Book Review: The Heiress by Molly Greeley

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 lethargic? 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.

The author’s debut The Clergyman’s Wife was a profoundly beautiful book that made me sob for almost half of it, so I was very much anticipating this sophomore novel of hers. And as someone who loves any books set in the extended Pride and Prejudice universe, I was very excited to know the story of Anne de Bourgh.

The writing style in this book felt very familiar because I hadn’t forgotten my experience of the previous one. It was beautiful and evocative, the descriptions of Rosings Park and the nature surrounding it as well as a newcomer’s experience of London very lush. The author also makes us really feel the depth of emotions that the characters feel and that’s why I again found it very easy to get lost within the words of this book. This is also definitely a character focused slice of life kinda story, so there wasn’t much plot, and it probably wouldn’t satisfy someone looking for a fast paced story, but I nevertheless really enjoyed following along.

Anne is a really sympathetic character, not only because she is never given the opportunity to overcome her childhood sickness and grow up, she is also very intimidated into submission by her strong willed mother. But due to the influence of other women who come into her life unexpectedly, she decides to finally take her life into her own hands and I loved her slow transformation. She really comes into her own, understands her desires better, and ultimately makes resolute decisions despite any criticisms. I was pleasantly surprised by some of the turn of events, but I thought the author did a wonderful job making us believe that Anne was capable of carving out a successful independent identity for herself and be a worthy mistress of her estate.

The side characters don’t always get enough page time but many of them like Miss Hall, Miss Amherst, Harriet and cousin John play significant roles in Anne’s character development and I came to like each of them for their varied influences. Lady Catherine was as always a force of nature who I don’t think can be liked much, but I could empathize with her towards the end because she seemed genuine in her affection even if not in her manners.

In the end, this was a very quiet, emotional and interesting look into the life of Anne, who is always on the periphery when we read Austen’s P&P. This is a quiet sort of story that grips you right away and slowly sucks you in. I would definitely recommend this to any readers who love reading spin-offs of Austen’s works because this is a worthy addition to the world. And I can’t wait to see if the author writes more in this universe.

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