In celebration of two hundredth anniversary of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, I’m taking part in the Austenprose Bicentenary Challenge for 2013. Here is the original blog post if you are interested. The idea is to pick a challenge level (Ie: how many Pride and Prejudice inspired books, be they prequels, sequels, non-fiction, fan-fiction, etc., or movies or miniseries) then post our review on your blog. This month’s review is Mr. Darcy’s Obsession by Abigail Reynolds. Here is the link to Goodreads, and below is the blurb:
The more he tries to stay away from her, the more his obsession grows…
What if … Elizabeth Bennet was more unsuitable for Mr. Darcy than ever.
Mr. Darcy is determined to find a more suitable bride. But then he learns that Elizabeth is living in London in reduced circumstances after her father’s death robs her of her family home.
What if … Mr. Darcy can’t stop himself from seeking her out.
He just wants to make sure she’s alright. But once he’s seen her, he feels compelled to talk to her, and from there he’s unable to fight the overwhelming desire to be near her, or the ever-growing mutual attraction that is between them.
In this re-telling, the unfolding of events hits a snag. Elizabeth’s visit to Rosings is cut short when Mr. Bennet falls ill and dies. Mrs. Bennet’s worst fears have come to pass and they are homeless. We pick up the story after this point – Elizabeth has had to go and live with her mother’s brother and wife, the Gardiner’s, in Cheapside. She is essentially the governess to their children. As lowering as this may be in the eyes of society, she knows she has the better deal of all the sisters. Jane has been married to a shopkeeper, just so that she may have a home, and Mrs. Bennnet, Lydia and Kitty are living in Aunt Philip’s crowded dwelling in Meryton. I think Mary went to go live with another relative. So Mr. Darcy never got to make his ill-fated proposal and never wrote his beautiful letter. Lizzy does not know the truth of Wickham’s lies.
When we join Darcy and Bingley two years later, Bingley is still smarting from missing his chance at marrying Jane. He has learned of his sister’s deception, of not telling him she was in London. He has never gotten over her. Bingley tells Darcy he has seen Elizabeth and learned of the family’s unfortunate circumstances. This puts a bug in Darcy’s ear and he just can’t ignore it. He goes to London, convincing himself he is not going to see her, just to make sure she is in comfortable surroundings. He pays an urchin to bring him intelligence of her… which includes that she takes walks in the park. And so begins our story.
Ms. Reynold’s does a wonderful job with setting and tone. She doesn’t bother trying to sound like Jane, she writes in a nice, straightforward style and has a good understanding of the regency period. She widens the character base to include Darcy’s really horrible family. Jane Austen never wrote a scene that was just a conversation between gentleman – she claims she had no idea what such a scene would entail, having never experienced it. I hate to think they were so crass and vulgar, but you know what, they probably were. There is a scene where Darcy’s Uncle, his cousin Fitzwilliam’s father, is talking about Georgiana getting married (bear in mind she is only seventeen and not even out yet) that left me fuming. The treatment of women of the lower classes by the aristocracy is accurate, just upsetting. I know it happened, but I don’t like to read about it. I found it a bit jarring, because most Regencies I read are soft, gentle things, and that is what I like about them. They are a kind of fantasy of their own, where we ignore the horrors of the lower classes (for the most part) and go to fancy parties and wear poofy dresses and visit manor homes. Judge me if you will. Don’t get me wrong – the plot is amazing, I just wasn’t quite ready or expecting these subjects in a Jane inspired story. It is still very excellent. Georgiana plays a much bigger part in the story this time. And I loved Aunt Augustine. She’s a treat.
There are, of course, misunderstandings, long separations, letters, visits… all the good stuff of a regency romance. The only misstep I feel was at the very end. I think I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention it. There was a very public scene where some very horrible family secrets were thrown around inside a church. It never would have happened. No one would so forget themselves, especially not a member of the aristocracy. However, the ending is more than fabulous and well deserved after many twists and turns. I would gladly read other books by this author.