Cassy felt tears sting her eyes; she had always felt responsible for her young brother, especially because he had been born when everyone was still grieving for their beloved William. They had all treasured Julian, yet he did not appear to have grown into the role he was expected to play. There was a great deal to learn about running an estate, but Julian had shown little interest in it. Even as a boy, he had no talent for practical matters and relied upon their mother, herself or the servants for advice on everything. The Narrator, Part One, page 6
In Mr. Darcy’s Daughter, book five in The Pemberley Chronicles, author Rebecca Ann Collins’ focuses on Cassandra, the beautiful and intelligent daughter of Pride and Prejudice’s Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet. It is now 1864 and Cassy has been happily married to Dr. Richard Gardiner for twenty seven years with a large family of her own. When her troubled younger brother Julian renounces his inheritance and fails in his responsibilities to his own family, Cassy must step forward and assist in the running of Pemberley and raise his son Anthony as the heir to the Pemberley estate. Bound by honor and duty, Cassy is indeed her father’s daughter, and accepts the responsibilities, balancing her role as daughter, wife, mother, sister and aunt.
In the mean time Mr. Carr, a single man in possession of a good fortune enters the neighborhood looking to purchase a country estate, and sure enough he is immediately considered the rightful property of some one or other of their daughters! Cassandra soon discovers that this young American comes with a bit of a past in his family’s mysterious connection to the Pemberley estate prior to their immigration to Ireland. Cassy’s young daughter Lizzie is quickly drawn to him even though his grandparents came from the wrong end of the social ladder. Also included in this Victorian drama are an array of family travails and life events challenging Cassy and the whole Pemberley clan including mental illness, death, deception, theft and murder pressing the plot along.
After reading Mr. Darcy’s Daughter there is no doubt in my mind that author Rebecca Ann Collins is an ardent admirer of Jane Austen, proficient at historical research and has a very creative imagination. Her most loyal fans deeply entrenched in the genealogy and historical minutia of the series will be well pleased to be at home again in her Pemberley universe being served “new wine in an old bottle.” However, new readers challenged with the multi-layered connections of three generations of families will find themselves frequently referring to the character list provided by the author in the back of the book as to which Mr. Bingley, Mr. Darcy, Mr. Gardiner, et all that she is referring to and how they are connected. I confess to needing clarification alot.
Aficionadas of Austen’s style will see more similarities to Victorian era authors such as Dickens, Gaskell or Trollope in her narrative approach, depth of historical references and sentimental dialogues than to the original inspiration. Even though Ms. Collins does take liberties with Austen’s usual limited scope of “three or four families in a country village,” she is true to formula in opening with a conflict and concluding with a happy marriage. After nearly sixty years since the conclusion of Pride and Prejudice, we can hardly expect more than the essence of Austen to remain and I understand the direction that the author has chosen. What has evolved from the happy day that “Mrs. Bennet got rid of her two most deserving daughters,” in Pride and Prejudice is a circa 1860’s multilayered family saga that will interest classic historical fiction readers and satisfy Collins’ devoted fans. Jane Austen enthusiasts will find comfort in familiar characters respectfully rendered, miss the wit and humor of the original, and wonder how this can be classified as a continuation of Pride and Prejudice.
3 out of 5 Stars
Mr. Darcy’s Daughter: The Pemberley Chronicles Book 5
by Rebecca Ann Collins
Trade paperback, 292 pages
Sourcebooks Landmark, ISBN: 978-1402212208