Linda Beutler is known for her love of gardening, her snarky humor, and her ability to craft a JAFF story that’s original and entertaining. When I had the pleasure to read Linda’s newest release, My Mr. Darcy & Your Mr. Bingley, I was all anticipation and eager to see what she would bring to her new JAFF story. It is my pleasure to say that I wasn’t disappointed. Not one bit!
Before I share my review, here’s a peek at the book blurb:
Jane Bennet had a heart to break after all, and I am a party to it. —Fitzwilliam Darcy
One never quite knows where the inspiration will strike. For award-winning author Linda Beutler and My Mr. Darcy & Your Mr. Bingley, the moment of genesis arrived in a particularly contentious thread at the online forum A Happy Assembly. What is the nature of personal responsibility? Where do we draw the line between Mr. Bingley being too subject to Mr. Darcy’s “persuasion” and Mr. Darcy playing too heavily on Mr. Bingley’s “sensibility”? This is a conundrum guaranteed to raise even more questions.
What happens to the plot and character dynamics of Pride & Prejudice if Mr. Bingley is given just a dash more spine? Or if Jane Bennet decides enough embarrassment is too much? How does Mr. Darcy manage the crucial apology a more stalwart Mr. Bingley necessitates he make? What if Mr. Darcy meets relations of Elizabeth Bennet’s for whom she need not blush on their home turf rather than his? Suffice it to say, this is a story of rebuked pride, missing mail, a man with “vision”, a frisky cat, and an evening gown that seems to have its own agenda. (This story includes mature content)
As this story opens up, readers will soon recognize that Charles Bingley, who decides to return to Meryton despite Darcy’s and Caroline’s interference in his relationship with Jane Bennet, is a man who is finally taking charge of his destiny. With his blond leather boots on order and his servants being reconvened to open Netherfield Park once again, Mr. Bingley intends to make clear his intentions throughout all of Meryton that he plans to stay in the country for an extended period of time. Yet once he attempts to renew his former connection with Jane Bennet, it becomes apparent that Jane is simply not going to give her trademark placid smile and provide Charles with the reassurances he is seeking from her in regards to the future of their relationship. Having the Bennet family serve as his allies during his attempts to woo Jane in front of all and sundry throughout Meryton seems like a blessing… And that’s where things start to become very interesting!
The idea of turning Charles Bingley into a stronger man, who also still resembles Charles Bingley in essentials, is a bold decision for an author to make, and one that I thought was well-executed throughout Linda’s entire story. But now that Charles has become his “own man,” where does that leave Darcy and how will their relationships with the Bennet sisters unfold due to these changes?
In Linda’s story, she makes enough revisions in Austen’s characters to have her story feel unique, while at the same time, I felt she stayed true to the essence of Austen’s Pride & Prejudice. Don’t get me wrong; the story doesn’t feel trapped in Austen’s vision for her characters or in her storyline. What Linda achieves throughout this story is that she is able to craft an interesting, new storyline for readers, while also having the main characters experience many of the lessons that Austen’s characters need to learn throughout the story to become the people we know and love from canon.
Kudos to Linda for expanding upon Charles’ and Jane’s relationship; their storyline is one that I typically enjoy seeing expanded upon in JAFF stories, and Linda’s development of their relationship was fun to read, and kept me eagerly anticipating the twists and turns that she created for them. I also really loved the way Jane Bennet’s character was reimagined in this variation. Her decision to recast Jane as a woman who is unwilling to return Charles to her good graces without believing she can love and trust him made perfect sense to me. After all, who hasn’t wanted to give Charles a good shake for deserting Jane for so long after the Netherfield ball? In my opinion, it was fun seeing Charles have to truly work as hard as Darcy has to in order to earn the hand of the woman he loves. I felt that the role that Mr. Bennet plays in their relationship is so well- crafted too. I enjoyed watching Mr. Bennet act as a helpmate to Jane in his own way while he retains much of his sardonic wit and dry humor from canon.
I also really loved the way Linda took Darcy’s and Elizabeth’s relationship in a few new directions too, while she also expanded upon scenes from Pride & Prejudice’s storyline that I absolutely love, including those early morning walks when Darcy “courts” Elizabeth during their time in Kent. I’ve always wished that Miss Austen herself would have expanded upon them in canon, so it was delightful to read these interactions between Darcy and Elizabeth. He’s besotted with her, she’s annoyed by his presence… they are really humorous scenes!
Another aspect that I really savored were the multiple settings that were incorporated into this story. Besides enjoying the scenes that took place in Meryton and Kent, I loved the time that Darcy spent time in London getting to know the Gardiners, away from Elizabeth’s suspicious, watchful eyes. There’s also a backstory that’s fleshed out between Mr. Darcy and Mrs. Gardiner that adds some nice depth to their relationship.
Yet, perhaps best of all, we have these terrific letters written between our beloved characters that serve to further develop the storylines and that help us understand the internal struggles of the characters. And what would these letters be without a dash of snark and humor to amuse and inform readers? As someone who is working to become better acquainted with Jane Austen’s personal letters, I loved that Linda was inspired by Jane’s letters and included “some little nugget(s)” from these letters to freshen “the sparkling language of Jane Austen in a unique manner.” In particular, I felt the way that she inserted a few lines from one of these letters in a conversation towards the end of the story between Darcy and Elizabeth, in regards to his desire to “prize any picture (of Elizabeth Darcy) too much to have it exposed to the public eye,” was another fine example of Linda’s clever and creative efforts.
My Mr. Darcy & Your Mr. Bingley is also the kind of book that I believe would be a terrific reread because not only was the storyline engaging, the revisions made in Jane and Bingley’s characters were amusing to see unfold throughout the story, while there were also many scenes that I believe can be easily savored again. Once I become even more knowledgeable about the contents of Jane Austen’s personal letters, I think this story can be enjoyed on another level too.
Meet Linda Beutler
Linda Beutler’s professional life is spent in a garden, an organic garden housing America’s foremost public collection of clematis vines and a host of fabulous companion plants. Her home life reveals a more personal garden, still full of clematis, but also antique roses and vintage perennials planted around and over a 1907 cottage. But one can never have enough of gardening, so in 2011 she began cultivating a weedy patch of Jane Austen Fan Fiction ideas. The first of these to ripen was The Red Chrysanthemum (Meryton Press, 2013), which won a silver IPPY for romance writing in 2014. You might put this down as beginner’s luck—Linda certainly does. The next harvest brought Longbourn to London (Meryton Press, 2014), known widely as “the [too] sexy one”. In 2015 Meryton Press published the bestseller A Will of Iron, a macabre rom-com based on the surprising journals of Anne de Bourgh.
Now, after a year-long break in JAFF writing to produce Plant Lovers Guide to Clematis (Timber Press, 2016)—the third in a bouquet of books on gardening—we have My Mr. Darcy and Your Mr. Bingley bursting into bloom.
Connect with Linda at the following places:
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7 April Half Agony, Half Hope; Vignette
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9 April My Vices and Weaknesses; Character Interview, Excerpt, Giveaway
10 April Austenesque Reviews; Vignette, Giveaway
11 April Tomorrow is Another Day; Review, Giveaway
13 April Just Jane 1813; Review, Giveaway
14 April A Covent Garden Gilflurt’s Guide to Life; Guest Post
15 April Interests of a Jane Austen Girl; Character Interview, Excerpt, Giveaway
17 April From Pemberley to Milton; Review, Giveaway
18 April Diary of an Eccentric; Review, Giveaway
19 April Darcyholic Diversions; Author Interview, Giveaway
20 April Babblings of a Bookworm; Vignette, Giveaway
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