It’s a wonder what wanton hubris an author must possess to undertake such a task of continuing a great work such as Pride and Prejudice. Regrettably more times than not, I have found the work falls short; but this is not the case with author Helen Halstead’s sequel Mr. Darcy Presents His Bride.
I knew after the second paragraph as I was silently grinning at the words that I was in for a treat! The story begins where Jane Austen’s masterpiece ends. Elizabeth is launched into the world-wind intrigues of London’s upper circles when she finds herself sponsored by the exclusive and powerful Marchioness of Englebury, becoming one of the most sought after of the Ton. Inauspiciously, Darcy struggles with Elizabeth’s surprising social success and as such, they must both discover that fine balance to maintain a happy marriage. The side stories of Kitty Bennett and Georgiana Darcy as they emerge into society are curious and compelling as well.
Halstead successfully translates Austen’s canon characters and her many new players are just as well developed and believable. I particularly enjoyed the sparkle and wit of Elizabeth and the subtle references to the deep adoration and protectiveness that Darcy feels for his bride; and although their misunderstandings are somewhat frustrating to the dear reader, as in any new marriage, they are very discernable. However, I did not like the author’s initial interpretation of Mrs. Bennet; I thought she was a bit more caustic and unfeeling towards Elizabeth than I believe Austen’s original. Fortunately she is given the opportunity to redeem herself as the novel progresses. The author’s comprehension of Regency social graces and expectations lend much credibility; and the smart dialogue and well intended phrasing had me reading into the wee hours of the morning.
I had read this novel when it was previously published in Australia in 2004 as A Private Performance, and was pleased to see it presented to North American readers in this new edition by Ulysses Press. Happily, Helen Halstead gets quite a bit right! I can only imagine Miss Austen herself would be pleased to have inspired such a work. This story was captivating to the last – I only wish it had not wrapped up as quickly as it did.
5 out of 5 Regency Stars
Mr. Darcy Presents His Bride: A Sequel to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, by Helen Halstead
Ulysses Press, Berkeley, CA (2007)
Trade paperback (320) pages