Ifyou come from a family of equestrians and are expected to become an accomplished rider yourself, being afraid of horses can be inconvenient. Soon after experiencing the trauma of losing her father, Catie Darcy, age eight, stole out of the house to ride her pony, but the skittish pony threw her. Knowing she broke the rules with her daring escapade, Catie didn’t tell her beloved brother and guardian, Bennet; her nanny, Rose; or anyone else about the fall.
About nine years have elapsed since that harrowing time, but Catie’s fear of horses is as strong as ever. At the start of “Echoes of Pemberley,” though, readers learn that Catie, now a beautiful, almost 17-year-old girl -- and a descendant of Jane Austen's Elizabeth and Darcy -- is accomplished at a number of things, including riding bicycles. She lives with her brother, his wife, and their twins, and attends a good boarding school. Since he took over her guardianship, Ben has regularly hired tutors and instructors for Catie during her summer breaks. This summer, thinking it is high time she follows in her family tradition, Ben hires a riding instructor for six weeks.
Not happy about this, Catie skips her first lesson, then later slips out at night and goes skinny-dipping in the pond on the Pemberley estate. Much to her surprise and embarrassment, she's caught by none other than her new riding instructor, Sean Kelly. It’s safe to say Catie and Sean’s first meeting, just like that of Elizabeth and Darcy, is inauspicious.
In fact, readers who are familiar with “Pride & Prejudice” will see a number of parallels between that novel and Cynthia Ingram Hensley’s book, both of which involve morals and manners. However, “echoes” is a good title word because while readers will see some similarities, Hensley has made this tale very much her own. “Echoes” is an effective coming-of age story of a serious-minded young woman learning about the world.
One thing she learns is that doing the right thing at the right time for the right reason can be costly. For instance, when Catie confronts a cruel and abusive man and doesn't follow Ben's command to leave the area, Ben yells at her. She later complains to Sean about the unfairness of Ben’s action. Sean exclaims, “Catie Darcy, you cannot go through life on the assumption that, as long as you are doing what is right, there will be no consequences.”
There is one irritating and unnecessary paragraph within the first several pages of the book. Readers learn that Sean fell in love with and slept with a young woman from college who eventually broke his heart. Perhaps the author wrote the scene to satisfy YA audience expectations, or to signify Sean was sensitive. But it was unhelpful and led to nowhere. The other weakness happens at the end. It is sometimes better to leave readers a cliffhanger rather than provide them with a neat and tidy ending.
Otherwise, “Ecohes of Pemeberly” is a good story, and one that should give YA readers a taste for reading the original novel upon which it is based.
Image copyright Meryton Press. Review copy obtained from the publisher.
Kim Moreland is the managing editor for the Colson Center, manages the Colson Center Library, is a research associate for BreakPoint, and writes feature articles and blog posts for BreakPoint.
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