To Conquer Pride immediately caught my attention because it starts with one of my favorite scenarios in Pride and Prejudice Variations: Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth stranded in a cottage. But as the story progresses we will follow these characters through the streets and theaters of London, the living rooms of Netherfield and even the gardens of Pemberley. As you can see this book is one of those that have it all, and the best part is that the story and the events are not rushed which shows us that Ms Altman took a lot of care in the writing of her debut novel.
Apart from all those scenarios that we can find in the book, and that make it very diverse and appealing, we have above all a lot of Darcy and Elizabeth moments. Propriety is always followed, or…almost always followed, but the point is that there are few pages in the book that do not have these characters interacting with one another, and if you are like me, I’m sure you consider this one of the best ingredients in a JAFF story.
I really liked the main characters, especially Darcy in all his facets, protective, honest, jealous, proud and even fragile and hurt. His character is certain to appeal to all readers because once more Ms Altman made sure that his feelings and reactions were diverse. The story takes place in the period of one year or a little more, so we have time to see these characters grow and change without feeling that this was forced upon them.
I also enjoyed what the author did with Mary Bennet. She is my favorite sister and I always enjoy to read a little more about her. I believe that her character was developed with taste and at a certain point I believed she would have more relevance in the story, but unfortunately that did not occur, and when Georgiana became sick it even appeared she was completely forgotten, which was probably my only quibble with this book.
To Conquer Pride is a well written book that engages the reader in the first pages and keeps him invested in the story and characters until the end. It is filled with romance, a small dose of angst and even a little mystery to keep the reader wondering what may come in the next chapter. Its pace is balanced and it is a very agreeable book to read, therefore I highly recommend it to all Janeites.
It is not very common for an authors first book to be this good and to have as much quality as I’ve found in To Conquer Pride, if this is Ms Altman debut book I cannot wait to see what she will present us with next!
You can find To Conquer Pride at:
Now that you’ve read my opinion about this book, we thought you may be interested in reading a little excerpt that shows you the authors writing style. Without the context you may find it odd to find these characters in this setting, but believe me when I say this is just another example of how endearing Elizabeth and Darcy’s moments together are. Throughout the book they develop an intimacy and understanding that I loved and this excerpt shows you just that 🙂
The large room was empty save three people, but Darcy only had eyes for the one who stood directly before him, a crisp white apron covering her sprigged-muslin gown.
“Miss Bennet!” He looked around in confusion. “I hope you have not lost your way?”
A smile brightened Elizabeth’s features and her eyes sparkled with barely suppressed mirth. Behind him, Darcy could hear his sister’s throaty giggle.
“No, Mr. Darcy. I have not. But pray, do come in. We only have the use of the kitchens for a scant two hours before your staff must return to begin preparing for the evening meal, so there is little time to dawdle.”
Darcy stepped farther into the room, his questioning eyes darting to Mrs. Reynolds, who stood slightly to one side, but she only smiled and walked over to take a seat on one of the chairs that surrounded a long wooden table at the back of the room.
“Miss Bennet, I am afraid you find me at a loss. Might I ask you to enlighten me as to the purpose of this meeting?”
“Certainly, sir. I am going to instruct you on the proper preparation of a pie. Blackberry, to be exact,” she added, reaching for the basket of berries sitting on the nearby sideboard.
Darcy’s eyebrows lifted and Elizabeth’s smile broadened.
“I see,” he answered, causing Elizabeth to laugh with the exuberance of a girl half her age.
“I must confess that at first I had trouble devising a task upon which I could educate you, Mr. Darcy. However, I then remembered that you are not so practiced in the kitchen.” Her expression turned serious before she continued, “And I did promise most faithfully to bake for you one day. Do you not remember?”
Darcy swallowed, tugging at his neck-cloth which suddenly seemed far too tight. The memory of their time in the cottage’s small kitchen played out in his mind’s eye and he kept his gaze locked on hers when he answered. “Yes, Miss Bennet, I remember.”
They stood looking at each other for a long moment before Elizabeth stepped away, pulling an apron from one of the pegs along the wall. When she spoke again, her voice was light. “I suggest you remove your coat, sir. I would not wish to get into trouble with your valet.”
Darcy blinked back at her, struggling to process the shift in the conversation. “You want me to… That is, I assumed this would be a demonstration of some sort…” he stammered, but at the look on Elizabeth’s face he reached out his hand, his fingers closing around the rough cloth.
Elizabeth studied him before addressing Georgiana over her shoulder. “Miss Darcy, perhaps you can assist your brother with that apron. He seems unsure of how to utilize it.”
Snapping out of his shock, Darcy waved his sister aside before tugging off his coat and slipping the smock over his head. “That will not be necessary, Miss Bennet.”
Elizabeth offered a wry smile, reaching for his discarded coat and moving to hang it on a rack in the corner. Suddenly, Darcy remembered the pages of the book, secreted away in his pocket. What would she say if she found them? Would she realize where they had come from? But Elizabeth was already crossing back to where he stood, causing Darcy to release his breath. Tying the apron strings, his gaze darted to the back of the room. Besides Mrs. Reynolds, one of the kitchen maids lingered near the entrance to the pantry, her eyes wide.
Darcy rubbed his neck, glancing uneasily around the kitchen.
