I’ve often wondered what modern day psychiatric medicine would say about some of my favorite literary characters. Are they bi-polar? Do they suffer from ADHD, depression, or a form of autism? Author Nina Benneton explores what a modern day Darcy would be like, suffering from obsessive compulsive disorder in her debut novel Compulsively Mr. Darcy
Benneton’s tale is a break from tradition right from the start, as we find our beloved characters in Vietnam, with Darcy and Bingley traveling to help their good friends, the Hurst’s, finish an adoption via an agency run by Miss Jane Bennet . All is running well until Mr. Bingley takes a fall and suffers a broken leg as he humorously attempts to ride a bike. After being taken to the local hospital, Darcy decides that he will accompany his good friend, yet will not enter the hospital building itself. Darcy is incredibly frightened by the sight of blood and is unable to deal with germs, making a hospital a difficult place for him to be. Enter Dr. Elizabeth Bennet. Darcy, sick of waiting outside for Bingley, storms into the hospital and determines Elizabeth has been helping other patients for far too long and demands help for Bingley. His outburst on Bingley’s half causes Elizabeth to assume that he and Bingley are a couple. Before Elizabeth has a chance to respond to his outburst, he sees the blood on her smock from a recent surgery and passes out.
After this less than perfect first meeting, Darcy and Elizabeth are thrown into each other’s company after Elizabeth is hired to work as the doctor for their resort. Thinking she is safe from any type of relationship (since she assumes Darcy is gay) she feels free to be herself and begins spending more time with him. The two grow increasingly fond of each other and quickly strike up a friendship that may turn into something more. Although a relationship with this man is the farthest thing from Elizabeth’s mind at the moment, a surprising chemistry and connection forms between the two, leading to quite the romance. What will happen when Elizabeth finds out Darcy isn’t gay? Will his OCD come between them?
I’m always amazed at how many new situations authors can drum up to place Elizabeth and Darcy in. Even with all these new ideas, Benneton’s story tops my list of most creative. Giving Darcy OCD makes complete sense to me. In the original Pride and Prejudice Darcy takes it upon himself to feel guilty over everything that Wickham does and he also feels the need to protect Bingley from fortune hunters. Not only this, but he is also under a tremendous amount of stress that the running of Pemberley and guardianship of his sister causes. It doesn’t surprise me that our modern-day imagining of Darcy would have OCD with that load. What’s fascinating about giving Darcy OCD is the amazing side of Elizabeth that comes out. Sure she still makes rash assumptions at first, but the unconditional love she has for Darcy (ALL of Darcy) is inspiring. She looks beyond Darcy’s OCD to see the man deep inside who isn’t riddled with an incessant need to wash his hands and control everything around him, and loves him. She accepts him just the way he is, a trait hard to find in people sometimes.
Not only does Compulsively Mr. Darcy give us a peek into what life with OCD is like, but we get to experience new cultures! I for one had not a clue what life in Vietnam was like, whether it be about their cuisine, fashion, or rituals. Benneton does a great job at infusing tidbits of knowledge about these things into the storyline in an intriguing manner, making the reader want to pick up a book and study the culture more. (I’ll also admit that her descriptions of the landscapes and landmarks there have made me add Vietnam to my bucket list of must visit places)
Benneton’s unique and inventive story is a wonderful addition to the Jane Austen fan fiction world. However, Compulsively Mr. Darcy is definitely not for the Austen purists out there. A more mature audience will appreciate this romantic, sensual new retelling of our favorite duo, Elizabeth and Darcy.
4 out of 5 Stars
Cover image courtesy of Sourcebooks © 2012; text Kimberly Denny-Ryder © 2012, Austenprose.com