Friday, August 28, 2009

Review: The Plight of the Darcy Brothers by Marsha Altman (Excerpt Included)

Title: The Plight of the Darcy Brothers: A tale of the Darcys & the Bingleys
Author: Marsha Altman
Pages: 368
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark (August 1, 2009)
Genre: Fiction
Edition: Uncorrected Advanced Copy - Many thanks to Sourcebooks for sending me a copy to review!!



Perfect for : Personal reading, Book club read

In a nutshell: I found The Plight of the Darcy Brothers to be a wonderful follow-up book to the original Pride and Prejudice. Marsha Altman remained true to the original characters of Darcy and Elizabeth, Charles and Jane (as well as other favorites), while adding her own take to their continued story. This story finds the Darcys and the Bingleys as neighbors with small children of their own. While dealing with a personal loss, Darcy takes Elizabeth on a trip to the continent to help yet another Bennett sister who is in trouble. This book is delightful and full of surprises, even including a few family secrets that become known to Darcy that will change his life and family forever.

Special note: Elizabeth does have a miscarriage early in the book, and the topic is touched on throughout the book. I believe it was not uncommon to loose babies during pregnancy or shortly after birth, so feel the topic was appropriate to the book, but wanted to let readers know that if they have experienced a similar loss themselves, they should be aware of it.

Extended Review:
Characters: In short, I LOVED THEM! In this book, we have the pleasure of the continued story of many favorite characters from the original Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. We also get the pleasure of making the acquaintance of a few new characters.

Story-Line: I have read a few Pride and Prejudice sequels, and so far this one is my favorite (no, I didn't read Marsha Altman's first book The Darcys and the Bingleys, but I found this one stood by itself just fine, so don't let that stop you!). While staying true to the original feeling of Pride and Prejudice, Marsha Altman has created adventures of her own for some of my favorite characters, which was wonderful because I never wanted the original story to end. This book is full of family and adventure.

Readability: A very fun and enjoyable book.

Overall: I highly recommend this Pride and Prejudice sequel and encourage those who loved Jane Austen's book to read this one (even if you have been disappointed by other sequels - give this one a chance!!). I will certainly be on the lookout for more of Marsha Altman's books after reading this one.

About the Book: In this lively second installment, the Darcys and Bingleys are plunged into married life and its many accompanying challenges presented by family and friends.

With Jane and Elizabeth away, Darcy and Bingley take on the daunting task of managing their two-year- old children. Mary Bennet returns from the Continent pregnant by an Italian student promised to the church; Darcy and Elizabeth travel to find the father, and discover previously unknown—and shocking—Darcy relations. By the time Darcy discovers that there's more than one sibling of questionable birth in the family, the ever-dastardly Wickham arrives on the scene to try to seize the Darcy fortune once and for all.

Excerpt from Chapter 2 (Courtesy of Sourcebooks)



Chapter 2
Dark Clouds at Brighton


Darcy happened to be coming down the main steps when the doors opened for Jane Bingley, and though she did not look particularly distressed; he crossed by the servants and bowed to her himself. “Mrs. Bingley.”

“Mr. Darcy,” she curtseyed. “I’ve come to speak with my sister.”

“She’s in her study. I assume all is well?”

“Yes. It’s merely some conversation,” she said, and it struck him as a bit odd, but he would not inquire as to what it was.
He did not have to anyway, with his son bounding down the steps and nearly sliding across the marble, so that Darcy had to catch him by his jacket before he slammed into Jane entirely, which was probably his intent. “What did I tell you about running down the stairs?”

“Don’t!” his son simply said, squirreling out of his grasp and running to grab his aunt by her leg, which was about as high as he could go. “Auntie!”

“My darling nephew,” she said. “I fear you’re getting too heavy for your poor aunt to pick up. You should listen to your father more often. You might hurt yourself.”

“He should,” said Darcy with a mock-indignant posture, and his son simply giggled at him and put his hand in his mouth. “But he doesn’t. He takes after his mother.”

“I’ve no doubt of that. Oh, I should have brought Georgie, but the business is too quick, and she was asleep. Well, you will see her at church on Sunday, won’t you, Geoffrey?”

“Kirk!” he said, and looked at his father, almost hiding behind Jane’s dress as he did so.

