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

“Miss Bennet, I urge you to take care,” he said intently, teasing put aside.  “The only thing that separates me from this” — here he touched her letters — “is that self-control you mock.  There is otherwise no difference between Mr. Wickham and me.”

“Do not,” she cried,” do not ever let me hear you comparing yourself in any way to that … that scoundrel!  There is a world of difference between you!”

He smiled slightly.  “Perhaps I should learn to criticize myself more often, for the pleasure of hearing you defend me.”

(from What Would Mr. Darcy Do?, pages 14-15 in the ARC)

What Would Mr. Darcy Do? is a re-release of one of Abigail Reynolds’ Pemberley Variations, From Lambton to Longbourn.  It retells Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice from the moment that Elizabeth Bennet receives the letter from her sister, Jane, informing her that their flirty and flighty sister, Lydia, has run away with George Wickham.  Wickham is the womanizing, gambling scoundrel son of Mr. Darcy’s father’s steward, who tried running off with his sister, Georgiana, and whose lies caused a lot of the misunderstandings between Elizabeth and him.  Four months have passed since Elizabeth first rejected Darcy, and the two recently were reunited when Elizabeth toured the grounds of Pemberley with her aunt and uncle.  Unlike Austen’s original novel, Reynolds has Elizabeth and Darcy recognizing the changes in one another earlier on, and the pair are caught in a heated embrace when Darcy attempts to comfort Elizabeth upon hearing the news that her family may be ruined.

Rather than force the pair to marry, Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner recognize Darcy’s fierce love for Elizabeth and have a feeling that Elizabeth will come around soon enough.  Thus begins a sweet novel of Darcy and Elizabeth’s short courtship, complete with her worries about whether Darcy would be willing to marry her now that she’s related to Wickham and Darcy’s realization that he doesn’t express himself clearly all the time.  Reynolds creates many amusing scenes of the couple crossing the boundaries of propriety time and again, with Jane and Mr. Bingley serving as unsuccessful chaperones and Mrs. Bennet finding a love letter in Elizabeth’s room from a mysterious “FD.”  Although passionate kisses and embraces abound, the novel is innocent and charming.

Reynolds does a wonderful job with the dialogue, from the teasing banter of Elizabeth and Darcy to the hilarious comments by Mr. Bennet, one of my favorite Austen characters.  Here’s a passage from a scene in which he gives Mr. Darcy a hard time:

“I understand from my friend Bingley that he found asking your permission to marry Miss Bennet a simple and straightforward procedure.  This seems rather different from my experience.  Perhaps you might explain this to me.”

“You are not reticent, sir!  Very well, if you wish to know, when Jane brings home a puppy dog, I pat its head.  When Lizzy brings me a full-grown wolf, I handle it differently.”  (pages 125-126)

What Would Mr. Darcy Do? is another fun variation of Pride and Prejudice, and lovers of Austen fan fiction will love seeing a more demonstrative side to Mr. Darcy, along with a different side of Georgiana and Colonel Fitzwilliam.  A few of the more outrageous characters are absent from the novel, but I was so caught up in the romance that I didn’t even notice until I’d finished.  I read this slim novel in a single day and was sad when I reached the end.  There’s just something about Austen’s characters, even in the hands of another author, that is so comforting.  I can’t wait to read the rest of the Pemberley Variations.

Check out my reviews of other Abigail Reynolds books:

Pemberley By the Sea
Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy: The Last Man in the World
To Conquer Mr. Darcy
Mr. Darcy’s Obsession

Disclosure: I received What Would Mr. Darcy Do? from Sourcebooks for review.

© 2011 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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