Bingley snorted, trying to suppress outright laughter. “Darcy, you didn’t!”
Georgiana hid a smile behind her hand.
“Oh, I most certainly did. I told her my feelings of repugnance were natural and just.”
Georgiana spoke up, clearly confused. “Please speak plainly, Brother. You told her your love was natural and just?”
Darcy ruefully shook his head. “No, I meant my disapprobation of her family was natural and just.”
Georgiana could not help giggling. “Oh my…the sweet words any lady longs to hear: I loathe your family; marry me anyway.”
Bingley joined her. “Very smooth, Darcy, you silver-tongued devil…”
(from The Red Chrysanthemum, pages 52-53)
The Red Chrysanthemum is a delightful retelling of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice in which Darcy and Elizabeth, unsure of each other’s feelings following his disastrous proposal at Hunsford, express forgiveness, admiration, and love using the language of flowers. Linda Beutler opens the novel after Elizabeth tours Pemberley with the Gardiners and is embarrassed to run into Darcy. During their stay in Lambton, Darcy, having taken Elizabeth’s censure to heart, renews their acquaintance. More in love with her than ever, Darcy merely hopes Elizabeth can see him in a new light and maybe allow him to court her. Elizabeth, however, fears there is no way Darcy will ever propose to her a second time.
Beutler imagines what might have happened had Darcy and Elizabeth worked together to reunite Bingley and Jane, whose happiness is secured when Jane arrives for an extended stay at Pemberley with her sister and aunt. Just as Darcy thinks he has made progress in winning Elizabeth’s love, news of the Lydia/Wickham scandal reaches Pemberley, and a misplaced red chrysanthemum has Elizabeth believing that a happily ever after is impossible.
The Red Chrysanthemum drew me in from the first page, with the humorous interactions between the characters. I loved Beutler’s portrayal of Bingley as amiable, sweet, and not willing to put up with his sisters’ rudeness. I was pleasantly shocked by the scene with Darcy and Lady Catherine, and I laughed long and loud after the scene with Mrs. Bennet and the Bingleys. I also loved the floral illustrations and how the meanings behind various flowers were cleverly worked into the plot. I’m not well versed in gardening, so it was helpful to have a picture to put with the name.
My only complaint is that the last few chapters of the book are devoted to the sexual tension between Darcy and Elizabeth as they wait to consummate their marriage and the extensive lessons he gives Elizabeth on how to be passionate in bed and act like both a wife and a mistress. I don’t have a problem with sex in Austen-inspired fiction, but I don’t think those chapters were necessary. Beutler did such a good job showing their love and passion prior to the wedding that readers don’t have to witness their escapades in the bedroom to understand how well suited they are for each other in every way. Thankfully, those chapters were well written so I could easily overlook their inclusion.
The Red Chrysanthemum is a fun take on Pride and Prejudice, mainly due to Beutler’s handling of the characters. Readers will delight in the villainous characters getting what they deserve and in Beutler’s development of several secondary characters, from Bingley and Georgiana to Mr. Bennet and Mrs. Reynolds, and of course, the humorous banter was quite enjoyable.
Disclosure: I received The Red Chrysanthemum from Meryton Press for review.
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