Book Review: The Heiress: The Revelations of Anne de Bourgh by Molly Greeley

In this gorgeously written and spellbinding historical novel based on Pride and Prejudice, the author of The Clergyman’s Wife combines the knowing eye of Jane Austen with the eroticism and Gothic intrigue of Sarah Waters to reimagine the life of the mysterious Anne de Bourgh.

As a fussy baby, Anne de Bourgh’s doctor prescribed laudanum to quiet her, and now the young woman must take the opium-heavy tincture every day. Growing up sheltered and confined, removed from sunshine and fresh air, the pale and overly slender Anne grew up with few companions except her cousins, including Fitzwilliam Darcy. Throughout their childhoods, it was understood that Darcy and Anne would marry and combine their vast estates of Pemberley and Rosings. But Darcy does not love Anne or want her.

After her father dies unexpectedly, leaving her his vast fortune, Anne has a moment of clarity: what if her life of fragility and illness isn’t truly real? What if she could free herself from the medicine that clouds her sharp mind and leaves her body weak and lethvargic? Might there be a better life without the medicine she has been told she cannot live without

In a frenzy of desperation, Anne discards her laudanum and flees to the London home of her cousin, Colonel John Fitzwilliam, who helps her through her painful recovery. Yet once she returns to health, new challenges await. Shy and utterly inexperienced, the wealthy heiress must forge a new identity for herself, learning to navigate a “season” in society and the complexities of love and passion. The once wan, passive Anne gives way to a braver woman with a keen edge—leading to a powerful reckoning with the domineering mother determined to control Anne’s fortune . . . and her life.

An extraordinary tale of one woman’s liberation, The Heiress reveals both the darkness and light in Austen’s world, with wit, sensuality, and a deeply compassionate understanding of the human heart.

Hardback edition kindly sent to me by Hodder and Staunton, scheduled to be published on 8 April 2021. I have mixed feelings about books that inhabit the world of Pride and Prejudice. To me, for every Longbourn, there are multiple Death Comes to Pemberley. I find that the less an author tries to shoe-horn a story into an already existing framework the better.

Thankfully, this book has taken a relatively small (but pivotal) character in Pride and Prejudice and given her a whole story outside of the P&P framework. There are occasional references to the “could have been”, usually outside of the original P&P, so no shoehorning or reinventing is required, which allows both the author and the story to simply exist.

There is a relatively large plot twist that comes in the second half of the book, but due to not wanting to provide spoilers (it is fairly fundamental to What Happens Next), I wont mention it. Personally, I think it is handled well and appropriately, so I am interested in seeing what others think, especially those who consider themselves “purists”. I also found that “Part Four” was a lovely take on the end of a story – not everything is resolved to everyone’s satisfaction, but still…..

About the Author

Molly Greeley was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where her addiction to books was spurred by her parents’ floor-to-ceiling bookshelves. She lives in northern Michigan with her husband and three children

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