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Mr. Darcy’s Undoing by Abigail Reynolds

Mr. Darcy’s Undoing by Abigail Reynolds is the latest in her “What If?” series of Pride & Prejudice variations that seeks to uncover how far Darcy will go to woo Lizzy if after his disastrous proposal she accepts one from another man.  Darcy has made his arrogant speech about loving Lizzy against his better judgment and has proposed they get married, and she has refused by the time this book opens.

Lizzy has a dilemma before her; she had hoped to marry for love, but with her sister Jane’s hopes of marrying Mr. Bingley dashed and her continued depression about losing him, Lizzy realizes that she no longer has the luxury to marry for love and must find a suitable man with means to save her family from ruin upon the death of her father.  She takes the responsibility on when a family friend Mr. Covington begins to show interest in her.  After accepting his proposal and resigning herself to a marriage based on necessity and fondness, which she hopes will grow into love, Mr. Darcy arrives on the scene with Mr. Bingley and things get more complicated as she realizes her true feelings for Darcy.

“He inquired after her family as Darcy looked on sardonically, wondering what Elizabeth could possibly see in this dull fellow.  It grated on his nerves every time Covington called her by her name or allowed an admiring look to rest upon her.  Nevertheless, he gave no thought to leaving; as vividly unpleasant as this might be, nothing would induce him to leave Elizabeth alone with Covington while he had a choice in the matter.  There was a certain ironic humour, he reflected, in finding himself as her chaperone.” (page 68-9 ARC)

Told from both Lizzy and Darcy’s point of view, readers get a well-rounded glimpse at the feelings and frustrations they feel about their situation, especially after Lydia runs off with Wickham.  What’s new here is that Lizzy is deflated and more vulnerable, but she remains strong at her core in her convictions.  Scandal has hammered her family’s reputation and she realizes that she is at the center of it and believes that everyone would be best off without her.  Darcy must not only convince her of his love, but that she has not permanently injured her family’s reputation and that she is not a pariah who can destroy his reputation.

“The two men eyed one another for a moment, then Darcy said in a more normal voice, ‘Do you still object to Georgiana’s presence here? I would like her to have the opportunity to get to know Elizabeth.’

‘Good God, Darcy, are you actually asking my opinion? There is a first time for everything!'”  (page 176 ARC)

Reynolds introduces Mr. Covington, Mrs. Covington, and makes sure that fan favorites, like Mr. Bennet and Colonel Fitzwilliam, are as bright as Lizzy and Darcy.  Each character is vivid and dynamic.  However, Lady Catherine, Mr. Collins, and Charlotte Lucas do not make appearances, but are talked about in passing.  Reynolds is a master at throwing Lizzy and Darcy into new situations that threaten to keep them apart, but the overarching theme is always that love conquers all.  Austen would be proud that Reynolds has taken her characters, helped them evolve into better versions of themselves, and taken them on new journeys.

Mr. Darcy’s Undoing by Abigail Reynolds is infused with bawdy conversation, conflict, societal disapprobation, and classic characters with modern sensibilities.  Darcy and Lizzy are no longer pinned down by Regency norms, but are pioneers of modernity and unbridled love and passion.  Reynolds is masterful in her homage to Austen and her wit, while catering to readers’ desire for romance and strong protagonists.  Likely to be one of the first Austen spinoffs to make the end of year “Best of” list.

  • Ti

    Want to hear something absolutely criminal? I STILL haven’t read P&P! I bought a really nice copy 2 years ago and it’s still unread. I feel as if I should hang up my blogging hat for not reading it.

    • I think that should be your mission in 2012!

  • Wow, you’ve made this sound like the one Austen spin-off I should read!

    • Maybe this is the one you should check out.

  • I’m glad you enjoyed this one, too. I wish the tension with her engagement to Covington had lasted a bit longer, but at least she and Darcy still had the scandal to overcome. 😉

    • I actually didn’t mind that the tension with Covington’s engagement wasn’t longer…I think dealing with the scandal was a good way to continue that tension. I liked this one best of the austen-rewritings I’ve read so far this year.

  • Every time I read a review of this novel I become more intrigued. I am definitely adding it to my list!

    • I really enjoyed this one.