Sunday, March 15, 2009

Mr. Darcy's Dream

Jane Austen's novels aren't the fluffy rom-com forerunners they appear to be.  Austen was a witty writer who satirized social climbers, pricked the egos of the self-important, and saw courtship among the gentry as a cutthroat competition for the best merger of financial resources.  Elizabeth Ashton isn't Jane Austen and her Darcy novels are unashamedly frivolous.

Mr. Darcy's Dream is the sixth book in the series, and the heroine this time is Georgiana Darcy's daughter Phoebe Hawkins.  Phoebe is about to start her second London season when she receives an offer of marriage from Arthur Stanhope, scion of a prominent Whig family.  Her father, Sir Giles, refuses to permit the marriage, so to prevent a scandal Georgiana plants rumors of Phoebe's ill health and sends her to Pemberly.  Louisa Bingley, still single after three seasons, decides to join her and the two young women spend a pleasant few months at Pemberly planning a ball, dealing with a Catherine de Bourgh-like relative, and making social calls.  No one should be surprised that Mr. Stanhope decides to visit his sister near Pemberly, nor that Louisa Bingley falls in love with Mr. Drummond, the attorney hired to oversee renovations to  Pemberly, or that there's a happy ending featuring two engagements.  A subplot involving a French governess and the series' usual villain doesn't quite work but it doesn't distract from the main purpose of the book, which is to keep the hero and heroine apart until the final chapter.  Mr. Darcy's Dream is an ideal book to read on a tropic beach (which is where I read The True Darcy Spirit), but it also makes a fair distraction from a snow-hindered SEPTA commute.

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