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Source: Review copy from Sourcebooks
Rating: ★★★★☆

‘Good morning, ladies.’  A voice suddenly accosted them, and they turned around to see a gentleman in naval uniform.  Unfortunately, he was about sixty-five and had a bushy beard in which you could lose a whole battalion.

They nodded politely as he continued on his way.

‘I’m afraid that’s all that’s left for us,’ Mia said.

‘I think you’re right,’ Shelley said.  ‘Why is life a constant disappointment?’

‘Because we read fiction,’ Mia said, and Shelley nodded, knowing it was true.

(from Mr. Darcy Forever, pages 73-74 in the uncorrected advance copy; finished version may be different)

Mr. Darcy Forever is the third book in Victoria Connelly’s trilogy about Jane Austen addicts, following A Weekend With Mr. Darcy and Dreaming of Mr. Darcy.  Once again, Connelly has created endearingly flawed characters reminiscent of Austen’s, with all the mistakes and misunderstandings causing laughs and tears.  Sarah and Mia Castle are once inseparable sisters who haven’t spoken to each other in three years — not since they let a dashing stranger invade their girls-only holiday at Barton Cottage (the home where the Emma Thompson version of Sense and Sensibility was filmed) and come between them.  Now, the two are attending the Jane Austen Festival in Bath separately, and it just doesn’t feel right.

The sisters are similar to Elinor and Marianne in Sense and Sensibility in many ways.  Sarah, older by 9 years, is more like a mother to Mia, forced into that role when their mother abandoned them.  Like Elinor, Sarah is sensible and straitlaced.  She also suffers from obsessive compulsive disorder, and it has taken over her life; her need to constantly clean, organize, and control the situation has ruined romantic relationships and prevents her from relaxing.  Mia, like Marianne, is all heart.  She loves quickly and fiercely, and she says exactly what’s on her mind.  How could they let a man push them apart?  Is it possible for these very different women to put their hurt feelings behind them?  Will their love of Jane Austen reunite them?

I don’t know if I would dress up in Regency attire and stroll around Bath, but the Jane Austen Festival sure sounds like fun to me!  Besides the references to Austen’s characters and the various movie adaptations, I enjoyed how Connelly gave us a glimpse of the characters we got to know and love in the previous two books in the trilogy as they all convene for a variety of events celebrating all things Austen.  But what I loved most about Mr. Darcy Forever was the sisterly bond between Sarah and Mia.  Their relationship and all its ups and downs felt real to me, and with a little sister of my own, I could understand how Sarah felt the need to watch over and protect Mia.  I liked how Connelly alternated the chapters from the past to the present to gradually reveal the betrayals and secrets, but even when the story takes a more serious turn, she still manages to keep it light.

Mr. Darcy Forever is a sweet and charming tale about growing up and realizing that real life isn’t like what you read in a novel, but there’s nothing wrong about hoping for a happy ending.  Connelly not only shows how the written word has the power to unite people but also how it can help people cope.  One of my favorite parts was when Sarah thinks about how opening an Austen novel can put a smile on her face, no matter how distressing her life is at that moment.  I think that’s true for many people when it comes to their favorite authors, and I’m a firm believer that good books are the perfect escape from real life.  It was sad to realize this trilogy has come to an end, and while I hope Connelly isn’t done with these characters yet, she certainly finished on a high note.

Disclosure: I received Mr. Darcy Forever from Sourcebooks for review.

© 2012 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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