“Yes, yes, I’m so thrilled at your love of Scottish vocabulary. Now, Mrs. Bingley, unless you would like Geoffrey to accompany you, he and I have an appointment—”

“No!” Geoffrey clung to his aunt’s legs. “Scary face.”

“It’s a wart, and there is nothing you can do about it,” Darcy said, then clarified to his sister-in-law, “His tailor. Has a bump on his nose. And it’s very improper to say anything about it.”

“That’s very right,” she said, looking down at Geoffrey’s scowl. “You shouldn’t judge people by their appearances. They might think you a dour man with a permanent scowl who doesn’t like balls very much.”

“I fear I’ll never live down Meryton,” Darcy said, scooping up his son, and still managing to bow. “Mrs. Bingley.”

“Mr. Darcy.”

He did not inquire unto her further; there were other things on his mind, like keeping his son’s mouth shut during the whole fitting, as he was constantly outgrowing his clothing. Maybe some sort of glue was the answer.

***

Elizabeth Darcy’s “study” was impressive, beyond just the idea that she had one, and it was not a sitting or drawing room. It had a desk, a chair, and lots of legal books that she had not the slightest intent on perusing but they were important to making it a proper study. As Mistress of Pemberley, she was not without her business, but certainly nothing that a writing table couldn’t handle, but this was not her desire and Mr. Darcy made sure that every one of her wants and needs were taken care of. Also, he desperately needed her out of his study. She was sitting, reading an old epic with language that she could barely understand but which was big and fascinating all the more and would not sit properly on her lap, when Jane entered the room. “Jane! I was not expecting you.”

“No.” Jane didn’t look harried, but she did shut the door; there was something to her countenance that changed when it was firmly shut and they were in privacy. “What a lovely room.”

“Yes. But not very good for chatting.” She was referring to the lack of couches, but Jane made her way to a gentleman’s sitting chair and passed her a letter. “From Mary.”

“For you?”

“My eyes only.”

Elizabeth did not question further. She read through the letter, which was brief, before beginning to conjure the proper response. Mary, who was studying in a seminary just outside of Paris, had returned to England, or was to when the letter was written, by means of a ship that would take her to Brighton first, where she had arranged lodgings, and she wanted to see Jane alone. The obvious question of why she would not come home through Town and then go straight on to Hertfordshire was the first puzzlement. The second was why she wanted Jane alone and in the strictest confidence.

“Why me, Lizzy?”

Elizabeth pondered before answering, “Perhaps because you are the most understanding of the five of us.”

“Why would that make any difference?” Before Elizabeth could offer a suggestion, she added, “Perhaps she came home ill, and is in Brighton for its healing qualities. She could stay with the Fitzwilliams.”

“Then she would merely say so. Clearly she is in some sort of trouble.”

“Lizzy! This is Mary we’re talking about. Not Kitty or Lydia—”

“Nonetheless.”

Jane could not find the words to contradict her. “Please, you must go with me.”

“That would be directly contrary to our sister’s request, I believe.”

“I do not think it unreasonable that you accompany me to Brighton. She only specifies that I meet with her first. That you happen to be in town with me will only be a happy coincidence,” Jane said. “She must see us all in turn, eventually. So it will be most convenient.”

“Jane,” Lizzy smiled, “you can be very devious when you wish to be.”

“Lizzy!”

“But I will say no more on the subject,” she said, standing up. “I simply must tell my husband that I am absconding to Brighton, perhaps to see the Fitzwilliams, who I have been very lax in visiting despite being my cousins.”

“And he will believe it?”

“Hardly; but he will not put up a fuss.” She closed the letter. “Besides, now that we are safely married, we can finally go to Brighton without any fear of great disaster.”

It took Elizabeth a long while before she was sure she had misspoken.

***

A gruff Darcy reluctant to part with his wife, and an overeager son reluctant to part with his mother, made getting into the carriage unbelievably difficult. “For the last time, you cannot go this time,” she said to her son, who was kicking the dust up around her in frustration. “There will be many times for us to travel to Brighton if you are so eager to go.” Not that Brighton had anything to do with it.

Geoffrey Darcy huffed and looked up for help at his father, who replied with a shrug, “She won’t let me go, either. It seems she is the master of us both.” Knowing his son would not catch the subtlety; he merely patted him on head.

