From the desk of Monica Perry:
When I first heard that some of the authors from austenvariations.com were planning a Pride and Prejudice: Readers’ Choice collaborative story wherein Mr. Darcy had a younger brother, I was all excited curiosity–a story with two Mr. Darcys? Yes, please! Would Mr. Theophilus Darcy be strong and stoic like his elder brother, a model of amiability like Mr. Bingley, or perhaps more of a rakish Mr. Wickham? Participating in the Readers’ Choice voting each week and having so much interaction with the writers was great fun, and I was eager to read this published version of The Darcy Brothers. Monica Fairview, Maria Grace, Cassandra Grafton, Susan Mason-Milks, and Abigail Reynolds are authors whose works I’d read and loved in the past, and The Darcy Brothers was no exception.
From the very first page, as Theo and Fitzwilliam Darcy reluctantly make their way to Rosings Park for Easter, we see the way they typically interact (read: Theo pushes Darcy’s buttons and Darcy gets his trousers in a twist). In the wake of childhood tragedy and the more recent near-elopement of their young sister Georgiana with Theo’s friend Mr. Wickham, their relationship is strained and they’ve all but given up on getting along. Darcy is dismissive and distrustful of Theo, and Theo delights in vexing him because he knows he’ll never live up to Darcy’s impeccable standards anyway. When Theo makes the acquaintance of the charming Miss Elizabeth Bennet they form an easy friendship, and Darcy begins to feel that twisting sensation again, a little nearer his chest this time. Each brother’s affection for Elizabeth is noted by the other and although they don’t see eye to eye, each wants the other to be happy. How far would a Darcy go to make it happen, even if it goes against his heart’s desire? Bargains are struck and along with some meddling assistance from Georgiana, Anne de Bourgh and Colonel Fitzwilliam, and a surprising series of events at Rosings, Darcy, and Theo begin to see themselves, and each other, in a different way. Darcy realizes he has underestimated Theo, withheld the praise and affection a younger sibling craves and used him as an easy scapegoat; likewise, Theo sees he’s had a childish understanding of Darcy’s responsibilities as heir. Can they overcome their pride and start again, and will it last?
“How did one respond when the world no longer obeyed its natural order? The sky was blue, the grass green and his brother angry. That was the way of things. Was it possible for such truths to change?”
Theo Darcy is a wonderful original character and I loved getting to know him not only as a foil for Darcy but as a fleshed-out person in his own right. We see him diligently applying his profession as a bewigged barrister (I’m going to go out on a limb here and say probably the cutest one ever) and a protégé of the famous Mr. Garrow, kicking back as men do with his best friend, Sir Montgomery Preston, and happily encouraging his sister’s most unladylike interests. Sir Monty is also a delightful addition and is hilarious alongside the new and debate-ably improved Anne de Bourgh!
I feel the authors did a marvelous job of making the book cohesive and seamless. Picking up writing a chapter where another author left off, while limited to the plot dictated by readers cannot be easy. As I was reading, I found myself attempting to remember or identify which author wrote which parts, and I couldn’t do it. The poignant moments and witty banter were both well done. Elizabeth’s humor, in particular, was delightful. There was quite a bit of action taking place in a short period of time: illness and injury, a compromising situation and elopement, comings and goings between Kent and London, and even a catfight or two at Rosings. Had it been only Darcy there to clean up all the chaos I’d have thought it way too much to be plausible, but there were others there to divide and conquer. As someone who takes particular interest in social psychology (or in other words, is diverted by the “follies and nonsense, whims and inconsistencies of others”), I personally loved the dynamics of the Darcy’s relationship, and seeing how one traumatic event can shape the lives of siblings with different personality types.
I generally don’t have a problem with compromising situations, but I found myself a little upset by it here. I felt every ounce of sympathetic mortification on the couple’s behalf, and that their being set up interfered with the natural progression that the characters needed to make. Though, who knows what would’ve happened without it – readers could’ve had one elderly couple on their hands, still tiptoeing around and no closer to a resolution! Darcy and Elizabeth’s romance does share page time, but since the story is entitled The Darcy Brothers, and most of the action was decided by the readers, it’s difficult to begrudge the authors anything, nor would I wish to do so.
Overall, I’d give The Darcy Brothers 4.5 stars, and highly recommend it to anyone who loves delightful, character-rich Austenesque fiction. I think readers would be hard-pressed not to love Theo!
4.5 out of 5 Stars
The Darcy Brothers, by Monica Fairview, Maria Grace, Cassandra Grafton, Susan Mason-Milks and Abigail Reynolds
White Soup Press (2015)
Trade paperback and eBook (398) pages
Cover image courtesy of White Soup Press © 2015; text Monica Perry © 2015, Austenprose.com
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