This Jane Austen sequel is based on Sense and Sensibility and follows Willoughby’s illegitimate daughter by his jilted lover, Eliza. It is told in the first person narrated by the daughter, also named Eliza, and begins in 1797 with her earliest childhood memories. Many of the characters of Austen’s original story appear. Elinor and Edward are much changed and live in a state of near poverty. Eliza is Brandon’s ward and despised by a spoiled and indulged Marianne. Even the daring tomboy, Margaret Dashwood, has grown to be a conventional old maid. The only character who seems unchanged is the cheerful, ever-generous John Middleton.
Ms. Aiken has written a delightful and humorous story, one that can stand on its own without the Austen reference. Undoubtedly, England had its share of fatherless children left in foster care by indifferent parents; few, however, had the good fortune of Eliza and others that we meet. The only disappointment is the coy summary at the end, which comes too soon.