By Emma Tennant
It has been a year since their marriage, and Elizabeth and Darcy couldn’t be happier. They are inviting the Bingleys, as well as Elizabeth’s mother and younger sisters to Pemberley for Christmas, and it promises to be a wonderful time. The only shadow on their happiness is that they have not yet had a child, and other people are starting to pressure them about it. But then Lady Catherine invites herself to Pemberley for the holidays, and Mrs. Bennet invites Lydia and Wickham to come with her, and Jane couldn’t say no when the sharp-tongued Miss Bingley asked to come along. How will Elizabeth maintain order with such a house party?
This book promised to be fun. It was very short (only 184 pages!) but I was looking forward to enjoying a story about the Darcys’ life after the wedding. What I got was a strange, truncated mess. For such a short book it starts out incredibly slow. There are three or four chapter dedicated to Mrs. Bennet discussing going to Pemberley with all of her friends in Meryton, and her friends commenting on Elizabeth’s lack of a child. It took till the midpoint of the book for everyone to congregate at Pemberley, which is strange to me, since that seemed to be the point of the book – to have everyone there. The opening of this book would have been fine if the book was 200 pages longer, but it seems to me with so small a word count there’s not much space to waste on Mrs. Bennet gossiping.
From a slow beginning, the middle is rushed, and the ending is downright abrupt. I actually thought there were pages missing from the book when there was still conflict going on two pages from the end. The “ending” was more of a crazy series of events throwing everyone together and then they just … forgive each other? With no real conflict resolution or talking through their problems? Elizabeth suspects Darcy of having a dark secret that he has been keeping from her all this time, and it seems to me he never explained why he was acting the way he was. Why does he go to London? Why does he cancel the Christmas ball without telling her? Why the heck does he side with Lady Catherine against her?? All he says is that he loves her and that seems to fix everything. Silly Elizabeth, getting so worked up and emotional when it seemed your husband was keeping something terrible from his past from you. You should have trusted him completely and not questioned him. He has no need to explain himself to you. (This is sarcasm of course. As a rational, intelligent woman I suspect Elizabeth would have demanded an explanation if she wasn’t acting so out of character.)
The original characters aren’t any better. There are several characters of the author’s own creation that are added to the story. Mr. Roper is Pemberley’s heir in the absence of a male child of Mr. Darcy’s, even though he seems to be related to Lady Catherine, who is related to Darcy on his mother’s side. Properties were passed through the father’s side of the family (the Darcys), not the mother’s side (the Fitzwilliams). Aside from being useless and not at all relevant to the plot as a character, Mr. Roper shouldn’t even be Darcy’s heir, based on primogeniture. There is also a minor subplot with Col. Kitchener, a cousin of the widowed Mrs. Bennet, who wants to marry her. This is another plot that I thought would be better developed, but ended up being dropped and quickly tied together at the end. There’s a lot of potential in Mrs. Bennet wanting to remarry to a scoundrel!
I also didn’t like the calm way with which everyone accepted the Wickhams into their circle. When Mrs. Bennet insists on inviting Lydia and Wickham to Pemberley, I thought there was going to be a big conflict about it. After all, Darcy despises Wickham and would never let him set foot at Pemberley. Except here he does? He suffers Wickham to come over and made snide remarks about everything for several days. That really annoyed me since as master of Pemberley surely he can forbid the Wickhams from entering. Especially since it would upset Georgiana. Although here it seems not to? Everyone is so out of character and it’s very tiresome.
The timing is extremely confusing. Darcy and Elizabeth have been married for a year, but Bingley and Jane have been married longer, at least 2-3 years, and Lydia and Wickham have been married for 4? As you might remember from the original, Jane and Elizabeth are married on the same day, so that’s a major continuity error on the part of the author. Why would Elizabeth and Darcy wait 4 years to get married?? That makes no sense and is never explained. Also, if she’s only been married for a year, why is everyone bothering Elizabeth about a baby? A year is not a very long time to wait before declaring oneself “barren”. I initially thought I had gotten the timing wrong and that it had been 3 or so years without a child, which would make sense when everyone is making a big fuss about Pemberley’s heir. But it seems it was just a screw up, and kind of a big one at that.
Mr. Darcy goes back to his proud, unkind ways almost immediately after the book begins. I hate when books do that. Give the character a new conflict or part of their character to develop, don’t make them go over what was already done in the original story! Let him keep his character development and start working on something else. As soon as Lady Catherine shows up in the picture, Darcy starts to shut Elizabeth out, which seems crazy to me because he so strongly defies her to marry Elizabeth. Surely after three years of marriage they would trust each other enough to talk through their problems. But then, maybe not. Maybe personalities can’t change and he will always be cold and proud deep down. You know, the opposite message to the original story?
Elizabeth gets a makeover as well, and not for the better. She becomes suspicious, hysterical, and prone to throwing hissy fits. She keeps wandering off by herself in the rain, just to have. Mr. Darcy chase her down and proclaim love for her. I’m not kidding, this happens twice. Instead of rising to the challenge as Pemberley’s mistress, she gets overwhelmed and retreats to her bedroom to cry about stuff. Really, this is not the Elizabeth we remember from the original, who refused outright to marry Mr. Collins and stood up to Lady Catherine’s wrath. I kept waiting for Elizabeth to assert herself as the person in charge and demand that people respect her, but she never does. She’s too busy listening to rumors about Darcy and weeping. It was ridiculous.
This story could have been pretty decent. The writing’s not bad and the style isn’t totally incongruous with dear Jane’s. If only it had taken the time and pages to work through the issues brought up! Especially at the end, a lot more time should have been spent letting Elizabeth and Darcy work through their issues and come to terms with what was happening. The “big reveal” at the end was lame, the pacing was terrible, and the characters were a mess. It’s like the author didn’t even bother to reread P&P before she dove right into writing this, and it shows. If a sequel is what you’re looking for, there are a lot better out there than this.