will live out her days as a maiden aunt, seeking quiet in the libraries and parlors of her father’s and brother-in-laws’ homes. On a visit to Pemberley, the estate of Fitzwilliam Darcy, her sister Lizzy’s husband, she begins to feel more is possible than her planned life of solitude. Among new friends and with new confidence, Mary opens to new feelings when she meets Mr. Nathaniel Bingley.
Nathaniel Bingley, at the insistence of his closest cousin, Charles Bingley, finds himself at Pemberley. After Nathaniel’s years in the West Indies studying its intense flora, he is ready to seclude himself to compile his work into a book. But Nathaniel could not say no to Charles, who was one of his few kind relatives after the deaths of his beloved parents. Soon, Nathaniel finds it difficult to say no to his feelings, especially when he gets to know the pretty, intelligent Miss Mary Bennet. Can Mary and Nathaniel look beyond their plans and accept the grace of love at Pemberley?
Publisher and Release Date: Amazon Digital Services, April 2014
Time and Setting: Regency England, Derbyshire
Genre: Christian/inspirational historical romance
Heat Level: 1
Reviewer Rating: 3.5 stars
Review by Maria Almaguer
I must admit I find Mary Bennet the least interesting Bennet sister and (possibly even) character in all of Jane Austen’s fiction. Boring, pedantic, and virtually invisible, she is a backdrop to any action in the story. And I have always believed that she should have been the one to marry the insipid Mr. Collins; as a matter of fact, in the opening scene, we find her reading Fordyce’s Sermons, that book that Mr. Collins read aloud for the Bennets during his momentous visit to Longbourn.
Nevertheless, this sweet and light romance is really more of an inspirational romance than an historical one. The only things which anchor it to this period are that it is based on Pride and Prejudice (first published in 1813), white soup is consumed at dinner, and it painstakingly observes the proprieties and societal strictures that Mary Bennet always observed and favored.
The inspirational overtones are sometimes intrusive and, at times, I felt that there were three people in the relationship: Mary, Nathaniel, and “the Maker.” I found it distracting but, later, I felt perhaps it was appropriate, given Mary’s (and Nathaniel’s ) strong religious devotion; it is fortunate they find each other.
Mary is the last unwed Bennet daughter. She’s also an introvert and prays and thinks a lot. She expects to remain with her parents as the spinster aunt. Largely ignored by her parents and sisters, she has always withdrawn into herself but, ever since her sisters’ marriages, her invitations to visit have opened up a wider social world, one she finds she rather likes. Part of this involves listening with rapt attention to Mr. Bingley’s cousin Nathaniel’s fascinating letters about his botanical research in the Indies. His passion mirrors her own for her books and her music while opening her mind to a different world. She also finds, to her surprise, that she is tiring of those very strictures she feels compelled to live by.
Everyone is gathered at Pemberley for the christening of Darcy and Elizabeth’s son, Edward. There Mary meets Nathaniel, who sees her beauty, both inside and out. Mary hadn’t planned to ever marry but finds she has changed her mind and, for the first time, dares to hope.
Nathaniel is a rather serious and depressed hero, much like Edward Ferrars and Colonel Brandon, the heroes from Sense and Sensibility. He’s shy and reserved and battles daily with the grief he still feels from his parents’ deaths. There is also mention of his feeling claustrophobic in crowds and his panic attack-like
symptoms are similar to those of the hero in Tessa Dare’s One Dance with a Duke, but this is never fully explored. He also has “nothing to offer. No home, no steady income, no position in society.” (p40)
Nathaniel becomes friendly with Mr. Bennet, who finds his research and drawings fascinating. He finds Mr. Bennet is as melancholy as himself but Mr. Bennet has a wife who inspires it. And dear Mrs. Bennet is still humorously lacking in the refinements as ever.
There are some lovely revelatory moments in this novella. For example, when Mary realizes that both Nathaniel and Georgiana Darcy, (whose story is Miss Darcy Decides) are both fellow introverts who understand her. They are kindred spirits and, to Nathaniel, her “heartfriend.” (p29)
The play on the word “bloom” in the title troubles me somewhat. Though a common expression in Austen’s time, a woman’s bloom is her most valuable asset, next to her grace and ladylike qualities and accomplishments. That Nathaniel discovers Mary’s bloom and that he is also a botanist make it little twee.
This is the third book in Ms. Williams’ Love at Pemberley series, a spinoff set of sweet novellas based on Jane Austen’s most popular novel. There is a zenlike tone to the novella, like the first two in the series, and it is a very well-written and pleasing love story. If you like your romances on the sweet side, you will enjoy this story and series.