Can Mr. and Mrs. Darcy combine their opposing viewpoints to solve the mysteries that unfold around their families and friends?
Rating: 3 stars out of 5
Regency Era Variations of Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice” and “Mansfield Park”
Welcome back to my latest blog event, “Beyond “Pride & Prejudice,”: The Other Side of JAFF”, where I am sharing reviews and giveaways of variations and adaptations based on Austen’s other works. Today I am happy to review two books from Carrie Bebris’ Mr. and Mrs. Darcy Mysteries series,”Pride and Prescience,” and “The Matters at Mansfield.”
I have been looking forward to diving into Carrie Bebris’ “Mr. & Mrs. Darcy Mystery Series” for a long time, therefore, I decided to select two books by her for this post. Since her mystery based on “Mansfield Park” is the fourth book in this series, I decided to start at book one to gain a sense of the how the series unfolds, so my post today will review her first book in this series, which is titled, “Pride and Prescience: Or A Truth Universally Acknowledged,” and then the second review will be based on “The Matters at Mansfield: Or, The Crawford Affair.”
As the very first pages begin in “Pride and Prescience,” readers are transported to share in the earliest moments of Jane and Elizabeth’s wedding celebration, and join the happy newlyweds, Fitzwilliam and Elizabeth Darcy, as they eagerly anticipate their honeymoon, along with their new life together at Pemberley. Yet, the attention at their wedding breakfast quickly shifts from the Bingleys and the Darcys to Caroline Bingley, when Caroline gleefully announces her engagement to Frederick Parrish; a wealthy, American plantation owner whose acquaintance with Caroline and her family has been of a very short duration.
Now that the Darcys feel compelled to remain in London in order to attend Caroline’s wedding, they decide to take in some of the finer enjoyments that London has to offer them. Late one evening, as the Darcys are returning home in their carriage, they accidently meet up with a distraught Caroline Parrish, who is alone and appears to be unaware of her surroundings. Darcy and Elizabeth decide to take her back to her home and return her to her husband, who seems caught off-guard by their appearance. The Darcys find themselves questioning how Caroline found herself in this circumstance and are unable to shake their uneasiness with her recent behavior.
Yet, even after she is returned to her new husband, Caroline does not resume to behaving as her typical proud and haughty self. She continues to raise concerns with her bizarre behaviors around family and friends. Soon, she is joined at Netherfield, by her brother, Charles Bingley, and his wife Jane, along with the Darcys, Caroline’s new husband, Mr. Parrish and Mr. Parrish’s friend, Professor Randolph, in an attempt to allow Caroline the time and resources necessary to restore herself and to settle what appear to be her frazzled nerves (think Mrs. Bennet on steroids!) and her overwhelming anxieties.
However, Netherfield doesn’t provide the kind of relief needed for Caroline, as one dreadful event after the other makes everyone question the logic behind what is taking place at Netherfield and with Caroline. Darcy and Elizabeth wind up being on opposing sides of a debate about whether or not some type of supernatural work is at play here. As they are both thrust into the unfamiliar role of playing detective, Darcy and Elizabeth learn more about the true nature of what is causing the “mysterious” circumstances surrounding each of them at Netherfield, while they both come to recognize that there is more than one way to look at a situation.
I admire any author who is willing to take on the challenges of turning our beloved Mr. and Mrs. Darcy into a curious and skillful pair of detectives who happen to find themselves in the position of solving mysteries in order to help their family and friends. Ms. Bebris creates characters who feel true to canon and that remain close in character to how we would imagine they would act after their own weddings. The banter between Darcy and Elizabeth is charming and their interactions are enjoyable, while Ms. Bebris’ supporting characters hold a good deal of appeal throughout the story.
However, the mystery surrounding the characters didn’t pull me in and keep my attention throughout the whole story. First, it didn’t seem likely to me that Caroline would marry a man with such unknown connections and secondly, the events surrounding the mystery didn’t come across as very likely to occur during any time period. I didn’t find the supernatural storyline believable and I found the ending was too predictable. While the book captures the essence of the Regency era and Ms. Bebris does a good job with the pacing of the story, I felt the overall plot and character development lacked the depth I prefer in a JAFF story.
