Story Title: A Bitter Pill
Author Name: ldb531
Category: Pride & Prejudice
Story Url: Story Link 1
Alternate Url: Story Link 2 (website is currently undergoing maintenance)
Content Rating: All Ages
Length: 1,700 words
Story Summary: A Rain and Retribution Tag-a-long.
I enjoy stories which take what we know of characters or circumstances in canon and turn everything upside down. Such what-if scenarios, in which Elizabeth is actually rich or titled, or Mr. Darcy isn’t rich, or perhaps in which Wickham isn’t actually a cad, allow me to better analyze the characters and plot of my favorite book by giving one the opportunity to see what those changes do to the rest of the story. Would Mr. Darcy have behaved the same at the Meryton Assembly if he were only a second son who had gone into the navy? Would Elizabeth be as quick to judge him if she previously had spent time in high society? If Georgiana had eloped with Wickham, would Mr. Darcy have had the strength to ever leave Pemberley again to participate in society?
With all of that in mind, I hope it’s obvious what appeals to me about “A Bitter Pill.” In this extremely well-written story, Elizabeth has brought her infant son for a visit to her Aunt Gardiner when there is an unexpected visitor. A family member, who has grown petty and bitter over time, challenges Elizabeth’s happiness and accuses her of a mercenary marriage. The question at the end is whether the visitor will be able to accept the bitter pill of knowing that Elizabeth made the right choices, while this individual chose to forgo emotional vulnerability in favor of financial security.
The extremely rare, alternate perspective on this one particular character is deftly handled by the author. What I love about it is how this tiny change affects so much. If this character really were as poisoned and emotionally closed off as we see here, it would’ve started small, and then eventually have grown to be such a dominant characteristic that it would change far more than I might have initially imagined, going all the way back to Chapter 1 of Pride and Prejudice.
This story is entirely self-contained and complete. It’s a great example of how a huge, huge plot can be effectively crammed into a small story through effective, concise word choices. (It’s a talent I lack, to be frank. I greatly admire authors such as Idb531 who can write so well.) However, even as complete as this story is, it left me wishing for more, so that I might better explore this concept starting from an earlier point in canon. As a result of my meticulous, diligent digging (I.e.: I read the summary more closely. Doh!), I found that this is actually an outtake from a completed, novel length story, “Rain & Retribution.” What a marvelous treat! I’m extremely excited about this and can’t wait to begin it when my life is a bit calmer.
My Only Critique: I can’t think of anything that would inhibit someone’s enjoyment of “A Bitter Pill.” I suppose, though, that the existence of “Rain & Retribution” means that this story might be considered one huge spoiler for “Bitter Pill.” So you might want to read R&R first. However, I think that for most of us, it’s accepted as a given that Darcy and Elizabeth will be together at the end of a typical JAFF (unless we are otherwise warned), so I don’t think that aspect of this story can be considered a spoiler. Furthermore, the bitter, petty behavior of the one character in this story is, I suspect, going to be quickly apparent in R&R. Thus, unless someone who has read “Rain & Retribution” is able to tell me otherwise, I’ll consider “Bitter Pill” to contain minor spoilers for the novel-length fic, since we do discover the results of the angry character’s matrimonial inclinations.