Darcy and Fitzwilliam: A Tale of a Gentleman and an Officer, by Karen V. Wasylowski – A Review

Darcy and Fitzwilliam: A Tale of a Gentleman and an Officer, by Karen V. Wasylowski (2011)The latest spin-off from Jane Austen’s masterpiece Pride and Prejudice is the debut novel Darcy and Fitzwilliam, A Tale of a Gentleman and an Officer, by author Karen V. Wasylowski.  Divided into two volumes, volume one, entitled Fitzwilliam Darcy, A Gentleman, 1815 begins shortly after the marriage of Mr. Darcy to Miss Elizabeth Bennet, and his cousin Colonel Richard Fitzwilliam’s return from the Peninsular War.  Cousins by birth and best friends by choice, we find unresolved deeds and unrequited loves threatening their brotherly bond, as well as test those of all involved. Volume two, entitled Colonel Richard Fitzwilliam, an Officer, 1817 begins with the now “famous Colonel of Waterloo” falling madly in-love with a pretty faced, American born widow of a baronet.  Mad cap scenarios abound amidst serious story-lines; even a putrid fever attacks England, eventually claiming Elizabeth’s mother, Mrs. Bennet, and nearly that of Darcy’s aunt, Lady Catherine de Bourgh, unnerving the Darcy’s so powerfully that it leads to the eventual truce between the two estranged families.

Although this might sound like pretty heavy reading, I assure you, there are more than a few fanciful, and often bawdy exchanges to lighten the load, i.e. upon the Colonel’s first night back with the Darcy’s, the three are musing how Mrs. Darcy has taken to calling her husband Fitzwilliam “William” to avoid any confusion with his cousin’s surname “Fitzwilliam” and the good Colonel rewards her disclosure with, “It could have been worse – much worse.  You see, the gossip in the family is that his father could have married Lady Diana de Carsie… and then of course, our boy here would have been the one and only DeCarsie Darcy.” p. 35

Like many Austen inspired-authors, Wasylowski has added several new characters and taken the liberty of tweaking much of Austen’s canon characters and particulars, to better fit with her campy vision.  But surely you will grin as you recognize the shrill voice of Mrs. Bennet, now enamored with her new son-in-law, as a cascade of admiration spills forth as she loudly observes Darcy’s aristocratic demeanor and even comments on the size of his large feet. “You know what that indicates, do you not?” only to reply to everyone’s relief, “The mark of a great mind.” p. 40

But all is not light and easy.  Soon Elizabeth discovers that Darcy has had past sexual congress with Caroline Bingley, who “had been much younger when she initiated her ultimately unsuccessful campaign to barter morals for an advantageous match.  Alas when push came to shove, she was only a tradesman’s daughter, and always would remain one.” p. 57 This leads to the newlywed’s first “contretemps”  –  a porcelain throwing, pillow ripping demonstration by a jealous, rage-fueled Elizabeth.

Fast-forward to volume two. London, a city mad with patriotic fever and Richard’s valor on the battlefield has elevated him to celebrity. Just as he seems to be fated to single gentleman status he comes upon Lady Amanda Sayles Penrod and it’s love at first sight. Despite their mutual attraction, Amanda knows she could never marry the Colonel, fearing she would lose access to her young son, who she has lost custody of through some bizarre lawsuit from her cruel mother-in-law. The Colonel later explains to Darcy that they were “passionately in-love for a few minutes anyway.” p. 252 However his acceptance of his loss is short lived, as the Colonel embarks on a mighty chase for her hand persuading her into a secret marriage.

With much madcap verve as author Marsha Altman’s Pride & Prejudice Continues series, Karen V. Wasylowski bravely undertakes this sequel and truly has flashes of brilliance. By all means I usually delight in reading of Darcy and Elizabeth’s supposed lives after Miss Jane Austen’s finis – and give much latitude to many debut authors wild imaginings – but I must confess, by the end of this 481 pager, I was quite undone! It might have been how Elizabeth was cast as the insecure yet “sweet, beloved elfin wife” of Mr. Darcy who often displays her anger most unbecomingly. Or it might have been how Darcy is described as, “shy to the point of seemingly indifference.”  (Personally, I really cannot abide a “shy” Darcy. Aloof to the point of offense?  Prideful? Yes. But never shy.) Or how Darcy and the Colonel both refer to their aunt, Lady Catherine de Bourgh, as the Grande Dame, Marble Countess, and even Queen of Hubris but is portrayed as an aging, demented and even confused busy body. Or, how their boyish nicknames of “Brat” and “Old Bastard” interchangeable with “Old Fart,” became tiresome and abrasive. Even the “throbbing agony” of passion filled love scenes became redundant and offensive to my sensibilities. But all this was nothing to reading the likes of Darcy and Fitzwilliam’s bandy, “You farted on my head.”  “You peed in my face.” p. 205; “No mouth farts, please.” p. 472; and even, dropping the “F” bomb! I am all astonishment.  Surely the master of the great estate Pemberley, and the respectable Colonel, son of a Peer, regardless of privacy would never engage in such banal, coarse exchanges! I hate to be critical of anyone’s efforts, especially a debut author, but there you have it. Despite its beautiful book cover, sometimes it’s best to say when the Emperor is wearing no clothes. Clearly, Karen V. Wasylowski’s Darcy and Fitzwilliam, is nekkid as a jaybird. Indeed.