As if sensing his discomfort, Elizabeth looked up from her preparations, her gaze following his. “Oh, forgive me, Mr. Darcy. I hope you do not mind a small audience. Mrs. Reynolds wished to observe the process, and I am certain you know Sarah,” she added, nodding to the scullery maid. “She has volunteered to stand by in case we should require assistance.”
Elizabeth grinned up at him then, causing Darcy’s heart rate to escalate. To calm himself, he turned his attention to the young maid, noticing that she immediately dropped her gaze. In truth, he was not certain he had ever been introduced to the girl—Pemberley had a large staff, and he generally did not come in contact with those who worked below-stairs. Seeing the maid’s obvious discomfort at being in the presence of the master, even if he was standing before her in an apron and shirtsleeves, Darcy smiled, attempting to put her at ease. “I thank you, Sarah, for allowing us to invade your workspace. I hope we do not prove to be too much trouble.”
Darcy watched in amusement as the girl’s eyes formed round circles and a slight flush colored her cheeks. “Oh, no sir! ‘Tis no trouble!”
“Good. I am pleased to hear it.” Allowing his smile to remain, he turned to face Elizabeth. “Very well, Miss Bennet. I await your expert tutelage. What would you have me do?”
Elizabeth regarded him over the curve of her shoulder. “I suppose you might begin by sorting these berries,” she said, indicating the basket in front of him with a tilt of her chin. “Meanwhile, Miss Darcy and I will mix the ingredients for the crust.”
Darcy looked from the basket to the bowl in front of him. “Er… sort them? Pardon my ignorance, Miss Bennet, but can we not just pour the desired amount into the crust?”
Elizabeth cocked her head. “No, Mr. Darcy, we cannot.”
Stepping over to where he stood, she reached across his body, her fingers brushing his wrist as she began picking through the basket of fruit. Her proximity made Darcy’s stomach tumble. Steadying his breathing, he forced himself to focus on what she was saying.
“…and as you can see, some of these are not sufficiently ripe.” Elizabeth held up a pale blush-colored berry for his inspection. “Others have become slightly squashed in transport,” she continued, picking out another berry and showing it to him, before popping it into her mouth.
Darcy felt a smile twitching at his lips. “And is it also my job to consume all of those damaged berries, Miss Bennet?”
Elizabeth gazed back at him seriously. “You may do as you wish, Mr. Darcy. However, it is important to taste the fruit; otherwise you will not know how much sugar to use. Here,” she added, plucking a fat purple berry from the basket. For a moment Darcy stilled, thinking she intended to place it into his mouth, but instead she simply held it out to him. When he did not react immediately, she took his hand, turning it over before placing the berry lightly in his palm.
Darcy swallowed, lifting the fruit.
“Well?” Elizabeth asked as Darcy chewed.
“It is… very good.”
“Yes. But you will notice that it is also slightly tart, though it is fully ripe. That is due to the earliness of the season. In a month’s time, the fruit will be much sweeter. This is why you must taste and adjust the sugar accordingly.”
“Now, any of the berries that are not fit to use, you may put here, in this bowl. Oh, and you must not worry that they will go to waste. While I would not wish to make use of them in the pie, they are perfectly adequate for preserves or sauces.”
Darcy lifted his gaze, staring at her intently. “I assure you, Miss Bennet, I was not worried.”
Suddenly, Georgiana looked up from where she was slicing into a slab of butter, enthusiasm lighting her features. “William, perhaps if Mrs. West uses the leftovers to make preserves, we might put together baskets with fresh bread and bring them to the tenants. Do you not think that a fine idea?”
“Certainly not,” Darcy answered, and Georgiana’s smile faltered. “Really, Georgie,” Darcy continued, “would you have me give the tenants jam made from inferior berries? No, it cannot be done. We will simply have to eat the preserves ourselves, no matter how horrible they are.”
Georgiana’s mouth dropped open and she stared back at her brother, her eyes as wide as saucers. Out of the corner of his vision, Darcy could see Elizabeth biting back a laugh.
“I believe your brother is teasing you, Miss Darcy,” Elizabeth said, gently squeezing the girl’s shoulder. “Now, enough of this gadding about. Let us concentrate on our work, or we will never have this ready before the servants return to begin the dinner service.”
Jennifer Altman is a novelist, an anglophile, and a lover of all things Regency. After a long career in the television industry, Jennifer shifted to book publishing in 2016. She currently works in the corporate division of a large publishing company. Jennifer makes her home in New York City where she lives in a compact apartment with a considerable collection of books. When she’s not writing, Jennifer can be found reading, watching British period dramas, and not cleaning her house. To Conquer Pride is her debut novel.
Ms Altman is visiting other blogs during the launch tour, don’t forget to visit them for more information about the book and more opportunities to win a copy of it 🙂
November 19th: Austenesque Reviews – Cover reveal, book excerpt, giveaway.
November 26th: More Agreeable Engaged – Author interview with Joana Starnes, book excerpt, giveaway.
November 29th: From Pemberley to Milton – Book review, book excerpt, giveaway.
November 30th: Babblings of a Bookworm – “Ask Me Anything” author interview, book excerpt, giveaway.
Jennifer Altman is giving away one copy of the Kindle edition of To Conquer Pride. In order to be entered to win all you need to do is comment below and let us know what you thought about my own remarks and/or the excerpt.
The giveaway is international and is open until the 5th of December. The winner will be announced shortly after that date, so please make sure you stop by to see if you name was announced.
Good Luck everyone!