“You are not, in any way, shape, or form, amusing, Darcy.”
Darcy rolled his eyes. “Yes, well, the only trouble is that you always get bored with these silly creatures within a week, sometimes less, and then you have the problem of where to dump the bodies. And if she is a servant or governess or even a paid companion, that never ends up well, does it?”
Fitzwilliam opened his mouth to argue but realized that Darcy was pretty much on target. He grunted and went back to sipping his coffee. “Are you going to finish that pie?” he asked and reached for the apple tart on the side of the desk.
Darcy quickly snatched back the plate, never taking his eyes from his books. “Yes, I am going to finish that pie. Don’t you have a barracks or something that provides you with food? I’m not made of money, you know.”
“Are you insinuating that I take advantage of your good-natured hospitality?”
“Who’s insinuating?” Darcy abruptly looked up from his paper and stared hard at his cousin.
(from Darcy and Fitzwilliam, pages 201-202 in the ARC)
Karen V. Wasylowski’s Darcy and Fitzwilliam: A Tale of a Gentleman and an Officer is a sequel of sorts to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice that focuses on the strong friendship between cousins Fitzwilliam Darcy, gentleman, and Richard Fitzwilliam, colonel and war hero. Darcy is settling into marriage with Elizabeth Bennet, and Fitzwilliam is content as a bachelor, despite his high and mighty aunt, Lady Catherine, insisting that he marry.
The first part of the book follows Darcy as he navigates impending fatherhood and engages in fiery arguments with Elizabeth about his past with the vindictive Caroline Bingley. The second part puts Fitzwilliam in the spotlight as he overcomes his memories of the horrors of battle by falling in love. The final part brings Darcy and Fitzwilliam and their families together. Readers will meet a more amusing Lady Catherine, a less socially awkward Georgiana Darcy, an even more horrid Caroline Bingley, and a more carefree Mr. Bennet, but Charles and Jane Bingley, the rest of the Bennet sisters, and even George Wickham are relegated to the background.
Darcy and Fitzwilliam is unique in that it gives Fitzwilliam is giving a starring role. I enjoy Austen variations in which the minor characters in her novels — the ones many of us are curious about — are fleshed out and given new life. I loved the story about Fitzwilliam, so much so that I believe it could have been the main focus of the book, with Darcy more in the background. Fitzwilliam’s character is both brawny and gentle, humorous and sensitive, combative and weak. He is a man troubled by what he has seen in wartime, and he turns to liquor and loose women to cope. Wasylowski doesn’t sugar-coat his character’s failings, but we are able to love him despite his flaws — and she puts in his path a strong-willed American who gives him a run for his money and adds much amusement to the story.
As for Darcy, I enjoyed his bantering with Fitzwilliam, but I had a love-hate relationship with him and Elizabeth in this novel. It seemed that for much of the book, he and Elizabeth were fighting — fights complete with shouts, thrown objects, and broken doors. Wasylowski inserts a dose of reality into her novel with this marital strife; after all, did we really think that Darcy and Elizabeth would have a problem-free, sweet-as-can-be relationship? But I would rather have seen Elizabeth’s biting remarks and wit than a violent rage. Moreover, the complications in Darcy’s life just weren’t as tension-filled and captivating as the drama surrounding Fitzwilliam’s romantic relationship, although the book is worth reading just for the hilarious scene in which Elizabeth finds herself alone in a room with Lady Catherine and Caroline Bingley!
Wasylowski does a great job balancing the lightness of Darcy and Fitzwilliam’s teasing with heavier moments, including Fitzwilliam’s memories of war and women’s lack of rights during the Regency era, highlighted by a widow’s child custody battle. But the humor really stands out and makes Darcy and Fitzwilliam an enjoyable read.
Disclosure: I received Darcy and Fitzwilliam from Sourcebooks for review.
© 2011 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.