Sunday, December 14, 2008

Mr. Darcy Presents His Bride: A Sequel to Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice by Helen Halstead

Book Description:
When Elizabeth Bennett marries the brooding, passionate Mr. Darcy, she is thrown into the exciting world of London society. She makes a powerful friend in the Marchioness of Englebury but the jealousy among her ladyship's circle threatens to destroy Elizabeth's happiness. Elizabeth is drawn into a powerful clique for whom intrigue is the stuff of life and rivalry the motive, and her success, it seems, can only come at the expense of good relations with her husband. This novel also continues the stories of other favorite Pride and Prejudice characters including Georgiana Darcy and Kitty Bennett, each of whom have amusing adventures of their own. Told in the language of the era and bringing Regency society vividly to life, Mr. Darcy Presents His Bride recalls Austen's theme of the necessity of individual growth in the maintainance of lasting bonds.

Over the past six or seven years, I've read scads of published, self-published and free internet published Jane Austen fanfics of Pride and Prejudice. I consider myself somewhat of an authority on this genre, having succumbed to the Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy hysteria following the 1995 BBC production of P&P. I devoured everything I could get my hands on. Prequels, sequels, moderns, alternate realities, what if's - you name it. I loved all of it. I even took a stab at it and wrote one of my own. Many of the published books I'd bought and read were disappointments, I found internet fanfiction to be largely much better. I found the actual books available on Amazon for sale, to be bland and repetitive, nothing new or interesting, mostly rehashes of Austen's original. I expected to find the same with Mr. Darcy Presents His Bride. Well, count me wrong, I was pleasantly surprised to find I was not disappointed in this sequel. I liked it - a lot.

The story begins in the last few weeks before the marriage of Elizabeth and Darcy. It was like coming home again, seeing all the familiar Bennets and Bingley's with their usual hysterics and snide remarks, squabbling and maneuvering. I found there was some stereotyping of these characters that I suspect came from the BBC production but who cares, I enjoyed it in any case! A lot of the book centers on Kitty and Georgiana. Since these are the main single ladies in the story (Mary doesn't count), it's not unusual that we'd read about how they meet their future husbands. Kitty's transformation is very sweet. She goes from the "most foolish girl in all of England" (to paraphrase Mr. Bennet) to a thoughtful young girl who realizes you can't judge a book by it's cover. Her story is especially touching and poignant and brought tears to my eyes. Georgiana's story was not quite as interesting, since she is portrayed as so shy and docile and afraid of her own shadow. At one point she finally screws up enough courage to face a well known playwright who she believes is wrecking her brother's marriage. Still, I found her a little annoying, I preferred Kitty. Georgiana could also not make up her mind about who she loved and wanted to marry. Will she forever carry a torch for her cousin, Col. Fitzwilliam (who carries a torch for Elizabeth Darcy) or marry an unasumming younger brother who suddenly finds himself a marquess when his brother dies?

Elizabeth and Darcy are not always front and center in this novel. Not a lot of romance and canoodling and sizzling scenes in bed. Everything in the romance dept. is very subtle and understated. The author leaves much to the imagination - which was fine! I preferred it that way. I wish we had gotten more into Darcy's head in this book, but since we didn't ever in the Austen orginal, I won't quibble over it.

Elizabeth as Mrs. Darcy, becomes the toast of the town and celebrated for her wit and charm. To the point where it almost gets her in trouble with her marriage. I found that I really did not find this Elizabeth overly warm, the author did not really help us like her all that much. Yes, she's pretty and charming and smart, but I found no warmth in this Elizabeth. She was a teasing wit most of the time. Sometimes we'd get some glimpses of inside her head, but rarely. I saw almost no indications of her love for Darcy.

Darcy finds her new set of friends competition and struggles to keep her all his own, while at the same time, he's glad and proud to see the advances she's making in society. Darcy being Darcy wants her all to himself, but cannot vocalize this properly and they have a rift in their marriage over it. I still found this Darcy attractive and loved it when he used his husbandly authority to get rid of her suitors and keep their privacy. No portrait of her will hang in public, no matter how gorgeous it is - it will only hang at Pemberley. No wife of his is going to have a play written and performed about her - no way! It's clear he loves her and savors their time alone, he does not want to share her with the world. But the thing he loved most about Elizabeth and what attracted him to her in the first place is the same thing that society loves about her too. He can't keep her like a bird in a cage (as one annoying admirer compares her to) forever! This is the crux of their fall out. Elizabeth doesn't mind her husband's authority most of the time, but she does mind being told what she can and cannot do if she doesn't see the reason in it.

The other main plotline in the story is Lady Catherine de Bourgh's ill will. She does whatever she can to see the Darcy's rue the day they crossed her, but she doesn't really get her way. She marries off her daughter Anne, to a somewhat impovershed nobleman (this was amusing) and then nearly disinherits her when Anne does not bend to her will, and leaves most of her fortune to her nephew, Col. Fitzwilliam, making him an eligible bachelor. In comes Caroline Bingley! Caroline is her usual snide self in this, but you kind of wind up liking her in the end. The Hursts are the Hursts and you end up disliking them even further when it is revealed that they foster out their only child as an infant and only visit him periodically! I suppose this was typical of high society couples back then? In any event, it only underscored my dislike of the Hursts.

All in all, I really enjoyed this book, it was like a reunion, getting re-acquainted with all my old friends and family that I hadn't seen in a long time. Is it as good as Jane Austen's original - of course not! But, for anyone who can't get enough of P&P, I think they'll find this is a pretty good sequel. It kept me interested, it was not dull and it was fairly believable (particularly in what happens to Lydia in the end.) I recommend it.


No comments:

Related Posts with Thumbnails