Friday, April 20, 2012

Random Musings on Reading

Some of you might know that I was in Texas over the Easter holiday, visiting my many relatives stationed there. My baby is lucky enough to have four living great-grandparents, and as two are in Austin, it has become imperative to get down there as much as possible. Not since I was a teenager have I managed to regularly visit more than once a year, and it has been particularly lovely getting to know my cousins a bit better. This is especially true for the two youngest, for, having been born when I was already in college, we do not have the same history of shared experiences that bonds me to those cousins closer to my age. I have always taken a special interest in the elder of the duo, as she is the only one in the family to share my passion for reading. She is now in high school, and of course I cannot help but drill her on what she's studying in school each time I see her.

When I posed my questions to her on this most recent visit, I was ecstatic to learn she would soon be studying Frankenstein, a novel I adore. Ever since our conversation, I keep dwelling on the notion of how fabulous it would be to once again be reading such a phenomenon of a book for the first time. I feel this way about so many great novels. To be able to pick up Anna Karenina for the first time again - or Madame Bovary, Les Miserables, or Villette - would be my one of my wildest fantasies come true. Of course, this doubly applies to everything by Jane Austen, whose books have been so familiar for so long that I cannot even remember my first impressions of them. It makes me feel so sad not to be able to remember my initial response to Northanger Abbey, the first Austen novel I ever read. I am even more depressed that the response was that of a child, unable to comprehend Austen's full genius. Perhaps this impossible longing to revisit these works for the first time again has been exacerbated by the fact I am currently reading David M. Shapards fabulously annotated edition of Emma. Those who have read my reviews of his other editions (here and here, if you're interested) know how much I adore his notes, though there is little in them, at this point, that I find terribly enlightening. I enjoy his take on the novels, and reading the annotations is like being in a book club, delving into the intricacies of the plot with another devotee, but I am no longer learning much from the experience. I begin to worry that I know Austen too well: that I have completely left behind me any hope of real surprise in her work. Ah, sweet Novelty! How I do regret your loss!

And this, my friends, is how one finds oneself addicted to Austenesque.,

Thursday, April 19, 2012

A Civil Contract by Georgette Heyer

Once again, my entire family was sick this week. I knew what I was signing up for when I put my daughter in day care (indeed, one of my stated reasons for enrolling her was for the sake of building immunities), but I do hope this is the last bout of rhinovirus I have to cope with for a while. The only benefit of being ill all toghether is the great family reading time it provides. How lucky I had just received two never before read Heyer novels! Today I will tell you about the first, A Civil Contract.

Adam Deveril, army captain and new Viscount of Lynton, must resign his commission in order to return home and see to his family's finances, as his father's death has left them on the brink of ruin. A practical, disciplined man, he takes his responsibilities seriously, doing all he can to save his ancestral home, including breaking off his engagement to the beautiful lady from a nearby estate. It is at her father's urging that Adam agrees to marry Jenny Chawleigh, the plain and awkward daughter of an enormously wealthy and decidedly vulgar Cit, allowing him to save his estate and devote his life to farming. A Civil Contract follows the progress of their union.

This novel is markedly different from Heyer's customary style, though not so much that it isn't completely apparent from the beginning that Jenny will, in time, prove the perfect wife for Adam. By marrying the hero and heroine off early, as she done in other novels, like Friday's Child (read my review here), Heyer is able to explore a different kind of love than she usually depicts. Adam and Jenny become thoroughly comfortable with each other, loving the peaceful harmony of their relationship. They do not attempt "to cut a dash" or indulge in fashionable pursuits like the main couple in Friday's Child, choosing instead to settle quietly in the country. Instead of folding immaculate neckties, Adam can be seen wearing a peasant's smock (to the great horror of his former fiancee) and Jenny, forgoing fashionable ringlets, arranges her hair in staid braids. The values, so at odds with most (though not all) of Heyer's characters, adopted by this couple make this novel feel far more Victorian than Regency Romance, despite the fact that it is set against the backdrop of Waterloo. But the biggest anomaly in this novel from the body of Heyer's works is that it portrays a successful union across classes. I have not yet read another one of her novels to allow this. Indeed, in Bath Tangle (read my review here), she fervently opposes such intermingling. It is as if she wanted to explore how such a relationship might be made to work, but the book's conclusion leaves one wondering if the author believed in her own end result.

