“The Plight of the Darcy Brothers”
Will Darcy and Elizabeth’s travels to Italy uncover haunting family secrets that will drive them apart, as they try to reconcile their lives to these shocking revelations?
Rating: 5 stars out of 5
It’s been great fun for me to revisit this series and share it with my readers through a series of posts. Today, I am glad to have two long posts to share as a snowy blizzard hits the East Coast of the USA, and I continue my series of reviews for Marsha Altman’s “Pride and Prejudice Continues” series. For me, these two books really clenched my membership into the “Marsha Altman Fan Club.” Unlike book one, The Darcys and the Bingleys,” which really laid the groundwork for this series, books two and three take us on some pretty great adventures through wartime Europe in the early 1800s, starting immediately in book two.
For those Austen purists looking for a story that stays close to canon, this may not be the series for you. However, I have to agree with other reviewers who contend that what Marsha Altman offers here is a well-researched, and adventurous series that takes Austen’s characters and places them well outside of the drawing rooms of England and into a variety of situations throughout Napoleonic Europe that deal with many of the historical issues and personal struggles of this time period, while at the same time this series introduces and embeds new characters into it, who live and breathe seamlessly alongside Austen’s very own beloved characters.
For me, Darcy and Bingley’s relationship is one that isn’t as fleshed-out as others in fanfiction; therefore, I loved watching them engage with each other throughout the series. I thought the way Altman incorporated the “Darcy madness” into this series was quite original and well done, with great sensitivity in regards to the development of another character in the series. I also love that this isn’t a series that only focuses on Darcy and Elizabeth, as numerous characters from Austen’s own novel receive their own heartfelt storylines, which are woven throughout the series and offer us more than just a mere distraction. Therefore, if you can suspend your disbelief just enough to allow yourself a bit of room for some “wild” adventures, I believe this series will take a hold of your heart and your mind while tickling some historical fancies you may also harbor.
As we return to Pemberley and discover that the Darcys, and most acutely, Elizabeth, are suffering some deep personal losses, the Darcys are informed that another Bennet sister is in trouble, and this time, it’s not Lydia! Wanting to help his sister and provide his wife with a much-needed diversion, Darcy agrees to travel to Italy with Elizabeth. As you can imagine, Darcy and Elizabeth in Italy was an experience I would not miss. After packing their trunks, and leaving young Master Geoffrey to the care of Jane and Charles Bingley, they leave together for a journey that will forever change the course of their lives.
With mounting trepidations as they travel to Italy, Darcy now finds himself investigating some family “business” of his own. As they come closer to the “truth” of this business, Darcy and Elizabeth brace themselves for the possibly that these family secrets may even threaten the security of their very own lives together. Darcy is forced come to grips with the one question that a son never wants to ask about his own beloved father, “Am I truly my father’s heir?” As the answers to this question eventually lead to more unforeseen questions, Darcy must face the one truth he could never imagine facing after his father’s death.
Their attempts to save Elizabeth’s sister also prove more difficult than they previously imagined. After meeting the young man who is at the center of this scandal, Darcy and Elizabeth feel a great weight upon them to make unanticipated decisions for Elizabeth’s sister that will indefinitely change the course of her own life. With his typical air of confidence and his business-like sense, Darcy is determined to find a way to resolve a most unseemly situation, but will Elizabeth’s family agree to the terms of this arrangement?
Meanwhile, back in England, Jane and Charles handle some hilarious situations involving the young children in their care. As we know, Charles isn’t the stern disciplinarian that his friend Darcy often is, so the children seem to constantly find a way to cleverly conjure up some playful and not-so-playful mischief. During this timeframe, Caroline Maddox, nee Bingley, is now settled into her own married life, when she and her husband, Dr. Maddox, make a highly advantageous connection that will change the course of their own lives.
Once they are back in England, the Darcys attempt to find a way to achieve some resolutions to their new situations. Unable to completely accept the newly revealed secrets that will continue to deeply affect his life, Darcy finds himself in a situation where he may not be able to truly make amends with his new situation and literally finds himself struggling for his own life. Will the results of his actions forever change the dynamics of both of their families and if so, will their families be able to forgive Darcy for the irreversible results of his actions?
“Mr. Darcy’s Great Escape”
Can Darcy and Elizabeth find their way back to each other after Darcy suffers a life-altering event that threatens his own sanity, and at the same time, his standing as the Master of Pemberley?