Jane’s parting was easier, mainly because Georgiana Bingley did not say anything, because she had not yet spoken her first words. She seemed to understand everyone properly, and several doctors had been called to test her hearing, which was fine, but for whatever reason, she was holding back her words. She did cry a bit when she was taken out of her mother’s arms, but Bingley managed to shush her as he kissed his wife good-bye. “Write us.”

“I doubt we will be there long enough to pen a letter,” she assured him, “and don’t forget her cough medicine.”

“Right.”

“And her nighttime story.”

“Of course.”

“And the little blanket she likes, even though it’s too small for her now. I brought it from Chatton, didn’t I?”

“Yes, dear.”

She kissed her daughter on the cheek. This was her first major separation from her children. The twins were staying at Chatton while Bingley and Georgie kept Darcy company at Pemberley. “Don’t let your father and uncle destroy the house while we’re gone.”

“I did manage to keep Pemberley up as a bachelor for some years,” Darcy said defensively.

“But you didn’t have Geoffrey to chase around,” Elizabeth said, and she did mean chase. Her son was good-natured, but no one was going to deny that he was a bit on the wild side, which brought Mr. Bennet no end of amusement when she would let her father go on about how she had been as a child. “I think he shall keep you quite busy, Husband.”

It was time to be going, if they were to make it somewhere decent by nightfall. As they waved good-bye from the path in front of Pemberley’s great steps, Darcy said, “I don’t know why I have the riotous one. You’re the wild Irishman.”

“I’m going to ignore that insult, and say one thing to you—karma.”
Darcy looked blank. “I have no idea what you mean.”

“Because your knowledge of Eastern literature is restricted to two books,” Bingley said, and walked into the house.

“Bingley? Bingley, you get back here and explain what you just said!”

***

The carriage ride was not a lovely discussion of sisterly things, because it was long, stuffy, and bumpy. By the time they arrived in Brighton, both sisters were tired and the sun was going down. Their first disconcerting discovery, despite their announced intentions to be guests at the Fitzwilliams and their explanation by letter of their sudden presence, Mary Bennet had made no call upon the Fitzwilliams, if she was there at all. It was fair in that she did not know them well, being only distant relations, but it also meant she was staying elsewhere, and they could not imagine who else she would call on. This concern was expressed when they were finally settled in the parlor and given tea and snacks. Both were nauseous from the ride, and not eager for the grand meal that was offered by their hosts.

It was most eagerly offered. Colonel Fitzwilliam had always been a bright and kind fellow, but marriage had been good to him, because his face had an ever-present shine. More striking, though, was Mrs. Anne Fitzwilliam (née de Bourgh), who looked—by her own set of standards—radiant, and by a normal person’s standards, healthy and almost normal. The sea air (and perhaps being out from under her own mother’s stifling presence, though Elizabeth held her tongue on that) had done wonders for her as it had so many other people. While she was not a robust woman by any means, she was not the trembling mouse of a girl that Elizabeth Bennet had met at Rosings, nearly five years prior.

“Our only regret,” Anne said as tea was poured, “is that we are so terribly far from everyone. You must tell us everything—of course, if you have time. Though perhaps I do not fully understand the matter at hand.”

“Neither do we,” Elizabeth fully admitted. “And now it seems, we must go searching about the town for word of Mary, because she has not called on you or given us her address, and we have no other relatives here.”

“You cannot go out tonight,” Colonel Fitzwilliam said with some amount of male authority. “It is already late and you are exhausted, and you do not know Brighton’s streets. Surely, it must wait until morning.”

“I fear I do not have the energy to contradict you, Colonel,” Elizabeth said. “Four days of traveling has taken it right out of me.”

“And yet I heard, once, you challenged Darcy’s record by riding all the way from Scotland,” he countered.

“Oh God, yes,” she said, the memory painful at its ridiculousness and the days she had been laid up because of it, excluding all of the events surrounding it. “But I have no wish to speak of that.”

“Then you are just like your husband. And I am one to judge.”

“You are three years older than Darcy, correct?” Jane asked.

“Yes, and it seems I was charged with keeping Darcy and Wickham in line when we played together, or preventing them from doing stupid things. I failed on all accounts except for the fact that they are at least both alive and have all their limbs.”

