"Is that what they are to you, nephew?"
All turned, collectively horrified, at the entrance of Lady Catherine de Bourgh. She strutted about as if nothing was amiss, not even Darcy's red and swollen face. "Well? Why do you all stand about in such a silly manner? Darcy, I must speak with you at once!"
"I've no doubt," Darcy said. "But as I have no desire to speak with you, we are in a conundrum. In fact, I cannot think of a person in this room who, knowing your designs, would wish to have any connection with you!" (from Mr. Darcy's Great Escape, page 48)
Mr. Darcy's Great Escape is the latest book in Marsha Altman's series about the Darcys and the Bingleys, the third sequel she's written to Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. At this point in the series, Altman has made Austen's characters her own and thrown in several new faces without compromising the original story. (**Please note that there may be some spoilers in this review simply because it is the third book in the series. I'm not going to divulge too much of the plot of this book, but I might make mention to events brought to light in the first two books.**)
Mr. Darcy's Great Escape opens with Kitty Bennet's wedding and quickly moves to the Darcy's trip to Rosings to visit Mr. Darcy's aunt, Lady Catherine de Bourgh, for the first time since they married eight years prior. Shortly after the visit, which is both amusing and infuriating, Mr. Darcy determines that he must leave the country to find his half-brother, as the war being waged by Napoleon has threatened his safety as a monk and cut off all communications with his family. He decides to travel with Caroline Bingley's husband, Dr. Maddox, who is making his way to Transylvania to visit his brother and royal sister-in-law. Things do not go as planned, and the two find themselves held captive, leaving their wives and Darcy's cousin, Colonel Fitzwilliam, to help them escape from a long imprisonment that takes a toll on their bodies and minds.
While the first two books in the series, The Darcys & the Bingleys and The Plight of the Darcy Brothers, are mostly light and funny, Mr. Darcy's Great Escape is a darker tale. It has its humorous moments, but much of it focuses on Darcy's state of mind after his escape from Transylvania. Prior to meeting Elizabeth, Darcy was very reserved, and after months in a dark dungeon with little food or drink and only Dr. Maddox for companionship, he is withdrawn. Anyone in Darcy's situation probably would be messed up, and Altman shows this without going overboard.
Mr. Darcy's Great Escape is a far cry from Pride and Prejudice, but that's to be expected in a series in which part one is really the Austen sequel. Altman has taken some liberties with Austen's characters, but I think she's stayed true to them, and any differences in their personalities can be attributed to the changes we all undergo as we get older and (hopefully) wiser. She also devotes a good chunk of the book to the story of Brian Maddox, the rogue brother of Dr. Maddox who flees Transylvania with his wife and encounters numerous dangers while journeying through Russia and Japan on the way back to England. While the Bennet family does not make much of an appearance, readers get a glimpse of Mr. Darcy's father and troubled uncle.
Overall, I enjoyed Mr. Darcy's Great Escape, but it dragged a little after Darcy and Dr. Maddox's rescue. I thought the inclusion of Brian Maddox's adventures and the scenes with Mr. Darcy's father and uncle were interesting, but they seemed out of place and detracted from the story that was occurring in the present. Although the darker story of Darcy's imprisonment and recovery was well executed, Mr. Darcy's Great Escape is missing the humorous banter that made The Darcy & the Bingleys and The Plight of the Darcy Brothers shine. Even so, fans of Altman's previous books should enjoy following her characters (both original and re-imagined) on yet another adventure. I hope Altman has more books planned for the series, and if so, I can't wait to see where she takes them next.
Jane Austen Challenge, which completes the requirements for Austen sequels and re-tellings under the "Fanatic" category.
Disclosure: I received a free copy of Mr. Darcy's Great Escape from Sourcebooks for review purposes.