We know from the surviving canceled chapters of Persuasion that Jane Austen penned an alternative conclusion to her final novel, with stunning results. Based on the now 200-year-old masterpiece Pride and Prejudice, debut Author KaraLynne Mackrory has likewise crafted her own romantic detour. Let us find out, through the eyes of this old-school traditionalist reviewer if this spin-off embodies similar gratifying qualities.
The opening deviates immediately following the disastrous Meryton assembly with Mr. Darcy taking a morning horseback ride out from Netherfield, trying to calm his already intense attraction to Elizabeth and his mortification for insulting her. Miss Elizabeth Bennet simultaneously is taking her morning walk and pauses to rest in her favorite wooded copse. Darcy spots and admires her from afar. Suddenly, a gust of wind snaps a dead oak that Miss Bennet scrambles to avoid being struck by. Her ankle injured, Darcy comes to her rescue showing great concern. This chance meeting between hero and heroine fills many pages with absorbing and delicious detail which typifies the author’s unique style. As Darcy attempts to lift the injured Miss Bennet to his horse, as gentlemanly as possible, this charming dialogue ensues:
“Miss Bennet, I must help you to the horse, if you will give your consent again.” Mr. Darcy tried to sound as casual as possible even as his mind was screaming – yes, say yes! You belong in my arms Elizabeth! She laughed, and the hair on his neck stood up at the musical sound. “Mr. Darcy, I cannot see any other way I could get up there unless another gust of wind were to pick me up and place me atop your horse! You may assist me, thank you.” (21)
The author’s route then heads straight from Longbourn to London, bypassing Pemberley. Things are proceeding much too smoothly between Darcy and Elizabeth when at about the half-way point his pride rears its ugly head, he comes to his senses, (loses his senses?) and affirms to himself that he can never marry a lady with poor connections and embarrassing family members.
The author, much to my satisfaction, also emphasizes the significance of Mr. Bennet as a major character who loves all of his daughters and has a hidden but joyous surprise for each daughter, should they marry for love instead of convenience. The odious Mr. Collins also makes an appearance and with the influence of Mr. Darcy be shocked at whom the clueless curate sets his eyes upon for matrimony!
Especially effective throughout is the mood of latent sexual desire between our heroine and hero without referring to any of the currently abused secondary sexual characteristics. Instead, the author delicately features the eyes, hair, facial expressions, garments, hands, posture, and the glimpse of a feminine ankle, much as it was two centuries ago. Combine this subtle sexual tension with the author’s dialogues, which faithfully stress the extremely polite civility between the sexes, and you are treated to page after page of crisply entertaining Regency conversations and situations.
A particularly savory moment is Elizabeth’s coincidental encounter with Georgiana Darcy in a fine London clothing shop where neither is aware of the other’s identity, yet they take an instant liking to each other as Elizabeth draws the shy Georgiana out:
“You will think me most silly, but I had teased my brother that I would shop for a wife for him today and choose a pair of slippers for her as well. He was so pleased to get out of coming in here with me that he laughed and went along with it.” Georgiana then frowned as she realized her silliness. Elizabeth laughed at the unusual declaration and said, as she glanced around the shop, “I did not see the ‘wife aisle’.” (183)
My only minor criticisms? Somewhat departing from most of Jane Austen’s beloved characters who manifest both weaknesses as well as strengths, the author’s good characters are sometimes too-too good, the bad characters (Mr. Wickham) are too-too bad, and the ugly characters (Mr. Collins) are too-too ugly. This, at times, seemed to foster a cloying or schmaltzy atmosphere. We are also privy to the private thoughts of some of the characters (in italics) which are effective in some situations but perhaps reveal a little too much in others.
Nevertheless, I’m impressed by this debut novel and give praise for the author’s clever plot detour, character authenticity, genuine Regency manners, and especially the tastefully rendered romantic eroticism between Elizabeth and Darcy which really drew me into the story right from the beginning.
4 out of 5 Stars
Falling For Mr. Darcy, by KaraLynne Mackrory
Meryton Press (2013)
Trade paperback (264) pages
Cover image courtesy of Meryton Press © 2013; text by Jeffrey Ward © 2013, Austenprose.com