“Maybe it’s not all from your side after all,” Jane whispered to her sister, who giggled.

The doorbell cut off Elizabeth’s response.

“At this hour?” Colonel Fitzwilliam rose and went to the door of their modest Brighton home. It surprised almost no one that it was Mary Bennet, looking a little shabby from all the traveling and just a little ill. “Miss Bennet.”

“Colonel Fitzwilliam. I hope I’m not intruding—”

“Not at all. We were sort of expecting you, actually, though perhaps not this very night—but we are all very glad to see you. Your sisters are here.”

“Mary!” Jane said, running to greet her sister. “It is so good to see you.”

“And you.” Mary was not nearly so exuberant, but that was in her character and surprised no one. In fact, she looked half-terrified, and nodded to her other sister. “Elizabeth.”

“I am sorry for intruding,” Elizabeth said. “Jane was intending to seek you out on her own, but I insisted on accompanying her.”

“Of course,” was all Mary could say, “I—I am not at all surprised.”
This was not the Mary they knew. Though lacking the confidence of her elder sister, Mary was not without her own self-esteem, and was usually at the ready to sermonize about something. But now she was not, shifting her weight around, looking very much as if she was at a tribunal—which was honestly not far from the truth, as she could not expect not to explain her circumstances.

“Mary,” Jane said, in her usual warm tones, “I am very happy to see you safely home, but I would kindly inquire what I am doing in Brighton. If Papa knew you were in England—”

“Papa will know I’m in England,” Mary said. “We will tell him at once. But you will understand why I did not want to see him first when I explain the circumstances. For I know he sent me to the Continent unattended expecting only the most pious behavior of me—”
The elder sisters exchanged glances, and Jane continued, “Yes. Now, what has happened?”

“Nothing. I mean, to say, nothing can happen, and it was an awful, awful thing for me to have been distracted from my studies so—”

“—but you met a man,” Elizabeth said. Because, she could not think of anything else, with Mary standing before them, unharmed. If she had been somehow expelled from school—and there was no reason to believe she had been, as all of the reports were most excellent—then Mr. Bennet would have gotten a letter from the Dean and that would have been the end of the matter.

Mary covered her mouth with her hands, as if to muffle her own words, ashamed of them as she obviously was. “Yes.”

“And—it was a hindrance on your studies?”

“Quite the opposite. I was—his tutor. To be a tutor, you must do some work to prepare, so actually I was learning quite a bit—”

“You were his tutor?” Jane said in shock.

“Yes. The Headmistress said I was doing so well, and perhaps I could do some tutoring on the side, to pick up a little money—Oh, not that Papa was being ungenerous. He was being too generous. Surely you know what I mean?”

“Of course,” Elizabeth assured. “Do go on.”

“So, I tutored some girls, but there was a young man, an Italian who needed to perfect his French, and I thought, perhaps if we met only in public, this would not be a terrible impropriety—and this was in France, so—”


About the Author: (From her site)
Marsha Altman was born in New Jersey. She has lived in Jerusalem, Israel and currently resides in New York City. She has a B.A. in History from Brown University and a MFA in Creative Writing from The City College of New York. She does not own any cats.

Fun Facts: Marsha...
...is an authorized heavy fighter in the Society of Creative Anachronism for sword-and-shield combat. That said, she is not very good.
...Marsha has been to Israel about 7 times. She's not precisely sure.
...Marsha has been through the Mishnah 20 times (as of January 14, 2009) and will continue until she reaches forty. She is currently working on a commentary on the social and historical background of the Mishnah.
...Marsha's first book was a story about an alien who came to earth because he won a contest. It was 24 pages long (about 25% bad artwork) and written in fourth grade. It was never published because it was written by a 4th-grader.

If you have reviewed this book and would like me to add a link to your review, please include a link in your comment!

3 Comments:

bermudaonion said...

I haven't gotten into the Austen sequels - yet. Glad you enjoyed this one and hope you're doing well.

Staci said...

I've seen this one out there and thought it sounded like a good read. Thanks for highlighting it today!!

Beth F said...

I'll add this to my list of P&P sequels for the Everything Austen challenge. I've had mixed results with some of these books, so I'm glad to see a winner.

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