“Mrs. Darcy, I am your housekeeper, Mrs. Reynolds, and this is your lady’s maid, Ellie Avery.”
“Mrs. Darcy! Ha! I wish,” Beth said, trying to sit up, but found that she was bound as tightly as an Egyptian mummy in layers of sheets. After extricating herself from the sheets and comforter, she asked if this was some sort of gag. “Did Teresa and Maria put you up to this? Is this their way of teasing me for talking about Pride and Prejudice and Mr. Darcy so much?” After hearing her words spoken aloud, she noticed her speech was different. “Why am I speaking with a British accent?”
(from Becoming Elizabeth Darcy, pages 8-9)
After falling into a swine flu-related coma, Beth Hannigan, a licensed massage therapist from New Jersey, wakes up in Regency England in the body of Elizabeth Bennet Darcy. After freaking out about the lack of flush toilets and a doctor wanting to bleed her, she figures it’s best to just pretend to be Mrs. Darcy. Beth is a modern girl, and hygiene and food preparation during that era aren’t up to her standards, so even though Beth looks like Mrs. Darcy, she certainly doesn’t act like her. Yet she is every bit as spirited and strong as Elizabeth Darcy.
Beth can’t understand why or how she has traveled to Pemberley, but she soon realizes that her favorite literary couple is in trouble. She is determined to repair the cracks in Darcy and Elizabeth’s relationship, even though she has no idea where Elizabeth is or if she will ever come back. As the days pass, she can’t help but wonder if she’ll ever return to New Jersey and her family.
Mary Lydon Simonsen is one of my favorite authors of Jane Austen-inspired fiction, so when I learned she’d published a Pride and Prejudice time-travel novel, I couldn’t wait to read it. Becoming Elizabeth Darcy was the perfect lakeside-reading follow up to Code Name Verity. There was so much to like about this novel, especially the character of Beth. I think it says a lot that Simonsen made me like Beth so much and enjoy her interactions with Darcy to the point that I almost — but not quite — forgot that Elizabeth Darcy was missing from the story. And I especially liked how Darcy and Elizabeth’s marriage seemed so real; rather than giving them a nothing-but-lovey-dovey-happily-ever-after, they have experienced sorrow, and it’s taken a toll.
I only wish that Elizabeth would have had a bigger role in the story, other than being talked about by the other characters, and I would have loved to have seen her inner turmoil alongside Beth’s. I also felt the ending with regard to Beth was a bit rushed compared to the rest of the story, but that didn’t affect my enjoyment at all.
Becoming Elizabeth Darcy is a fun book, especially if you’ve ever thought about living in your favorite novel. Darcy and Elizabeth’s suffering adds a layer of seriousness to the story, but Simonsen really lightens the mood with Beth, her crusade to sanitize Pemberley, and all the anachronisms that can be expected when one travels from 2010 to 1826. Simonsen obviously loves Austen’s characters and knows how to have fun with them.
Disclosure: Becoming Elizabeth Darcy is from my personal library.
© 2012 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.