by Jennifer Becton
Mr. Collins has suddenly passed away in an unfortunate riding accident, leaving Charlotte a widow in her mid-30’s. She invites her sister, Miss Maria Lucas, to live with her and use her as chaperone on outings within their group of acquaintances. Both Charlotte and Maria end up with two interested gentlemen—though Charlotte has made it quite clear she’s not looking for love—and the webs of intrigue begin.
Becton’s Charlotte is a sober, though fallible character, and makes an easily admired protagonist. Maria takes a bit of warming up to, as she begins much like the younger Bennett sisters, flighty and silly. However, she grows up within the pages and by the end is well-regarded.
The story line is not quite original, but has more twists and turns than expected. One loose end is not tied up, and though not vital to Charlotte’s story, it would have made a nice finale. Since there are very few Austen-created characters in the story, it is a fresh tale, without any line-dropping you may find in other continuations. Overall, readers will find a reserved and enjoyable read—perfect for Jane Austen purists, who do not like to deviate too far from the original.