Synopsis: On the day of Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy's wedding to Elizabeth Bennett, Caroline Bingley collapsed in tears in a nearby room. To her horror and dismay, she was not alone, and finds that a rather handsome man was seated in the room and had witnessed her tears. One year later, this embarrassing moment is brought to her attention when the man reenters her life. She learns that not only does this man know of her heartbreak over losing Mr. Darcy, but that he is said heartbreaker's cousin, Robert Darcy, from the United States.
Thrown together by their families, and a tragedy that has befallen Elizabeth and Fitzwilliam, the two travel with Charles and Jane to Pemberley. Along the way, Caroline and Robert become friends, and Caroline is able to allow Robert to be her protectorate along the way. The question then becomes if a man from Boston, and an upper-class British woman, at a time when the two countries are at war, can find enough in common to really be friends and understand one another? The other question is whether or not Caroline can see Robert as anything more than yet another man who has come along to make her pursuit of an eligible man to marry more difficult?
Review: While many of us have preconceived ideas about the snobbery and catty nature that the classic Caroline Bingley portrayed in Austen's original novel, Fairview chooses to show a more developed and complex Bingley. I will admit that I have never been much of a Caroline fan, in fact, I quite relished the fact that Elizabeth could say to her, "Nah, nah, nuh-nah, nah" after marrying Darcy, so I struggled to warm up to this character. However, after you see the weaknesses and hurt behind Caroline's prickly behavior of Austen's novel, it becomes much easier to empathise with her. In fact, at one point Jane Bingley asks Caroline if she is happy, to which she responds,
It is true I have not been as cheerful as I am used to. With so many marriages taking place, I suppose, I have been considering my single state more than usual. (151)These lines made me smile, and even chuckle a little, as anyone who is single and has been exposed to a flurry of weddings can readily understand Caroline's expression here. As the reader, however, you not only feel for her losses, but also want to see her understood, happy, and content. To this, Robert Darcy seems like a perfect hero to come sweeping in, but things just can't be that simple. Differences in culture, ideals, and propriety put these two characters at odds, even if their friendship seems to continue to build. The greatest saving grace to their friendship and relationship, Robert's gallantry.
Although I was frequently distracted by the number of times sentences started with conjunctions (yes, I'm one of those), I enjoyed this clean and charming read. The writing was still very charming, and kept a tone and style that felt indicative of the time period. I do think that this is an easy read to escape into, and not distracting away from a purist's love of the original telling of Pride and Prejudice.
For more information see: The Other Mr. Darcy: Did you know Mr. Darcy had an American cousin?.
This also completes my second in the Everything Austen Challenge.