Review of “The Matters at Mansfield: Or, The Crawford Affair” (This is the fourth book in this series and contains a few spoilers for readers who haven’t read the first three books.)
Can Darcy and Elizabeth unravel the motives behind the rakish Henry Crawford’s behavior in time to salvage their cousin’s reputation?
Rating: 4 stars out of 5
In the fourth book in this series, we now meet the Darcys as new parents to a young daughter named Lily-Anne, who has joined the couple as the houseguests of the Earl of Southwell, at his estate named Riveton Hall. As the Darcys enjoy their time with his family, they are also joined by Lady Catherine and her daughter, Anne de Bourgh. It quickly becomes apparent that Lady Catherine is still trying to make a brilliant match for her daughter, and has put a scheme into motion for her to marry Neville Sennex, the crass and bullish son of a senile nobleman.
Anne’s marriage plans take an unanticipated turn when she elopes with the charismatic and mysterious Henry Crawford. In an effort to slow down the events surrounding her daughter’s scandalous marriage, Lady Catherine, Colonel Fitzwilliam, Darcy and Elizabeth soon find themselves taking great pains to salvage Anne’s reputation. What they didn’t expect was that not only has Henry formerly scandalized a married woman named Maria from Mansfield, they also stumble upon another young woman who claims to also be married to Henry Crawford.
With two wives in tow and his freedom on the line, Henry leaves the area only to be found dead within a matter of days, leaving Darcy and Elizabeth to solve a murder that has severe ramifications for several families. Can they successfully work together to help restore some peace and sanity to the tattered lives of so many innocent people?
“The Matters at Mansfield: Or, The Crawford Affair” is a much more engaging and compelling mystery than Ms. Bebris’ first book in this series. The circumstances surrounding Henry Crawford’s disappearance and his subsequent murder kept me eagerly reading this mystery. I enjoyed uncovering the numerous clues discovered along with the Darcys and found this story to include more intriguing twists and turns. The characters felt mostly true to canon, with Lady Catherine serving as the villain we still love to hate. I didn’t enjoy the way Darcy tolerated her uncivil treatment of Elizabeth, but it did serve as a source of ongoing tension throughout the story. Ms. Bebris continues to include witty and amusing dialogue exchanges between Darcy and Elizabeth while keeping the focus of their relationship to solving the mystery at hand.
When I reflected upon what I felt was still lacking in this story, the answer came to me after reading this second book in the series. While the mystery surrounding the characters in this book was better developed than Bebris’ first book, the development of her primary characters, Darcy and Elizabeth, still fell quite flat for me. Essentially, they are the same people from the beginning of book one until the very end of book four, even after they go through the trials and tribulations associated with being a newly married couple who eventually find themselves separated from their infant child to attend to a rather disturbing family situation.
Throughout these experiences, their characters seem to experience very little growth or change within themselves, as well as within their marriage. In comparison to Stephanie Barron’s series, Being A Jane Austen Mystery, where Ms. Barron develops wonderful character arcs for Jane Austen and her supporting characters within her well-developed mysteries, the two mysteries I read by Ms. Bebris’ pay a lot more attention to solving the mysteries at hand in the stories, but at the expense of including insightful and emotive character arcs, which would have made “The Matters at Mansfield: Or, The Crawford Affair” closer to a five star read for me. I also believe that with all of the social themes imbedded within Austen’s “Mansfield Park,” there were some missed opportunities here to include and extend some of these themes into this story.
For JAFF readers looking to enjoy some intrigue along with their love of Darcy and Elizabeth, I recommend giving this series a try. I know I will read a few more of the books in this series in the future. However, for readers looking for a well-developed character-driven story filled with nicely developed romantic tension, this isn’t the place to seek that type of reading experience.
I’d like to offer my readers an opportunity to win a readers’ choice ebook from Carrie Bebris’ Mr. and Mrs. Darcy Mysteries series. To enter this giveaway, please leave a comment on this post by August 2nd. The winner will be announced on this blog on August 3, 2016. I’d like to thank Ms. Bebris for taking our dear couple and creating a mystery series based on them that will appeal to JAFF readers who enjoy a dash of Darcy and Elizabeth within their mystery reads.