Mr. Darcy’s Dream, by Elizabeth Aston – A Review

Mr. Darcy's Dream: A Novel, by Elizabeth Ashton (2009)Author Elizabeth Aston has become a nonpareil in the Austen sequel publishing industry. Her latest outing Mr. Darcy’s Dream will be her sixth Pride and Prejudice continuation in as many years. With so many authors out there jockeying for position in this competitive book niche, she remains on top and true to her vision consistently offering amusing stories of Jane Austen’s famous romantic couple Elizabeth and Fitzwilliam Darcy’s children and families. A winning recipe if you mix it up right, so why does the namesake of this book Mr. Darcy not show up until the last three pages of the novel, and what the deuce does his dream have to do with anything? 

Twenty-year old Phoebe Hawkins is handsome, well-born, and endowed with a fortune of fifty thousand pounds to the lucky man to win her hand. Unfortunately, her choice Mr. Anthony Stanhope has a bit of a bad rep prompting her father to reject his offer of marriage. Undaunted, Phoebe is certain that Stanhope is no rake until she witnesses his assignation with a notorious woman. Heartbroken and dejected, her clever ma’ma Lady Georgiana averts London gossip by devising a plan to send her to the country to her uncle Darcy’s estate in Derbyshire until it blows over. Joining her is her amiable cousin Louisa Bingley whose failure to engage after three London seasons is a bit of flop. Their temperaments could not be more opposite. Quick to judge, Phoebe’s free spirit challenges social stricture, while easygoing Louisa is as accepting of fate as her mother Jane Bingley seeing little fault in anything. Both feel the pressure to fulfill their family obligations with brilliant marriages yet neither have a clue as to why they have not succeeded or if they will ever find their own bit of happiness. Together they hope for a respite at Pemberley free from the pressures of thinking about men, while focusing instead on planning a summer ball while the Darcy’s are abroad. 

The young ladies arrive at Pemberley to see great improvements underway with the construction of a grand new glasshouse supervised by Mr. Darcy’s estate manager Hugh Drummond, all part of Mr. Darcy’s dream of modernizing Pemberley, (thus the book title). Educated as an attorney, Mr. Drummond is a bit of hands on manager after his stint as a ‘Light Bob’ during the peninsular war where he and Mr. Stanhope served under Wellington. Louisa Bingley takes a shine to him. Who wouldn’t? When Mr. Stanhope arrives in the neighborhood on the pretext of visiting his married sister, Phoebe is resigned not to see him averting his persistent attempts until she must face the music. Add to this mix the return of devilish George Warren, step son of the condescending and censorious Caroline Warren nee Bingley, and you have your sinister element. When Mr. Darcy finally arrives at Pemberley to attend the ball, the story swiftly concludes as all the romantic misunderstanding and machinations have been resolved, but not to everyone’s satisfaction. 

Underneath this diverting historical romance, Aston has supplied us with perceptive commentary on early 19th-century life in upper class England where women’s worlds were governed by men and social convention. Throughout the novel there is a thin thread of cynicism about marriage illustrated by Mr. Stanhope’s unhappily married sister Kitty, “one day you’ll realize you need an heir, and will propose to the nearest available girl, who will proceed to make your life misery.”, and the fear of infidelity by Phoebe after witnessing the affects on her parent’s relationship after their own affairs. These honest themes can be a bit leveling, but move this novel away from being escapist fluff. To lighten it up, Aston has supplied the requisite ensemble of secondary characters to add interest, but little humor: a peevish Frog governess, fussy and gossipy maids, an officious great aunt, a toady Minister, and a bit of espionage to keep the plot churning and our attention engaged. Overall, I found the tone of Mr. Darcy’s Dream a bit dark and overshadowed with angst. When reading a sequel to the light, bright and sparkling Pride and Prejudice it is difficult not to compare the two, but in all fairness to Ms. Aston this novel is so far removed in time and characters to the original that it is an entirely new entity. On its own merit I enjoyed it thoroughly and recommend it highly. As a continuation of a ‘Mr. Darcy does something novel’, well, that it debatable.

4 out of 5 Regency Stars

Mr. Darcy’s Dream, by Elizabeth Aston
Touchstone, Simon & Schuster, New York (2009)
Trade Paperback (284) pages
ISBN: 978-1416547266

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Austen Tattler: News and Gossip around the Blogosphere

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“All that she wants is gossip, and she only likes me now because I supply it.” Marianne Dashwood, Sense and Sensibility, Chapter 31

Jane Austen around the blogosphere for the week of February 1st

Hot News of the week

Definitely the upcoming release of the book Pride and Prejudice and Zombies which was taken the Internet by deathly storm prompting the publisher Quirk Books to move up the release date. You can read my first thoughts about it at Jane Austen Today, this week on the reaction, and the controversy regarding the author’s attitude toward Janeites at AustenBlog.

