Darcy was ready with a heated retort, then thought of Elizabeth. “I am sorry if you have felt as if I do not value your opinion, because I certainly do,” he said, as close to humility as he could manage at the moment. “It is not my intention to be arrogant.”
The colonel looked askance at him. “Darcy, I did not say you were arrogant, though you are in the habit of doing whatever you please.”
“You may save your breath — I have had this lecture from Elizabeth already, and believe me, she did not mince her words,” said Darcy wearily.
(from Mr. Darcy’s Undoing, page 176 in the ARC; finished version may be different)
Mr. Darcy’s Undoing (previously published as Without Reserve) is another retelling of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice in which Abigail Reynolds asks readers to imagine “what if?” — in this case, what if Mr. Darcy had a rival for Elizabeth Bennet’s affections? Reynolds opens the novel after Darcy’s disastrous proposal at Kent. By the time Darcy convinces Bingley to return to Netherfield and rekindle his romance with Elizabeth’s sister, Jane, Elizabeth has already accepted a marriage proposal from James Covington.
Darcy had followed Bingley in the hopes of winning Elizabeth’s love, and he is shocked and dismayed upon learning of her engagement. That doesn’t stop him from hanging around, though he tells himself that if he knows for sure that Elizabeth is in love with Covington, then he must let her go. Meanwhile, Elizabeth feels an attraction to Darcy and must force herself to consider all the reasons why her marriage to Covington makes sense for her and her family. Besides, there’s nothing she can do about the situation now — not without ruining her reputation and her family’s standing in the community, especially considering the damage already caused by Lydia after she runs away with Wickham.
In Mr. Darcy’s Undoing, Reynolds gives readers what they have come to expect from her Pride and Prejudice variations — different twists and turns as Elizabeth and Darcy navigate the same misunderstandings and plenty of heat as they skirt the bounds of propriety and often cross the line as they find they cannot keep their hands off each other. Although Reynolds briefly brings in the wit and playfulness of Mr. Bennet, most of Austen’s secondary characters sit on the sidelines in Mr. Darcy’s Undoing. Elizabeth and Darcy, their bantering, and their serious discussions about their relationship are the focus of the novel, and while I missed the tension typically supplied by Wickham, Caroline Bingley, and Lady Catherine, I enjoyed Reynolds’ take on a scandalized Elizabeth and a more emotional and seductive Darcy. There also was some amusement to be had with Darcy’s jealousy and pain, as he goes so far as to chaperone Elizabeth and her betrothed.
I am always amazed at how many ways Reynolds can re-tell the same story. She manages to keep the story fresh, throwing new obstacles in Elizabeth and Darcy’s path to happiness and making it so that readers almost wonder whether the two will live happily ever after. While Mr. Darcy’s Undoing isn’t my favorite of Reynolds’ variations, it was a page-turner that I would recommend to readers who want a spicier Pride and Prejudice retelling.
Check out my reviews of other Abigail Reynolds books:
Disclosure: I received Mr. Darcy’s Undoing from Sourcebooks for review.
© 2011 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.