As most of you know, I’m a big fan of Austen-inspired “what if” variations. What you may not know is that I’m also a big fan of Camelot and Arthurian legend. So, imagine my surprise when I found that there was a JAFF book that combined both of these things! He Taught Me to Hope by P.O. Dixon was just that, a combination of our favorite Austen characters as well as a few from King Arthur’s time. Sound interesting? Read on…
Dixon begins her work with something odd: Darcy enjoying himself. He is in Hertfordshire, and he manages to catch the eye of a Miss Carlton (the widowed Elizabeth Bennet), as well as befriending a young boy named Ben, who believes himself to be Sir Lancelot (and Darcy to be his King Arthur). Although Darcy feels compelled to return Miss Carlton’s affections, he does not. We soon discover the reason why, however, when we learn that Darcy believes that Miss Carlton is engaged to Mr. Collins of all people! Fortunately for him, on his subsequent trip to Kent he discovers that not only is Miss Carlton not engaged, but the young boy he developed a great relationship with is none other than her son . Although his affections for Elizabeth are growing, he is not completely out of the woods yet. He still has to contend with Anne, Lady Catherine, and Collin’s brother Geoffrey on his path to win Elizabeth’s affections.
As much as I thought I might enjoy this work, there were a few aspects that I viewed as disappointments that detracted from the story. For one, Mr. Benett’s relationship with Elizabeth is never completely resolved by the end of the work. I understand that not everything needs to be resolved (such as the reconciliation of Jane and Elizabeth, which still may happen), but it seemed odd to me. Additionally, there was no retribution for Mr. Collins’ bashing of Elizabeth, which seemed strange as well. However, the biggest disappointment for me was the ending. It felt quite rushed, as if every character in the book suddenly got thrown into the last chapter. Multiple conflicts from the book are left unresolved unfortunately.
However, despite these detractions, there were still plenty of great moments that kept my attention. Forget the relationship between Darcy and Elizabeth, it’s Darcy’s relationship with Ben that will win over readers here. His gentleness, compassion, and the friendship that he offers to this young, fatherless boy is beautifully touching. I think that the inclusion of a son for Elizabeth was an excellent plot point, and one that brought out a completely different side of Darcy. Dixon should be commended for using it and thinking outside of the box. Additionally, the book is very well written structurally. Dixon definitely has a way with creating unique storylines, and I’m excited to see what other interesting plots that she can come up with.
Finally, if you’re in the mood for a slightly different take on a “what if” variation of Austen’s works, give He Taught Me to Hope a try. Despite certain unresolved plot points, there are still touching moments with Darcy and Ben that make it a worthwhile read.
3 out of 5 Stars
This is my fortieth completed review for the Historical Fiction Challenge
He Taught Me To Hope by P O Dixon
eBook: 624 pages