As with Dancing with Mr. Darcy I picked up a copy of this novel when Border’s Books closed down in September of 2011 and as such counts as a bonus book for my 2013 Mount TBR Reading challenge. And I have to say I’m glad I picked up a copy. Of all the Austen fan-fiction novels I’ve read so far Odiwe’s book has had the closest language and wit to the originals. It wasn’t as good as the originals, as I don’t think anything can be, but it was definitely the closest in style which was very nice.
Willoughby’s Return takes place roughly five years after the end of Sense and Sensibility and even though Sense and Sensibility isn’t one of my favorite Austen’s that didn’t stop this from being one of the better written and thought out sequels. All our favorite characters from Elinor and Marianne, Colonel Brandon, Edward Ferrars and the idiotic Steele sisters. Many other minor characters make appearances too which was nice.
And of course John Willoughby makes his return and causes all sorts of mayhem and mischief. I thought he would take more of a leading role in this novel than he did. He did provide a lot of tension and caused a lot of trouble especially between Marianne and Colonel Brandon, but his part within the story felt a bit forced even though he is the titular character. I was satisfied with his ending in the story, even if I did want to smack multiple characters for their interactions with him.
Of all the characters, however, I enjoyed Margaret Dashwood (Elinor and Marianne’s younger sister) the most. Odiwe wrote her perfectly as a mix between Elinor’s sensibility and Marianne’s emotionalism making her both unpredictable and reliable and thus being able to avoid the scandal Marianne experienced in the original. I also thought Henry Lawrence was a roguish character who I had no issues falling for and then hating for the way he treated Marianne. I almost wish the book would’ve been more about them (roughly half of it was) and had less of the to-do with Willoughby, but it did all tie together nicely.
If there was one minor thing that I wasn’t to wowed about by this book, it was the subtle references to sex. If Odiwe were only a little more vague she would have gotten even closer to Austen’s writing style and I would’ve probably enjoyed this novel that bit more. But at the same time, it wasn’t over the top and was still very subtle, just not as subtle as Austen and a couple of discussions about sex, marriage and health were far more frank than they were in Austen, but are probably a little more realistic to what happened during the novel’s actual time period.
Recommendations: If you enjoy Austen and want to expand her stories and learn more about her characters you wouldn’t go wrong with this one. Of those Austen fan-fiction novels that are sequels this is the best I’ve read so far. There was nothing supernatural and it seemed like a just continuation of the characters from the original.
Opening Line: “Marianne Brandon was bursting with news to tell her sister and was so excited at the report that her husband had divulged at breakfast before leaving for Lyme that morning, that she did not consider there to be time enough to don her bonnet.”
Closing Line: “Doctor’s orders, Mrs. Brandon. Lots of love and plenty of bed rest.” (Whited out.)