Sunday, 23 January 2011

Mr Darcy Presents his Wife by Helen Halstead

A sequel to Pride and Prejudice which begins with Elizabeth and Darcy's wedding preparations. The title really says it all, as it charts the introduction of the new Mrs Darcy into London society and the continuation of events for the other main characters.
It begins with Lady Catherine de Bourgh writing to Lizzy to let her know how she refuses to acknowledge the marriage and will do all she can to make her presentation to the Ton as difficult as possible.  Darcy also receives a similar missive from another member family and so despite their love, they are in for a potentially difficult time. 
However, the charming Mrs Darcy manages to dazzle almost everyone with her wit and is quickly on friendly terms with the very best people in society.  This creates tension between her and Darcy for not only is she in great demand from people he doesn't necessarily approve of, she becomes the unwitting muse of a inappropriately devoted playwright.  The ongoing tensions within the marriage seem to bring out the flaws in Darcy that Lizzy initially despised. 
I found this an interesting read and felt that it was one of the better attempts to continue P&P, certainly in terms of not making it a "Mr Darcy constantly beds his new wife" book, which many of the sequels are.  I'm not being over critical of those sequels, I've read many and found them good fun, but this one at least tries to fit with morality of the original.
However, although I enjoyed it whilst reading it, on reflection, I'm not sure about where the story went.  I liked the continuation of the sister's stories, particularly Kitty, who always seemed overshadowed by Lydia and the self righteous Mary.  Kitty gets her chance (however briefly) to sparkle and become a more rounded character.  Sadly, Jane and Bingley are much reduced and less interesting and although Wickham gets his comeuppance, I thought Lydia got off far too lightly and deserved a messy and undignified end! (But I'm nasty like that!)  Mrs Bennet remains an embarrassing trial, but again is sadly diminished in creating cringing horror for her daughters.  Other new characters are introduced but I felt that there were too many to find any depth and not particularly useful in themeselves to add to the story except as being a way of making the basic plot work.
Now my real grumble, I actually started to find myself annoyed by Elizabeth at points.  She became too clever, witty and attractive for her own good and I found myself disliking how she almost has her head turned.  Although she retains her slightly cynical air, it was really irritating that everyone loved her and was completely unrealistic in terms of the closed shop that Regency era society was.  Darcy's reaction is to be jealous of her new friendships and to resort to his previous overly proud and withdrawn behaviour which is understandable but goes against how the events and growing understanding of each other in the original novel had changed them and made them better people.
Overall, it's an enjoyable, light read but I was disappointed in how some of my favourite characters develop.