Suddenly Mrs. Darcy, by Jenetta James – A Review

Suddenly Mrs. Darcy, by Jenetta James 2015From the desk of Monica Perry:

What happens when the independent, outspoken Miss Elizabeth Bennet finds herself forced to wed the proud Mr. Darcy, a virtual stranger whom she can barely tolerate? With their history of heated interactions, can they co-exist peacefully, let alone find companionship or affection? Jenetta James’s Suddenly Mrs. Darcy is a Pride and Prejudice what-if story that deviates from Jane Austen’s canon at the point of the Netherfield ball. I love forced marriage scenarios and all their angsty goodness! With such differing personalities as Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth, I was eager to see how Ms. James would explore the dynamics of such a hasty union between my favorite literary couple.

When Elizabeth brings up in conversation Darcy’s infamous treatment of her friend Mr. Wickham, Darcy seeks to clear his name and takes her aside to a dimly lit salon to talk. Here they are seen by Mrs. Bennet, who immediately sounds the alarm that her daughter has been compromised. Despite Elizabeth’s protestations that nothing untoward has occurred, Mr. Bennet steps in, Mr. Darcy steps up and Elizabeth has no choice but to marry him and quickly. She can’t fathom why he would agree to marry her with nary a word of protest when it’s so obvious their dislike is mutual.

Here we have a “pre-Hunsford” Mr. Darcy who has not yet seen the need to modify his proud and disdainful behavior toward others. He acts unfeelingly with regard to Elizabeth’s family, and finds little need to explain himself to her. Because the story is told from only Elizabeth’s perspective, readers don’t have the luxury of knowing Darcy’s feelings, motivations, etc because he is not very forthcoming with her. It’s natural for readers to project onto Darcy what they think or hope his character is, but they really don’t know, and it is so frustrating! As they spend more time together at Pemberley, Elizabeth does achieve a sense of contentment, and her intimate times with her husband gradually deepen her affections. When contention does arise between them, she is angry but tends to push the issue to the back burner to be dealt with later, or not at all.

During a visit to Kent, Darcy’s aunt puts a bug in Elizabeth’s ear about an unsavory aspect of Darcy’s life in London which, combined with her own suspicions of a secret, compel her to confront him and seek the truth. Though it’s not exactly her most attractive moment, I was so glad she took action because it shows Darcy what the reader already knows, that she cares enough to be crazy-mad-jealous! I was just waiting for that moment when all of Elizabeth’s building, simmering frustration spewed forth, and when the reckoning came, it was powerful and moving, and came with some dire consequences I did not expect, as well as an immediate alteration to Darcy’s attitude. Though it was brought about in a heart-rending way, it was lovely to finally see some passion, even in anger, and get a glimpse of what he had been experiencing and why he withheld information from her.

I liked the revelation of Darcy’s secret. It’s something I’ve rarely seen in Austenesque works and I like how he deals with it as best he can under the circumstances, and realistically within that society. The only small issue I had with Ms. James’s story was that Elizabeth was perhaps too complacent and fatalistic. Though Jane Austen tells us Elizabeth’s character is not formed for melancholy, and I don’t see her as the type to create drama for drama’s sake, I was surprised at how little fuss she kicked up in the beginning. And while there is wisdom in choosing one’s battles with a spouse, I was beginning to wonder if she had enough fight in her, and found myself saying, “Is she really going to let that go?!” It hurt my heart a bit that she felt she had to dampen her vibrancy for him because he was so grave.

I don’t always love first person narratives, but Jenetta James’s writing made it incredibly easy for me to sink into Elizabeth’s story and connect with her emotionally. Suddenly Mrs. Darcy is very well-written and edited, and thoroughly engaging. It could very easily be read in one sitting. I’m very impressed with this debut novel and I am eager to read Ms. James’s future work.

4.5 out of 5 Stars

Additional Reviews:

Suddenly Mrs. Darcy, by Jenetta James
Meryton Press (2015)
Trade paperback & eBook (170) pages
ISBN: 978-1936009428

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | IndieBound | Goodreads

Cover image courtesy of Meryton Press © 2015; text Monica Perry © 2015, Austenprose.com

Disclosure of Material Connection: We received one review copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. We only review or recommend products we have read or used and believe will be a good match for our readers. We are disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

33 thoughts on “Suddenly Mrs. Darcy, by Jenetta James – A Review

  1. This is one on my wish list. I haven’t read any from this author, so was a little wary about it. I will put it on my TBR list now, since you say it is edited and written well. I can handle angst, but poor grammar and spelling are definite no reads!

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      • I hope that you enjoy it Kari & know what you mean – it is always a risk to try a new author but I’m very touched that people have given SMD a go! Thank you for your sweet comment Monica – any absence of spelling and grammar problems is entirely due to the influence of Christina Boyd & Ellen Pickels:-)

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  2. Thank you for your thoughtful review. So glad you liked it. I think Jenetta James is a talented, emerging author and I am thrilled to share…she’s writing another book!

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  3. Natural to us “Darcy’s aunt puts a bug in Elizabeth’s ear about an unsavory aspect of Darcy’s life in London which, combined with her own suspicions of a secret, compel her to confront him and seek the truth.” this behaviour – not natural to a Mrs. Darcy of those times. Wives were supposed not to know about mistresses, even if they suspected or knew for sure. And they were supposed to disregard the “muslin society” for what it mainly was: a fulfillment of a physical need. Mistresses were either married to somebody else – then they were on-dits. Nothing to be confrontational about. Or they were kept women – a kind of luxury prostitute. After giving birth to a heir a wife was “allowed” to have her own little, discreet affair. As long as she kept it discreet.
    To show mad jealousy was thought very, very bad behaviour!