Noteworthy

Jane Austen in the City of Bath, England is a lovely article with beautiful photos at Quillcards Blog

Get ready for Valentine’s Day with snarky Austen themed valentines at Elegant Extracts Blog.

Sense and Sensibility (2008) is being rebroadcast on Masterpiece Classic on Sundays Feb 1st & 8th. You can catch up on the first episode by reading the synopsis of episode one at the Masterpiece offical site and read reviews at Jane Austen’s World and here at Austenprose. Tune in to PBS this Sunday for the conclusion.

The Excessively Diverting Blog Award recognizes seven writers of note on the Internet presented by the Jane Austen Today blogging team.

Over at Risky Regencies indulge in a little escapsism with Highwayman of the High Seas: The Romance of the Smugler by Julia Justiss. Everyone loves a naughty pirate, yo ho!

Of Books and Bicycles is reading Claire Tomalin’s biography Jane Austen: A Life and has some interesting thoughts on her insights.

Arti at Ripple Effects asks which Austen Heroine was Jane herself most like?

Entertainment

The Black Moth is available from GirleBooks for free. Ms Place (Vic) at Jane Austen Today and Jane Austen’s World is an ardent Heyer fan and tells us that this is one of Heyer’s first novels, and now ready for you to download and read for free from GirleBooks.

The roundup of upcoming Austen inspired books for February is available for your persual here at Austenprose

The DVD of Lost in Austen will be available for purchase in North America on April 14th.

British actress Ruby Bentall is truly an up and commer. I have recieved more hits on her name in the past month than any other Austen actress. More than Gwenyth or Kiera or Kate. No lie! You can read about her at my post Ruby Bentall – A Most Memorable Mary Bennet at Jane Austen Today.

Book Reviews

Until next week, happy Jane sighting.

Laurel Ann

Jane Austen Book Sleuth: New Books in the Queue for February 2009

A Novel, by Elizabeth Ashton (2009)The Jane Austen book sleuth is happy to inform Janeites that Austen inspired books are heading our way in February, so keep your eyes open for these new titles. 

Fiction (prequels, sequels, retellings, variations, or Regency inspired)  

Mr. Darcy’s Dream: A Novel. Elizabeth Aston continues with her sixth novel of the entertaining exploits of the Darcy family post Pride and Prejudice. (publishers description) This time out Mr. Darcy’s young niece Phoebe is shattered by an unhappy romance, and retreats to Pemberley and is joined by kind-hearted cousin Louisa Bingley, unmarried after three London seasons. Once the young ladies are situated in the house, several handsome strangers also arrive — all hopeful of winning the girls’ hearts. As preparations for the ball which Mr. and Mrs. Darcy are to give at Pemberley gain momentum, mischief and love triangles abound, making life as difficult as possible for anyone connected with the Darcy family. Touchstone. ISBN: 978-1416547266. Early review by Christina Boyd  at Amazon

Jane Austen Ruined My Life, by Beth Patillo (2009)Jane Austen Ruined My Life, by Beth Pattillo. Not a sequel, but a contemporary adventure comedy inspired by Jane Austen’s life. (publishers description) English professor Emma Grant is denied tenure in the wake of a personal scandal and left penniless by the ensuing divorce. Emma packs up what few worldly possessions she has left and heads to England on a quest to find the missing letters of Jane Austen. Locating the elusive letters, however, isn’t as straightforward as Emma hoped. The owner of the letters proves coy about her prize possessions, sending Emma on a series of Austen-related tasks that bring her closer and closer to the truth, but the sudden reappearance of Emma’s first love makes everything more complicated. Guideposts Books. ISBN: 978-0824947712. Early review by Vic (Ms. Place) at Jane Austen’s World

Pride and Prejudice Retold Through His Eyes, by Regina Jeffers (2009)Darcy’s Passions: Pride and Prejudice Retold Through His Eyes, by Regina Jeffers. A retelling of Pride and Prejudice from the perspective of the hero Fitzwilliam Darcy. If you’re thinking that this angle does not sound new, of course you are correct. A quick count at Amazon reveals five books based on the same premise (and I’m sure there are more). It’s intriguing that authors keep trying to top the last effort, so we shall see if she succeeded. (publishers description) Witty and amusing, this novel captures the original style, themes and sardonic humor of Jane Austen’s novel while turning the entire story on its head in a most engaging and entertaining fashion. Darcy’s Passions tells the story of Fitzwilliam Darcy and his obsession with the most impossible woman-Elizabeth Bennet. Ulysses Press. ISBN: 978-1569756997. Reviews of the self published edition from 2008 at Amazon.  