The novel has a few structural problems. At the beginning, the manner of the late Viscount's death is cast into suspicion, but Heyer never returns to the issue. The third quarter of the book drags, and it would have been the perfect time to indulge in a little mystery. It is almost as if she forgot part of the storyline. There is also an uncomfortable, though thankfully brief, politically incorrect racial moment. Regardless, I recommend the book. It's a lovely departure from Heyer's usual formula, and I thoroughly enjoyed it, even though it was not as hilariously funny as Heyer's other novels. Most of the comic moments come courtesy of Jonathan Chawleigh, whose forceful and extravagant personality manifests itself in outrageous gifts to the married couple, like a shell shaped bathtub and a flock of peacocks. Good fun.

Monday, April 16, 2012

20% Off Coupon at!

Some of you may recall my pitch for the non-profit organization Gone Reading ( a few months ago (if not, you may read it here). I am please to announce that Brad Wirz has kindly provided a special coupon for my readers, good for the "Jane Austen for President" line of goods, a new collection of Austen inspired candles, and all the other items available, designed to entice the book lover. Just use this code, which expires May 12th, at checkout:

Now let's discuss these Austen inspired candles, shall we?
One might wonder how a scented candle can evoke our favorite writer. The answer is by including a quote from one of her novels upon the packaging. However, I cannot endorse this particular product without dwelling on the appropriateness of the particular quote used here: "There is nothing like staying at Home for real comfort." It sounds very well, but the committed Janeite quickly detects something amiss. The quote is spoken by Mrs. Elton of Emma in the following context:

"Ah! there is nothing like staying at home for real comfort. Nobody can be more devoted to home than I am. I was quite a proverb for it at Maple Grove. Many a time has Selina said, when she has been going to Bristol, 'I really cannot get this girl to move from the house. I absolutely must go in by myself, though I hate being stuck up in the barouche-landau without a companion; but Augusta, I believe, with her own good-will, would never stir beyond the park paling.' Many a time has she said so; and yet I am no advocate for entire seclusion. I think, on the contrary, when people shut themselves up entirely from society, it is a very bad thing; and that it is much more advisable to mix in the world in a proper degree, without living in it either too much or too little. I perfectly understand your situation, however, Miss Woodhouse--(looking towards Mr. Woodhouse), Your father's state of health must be a great drawback. Why does not he try Bath?--Indeed he should. Let me recommend Bath to you. I assure you I have no doubt of its doing Mr. Woodhouse good."
This is a classic Austen maneuver - exposing the hypocrisy of a character by having her assert one thing and immediately contradict herself. So Mrs. Elton does not like to remain at home, does not find it comfortable, and quite pities Emma for being so confined herself. The message seems a bit in conflict with what the makers of these candles had probably intended. Unless, of course, we assume the quote was chosen ironically, in which case it is quite in keeping with Austen's sense of the absurd and an apt homage. Either way, I'm sure they smell lovely, and it is a very good cause, so please take advantage of this offer.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Mr. Darcy's Letter by Abigail Reynolds

A new Pemberley Variation from Abigail Reynolds is always the cause of great excitement. I had been anxious to read Mr. Darcy's Letter since it came out last year, but it was not until we traveled to Texas for the Easter holiday that I found an opportunity to indulge myself. My anticipation for this novel was particularly high as I had read a draft snippet of the story a few years ago on Ms. Reynolds' blog, and I have been waiting ever since to learn where she would take it. Compound this with the fact that her last book I read, Mr. Darcy's Obsession (you can read my review here) was, in my opinion, the very best she has yet written, and you can begin to understand my towering expectations. Under such circumstances disappointment was, perhaps, inevitable, but such rationale doesn't lessen the sensation. It was a quick read, and it kept my attention, but Mr. Darcy's Letter is just not as well crafted as Ms. Reynolds' previous offerings.

