What Would Mr. Darcy Do? by Abigail Reynolds

9505249Fiction — print. Sourcebooks Landmark, 2011. 228 pgs. Library copy.

Rather than immediately retiring from Elizabeth Bennet’s company as decorum would demand, Darcy remains at the Lambton Inn to offer Elizabeth comfort after she reads Jane’s letter containing the dreadful news of Lydia’s elopement with Wickham. His kind words of understanding become a conversation about Elizabeth’s changed feelings towards him and, finally, a kiss right as the Gardiners return from their walk.

Rather than allow society to force Elizabeth into an engagement with him, Darcy conspires with Mr. Gardiner to give him the opportunity to encourage her to accept his proposal out of love. When Mr. Gardiner acquiesces, Darcy invites Elizabeth to exchange letters with Miss Darcy thereby allowing him to send her clandestine notes as postscripts to his sister’s letters and further their relationship.

While I normally enjoy Reynolds’ variations on Austen’s original novel, I’m afraid this particular “what if” question did not work for me. Most of the novel is spent with Elizabeth and Darcy debating — for lack of a better work — the extent and strength of Darcy’s self-control. Elizabeth seems to take great delight in teasing him with kisses rather than with her wit as she did in the original novel.

Darcy needs a sign that Elizabeth believed him to be a changed man whilst Elizabeth asserts to Jane and Mrs. Gardiner that she needs reassurance he is the man he claims to be. Rather than discuss their hesitations, Darcy and Elizabeth steal kisses when their chaperones, Bingley and Jane, are distracted and exchange clandestine letters that never reach the level of explanation found in Darcy’s first letter to Elizabeth.

The book was not entirely bad — I loved the development of Elizabeth’s relationship with Georgina and the reaction of the later to Elizabeth’s unmarried sisters. Yet so little happens plot-wise that the novel feels like a longer read than 228 pages, and the premise is the weakest variation explored by Reynolds to date.

Note: This novel was originally published in 2001 as From Lambton to Longbourn.

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