There You Were by Michelle Ray is not a book for the faint of heart.
In this story, Jane and Elizabeth are abandoned by their mother while they are still very young, and their father, who is an alcoholic, neglects their education and provides very little support and love.
With these family circumstances, Elizabeth’s life is therefore very hard while growing up. She doesn’t receive any guidelines concerning proper behaviour, and the only love and understanding she receives is from her older sister Jane. As a consequence, at the age of 15 she is found in a compromising situation with her neighbour James Fitzwilliam, one of the few people who didn’t snub Elizabeth and with whom she had become close friends, until their lust forces them to become husband and wife.
Despite the fact that James Fitzwilliam is the son of an earl, Elizabeth’s marriage is very hard because his family never forgave him for his indiscretion and refuses to support them in any way. Mr. Darcy is the only family member who accepts James and his new family, and even assists by providing them a house, but still, Elizabeth is forced to do all kinds of work at their house, such as cleaning, taking care of the laundry, cooking, nursing their children, etc.
If you’re expecting a fairy tale story, this one is definitely not for you because apart from all the difficulties that Elizabeth faces due to poverty, I do not believe her marriage was ever a happy one. Even though she is friends with her husband, I do not believe she ever really loved him, and because he is in the military, he spends most of his time away, leaving her alone to take care of their children, and be prepared for there are many children!
It is only late in the story that Mr. Darcy becomes a romantic interest for Elizabeth, so this is not the typical Darcy/Elizabeth romance, but their growing affection towards one another was strong and I did enjoy their own love story, even if it occupies a small part of the book.
From the above descriptions, you can tell that this book is as angsty as it can get, and I must say I loved that. I always find it interesting when books depict characters who have to fight for their own happiness and who do not have everything handed to them on a silver platter. Elizabeth is clearly the main character in this story which is told in the first person, but she is not the only one who needs to face reality and do something to change her fate. I absolutely loved that about this book. We see characters with strong beliefs concerning the idea of happiness, and we see many of them pursuing it even when it does not correspond with what society would expect. That is true for Elizabeth but also for minor characters in the story.
This book showed us that life isn’t a fairy tale, it is full of hardships, and it is the way we look at those hardships that will define our future and how we feel. The truth about envy, sorrow and loneliness I found in the pages of this book is part of why I loved it so much.
Another aspect I loved in There You Were was the general feeling that the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. As mentioned before, the idea of happiness is different for everyone, even if society tries to impose a certain idea of happiness on people, and in There You Were we could see page after page that just because a character has what the other would consider perfect, that does not mean that he/she is happy. Mr. Darcy has all the wealth in the world which is what Elizabeth most needed, but he is not happy, and Elizabeth has a family, which is what Mr. Darcy most needed and she is not happy either. Of course they will both find their happiness and we will be privy of that bliss, but the path they had to take to get there was hard and true, and I loved that honesty in this book. I don’t often see this topic portrayed in books, and it was clearly what I most enjoyed about it.
Summing up, There You Were is not a light romance to entertain readers for a couple of hours, neither it is a regular Pride and Prejudice variation with well known characters. It is somewhat of an original story focusing on the journey people take towards happiness. It is a book that focuses on human interactions and reactions and how people handle what life has given them. It is a book that will make you cry and smile as characters grow and life shapes who they are. I highly recommend it for those wanting more than a romantic story and who do not mind having major changes in the P&P characters lives and personalities.
You can find There You Were at: