In Jane Austen’s masterpiece, Pride and Prejudice, our story ends with the lovely Miss Elizabeth Bennet marrying Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy in a double wedding ceremony alongside her beloved sister, Miss Jane Bennet to Mr. Charles Bingley, and we all close the novel satisfied knowing that all will turn out well. Twenty-five years after this happy event, author Elizabeth Newark depicts in her Darcy’s Give A Ball: A Gentle Joke, Jane Austen Style what happens when Mrs. Elizabeth Darcy and Mrs. Jane Bingley decide to hold a ball at Pemberley as their children are now ready for the marriage mart. Although the Darcy’s do give a ball and that is the driving force of all these characters to convene at Pemberley, this light-hearted novelette really is about the Collins’, in particular the two youngest grown children and Mrs. Charlotte Collins nee Lucas. In these brief 156 pages, the first half of the story is devoted to the preparations for the ball while in the second half, at the actual cotillion, we meet some of the offspring from Jane Austen’s other novels, including the Brandons, Wentworths, Bertrams, Knightleys, Elliots, and Churchills. Not surprising, the still unattached Miss Caroline Bingley, is busy match-making her favorites while the young people are falling in and out of love to the horror or glee of their parents.
Because there are so many new characters, it was apparent that Newark decidedly focused on Eliza and Jonathon Collins and Juliet Darcy. The rest simply faded to background; pairing anymore of them off would have been sadly contrived. Still had Newark fleshed out any of these characters more thoroughly, the reader might care more about them. Maybe. Mr. Darcy, Sr. sightings are fleeting but when he does appear, he is as he ever was. On the other hand, after 25 years as the mistress of Pemberley, Elizabeth Darcy first appears to have become a bit of a snob and forgotten that she was at one time considered not an acceptable match for the illustrious Darcy. Fortunately she comes around. I also believe this story could have been stronger had Newark moved her explanation of Charlotte Collins and Elizabeth Darcy’s friendship to the beginning of this story; alas, when she finally explains Charlotte’s motivations and the affection for her old friend, it is a bit anti-climactic after all the activity at the close of the ball.
Originally self published as Consequence: Or Whatever Became of Charlotte Lucas in 1997, this is a harmless, light-hearted, and very quick read. Elizabeth Newark is a gifted writer and her turn of the phrase is oftentimes amusing. However, it is questionable as to what “the little joke Jane Austen style” may have been. I think I was hoping for more substance. In this case, maybe less is not necessarily more. Albeit, I am glad to have it part of my collection, I am indifferent to if I will re-read it again any time soon. Still, I enjoyed well enough.
3 out of 5 Regency Stars
The Darcys Give a Ball: A Gentle Joke, Jane Austen Style, by Elizabeth Newark
Sourcebooks, Landmark, Naperville, IL (2008)
Trade paperback (156) pages