Up at the altar, Darcy and Bingley turned to the aisle where their brides would be appearing momentarily. “Any last words?” Bingley whispered.
“What — Darcy! We’re in church!”
“I was of course discussing the book of Leviticus. I don’t know why your mind is so filthy these days, Bingley.”
“That’s your fault!”
“You asked for my advice, and you have it. Chapter 15.”
(from The Darcys & the Bingleys, pages 110-111)
In The Darcys & the Bingleys, Marsha Altman picks up Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice just before Mr. Darcy marries Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Bingley marries Jane Bennet. In the midst of the chaos of planning a wedding, there is some talk about the nervousness of the wedding night. While Charlotte Collins assures Elizabeth and Jane that it’s not as bad as Mrs. Bennet makes it out to be, Bingley turns to the reserved Darcy — and Darcy’s advice is a copy of The Kama Sutra. This makes for some hilarious conversation.
With the couples settling into married life at their respective estates, the plot turns to Caroline Bingley, Mr. Bingley’s arrogant sister who, in Pride and Prejudice, works to keep her brother and Jane apart and hates that Elizabeth catches the eye of Mr. Darcy, whom she hopes to wed. She’s being courted by a Lord Kincaid, and there’s something about this Scot that rubs Bingley the wrong way, prompting him to seek Darcy’s help in digging up whatever dirt they can find on him.
I thoroughly enjoyed The Darcys & the Bingleys and found myself laughing out loud quite frequently. This is the most amusing Austen sequel I’ve come across thus far, and I appreciate how Altman makes the characters her own without compromising the original story. The book is filled with witty dialogue, and I loved the bantering between Elizabeth and Darcy and Darcy and Bingley. Moreover, I was thrilled that Altman included numerous scenes with Mr. Bennet, whose humor is among my favorite things about Pride and Prejudice. Some of the best dialogue occurs when an injured Darcy is high on laudanum.
“Your brother is…indisposed,” Elizabeth said, a smile creeping back across her face. “Dr. Maddox gave him something for pain that has made him muddle-headed.”
“Oh. Well, let me through, then. Should I not have my fair share?”
“Georgiana–.” Bingley put up some protest, but she sideswiped him and went right to her brother’s side and took his hand, waking him from his light sleep.
“Brother,” she said with a very serious voice.
“Georgiana,” he smiled. “Sweet Georgiana.”
“I am affianced. I have found the most disreputable bachelor in Town, and I will marry him at Gretna Green on Sunday.”
This was a very long sentence for Darcy to comprehend, if he was comprehending anything at all. “All right…then.”
“So you give your consent?”
“Of course. But first I must…castrate him…before the ceremony.”
Any pretense that laughter was going to be held in by the two onlookers was now entirely abandoned. They all had to leave the room very quickly. As they left, they missed Darcy mumbling, “Kill…you all…” (pages 301-302)
Given that The Darcys & the Bingleys chronicles the early days of the couples’ marriages, of course, there is sex talk. How can there not be when The Kama Sutra is involved? However, the scenes are humorous and tastefully done and not at all graphic. Thankfully, Altman leaves much to the imagination.
Altman creates new and exciting characters and merges them into the lives of the Darcys and the Bingleys quite seamlessly, from the shady Lord Kincaid to the quiet Dr. Maddox. It almost felt like they’d been there all along.
Some readers might be concerned about Altman’s treatment of their beloved characters, especially Mr. Darcy who is not at all the arrogant ass he was in Pride and Prejudice. But marriage, and Elizabeth in particular, has changed Darcy, and I think Altman does a great job handling the character’s evolution. I think it’s important to emphasize that Altman isn’t trying to rewrite Pride and Prejudice; she’s building upon and broadening the world that Austen created. And considering all the laughing I did when reading and the fact that I breezed through more than 400 pages in just a couple of days, I’d say Altman was successful.
Disclosure: The Darcys & the Bingleys is from my personal library.
© 2010 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.