The premise for the story is a good one: Elizabeth never reads the letter Darcy writes to her after his failed proposal at Hunsford. With her usual ease, Ms. Reynolds grabs our attention in the first few pages, twisting Austen's plot on its head:

He knew the instant that she saw him, for she became still, as if rooted to the ground. She began to retreat, as if hoping her presence had not been noticed, but he could not allow her to escape, not now. "Miss Bennet!" he called.

She stopped at the sound of his voice, but did not look up. She could have been a doe, poised on the brink of flight, held in check only by the gossamer bonds of good manners. Now was his moment. He forced his feet to move, first one step, then another, till he stood so close to her that her lavender scent wafted over him. She stood, her gaze averted.

She could still take his breath away. Even knowing she hated him, he longed to taste her soft lips under his - or perhaps to shake her until she saw sense. Instead, he held out the letter he had spent the entire night writing. Striving to keep his voice even, he said, "I have been walking the grove for some time in hope of meeting you. Will you do me the honour of reading this letter?"

Elizabeth reached out to take it, but froze with her fingers only inches away from it.  Her hand slowly closed onto itself and withdrew. "I cannot accept it." Her voice sounded strangled.

"I do not ask this of you lightly. There are matters in it of utmost importance," he said icily.

She folded her hands behind her back. "Mr. Darcy, you know as well as I that a single lady cannot receive correspondence from a gentleman. Your opinion of my family's manners may be low, but I assure you I understand that much of proper behavior."

He flushed. "This is not the time for foolishness. No one will know of it, and I must insist that you read it."

Her eyes widened and she took a step back. "You presume too much, Mr. Darcy. I wish you good day." She turned and hurried away, almost at a run.

Darcy does manage to get the letter into Elizabeth's hands, but she stubbornly burns it. When the two meet again at Pemberley, her opinion of both him and Wickham remains unchanged, leaving Mr. Darcy an uphill battle to win Elizabeth's affections. Fortunately, he is very capable, but when Elizabeth leaves Lambton before informing him of Lydia's elopement, things indeed look bleak for their future. We follow Elizabeth and Darcy through what has become the standard series of anxious moments and misunderstandings in "What If?' reimaginings. I see nothing wrong with sticking to a formula that works, but it certain helps when the outcomes are probable. This story relies on too many surprise devices [SPOILER ALERT], like an older Wickham brother, for believability. There are also some inconsistencies and non sequiturs in the book that further strain an already convoluted series of events. Perhaps this is the result of Ms. Reynolds having self-publishing this book and not having the benefits of Sourcebooks' excellent editors (a plight with which I can ready sympathize). Regardless, I would have enjoyed the novel far more if it were tidied up a bit. I could also wish Ms. Reynolds had not reverted back to her usual formula of anticipating the wedding vows, but I recognize that my preferences regarding such issues do not conform to the vast majority's. As it is an issue I've already dwelt on at length, I will endeavor to let it go on this occasion.

Adieu to disappointment and spleen! Despite my snippy complaints, I really must recommend this novel, and for several good reasons. First and foremost, this is Abigail Reynolds we are speaking of, to quote myself, "the Godmother of the 'What If?' genre", and all her books are great fun. Secondly, as this is a self-published offering, it behooves fans to support talented writers. And third I offer up the book itself, providing an entirely new and uncharted destiny for our favorite couple, even if the going gets a bit awkward. After all, one can never have enough Darcy and Elizabeth, can one?

Monday, April 2, 2012

Sense and Sensibility Janeicillin: Part Six (Conclusion)

Read Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four, and Part Five.

Marianne first became aware of her affliction on her next visit to Delaford. Business had taken Colonel Brandon to London.

