The Bad Miss Bennet: A Novel, by Jean Burnett – A Review

The Bad Miss Bennet: A Novel, by Jean Burnett (2012)From the desk of Jeffrey Ward

In a continuation of Pride and Prejudice, we revisit the former Miss Lydia Bennet who, to avoid total disgrace, has married Mr. Wickham, that rake-hell and tormenter of Mr. Darcy.  As she embarks on her latest quest, we read from Mrs. Wickham’s personal journal as she lists her ‘modest’ goals in life:

 “My wants in life have always been modest. A few pretty gowns, a sprinkling of diamonds, a matching pair of footmen (so, so fashionable) and of course a respectable roof over my head, some land and a handsome, attentive wealthy husband.  These are the dreams of any well brought up female.  I cannot imagine how they became entangled with outlaws, royal plots, and fraudulent bankers…”

Mr. Wickham has recently perished at Waterloo and the widowed Lydia, chafing under her enforced mourning period, takes up in London with best friend Selena and her dim-witted army husband, Miles.  She begins her ambitious quest by teaming with these friends to practice the one useful skill her late husband taught her: Cheating wealthy patrons out of money at card parties.

Told in the first person narrative, Lydia’s reckless sojourn takes her from Pemberley to Longbourn to Brighton to London to Bath, to Paris to Italy, and finally to ________, not necessarily in that exact order.  Along the way, she is manipulated like a chess pawn by a silly lord, a crooked banker, a handsome highwayman, Selena and Miles, Lydia’s personal maid Adelaide, a Viennese Count, Mr. and Mrs. Darcy, a wealthy widow companion, a mysterious English officer, an overweight pug, Princess Caroline, and the Prince Regent himself. Sounds complicated? Yes indeed.

As a disgraced woman refusing to repent of her immoral ways there is no place to go but DOWN.  And ‘down’ she goes with the highwayman, the Viennese Count, almost with the royal banker, and with none other than His Royal Highness the Prince Regent.  The author thankfully spares us the sordid details of these sexual escapades other than to describe the bloated Prince’s pathetic but hilarious bedroom encounter with our anti-heroine.

In one encounter, Lydia returns to Pemberley to finagle an allowance out of her brother-in-law, Mr. Darcy.  As a Jane Austen purist, I took exception with the author’s portrayal of Darcy, Elizabeth, and Georgiana, as deviating away from what I consider Miss Austen’s original artistic intent.  Lydia resents Mr. Darcy’s moralizing and describes how his eyes bug out and he grits his teeth when upset.  My dear author: Please note that Colin Firth’s eyes do NOT bug out.

This reader kept looking for that romance which never fully materialized although Lydia admitted to being smitten by the highway man.  So, this story is primarily an adventure in which the clueless Lydia, similar to the character of Forrest Gump, inadvertently impacts everyone and everything around her as she is haplessly swept along into one ridiculous situation after another.

In the first few chapters I began to wonder “where’s this going?” However, warming quickly to the author’s style, I began to enjoy the journalistic escapade much more than wondering where it was leading to.  The author commands a formidable vocabulary which is skillfully exercised in her urgent, vivid writing style.  Within Lydia’s adventure is interwoven part of the historical account of the feud between the Prince Regent and the exiled Princess Caroline.

Other than objecting to the author’s unflattering treatment of the Darcys at Pemberley, only the finish left me vaguely dissatisfied.  If the author indeed plans a sequel, then the open-ended conclusion works, but if no sequel is forthcoming, then the book ends abruptly without resolution – like a door slamming in the reader’s face.

Nevertheless, I was suitably entertained by savoring the harrowing exploits of our anti-heroine along with her cast of colorful but unsavory accomplices and antagonists.  It was a fun read and I’m hoping for some sort of resolution in a sequel.

3.5 out of 5 Regency Stars

The Bad Miss Bennet: A Novel, by Jean Burnett
Pegasus (2012)
Hardcover (272) pages
ISBN:  978-1605983721

© 2012 Jeffrey Ward, Austenprose

13 thoughts on “The Bad Miss Bennet: A Novel, by Jean Burnett – A Review

  1. Oh dear, I was in my local Barnes and Noble 2 days ago and picked this book up, I think. The title and the author’s name seem to have fit with this post. I wondered why I hadn’t heard of it before. Oh wait, I’m struggling with Lyme Disease and haven’t been able to read all of my blogs on a daily basis like before. I was very curious about the book and am glad to have read your post on it, Jeffrey. You do a good job of reviewing books and I can see that I will have the same struggles you did but if I can get this on Kindle I’ll give it a go. I usually try to get all of my Jane Austen fanfiction, etc., in book form but some are only available in e-reader form so I’ve been reading them that way. Now I’m wondering how many more are going to make it to the hard copy (not to be confused with the hardback version) so I’m considering the switch. All of my nonfiction on Jane Austen and her time period and history, clothing, architecture, etc., I still require that I have them in hard copy, and they are generally in hardback versions anyway. I’ll look this one up as soon as I head up to bed in a few minutes.

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    • Karen, while I love my NOOK and think that they are wonderful for fiction, I must share that the e-book price for this edition is the highest I have ever paid for a debut novel at $13.74 on Amazon, which seems to be the only e-book format available. I am astounded that the publisher has basically given Amazon an exclusive and offered it at this price. I am deeply grieved for Jean Burnett because she is the one (and readers) who will suffer until her publisher finally realizes that they over-priced her novel and have lost sales that they may not ever win back. I hope they will reconsider and drop the price to make this accessible to everyone who wants to read it.

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      • Oh dear, Laurel Ann, I was unaware of this and also feel for Ms. Burnett as her publisher may have roped her fine story into a corner. One of the reasons I have an E-reader is to take advantage of the reduced prices for electronic editions. One should not have to pay what I consider hard-copy prices for an E-edition with limited exposure, don’t you agree?

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        • I’m with both of you on this. Although I have a lot less exposure to the publishing side of things and you both have educated me in this area already. That price for an e-book IS ridiculous! And to be only available on the Kindle and Hardback? For a debut author? This does seem weird. I hope Ms. Burnett will get to read this review and made a response to it. I wonder if she had any say in this or is dismayed by the lack of sales due to the publishing choices made. This would seem to me to be very discouraging to her. Let us hope for what Laurel Ann suggested. Perhaps if they were to publish the book in paperback, as so many of the FF are, with the same cover or another AND drop the e-book price, she would get a boost in sales.

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  2. My library just got this in so I’ll probably give it a shot. It sounds entertaining, at least, though now I’m anxious about how the Darcys are portrayed.

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  3. I agree with Jeffery that e-books shouldn’t cost as much as the hard copy. Thank you for the information regarding Amazon and the e-books. I am having trouble finding several of the books reviewed lately for my Nook, especially Abigail Reynolds. I find them on Amazon for Kindle but not for Nook. I really don’t like this. Seems are reading can now be limited by those with the most money…go figure. Thank you for the review sounds like fun if nothing else. Lydia was always a been a train wreck waiting to happen.

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