The Clergyman’s Wife by Molly Greeley
This is the story of Charlotte Lucas who became Charlotte Collins after both Jane and Elizabeth Bennet refused the offer of marriage from their cousin William Collins. She saw what may have been her only opportunity for marriage, and thereby not becoming a burden to her family, in Mr. Collins’s proposal. Charlotte doesn’t love her husband. She finds his rambling sermons and obsessive devotion to his patroness Lady Catherine de Bourgh tedious at best but she knows he is a good man and not marrying him she would have been left a spinster at the mercy of her family and their fortunes. Then Charlotte meets a local farmer, Mr. Travis. Could she finally be getting a glimpse of love?
Retellings of Pride and Prejudice are typically focused on the Bennet family and household but this is the first one I know of where Charlotte is the main character. I always wondered why she would have married Mr. Collins. I don’t think I would be able to tolerate his company for a day, nevermind a lifetime. Her father’s rise in status but loss of income was a piece I never understood: how his title and especially wanting the lifestyle that is presumed to go with that title changed the prospects of his daughters and sons. His daughters’ futures were brighter when he was a merchant, his sons’ more so with a gentleman for a father.
In this novel we get under Charlotte’s skin and get to feel the bittersweet pangs of unrequited love. We know her bitterness of her situation and the pining for what can never be. She is a strong woman, a survivor, and one that is determined to make a better life, a life of choices, for her young daughter.