2 out of 5 Regency Stars

Darcy and Fitzwilliam: A Tale of a Gentlemen and an Officer, by Karen Wasylowski
Sourcebooks (2011)
Trade paperback (481)
ISBN: 978-1402245947

© 2007 – 2011 Christine Boyd, Austenprose

17 thoughts on “Darcy and Fitzwilliam: A Tale of a Gentleman and an Officer, by Karen V. Wasylowski – A Review

  1. I’m actually laughing out loud as I read this review! “No mouth farts please?” Seriously that’s in there?!

    I really wanted to read this book as I love books that showcase Col Fitzwilliam. Very under-used character in my opinion.

    I really don’t think I could get through this knowing that he and Darcy fart/pee on each other. SO out of character!!

    Thanks for the warning Christina!

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    • Kimberley, Just to clarify — there is not an actual scene where they “fart/pee” on each other. But there is a conversation that alludes that they have in their wilder past. I am so glad the review made you laugh. There are so many OTHER great reads out there.

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  2. Oh dear. I had read about this book, and at the time was a little dubious. I love Austen fanfic books, but the plot points I had read I wasn’t sure of. So I looked forward to your reivew. I’m afraid the following paragraph alone determined me against ever reading this book:

    “Soon Elizabeth discovers that Darcy has had past sexual congress with Caroline Bingley, who “had been much younger when she initiated her ultimately unsuccessful campaign to barter morals for an advantageous match. Alas when push came to shove, she was only a tradesman’s daughter, and always would remain one.” p. 57 This leads to the newlywed’s first “contretemps” – a porcelain throwing, pillow ripping demonstration by a jealous, rage-fueled Elizabeth.”

    I don’t mind changing story elements, adding farce, or other mickeying around — but DON’T change who these characters are. In my book, this is so material a change of both of them that I just would not be able to tolerate. (Not to say they would never fight, just … not this. And BTW an unbelievable change in Caroline’s character too.)

    I nearly stopped reading your review after that as I knew I’d never read the book; but I’m glad I continued. Your review is very humorous (and helpful) — good job.

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  3. I was questioning as I read the review, “she doesn’t like this book, does she?” even before you got to the really awful stuff.

    Thanks for the warning- this one gets a WIDE pass.

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  4. I agree completely with this review. Parts of the book were great, and funny, but others… Elizabeth throwing objects, screaming, the rude language, Lady Catherine practically senile…
    I am glad that I borrowed this one from a friend before I spent the money.
    Part of the problem was that I had high hopes for the book, liking the premise, but was disappointed.

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  5. So this might be in the “read it if you get it free from the library, but it’s likely not worth paying for” category?

    It didn’t sound too bad until we got to the part where Darcy had apparently had sex with Caroline. I don’t buy it from either of them.

    And… mouth farts? Do enlighten us a bit more, please.

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    • Mouth farts: it is in the Epilogue. 37 years after the beginning of the book. They are grandparents waiting for the children to arrive and they are razzing each other, still calling the other Brat and the other now, ” Buccleuch.” Sure, a library read… But for me I know there are more from LaurelAnn’s reading challenges that I’d prefer to spend my time immersed in.

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  6. Thanks for your comments and reading my review. I was going to forego this book review knowing it was not going to be positive but after a message from a friend saying she appreciated my honesty — and that she would have been disappointed in buying the book, only to discover it to be so ill-contrived. So I called no joy and did my duty. Like I said, the author has “flashes of brilliance” – but in my opinion, they are too few and squandered. As I read and learn more about Regency times and Jane Austen, my literary likes are being cultivated more in kind with a quote from author Margaret C. Sullivan made in the recent JASNA Newsletter, “I am often dissastified by many of these stories that have characters with the same names as those in Jane Austen’s novels, but who behave nothing like them; and as a reader of such pastiches, I find the most enjoyment in those that ‘obey the sandbox rules.'” As unabashed fanfiction reader, I can be extremely liberal with these published “what ifs”, “continuations” etc etc… and — but this was really over the top.

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  7. What a shame. The idea behind this book has so much promise. I do have a great fondness for reading about Austen’s other characters, and I had high hopes for enjoying the story of Col. Fitzwilliam.

    Jennifer

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  8. I wish I’d seen this before I started reading. I got about 70 pages and could not believe what I was reading. Skimmed a couple of pages throughout and read the epilogue. Just that brief of a time with the book and I had the exact same impressions as you. Truly a disappointment with the promise it could have had.

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  9. Pingback: In Which I Venture Once More Into the Land of Austenesque Lit (Part 2) | Iris on Books

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