"He may return at anytime," Eleanor assured her, "and Edward and I will do our best to make sure you are well entertained."

"I have no doubt of having a very pleasant stay, Eleanor. The Colonel's absence shall not be a detriment, I assure you, unless we mourn the loss of invitations to the manor house. His chef is very fine."

"I was not concerned about your palate, my dear. Only you have become quite good friend with Colonel Brandon, have you not? I thought his presence was one of the attractions for you here."

"You underestimate yourself, dear Eleanor! There is no one whose company I find more felicitous than yours," but even as she said the words, Marianne could not help but feel that they were not quite true.

Her visit to the parsonage at an end and still no Colonel Brandon to be found, Marianne was happy to accept her sister's invitation to return no more than a month hence. The Master of Delaford being at home when she arrived, an invitation to dinner was quickly given and accepted, but this would be the only night in which Marianne would have the opportunity to converse with the Colonel, for unexpected business took him away again the very next day. When Marianne learned that he was unlikely to return before she was due to leave, her disappointment was acute enough to attract Eleanor's attention.

"It is not like you to mope, Marianne."

"I am not moping, Eleanor," she replied, determinedly turning the page of her book. "I am reading."

"Yes. I've noticed what progress you have made. Come now, and tell me what it is that troubles you. Since when were you one to guard your feelings?"

Marianne blushed, "Since I learned how badly they can be hurt," choking on the words. Eleanor put aside her work and went to her sister, sincerely repentant.

"I did not think, my dear Marianne, of how those words would sound to you. I am so very sorry!"

"Oh, I know you did not! I cannot say why I am in such dreadful humor," she took herself in line. "I certainly have no reason to be out of sorts, especially not with you."

"With whom would you prefer to be?" Eleanor questioned cautiously.

She chortled, "I have a few choice words to say to dear Colonel Brandon, should he ever make himself available to hear them."

"What ever has he done to invoke your ire? You seemed to be on fine terms last evening."

She ignored the question, beginning to pace up and down the room. "Do you think he could be intentionally avoiding me?"

"Where in heaven's name did you get such a notion?"

Marianne stopped to gaze out the window in the direction of Delaford House. "He always has business that takes him away just when I arrive."

"Shear coincidence!"

"Can you be certain?" she asked quietly.

"Only reasonably. Why are you being so suspicious, Marianne? Did I not know better, I would think you had deeper feelings for him than friendship."

Turning to face her sister, revealing eyes full of tears, she replied, "I am not certain, but I begin to suspect that I do."

Eleanor beamed at her sister. "Oh, my dear Marianne! Nothing could make me happier!"

Marianne gasped. "Do not say that, Eleanor! There is absolutely no reason to suppose that anything resembling happiness would result from such a catastrophe!"

"A catastrophe? How can you say so? Colonel Brandon is a wonderful man who has long loved you. If you could return his affections, it would be a marvelous thing for you both."

"You do not know his feelings," Marianne said accusingly.

"I am tolerably certain of them," was Eleanor's smug reply.

"But it is impossible! Do you not see that? After the entanglement with Willoughby, to say nothing of his assistance during my illness, how can I, the lady who scorned the notion of second attachments, propose to transfer my affections to the man once dismissed as infirm? Who would believe me? I do not accept it myself."

“My dear sister, there is no need to convince anyone of your sincerity, as all who have observed you these past months already know of your feelings. Do not glare at me so! Just because some of us know not to speak of such things doesn’t mean that our thoughts do not resemble Mrs. Jennings and Sir John’s on certain points. Mama, for one. She will be delighted.”

“Eleanor!” Marianne gasped. “Mama does not think of the Colonel in such a way! She has no notion of my falling in love with anyone.”

“I assure you it has been her most ardent wish this past year."

Marianne sat down, stunned. "I know not what to say! I cannot believe she never said anything!"

"My mother would not manipulate a daughter's feelings so! She could not speak on such an issue."

