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Guest Post & Giveaway: Victoria Kincaid, author of Mr. Darcy to the Rescue, on Rescued Women

I want to welcome Victoria Kincaid, author of Mr. Darcy to the Rescue, to the blog today to talk about the theme of rescuing women in women’s fiction. Stay tuned for a giveaway.

But first, let’s read a little about the book:

When the irritating Mr. Collins proposes marriage, Elizabeth Bennet is prepared to refuse him, but then she learns that her father is ill. If Mr. Bennet dies, Collins will inherit Longbourn and her family will have nowhere to go. Elizabeth accepts the proposal, telling herself she can be content as long as her family is secure. If only she weren’t dreading the approaching wedding day…

Ever since leaving Hertfordshire, Mr. Darcy has been trying to forget his inconvenient attraction to Elizabeth. News of her betrothal forces him to realize how devastating it would be to lose her. He arrives at Longbourn intending to prevent the marriage, but discovers Elizabeth’s real opinion about his character. Then Darcy recognizes his true dilemma…

How can he rescue her when she doesn’t want him to?

Please give Victoria a warm welcome.

Hi Serena. Thanks for having me visit, and thank you for suggesting the topic of “Rescuing in women’s fiction.” It sparked all kinds of ideas for me.

I think it can be problematic in romance and other traditionally “female” genres if the female protagonist is always in need of rescue. It’s a common trope; I can’t tell you how many romances I’ve read in which the heroine is kidnapped and must be rescued by the hero. There are legitimate reasons why this trope works. Good stories need conflict, suspense, and high stakes; being kidnapped or threatened with violence creates a suspenseful, high-stakes environment that keeps the reader turning the pages. Also, romance readers generally like their heroes to be strong and forceful; when the heroine is in danger, it gives the hero a chance to show his skills and courage. That’s why so many of today’s romantic male protagonists are cops, spies, SEALs, etc. who encounter dangerous situations as part of their jobs.

However, it puts the female protagonist in a weaker position if she is frequently in need of rescue. She can appear helpless, lacking in strength and skills, and even stupid (if she does something dumb to get herself into the situation). This may not bother all readers, but I prefer stories in which the male and female protagonists are on a more equal footing, which can be a problem in a genre where the men are always taller, older, and richer than their female counterparts. This is particularly true in a story like Pride and Prejudice where Darcy always has the upper hand because of his wealth and the greater power afforded to men in the Regency time period.

And yet, I still wrote a story called Mr. Darcy to the Rescue. However, I intended the title to be a bit ironic. The premise is that Elizabeth accepts Mr. Collins’s offer of marriage. When Darcy hears about this, he rushes to Longbourn to “save” her from the engagement by offering his hand instead. In other words, Darcy casts himself in the role of rescuer. But when he arrives at Longbourn, he discovers that Elizabeth does not like him and has no desire to be rescued by him. Darcy resorts to trying to break up the engagement by subversive means, but he only makes Elizabeth’s situation worse and must work to clean up the mess he has made. The situation looks dire, and Darcy is in danger of losing Elizabeth forever. He needs Elizabeth to rescue him from a lifetime of loneliness.

I think my slight subversion of the tradition of rescuing women fits in well with the spirit of Pride and Prejudice. Austen does not usually put her heroines into physical danger—eschewing the haunted mansions, shipwrecks, and dastardly villains of many of her contemporary colleagues. Instead, their plights tend to be more societal—facing the loss of reputation or heartbreak. The only rescuing Darcy does in P&P is to “save” Lydia from the consequences of her own stupidity—a mission which is only partially successful. He does help to isolate the Bennets (and Elizabeth) from imminent scandal, but this is a much more indirect kind of rescuing that retrieving the victim of kidnapping or saving someone with a gun to her head. Indeed, Darcy’s primary motivation for rescuing Lydia is to correct his own faux pas when proposing to Elizabeth. In effect, he is rescuing himself from a lifetime of loneliness. I’d like to think that my rewriting follows in Austen’s very big footsteps.

Thanks, Victoria, for sharing this story with us.

ENTER THE GIVEAWAY by leaving a comment on your favorite unconventional rescue story by June 30 at 11:59 PM EST. Open to U.S. residents only. One audiobook.