“Geoffrey Darcy considered himself a reasonable person. He was calm and patient, and not given to impulse. His father had taught him that, and he tried his best to keep his first reaction in check and judge the situation dispassionately. The last few weeks, however, he had been devouring the post. It wasn’t worth his time to deny that each time he saw her handwriting and return address on the envelope he smiled. [Today] was such a day…when the mail arrived, Geoffrey jumped at the announcement.”
The problem with long-distance love is that it’s…well, long-distance. One partner is there, the other here, each living a life separate from the other and receiving only letters with all the affection and tenderness that passes between two lovers. Some people can do it, and others can’t, but the time in history where Young Mr. Darcy in Love is set was more attuned to those who could. Boys went there, girls stayed here. One was in Ireland, the other in London, then Brighton, then Eton — it’s a wonder ladies and gents were able to cultivate relationships at all! But if you could figure it out, if you could keep him interested via post with all your aimless musings, boy oh boy, you’d hit the jackpot! Romantic letters from a romantic boyfriend? How romantic!
We wish. If you’ve been following Marsha Altman’s epic six-volume tale of life after Elizabeth and Darcy became Mr. and Mrs., you already know that Geoffrey (Darcy Jr, or the ‘young Darcy’ of our tale) and Georgiana, the Jane and Charles’ oldest girl, have been flirting for a while now. They’ve grown up shoulder to shoulder, been through the ups and downs of family life; even seen one another through more than a few major mixups. It’s a match, for sure(ish), but a regrettably long-distance one. In this seventh installment, Geoffrey has packed up and moved to the school, a world of mumbling professors and demanding tutors, but Georgie has stayed home to perfect her not-so-girlish pursuits so the couple must turn to letters to get things moving. And very unfortunately for Geoffrey, Georgie’s unconventional life doesn’t leave much time for letter writing, and he is forced to console himself with short, silly notes that completely disguise her real feelings. Will she finally, after six books worth of foreplay, marry him? Will he have enough patience to wait it out?
The subplots of Marsha’s story circle nicely around this core issue, some cleverly derailing the Geoffrey/Georgie plans and others reinstating them, chapter by chapter. Will they or won’t they? There seem to be a lot of reasons why not — both families are seemingly in a race to see how many disasters each of them can field before turning to round-the-clock scotch consumption. Darcy is losin’ it with worry over his first daughter reaching the age of marriageability while Elizabeth is laughing into her sleeve. Geoffrey and Dr. Maddox both have serious physical maladies. Georgie is consistently covered with bruises and assuaging her mother’s apprehension with quippy remarks. Again. George the Younger, Frederick, and Charles the Other Younger are all giving college the ‘ol college try with mixed results. Brian Maddox has an embarrassing legal encounter with the King of England and Charles Bingley is, as usual, totally fine, even when he probably shouldn’t be. It’s a crazy world for this clan, necessitating trips back and forth to Ireland, Darcy-style financial interventions, and more than a few flips to the family tree cheater page at the front of the book to find out…wait…who’s doing what with whom again? Was that the same guy as before? Crazy!
Altman’s dialogue is as snappy as you’ve come to expect, her research as thorough as it had been in the previous novels, but this time her pacing was a bit wibbly and some sections were zipped through rather hastily. The problem gets worse as the story nears its end, and this compounded with gratingly provincial sexuality and the excessive display of Georgie’s character flaws left me slightly wanting for quality, the kind seen in her earlier works. However, the seventh installment expediently confers upon the reader a grand sense of scope, the huge expanse of this universe, and the thoughtfulness and dazzling efforts of its creator. The book is worth the effort, especially if you’ve been a series devotee until now, so pick it up and see…will Geoffrey and Georgie finally make it official?
4 out of 5 Stars
Young Mr. Darcy in Love: Pride and Prejudice Continues (The Darcys and the Bingleys, Volume 7), by Marsha Altman
Trade paperback (642) pages
Cover image courtesy of Laughing Man Publications © 2013; text Shelley DeWees © 2013, Austenprose.com