"I suppose not," she replied quietly. A long silence ensued, broken only when Marianne declared her intention of taking a long walk. Eleanor did not offer to accompany her. It was not necessary. 

When Marianne departed for Barton Cottage, Eleanor again invited her to return soon, but Marianne would not commit to a precise date. Not wishing to impose her presence where it was not wanted, she reasoned the Colonel could come to her at any time should he wish to seek her company. He was not expected at the Park, and Marianne told herself that it was silly to look out for his arrival, but, nevertheless, each passing day found her watching the road between the Barton and the cottage expectantly. When one day, about two weeks after her return home, a figure that in height and stature could be Colonel Brandon was seen approaching. 

Margaret looked out the window from Marianne's side. "Why it's the Colonel!" she declared gaily.

"You do not know that. He is too far away to tell," scolded her sister.

"Of course it is he, Marianne. Whom else should it be?"

Marianne could not answer that question, and so returned her gaze the gentleman, who certainly did appear more and more to indeed be Colonel Brandon.

"I shall go out to greet him," declared Margaret, rushing off to fetch her cape.

Marianne watched as her sister ran out to welcome the visitor, who bent down as he warmly greeted her. She wondered if he was just paying a courtesy call on the family, or if his presence was on her account. The tumult of emotions overwhelming her as he entered the cottage and was announced kept her mind from being able to focus clearly. All was feeling, and the wait for him to enter interminable.

Finally the pleasantries were over, but Marianne was unsure if she had acquitted herself well or not. She sat down, hoping her greeting had been cordial. Unable to attend to the inquiries her mother made, she tried to focus on her work, but her mind would not cooperate. She could not say how much time had passed before the Colonel suggested the ladies join him in a walk, as the day was particularly fine. Mrs. Dashwood demurred, pleading household duties, but encouraged her daughters to go. Before long they were on the downs, and as Margaret raced ahead of her elders, Colonel Brandon and Marianne were left to converse by themselves.

"I am sorry I had to depart from Delaford so unexpectedly when you were last visiting the Ferrars."

"Think nothing of it."

"Luck has certainly run against me. Every time you are in the neighborhood, I seem to be called away."

"Please, Colonel, do not trouble yourself over it."

"I would hate for you to suppose I planned to be away while you were in residence."

"Why should I conceive of such an absurd notion?" she defensively retorted.

"Your sister, Mrs. Ferrars, indicated that you felt slighted after my sudden departure," he admitted.

"Did she?" Marianne asked, incensed. "She had certainly no business, or reason, to make such conjectures. I assure you, Colonel Brandon, that while the pleasure of your company is a benefit to my time at Delaford, it is not essential."

"I would not suppose it was," he replied cautiously, "but I would also hate for you to think that I do not relish the time I spend with you, which has become essential to me."

She looked at him cautiously, and his nervous smile told her all she needed to know. His heart was hers still, and she now had a mind to appreciate it. A blush overspread her cheeks as she smiled back, taking a step as she did so, and in the heat of the moment, not looking at the ground beneath her feet, she slipped on a stone, twisted her ankle, and found herself falling into the safety of the Colonel's arms.

"Marianne!" Margaret cried, rushing over to her sister.

"Are you alright?" the Colonel inquired. "It is the same ankle you injured before, is it not?"

"Yes," said Marianne, tears springing to her eyes. "How foolish of me!"

"Nonsense,' was his determined reply. "The joint is weakened from the previous injury, and might very well give you trouble for years to come. We must get you home so you can rest it," and placing his free arm behind her legs, he swept her into his embrace and walked towards the cottage, Margaret running ahead. 

"Mama! Come quick! Marianne has injured her ankle again!" she cried as she entered the cottage.

Mrs. Dashwood arrived just in time to see Colonel Brandon carrying Marianne over the threshold. She could only be vividly reminded of the time another gentleman carried her daughter in precisely the same way and took solace in her knowledge that now it was the right gentleman performing that service. She sent Margaret off to gather supplies, saw Marianne seated on the sofa, and excused herself to see to Margaret.