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    • I know; I thought about that often as I was reading, how Elizabeth might’ve been atypical for her time to not expect or not tolerate such behavior, or to even expect him to discuss things with her. I don’t want to give too much away with Darcy’s reaction to her sleuthing. It’s difficult for my modern mind to fathom Elizabeth’s actions being considered disrespectful and Darcy’s completely normal but so it was.

      Thank you!

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      • Interesting…because she had kept her other emotions under control throughout the whole whirlwind, forced marriage–I think the “discovery” is the absolute tipping point…and resulting actions are justified. After all, how much is our beloved former Elizabeth Bennet of Longbourn (who we know is ever at war with her true self to stay composed in her new station) supposed to endure? I think she behaved admirably well and I was cheering her on for finally–finally–speaking up for herself. And then I wept. THAT scene still gets me. Every time. And as editor of this story, I’ve read it know less than 15 times. (Yes, Lady Catherine, though she has her spiteful reasons for sharing about supposed mistress, does say how men must have their needs fulfilled, as if it is nothing, a part of their culture. Hateful woman!)

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        • I agree. Had she not cared two figs for him and/or he came out and told her what he was doing behind the scenes, she wouldn’t have been so impulsive. I think it’s just being kept in the dark, when she really had no one else to confide in, that was the final straw.

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        • No less. Argh!!! Know–no–know… And I an editor. Ha! I don’t edit on my iPhone;) ;) I don’t need Siri’s help. (Le sigh)

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      • I have not read the book, and I think we do not know what husband and wives really talked about when alone, but from all the reaction to the case Caroline Lamb one might be tempted to think Mrs. Darcy would have been called hysterical not her husband unfaithful.

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        • I think that is certainly true – historical opinion on that part of the narrative (& I’m being careful not to spoil for those who have not yet read it & would like to) would probably have been quite different to our own perceptions now. On the other hand I guess that the tension between social expectations and the fact that people do deviate from them (& always have) underpins a lot of literature & is the reason it is interesting. For example the Elizabeth Bennet who rejects Mr Collins’ and Mr Darcy’s marriage proposals in the original was acting quite outside what would have been expected of her – she was doing something in private which would have been frowned upon (and completely shocked people) had it been known generally. One of the big challenges of writing historical fiction is filling in the blanks of personal history – which can be very hard because there simply are not the sources for how people behaved in private – but I guess that is also part of what makes it fun.

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          • I admit that Elizabeth Bennet’s refusal of Mr. Collins’ and Mr. Darcy’s offers were not in line with the expectations, but were not unheard of. To refuse an offer of marriage was not improper behaviour. A scene of jealousy would have been. These were times when the stiff upper lip was celebrated.

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            • Hi – of course – but I guess the point I am making is that it is private rather than public – you make a very important point though & thank you for getting involved in the discussion

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  4. This sounds very interesting–a great review! And, of course, now I’m incredibly curious about Darcy’s secret. Thanks for adding to my summer reading list!

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  5. I made this same comment after another review. If Darcy was so in love with Lizzy, why didn’t he show it more on their wedding night. This was the typical wedding night of the period: w…, b…, and not even a thank you ma’am. He doesn’t really change at all, even when they acknowledge that they really love each other. She still has to manufacture her own pleasure. I was very displeased in this part of the story and felt that it would have been better to have left it all up to our own prurient imaginations (and I am almost 65). Darcy could have asked his cousin how to bring pleasure to a woman!

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    • I have to admit that was in the back of my mind, as well. Their progress in that area seemed pretty gradual and I wondered if Darcy was inexperienced or if he was taking his clues from her.

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      • She would be just as inexperienced and would not know anything. He should have asked his cousin, who just may have known that women experience pleasure. She welcomed him into her bed; however, he was a total a** (klutz). He said nothing! I am being brutal. He doesn’t deserve a nice word here at all.

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        • Hello, I guess this goes to show how people can see the same thing in completely different ways… I do not imagine Darcy to be either a thankless or an inexperienced lover but I suppose that to the extent that people take that view, my writing is at fault. The wedding night scene is written from Elizabeth’s point of view (as indeed is all of it) and so Darcy is not being impartially represented. I think that a lot of post coital chat is probably inconsistent with my idea of his character especially before he has really learned to talk to her properly. The problem with being a romantic hero is that everyone (me included) projects what they want from romantic heroes on to him – but JA’s Mr D seems to me to be a very reserved kind of guy. Maybe my resistance to writing too much detail (I like sex scenes, but I think less is more when it comes to description if you know what I mean) has done me foul – I certainly did not intend to suggest that Darcy doesn’t give her pleasure or that she has to engineer it herself… Anyway – I’m sorry to hear that you didn’t like that side of things & hope that the read had some redeeming features!

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  6. I’m just dropping in to say that I liked your review. I, too, as you know, read and reviewed this book on April 29th. I loved it. I am glad to read that she is writing another book and will look for it. Good review, Monica.

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  7. Nice review, Monica! I enjoyed this one too and was just dying for Elizabeth to let off some spleen even if she picked the wrong moment. And yeah, Darcy’s secret isn’t one that is seen much in Austenesque stories.

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    • Thank you – I was conscious that in holding her back in the early part of the narrative she was effectively fighting against her character – thanks for commenting

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  8. Your review is stellar, Monica! Very eloquent! I’m so happy to hear how much you enjoyed this novel by Jenetta James! :) I had the same quibble as you, but expressed it so much better. I agree with you about feeling a connection with Lizzy in this narrative – she was very accessible.

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    • Dear Meredith – I’m glad – I felt quite close to her when I was writing it & am so pleased that people who have read the book say that they connect to her. there are so many disadvantages to 1st person narratives – that is an important plus.

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