Story Title: The Coffeehouse: A Regency P&P OneShot
Author Name: Cen (aka excentryke, excentrykemuse [FFN] [LJ])
Story Url: Story Link
Content Rating: All Ages
Length: 2,610 words
Story Summary: Mr. Bennet banishes an eighteen-year-old Elizabeth when she refuses to marry a man with three thousand pounds a year. Living with her aunt and uncle in London, she meets a grief-ridden Mr. Darcy, changing the course of their romance.
Not long ago, I stumbled upon this sweet, thoughtful look at what could have been in the world of Pride & Prejudice, had Mr. Bennet attempted to force a younger Elizabeth into marriage to a morally repugnant gentleman who was nonetheless respected in society. I love how logically the setup for this story plays out. It is easy to see Mr. Bennet behaving this way, particularly given the tone of the narrative. He is not depicted as an uncaring or heartless man; just indifferent as to what he likely considered the overly romantic and missish worries of his teenage daughter. Given what a mess his own marriage was, and considering his apathetic attitude in canon when Elizabeth presents her concerns to him about Lydia, it isn’t hard to imagine Mr. Bennet being dismissive of Elizabeth’s most passionate feelings in this story, utterly incapable of understanding why she would refuse a respectable man of consequence. Thus the foundation for this story really worked for me.
The timing of Mr. Darcy’s meeting with Elizabeth is also well chosen within his own personal history. It isn’t at all hard to imagine him behaving as he does here – eavesdropping on a fascinating young woman, and then engaging her in conversation before she can escape him, after she has unknowingly piqued his interest. Mr. Darcy was always better able to converse one-on-one and outside of others’ eyes. Once he realizes that Elizabeth has no expectations of him, nor demands for him, it isn’t hard to picture this younger Mr. Darcy wanting to know her better.
While I’m at it, I must encourage you to read through the author’s many other stories, too. Although she appears to have retired from fanfic writing, she has left us with a treasure trove of stories, encompassing multiple fandoms.
My only critique: The story resolution may feel a bit rushed for some, but I didn’t personally find it to be so, for two reasons: One, Mr. Darcy demonstrated with his Hunsford proposal that he was capable of impetuous behavior (I realize that could be debated, but I have always felt his proposal at that particular moment was more impetuous than not); Two, the story is a one-shot, and for there to be a resolution within that limited amount of space, things would need to be forwarded a bit. Even so, I felt that this resolution was most certainly plausible under these circumstances, during this era, in this culture, and between these two people. Without spoiling the story, it’s hard for me to be any clearer as to why I think Mr. Darcy’s resolution to Elizabeth’s plight is not overly rushed. So, I’m mentioning that possible concern here for those who prefer such things to be drawn out, though I would argue that the pacing was just perfect in my opinion.