A Woman of Influence, is the ninth book in the The Pemberley Chronicles, a continuation of the story of the Darcy, Bingley, Lucas, and Gardiner families who began their story in Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice. The chronicles tell the stories of the marriages of their children and grandchildren. Though I felt sorry for poor Mary Bennett, who for some unexplained reason was left out.

The title character is Becky Collins Tate, daughter of the ostentatious Reverend Collins of Pride and Prejudice.  In her 40’s, Becky is now a widow, striking out into the world on her own, liberated from an unpleasant marriage. She’s had her share of tragedy and personal missteps, but she’s ready to begin a new life in her newly purchased home, Edgewater, in the county of Kent.

Set in the mid-1800’s, A Woman of Influence is only somewhat distanced from the events in Austen’s original novel.  Many of her characters are in attendance, but they rarely take center stage in this narrative.  However, their presence was very helpful.  They provided the bridge needed to connect the reader to the next generation of characters, the children and grandchildren of the Darcys, the Bingleys and the like.

There are two main story lines in Collins’ novel.  One involves Becky’s involvement with a young woman who has been unjustly separated from her husband, charged with a crime he didn’t commit.  Mrs. Tate uses her compassion, intelligence and influence to come to the aid of this victimized family.  While the truth might be on their side, politics and covetousness have the upper hand, making Becky’s task a difficult one.

Another plot line concerns the heart of Becky herself.  After years in a dispassionate marriage, Becky is not only pleased with her new life of freedom, but she also feels disinclined to ever open her heart and become someone’s wife ever again.

Collins uses straight narrative from Becky’s point of view, mixed with letters, diary entries, and other material to lead us through the story and to fill us in on necessary information without having to resort to long information catalog. So, visit the world of the 1860s, take the time to slowing sink into the narrative and, for a while, enjoy a time when people took the time to talk to each other without a cell-phone or ipod in sight. Life was lived, at least on the economic level of our main characters, at a more leisurely pace. Curl up with the book and go for a journey through an different era.

Thanks to Danielle@Sourcebooks for the review copy.

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