Seduced and abandoned by the faithless Willoughby, Colonel Brandon’s much-loved ward Eliza is sent to give birth in the countryside. But what becomes of her, and her daughter, the young Eliza?
Joan Aiken's sequel to Sense and Sensibility takes up the stories of Elinor and Marianne, but introduces a dashing new heroine who despite being a 'by-blow' and outcast, uses her wits and talents to find her own way in the world. This is a darker side of Regency society where a young girl who cannot marry for money must find a career, and brave the realities of the Napoleonic wars in Portugal.
Others may try, but nobody comes close to Aiken ( Jane Fairfax ) in writing sequels to Jane Austen. Here she follows characters met in and suggested by Sense and Sensibility , spinning an absorbing tale rich in characterization and diverse settings. Raised with other ``by-blows'' (illegitimate children) by a disreputable foster mother, and uncertain of her parentage, Liz Williams regularly receives money and admonitions from a Colonel Brandon, who never visits her. (Brandon, of course, married Marianne Dashwood in the Austen novel.) Determined to discover the mystery of her parentage, Liz takes shelter with the Ferrars (nee Elinor Dashwood), who send her to school in Bath, where, through no fault of her own, she loses her reputation and her position and is forced to flee to London to make her way in the world. This she does--with a vengeance-- meanwhile discovering sobering truths about her parents and herself. Spirited Liz is an 18th-century feminist of the first order. Whether consorting with poets or fighting off brigands in Portugal, she holds her own with bravado and good cheer. Aiken's sense of time and place is impeccable, and her wit is employed to good effect. Her vision of the later lives of Marianne and Elinor embraces Austen's irony; while they did not achieve the happiness we would have wished for them, here they find fulfillment in unexpected ways.