A classic love story about manners, men and modern romance.
Western Australia, 2019: The Bennets are a farming family struggling to make ends meet. Lizzy, passionate about working the land, is determined to save the farm. Spirited and independent, she has little patience for her mother’s focus on finding a suitable man for each of her five daughters.
When the dashing Charles Bingley, looking to expand his farm holdings, buys the neighbouring property of Netherfield Park, Mrs Bennet and the entire district of Coodardy are atwitter with gossip and speculation. Will he attend the local dance and is he single? These questions are soon answered when he and Lizzy’s sister Jane form an instant connection on the night. But it is Charlie’s best friend, farming magnate Will Darcy, who leaves a lasting impression when he slights Lizzy, setting her against him.
Can Lizzy and Will put judgements and pride aside to each see the other for who they really are? Or in an age where appearance and social media rule, will prejudice prevail?
Matters of the Heart by Fiona Palmer is a modern-day retelling of Pride and Prejudice, set in farmlands in rural Western Australia.
Lizzy Bennet’s family have owned and run Longbourn for decades, and they’re not about to let a few rough years of drought force them to sell up and leave the town.
Charles Bingley, his sister Caroline Bingley, and his best friend Will Darcy soon arrive to the area after Charles buys the expensive neighbouring property Netherfield. If you’re familiar with Pride and Prejudice, you’ll know what comes next.
Despite the twenty-first century Australian setting, Matters of the Heart follows Pride and Prejudice pretty similarly. There are a few slight tweaks to the storyline, and some accelerations in pacing, but other than that, it’s pretty loyal to the original story. Any devoted fan of Pride and Prejudice – like me – will enjoy another fresh retelling of the classic tale.
“Ken Collins was shorter than Lizzy by half a head, and his hair was thick and black, resembling that of a Lego-man. He wore a leather belt with a shiny buckle as if he’d been a rodeo champ in his day. If you let him talk long enough he’d tell you about the time he rode a bucking bronco.”
The rural Australian setting was a nice touch to the story, and allowed us to see the Bennet family as a struggling but stoic unit. They’re supportive, compassionate, and they bond over the tough times they’ve had on the farm in previous years. The sisters are all vastly different – like in Pride and Prejudice – but they support one another and the older girls are a positive influence on the younger ones.
I did wonder if more creative liberties could’ve been taken, and if the storyline could’ve drifted a bit more from the original source. I love Pride and Prejudice, but I felt like I knew exactly where the story was going and so I didn’t feel a huge range of emotions when reading the book. I would’ve like a bit more of a difference between the book, and its source.
“You can’t save them all, her dad had said when she was six and saw her first mauled lamb. It’s nature; that lamb has fed a family of birds. It was a rough way to learn about the cycle of life, but in farming there was no shying away from it.”
This book showcases strong, independent women. Lizzie plans to take over Longbourn from her father and she is already running a lot of the operations on the farm. She’s capable, confident and she’s incredibly smart.
Lizzie is used to men assuming she doesn’t know what she’s doing. She’s used to being questioned about who will run the farm after her father passes. But she’s sure of herself, and she doesn’t let others sway her opinion. She’s feisty and she’s fun, and her romance with Will Darcy is really heartwarming. I enjoyed reading about their blossoming romance — their quirks and their clashes, and their respect for each other.
There are moments of humour scattered throughout the book. Ken Collins is ridiculous and clueless, just like his inspiration. Kitty and Lydia are overdramatic and self-centred, but they bring a smile to your face, and Will and Lizzie have incredible chemistry on the page that you can’t help but adore.
“The top envelope was addressed to Jane and Lizzy. The invitation was fancy, handmade with care, but Lizzy couldn’t imagine Charlie or Caroline making them. Probably paid someone to do them. Across the top it read Bingley Barbecue.”
I recommend this to Pride and Prejudice and Jane Austen fans, although be aware the story doesn’t venture outside the original plot-lines quite like I’d expected.
Fans of romance will enjoy this, as will any Australian reader interested in rural settings or books set amongst farmland. Matters of the Heart reminded me of McLeod’s Daughters — strong women showing men how capable they can be on their own.
Thank you to the publisher for mailing me a review copy in exchange for an honest review.
Matters of the Heart
Hachette Book Publishers