"I cannot believe my clumsiness," lamented Marianne. "Thank you, sir, for your much needed assistance."

"While I cannot agree that you are clumsy, I do wish you had better timing. I was most interested in pursuing our conversation."

She looked away and said quietly, "As was I."

"Forgive me if I am opportunistic, but I cannot allow this moment to slip by. I do not know when you might again hurt your ankle."

"Pardon me?" Marianne blinked in perplexity.

"Forgive me, Miss Dashwood, my dear Marianne, but I have noticed your heart is susceptible when you sustain such injuries. Would you not allow me to always be the one to assist you when in need?"

"I know not whether to laugh or be offended! Are you asking..." her voice trailed off, afraid of her presumption.

"Yes, Marianne. Will you be my wife?"

Tears completely unrelated to her injury spilled down her face as she enthusiastically responded, "Yes, Colonel Brandon. There is nothing I desire more."

When Mrs. Dashwood returned, the new couple was so obsorbed in their own happiness that they did not even hear the door open. Thinking that Marianne had more important matters to attend to than her ankle, she quietly closed the door and tiptoed away.

A wedding announcement will always be received in a vast variety of ways. Most who read it will not think of it at all, only glean that no one in whom they are interested is mentioned and move on, but those few who are intimate with the particulars will each have their own response, suited to their personality and reflective of their values. Mrs. Ferrars, for example, whose son-in-law had been promoting the notion of Colonel Brandon marrying one or another of his sisters since she first made his acquaintance, and who could find it in her heart to begrudge the Dashwood ladies any good fortune, enjoyed listening to Lucy Ferrars badmouth the bride. Indeed, it was this lady's intimate knowledge of so much to Marianne's disfavor that greatly bridged the divide between mother and daughter-in-law, gradually wiping away the sins of the past and rendering Lucy a valued companion. Interesting that she nevertheless wrote a fawning missive to the future Mrs. Brandon, reminding her of the good times they had shared at Barton Park, and offering her warmest congratulations.

John Dashwood, on the other hand, received all the pleasure one could possibly expect from a wedding announcement. Not only was he pleased to see his sister contract so suitable a marriage, but he also had the additional satisfaction derived from believing that he had done much to promote the match. Surely this was precisely the kind of assistance his father had asked him to provide to his sisters. He would be happy to look about, in a few more years, for someone appropriate for Margaret. 

More sincere were the sentiments of Sir John and Mrs. Jennings, who used the occasion to toast the happy couple through a great deal of brandy, predicting competing heights of felicity for the marriage all the while. Lady Middleton thought it would be appropriate to host an engagement party, the perfect occasion to utilize her new plate, only just arrived.

But to Eleanor and Mrs. Dashwood, seeing Marianne happily engaged to a thoroughly good man, who would care not only care for her during his own life, but would also see to securing her future and that of their children, was nothing less than their dearest dream come true. This union brought peace and stability to their lives, two sensations that had been absent for far too long. Words are inadequate to express their delight.

Marianne Dashwood was born to an extraordinary fate. She was born to discover the falsehood of her own opinions, and to counteract, by her conduct, her most favorite maxims. She was born to overcome an affection formed so late in life as at seventeen, and with no sentiment superior to strong esteem and loving friendship, voluntarily to give her hand to another! - and that other, a man who had suffered no less than herself under the event of a former attachment, whom, two years before, she had considered too old to be married, - and who still sought the constitutional safeguard of a flannel waistcoat!

