Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Source: Review Copy from Publisher
TYPE OF AUSTENESQUE NOVEL: Pride and Prejudice Variation
TIME FRAME: Begins in February, while Darcy, Bingley, and Jane are all in London
SYNOPSIS: A miserable and broken-hearted Mr. Bingley comes to the realization that perhaps he shouldn’t solely trust his friend’s and sisters’ assessments of Miss Bennet’s heart. After all, “when did Darcy ever engage in an extended conversation with Miss Bennet?” Deciding and acting for himself, Mr. Bingley makes a plan to renew his courtship of Jane Bennet. But the only problem is that Jane, after being rejected and publicly humiliated, is not so quick to forgive and forget his treatment of her. With such a poor beginning, can Mr. Bingley succeed and win Jane’s heart? Has Mr. Darcy’s interference in Mr. Bingley’s life caused an irreparable breach between the two friends? How does this all impact Elizabeth’s opinion of Mr. Darcy?
WHAT I LOVED:
- In Defense of the Bingleys: In the Author’s Preface, Linda Beutler discloses that part of her inspiration for this variation was a wish to go against the tide of Austenesque/JAFF literature that portrays Mr. Bingley and Jane as weak, helpless, or clueless and instead have them become stronger-willed and determined characters. I love when authors find inventive and clever ways to tweak the personalities of Jane Austen’s characters! Especially when they find good cause to do so. I really love Mr. Bingley’s realization about Mr. Darcy’s lack of intercourse with Jane.
- The Gardiners: I absolutely love the part the Gardiners play in this variation – their relationships with Mr. and Miss Darcy, and the realized past connections between Mrs. Gardiner’s family and Mr. Darcy’s! There were so delightful surprises there! Mrs. Gardiner is always one of my favorite maternal figures in Jane Austen’s novels, and I loved seeing the many ways she supports and assists her nieces, as well as reprimands them when they rightly deserve it!
- With a Little Help From Their Friends: Whether talking up their relations, setting schemes to bring two people together, lending a sympathetic ear, or creating a brilliant analogy to show someone the error of their ways there was plenty of matchmaking in this variation! I love seeing how many characters contributed to bring others together. I was especially surprised to see Mr. Bennet join in as well! Loved this portrayal of him.
- Letters: There were lots of letters exchanged in this story and I loved seeing how the letter-writing revealed some bits about each letter-writer. The letters crafted in this story were perceptive, clever, and entertaining. I loved learning more about the actions and thoughts of each character through these letters.
- Marvelous Set-Downs: If you like seeing a good comeuppance, then you will love the ones that take place in this variation! Well done, Ms. Beutler, I can so tell you had fun with those! Oh boy! I think Caroline Bingley definitely needs some aloe for all those burns!!!
WHAT I WASN’T TOO FOND OF:
- A Little Disbelief: While I was fully onboard with a stronger Bingley and Jane, I did find myself a little less fond of Jane’s continued obstinacy. I definitely don’t mind if there is a deeper reason hindering Jane’s feelings for Mr. Bingley, but the fact that she ignored both Mrs. Gardiner’s and Elizabeth’s cautions made it feel like she was intentionally being aloof and challenging. In addition, there was a lot of open candor between characters in this variation. Perhaps a good deal more forthright and public than readers should expect to see in Jane Austen’s time. And it did cause me to suspend my belief occasionally.
My Mr. Darcy and Your Mr. Bingley is an enthralling and captivating variation that delivers a diverting new twist to explore! This Mr. Bingley does a lot to earn our admiration and I cannot help but be endeared to Mr. Darcy and his new struggles to win back his best friend in addition to the woman who owns his heart! There are so many subtle inclusions and creative touches to enjoy in Linda Beutler’s writing, I cannot wait to see what she writes next!
NOTE: The last 20-25 pages of the book do include several intimate romantic scenes and earlier in the book there were some allusions to amorous activities. Recommended for Mature Audiences.