In The Other Mr. Darcy, last year’s debut Austenesque novel by Monica Fairview we were introduced to Fitzwilliam Darcy’s American cousin Robert Darcy. Now the story continues with The Darcy Cousins, a Pride and Prejudice sequel to a sequel when his two younger siblings Clarissa and Frederick Darcy arrive from Boston and join their brother and the Darcy family at Rosings Park, the palatial estate of Mr. Darcy’s officious aunt Lady Catherine de Bourgh. Being young, brash Americans, Clarissa and Frederick immediately ruffle Lady Catherine’s unyielding standards of social stricture. Dutiful and naïve Georgiana Darcy is shocked and intrigued by her cousin Clarissa’s adventuresome and unguarded behavior. Her shy and retreating nature has always acquiesced to proper decorum and her family’s wishes. So has her sickly cousin Anne de Bourgh, who at age 29 remains unmarried and firmly under the thumb of her tyrannical mother. Clarissa is convinced that Anne has been imprisoned by Lady Catherine at Rosings like a tragic heroine in a Gothic novel. Together, Clarissa and Georgiana clandestinely meet Anne hoping to learn her mysterious back story, offer their friendship and encourage her to improve her situation.
Clarissa’s lively spirits also make her very popular with the young men of the neighborhood, especially to rakish charmer Percy Channing. Clarissa welcomes his attentions while wide-eyed Georgiana watches a seasoned coquette in action. She is also attracted to Channing and in turn, annoyed by his sensible and matter-of-fact cousin Henry Gatley who sees right through Clarissa and Channing’s affected airs. “But the perversity of the human spirit is such that when a young lady longs for a specific partner, every other partner counts for nothing.” When Georgiana overhears Channing privately proclaim to his cousin that she is an insipid bore, she is determined not to be the dull as ditchwater little rich girl and entreats her cousin Clarissa’s help to school her in fashion and the art of feminine allurements. And then the unthinkable happens! Their cousin Anne simply vanishes without a trace. Has she been abducted or is this a run-away-marriage to Scotland? Speculation and emotions escalate until Lady Catherine unjustly places all the blame on Clarissa and Georgiana’s influence upon her daughter. As Mr. Darcy defends his sister and young cousin the battle lines are drawn and a family riff erupts. Will the Shades of Rosings be thus polluted? Can Georgiana have her London Season under the shadow of her cousin’s unexplained disappearance and the family scandal? How can she earn her family’s trust after her disastrous affair with George Wickham? Will her newly acquired feminine wiles lure Percy Channing away from her cousin Clarissa? And why is that pesky Mr. Gatley always at the ready to remind her that she’s a swan trying to be a peacock?
In this coming-of-age story, Monica Fairview presents an engaging historical romance through the eyes of innocent Georgiana Darcy who idealistically thinks the grass is always greener in her cousin Clarissa’s court. Hard wrought lessons on human nature and love must be learned before she can find her own happiness. We are never in much doubt that she will succeed, or whom she will bestow her favor upon, but that matters not. Fairview has such an effortless way of unfolding the narrative that we are swept along with Jane Austen’s beloved characters and her own new additions seamlessly. The story is infused with the flavor of Austen’s world but entirely her own unique creation. It is hard not to compare her skill at irony to Austen’s when her Lady Catherine is annoyed at Napoleon, not for his impending threat to invade England, but for the inconvenience he has caused by too few men at her dinner table, or to the ribald humor of Georgette Heyer when Georgiana is stood up by Mr. Channing who invited her for a drive in his high phaeton through Hyde Park and is then quickly replaced by the waiting Mr. Gatley. When they encounter Mr. Channing driving another young lady, just as Mr. Gatley predicted, Georgiana is exasperated by Channing’s “sublime forgetfulness” and Mr. Gatley’s smug sagacity. Ha! Readers will recognize a bit of Mr. Knightley in Mr. Gatley and a combination of Austen’s slippery villain’s in Mr. Channing. Fairview understands Georgiana’s personality perfectly adding a few surprise twists to Austen’s shy, trusting young lady that gives her added depth and interest. Infused with humor, wit and a bit of social commentary Fairview has proven again why she was my top choice of Austenesque debut authors of 2009. She is well on her way to becoming a nonpareil in Austen paraliterature and I recommend The Darcy Cousins to those who dearly love a satisfying love story and a hearty laugh.
5 out of 5 Stars
The Darcy Cousins, by Monica Fairview
Robert Hale Ltd (2010)
Hardcover (224) pages
Cover image courtesy of Robert Hale © 2010; text Laurel Ann Nattress © 2010, Austenprose.com