“Did you enjoy your share of my father’s raspberries, sir?” she asked softly, eyes on her sisters.
“Of what do you accuse me, Miss Elizabeth?” He glanced at her. One corner of his lips drew up.
“The last time I saw you, you sported drops of berry juice on your fingers and on your chin. I fear you are a most ineffective thief.” She arched an eyebrow.
(from All the Appearance of Goodness, page 38)
All the Appearance of Goodness is Volume III in Maria Grace’s Given Good Principles series of Pride and Prejudice variations. The series began with Darcy’s Decision, in which a young Fitzwilliam Darcy comes to terms with his responsibilities as master of Pemberley, and The Future Mrs. Darcy, in which Elizabeth Bennet must take control of the household and rein in her foolish little sister Lydia before she ruins the Bennet family’s reputation. In this installment, Darcy and Elizabeth finally cross paths, as he accompanies Mr. Bingley to Netherfield Park.
With his vicar and trusted advisor Mr. Bradley at his side, Darcy hopes his time in the country will allow him to practice his social skills, but he is caught off guard when he gets lost on the Bennet’s property and encounters a lively Elizabeth. It’s not long before the Bennet sisters have befriended Darcy, Bingley, and Bingley’s sister Louisa, and Jane Bennet immediately catches the eye of Darcy’s cousin Colonel Fitzwilliam. But things become chaotic as the Bennets begin to plan Mary’s wedding, Caroline Bingley arrives with an arrogance and outspokenness that would give Lady Catherine a run for her money, and Mr. Collins comes to check out the estate he will one day inherit and immediately sets his sights on Elizabeth.
Mr. Collins has good looks and good manners, and Darcy soon realizes he has some competition in his quest to win Elizabeth’s affections. It soon becomes apparent that Mr. Collins may not be what he seems, but Darcy’s inability to express his thoughts and feelings doesn’t do much to help his cause either. A confused Elizabeth is forced to determine which man has all the goodness and which only has the appearance of it.
All the Appearance of Goodness was so different and so exciting that after two cups of tea, I was already more than halfway through the book, and I dismissed my plans for the rest of the day because I just had to see how it all played out. Watching Mr. Darcy and Mr. Collins try to outdo one another was amusing at first, but I was surprised (and delighted, of course) when the story took a more sinister turn. I loved that Louisa Bingley was so likeable and Caroline Bingley much more despicable in this variation, and their confrontation is an absolute must-read. I found it a little odd that Bingley, as amiable as ever, was relegated to the background and spent most of his time with Kitty and Lydia, but it worked here. But mostly I enjoyed having no idea how the expected happily ever after would be achieved.
Maria Grace has a knack for shaking things up in her variations, as evidenced by her latest novel, Remember the Past (which I loved). I don’t know why it took me so long to continue this series, but I’m so glad I did. There is a lot that happens in the first two volumes that shape Grace’s versions of Darcy and Elizabeth, so readers will want to read them before picking up All the Appearance of Goodness. From Grace’s original characters like Mr. Bradley to her portrayal of characters we already love to hate, All the Appearance of Goodness was a pure delight. I immediately picked up the next book in the series, Twelfth Night at Longbourn, so stay tuned for my review.
Disclosure: I received All the Appearance of Goodness from the author for review.
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