Rating: 5 stars out of 5
We next meet the Darcy, Bingley and Maddox families as they arrive in Hertfordshire in time to lease Netherfield, in anticipation of Kitty Bennet’s wedding. We quickly become reacquainted as we catch up with the families and learn about their latest adventures. Soon afterwards, the Darcys are invited to Kent by Aunt Catherine after being away from Rosings for nearly a decade, and soon there afterwards find themselves travelling to Rosings, although they are somewhat baffled by her invitation. Once they arrive in Kent and meet with Aunt Catherine, her demands reveal that not much has changed as far as her expectations are concerned regarding her daughter Anne. Only time will reveal how these demands will be sorted out in the de Bourgh family.
After the space of a few months, Darcy becomes unsettled about the lack of communication from his brother Gregoire, which leads him to question the whereabouts of his brother. During this same time, Dr. Maddox is worried for the safety of his own brother, Brian, as the two men are propelled to make an arduous journey together in an effort to ensure the safety of their siblings. Hesitant to give her blessing to “allow” Darcy to travel so far away without her, Elizabeth remains home at Pemberley with her family. Before long, Darcy and Dr. Maddox find themselves in a dangerous and life-threatening situation, which threatens their safety, along with their sanity, as the two men find themselves grasping to each other for their lives.
Back in England, and concerned about Darcy due to the state of his communications, while bearing news that she is determined to share with her husband, Elizabeth decides to forge an alliance with Caroline Maddox in an effort save their husbands from their uncertain fates. Thankfully, Colonel Fitzwilliam is able to join them as they all travel across Europe in an attempt bring their men home from what appears to be a rather mysterious situation. Their rescue attempt is clever and filled with quite a bit of humor and suspense, as we witness Elizabeth and Caroline conspire together in unthinkable ways.
Upon their return to England and Pemberley, numerous lives are altered forever, as the horrors endured on the Continent prove to have more far-reaching consequences than initially anticipated by everyone involved in this situation. Unable to find peace and happiness once again within her marriage, Elizabeth faces what seems like an insurmountable struggle to reconnect with Darcy. Has his family history finally caught up with him, and will it force the Master of Pemberley to concede his authority to those who are better suited to handle the responsibilities of Derbyshire’s greatest estate?
I really have difficulty deciding where to begin in my reflection of this book, as it was one of my favorite reads in this series. The adventures endured by the characters are pretty far-fetched, and yet, at the same time, they are hilarious, amusing, and truly filled with lots of page-turning moments! I loved every character that Altman has created for this series, as they seem to play perfectly off each other. I truly enjoy her continued characterizations of Austen’s characters, as they closely align with canon in her characterizations, as they find themselves in a variety of family-centered adventures and scenarios. I even enjoyed Lydia’s storyline, which is unusual for me and I find that as the series continues, this is one of my favorite storylines created in JAFF for Lydia Wickham.
I love the Darcy family history that she has masterfully sculpted for this series because it’s such an interesting and plausible storyline that adds a lot of interest into the series and it also helps to shape future characters’ lives, as well as Darcy’s own relationship with one of his nephews. It also adds an element of humility into Darcy’s family legacy, because this storyline becomes an ongoing personal struggle that the Master of Pemberley must grapple with for the rest of his life.
The Darcy marriage within the first five books serves as an anchor for the other characters in the series. Elizabeth and Darcy develop a relationship within their marriage that resembles what Austen herself may have even created for them. Between hundreds of pages, Elizabeth and Darcy share tremendous (and “clean”) love, respect and an intimate vulnerability with each other. Their marriage is one in which both people strive to live an honest, noble and loving life as a family that hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of people in Derbyshire respect and depend on for their very own livelihoods.
Another aspect that develops nicely within each book are the relationships between the Darcy, Bingley and Maddox children. As the children grow older and we come to know them better through their stories, we are able to enjoy their relationships with their families, as well as with each other. In later books, their lives become the greater focus of this series, so it’s really delightful to witness their early beginnings as this new cast of characters evolve into the future masters and mistresses of their generation.
To learn more about these books and this series, you can read my interview with Marsha Altman and connect with her books on Amazon.com. Here’s today’s interview with Marsha Altman. My next post in this series will include reviews of books four and five and a second interview with Ms. Altman.