But so it was. Instead of falling a sacrifice to an irresistible passion, as once she had fondly flattered herself with expecting, she found herself at nineteen, submitting to new attachments, entering on new duties, planning a wedding, enjoying a courtship, and acclimating herself to the notion of being patroness of a village. The transition came easily to her, and on the day that saw her leave the name Dashwood behind, as she walked down the aisle aglow with happiness, no one watching could doubt that she would flourish in her new role. As Edward recited the marriage ceremony, she felt as if all that had tarnished her life thus far was falling away, revealing a pristine future ahead. Bumps and blemishes might leave their mark, but for them she was ready. She had her husband to help her and a most cherished sister, who would always be nearby. Would the day come when she might wish Eleanor not living almost within sight? Certainly. But among the merits and the happiness of Elinor and Marianne, let it not be ranked as the least considerable, that they nevertheless lived without disagreement between themselves, or producing coolness between their husbands.  

The End

The Deception at Lyme by Carrie Bebris

One should never make promises one cannot keep. In March of 2010, in a post titled "The Mr. and Mrs. Darcy Mysteries by Carrie Bebris", I asserted firmly that "I will most certainly be reviewing [The Deception at Lyme] here as soon as it becomes available." Well, the book came out last September, and  have been so absorbed with my little one that I did not get the opportunity to sit down and read it until this weekend. If there is anyone out there who has been anxiously waiting for me to make good on my word, I apologize for this terribly tardy review.

As stated in the post quoted above, Ms. Bebris' books have gotten better as this series progressed. The last book, The Intrigue at Highbury (reviewed here), is by far the best she has composed thus far, and she is a smart enough author to have replicated, as much as possible, the elements that were so successful in that novel. In The Deception at Lyme, she again immerses us in the society of Austen's characters, this time the cast of Persuasion. Unfortunately, we spend much of that time with the many undesirable characters to populate that book (would have enjoyed more Anne and Wentworth). The action begins when the Darcys arrive at Lyme for the duel purpose of enjoying the sea air and meeting with a naval officer who has transported home their cousin's trunk, he having died in battle a few years earlier. Almost immediately they find the body of a pregnant woman who has fallen from the Cobb. She still lives and is quickly transported to the small home of the Harville's, recommended for their previous experience with such matters. When the woman proves to be Mrs. Clay, the Darcys find themselves suddenly immersed in the affairs of the Elliot clan.

I do not want to reveal too much of the intricate plot that unfolds, but I promise you will have great difficulty putting it down. So as not to spoil the fun, I will only make mention of a few highlights. Ms. Bebris does an excellent job of developing Mrs. Smith's story, firmly rooting her tale in Austen's account. I always appreciate when Austenesque authors demonstrative careful attention to their source material.  I was actually a bit concerned when the Darcy's old friend, Dr. Randolph., makes an appearance, for his presence is associated with all the voodoo and mysticism that prevailed in the first few books in this series and, I believed, hindered their success, but his cameo provides important plot development without bogging the story down in the unexplainable. Nicely done indeed, though I did keep expecting him to have some further role int the story. And just one little spoiler, for I must share with you my favorite moment of the book - the entrance of Captain Wentworth, when he joins Darcy in a chase towards a two-year-old tottering on the harbor's edge:
The sound of Darcy's footfalls striking the hard pavement did command the attention of the gentlemen near the warehouses on the quay. One of them, identifying the danger and realizing Darcy's purpose, himself broke into a run. From opposite ends of the Cobb they neared the toddler, their swift advanced at last penetrating Ben's awareness. The sudden sight of two men descending upon him startled the child. As the gap between them closed, the boy jerked involuntarily, upsetting his equilibrium. 

Ben teetered over the water at an angle impossible for the child to correct on his own. Darcy reached for him, but his grasp was two strides shy. The other gentleman, however, was close enough to extend his arm and push the boy toward Darcy, sacrificing his own balance - and tumbling into the water himself.
What a wonderful moment to bring two of Austen's greatest heroes together, rushing to the rescue in tandem! Moments like this are what makes these books so much fun. I wonder if there will be any more Mr. and Mrs. Darcy Mysteries - we now have one book for each of Austen's major novels, but the Darcys' story feels like it is only beginning. It would be lovely if we could mingle with those characters from other novels that have becoming friends with the Darcys once more. I will remain on the lookout for further books, though I make no promises regarding the promptness of my reviews.