Love, Lies and Lizzie, by Rosie Rushton (2009)Love, Lies and Lizzie (Jane Austen in the 21st Century), by Rosie Rushton. In her fourth in the series of young adult Austen novels, author Rosie Rushton continues retelling Jane Austen’s stories as she takes the famous Pride and Prejudice and reimagines what might have happened if Lizzie Bennet and her sisters had been teenagers in the 21st century. If you enjoyed her previous Austen inspired novels Summer of Secrets, Secrets of Love, Secret Schemes, Daring Dreams, and The Dashwood Sisters Secrets of Love then you should check this one out too. (author quote)  “Find out what the devious George Wickham, the lush Darcy and the ghastly Drew Collins do to wreck the lives of the Bennet sisters – and let me know what you think about my new ending!” Piccadilly Press Ltd, ISBN: 978-1853409790  

The Convenient Marriage, by Georgette Heyer (2009)The Convenient Marriage, by Georgette Heyer. Not Jane Austen, but darn close. Even thirty five years after her death, no one has come close to matching Heyer’s unique and engaging style at the Regency era comedy/romance. Sourcebooks continues in their quest to republish this worthy author and introduce her to a whole new generation of readers. (publishers description) Horatia Winwood is a plain girl with a stutter. When she rescues her sister from an undesired marriage to the Earl of Rule by proposing to him herself, he is thoroughly impressed by her spirit and enjoys watching her take the ton by storm. When Rule’s archenemy, Sir Robert, tries to kiss Horatia, she spurns his advances, and in the ensuing scuffle loses an heirloom brooch. Horatia’s brother’s hare-brained scheme to recover the brooch fails, and then the Earl himself must step in, challenging Sir Robert in a swordfight that is Heyer at her most stirring. Sourcebooks, Casablanca. ISBN: 978-1402217722. Review by  Geranium Cat’s Bookshelf.

Nonfiction 

Bloom's Modern Critical Views (2009)Bloom’s Jane Austen: Bloom’s Modern Critical Views, by Harold Bloom. The Bloom’s literary volumes have turned into a major resource on author lives and critical reception. I own the sister volume to this second edition, Bloom’s Jane Austen: Bloom’s Classical Critical Views and can attest that they are wonderful resources on opinions of Jane Austen. (publishers description) Putting her in elite company, Harold Bloom suggests Jane Austen will survive with the likes of William Shakespeare and Charles Dickens. Critical essays offer insight into Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park, Emma, and Persuasion. A part of our Bloom’s Major Novelists series, this volume is designed to present biographical, critical, and bibliographical information on the playwright’s best-known works. This series is edited by Harold Bloom, Sterling Professor of the Humanities, Yale University; Henry W. and Albert A. Berg Professor of English, New York University Graduate School; preeminent literary critic of our time. Titles include detailed plot summaries of the novel, extracts from scholarly critical essays on the novels, a complete bibliography of the writer’s novels, and more. Chelsea House Publications; New edition. ISBN 978-1604133974 

Austen’s Oeuvre 

Northanger Abbey Tantor Unabridged Classics (2009)Northanger Abbey Tantor Unabridged Classics. This unabridged audio book is read by Donada Peters, one of AudioFile magazine’s Golden Voices who has won over a dozen AudioFile Earphones Awards. Also included is a PDF eBook containing the full text.  (publisher’s description) When Catherine is invited to Northanger Abbey, the grand though forbidding ancestral seat of her suitor, Henry Tilney, she finds herself embroiled in a real drama of misapprehension, mistreatment, and mortification, until common sense and humor—and a crucial clarification of Catherine’s financial status—puts all to right. Written in 1798 but not published until after Austen’s death in 1817, Northanger Abbey is characteristically clearheaded and strong, and infinitely subtle in its comedy. Tantor Unabridged Classics. ISBN:  978-1400110780 

Austen’s contemporaries  

Belinda (Oxford World's Classics), Maria Edgeworth (2009)Belinda (Oxford World’s Classics), by Maria Edgeworth. Even though Jane Austen and Maria Edgeworth were never formally introduced, Austen admired the author so much that she sent a presentation copy of Emma to her in advance of its publication. Edgeworth did not return the complement saying “there is no story in it.” Belinda was originally published in 1801 and is offered in this nicely introduced and supplemented re-issue by OWP. (publishers description) The lively comedy of this novel in which a young woman comes of age amid the distractions and temptations of London high society belies the challenges it poses to the conventions of courtship, the dependence of women, and the limitations of domesticity. Contending with the perils and the varied cast of characters of the marriage market, Belinda strides resolutely toward independence. Admired by her contemporary, Jane Austen, and later by Thackeray and Turgenev, Edgeworth tackles issues of gender and race in a manner at once comic and thought-provoking. The 1802 text used in this edition also confronts the difficult and fascinating issues of racism and mixed marriage, which Edgeworth toned down in later editions. Oxford University Press. ISBN: 978-0199554683

  • Catch up on previous months of  the Austen book sleuth in the archive. 

Until next month, happy reading! 

Laurel Ann