The Trouble with Mr. Darcy by Sharon Lathan

Fiction – print. Sourcebooks, 2011. 344 pgs. Copy traded through PaperBackSwap.

I’m beginning to notice a pattern in sequels to Austen’s classic novel: Elizabeth experiences a tragedy during pregnancy, one of the Bennet sisters marries, Georgiana falls in love, Lydia arrives unannounced at a family function, Catherine de Bourgh will criticize Elizabeth, and Wickham hatches a plan to extract revenge upon Darcy that usually involves placing Elizabeth in mortal danger.

And Lathan’s book nearly follows this pattern to a T with Elizabeth experiencing postpartum depression following the premature birth of her and Darcy’s second child, Kitty preparing to marry an older man in the army named Artois, Lydia arriving at Netherfield to crash Kitty’s wedding, Lady de Bourgh criticizing the way Elizabeth raises her children, and Wickham hatching a plan to kidnap and, possibly, murder Elizabeth and her eldest son.

This book is the fifth in Lathan’s series so I started at the end rather than the beginning, which explains why so many of the characters felt unfamiliar to me. Darcy suddenly has multiple aunts and uncles previously unintroduced in Austen’s novel and one of the uncles, a doctor by the name of George Darcy, features heavily in the story as he explains postpartum depression to Darcy – a very modern diagnosis and understanding of psychology – and administers to both Elizabeth and young Alexander following their ordeal.

Unfortunately, these new characters were introduced to the detriment of Darcy and Elizabeth’s friendships with Bingley and Jane. The two couples felt more like reluctant relations than close friends, and I felt rather sad at the suggestion that the foursome would lose their friendship after years of marriage.

Seeing how loving and affection Darcy was with his children did lift my spirits, although I felt some aspects of his relationship with Elizabeth in this book did not ring true. I mean, yes, they have sex at nearly every turn (a common plotline in Pride and Prejudice sequels), but their interactions lacked the witty banter I normally associate with these two.

Darcy is overwrought in the presence of his uncle at one point because he assumes his wife no longer loves him, which felt callous given Elizabeth’s concern their premature baby might not live and seemed like an unusual display of emotion for someone like Darcy. This is the fifth book in the series and, inevitably, the characters will change as a result of the events in the previous four books so Lathan deserves some leeway, but this book just reiterated to me that I need to move on from reading sequels to Austen’s books. Especially after it fell into the trap of making Wickham into a unbelievable villain.

One final thing: the timeline of this book was not always clear. The book opens with an introduction to Elizabeth, Darcy, and their two little boys, Alexander and Michael, only to jump back to the months Darcy and Elizabeth spent exploring the Continent during Elizabeth’s second pregnancy. I had to reread these sections twice to nail down the timeline and very likely would have given up had the book not been the only one I had on hand during jury duty.

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