Thursday, February 11, 2010

Review: The Plight of the Darcy Brothers by Marsha Altman

"He shall not ride in the carriage with you and...your wife."

Darcy did not have to look at her to know that Elizabeth was horrified, and that was enough to incite his considerable ire.  He reached forward, took up Gregoire's sizable hood, and put it over his head so that most of his face was blocked.  "There.  Now his holy robes will protect him.  May we go now, Father?"

At last, the Abbot relented.  He spoke some words to Gregoire in quiet Latin and handed him a small sack.  "Go with God."

Gregoire finally joined them, as Darcy gave the Abbot one more cold glace.  "Papist."

"Heretic."  The Abbot turned away, not willing to engage him further.

"Husband," Elizabeth chided, pulling him into the carriage.

"You are bound to your master, Brother," Darcy said.  "And I to mine.  Fortunately, mine is prettier."  (from The Plight of the Darcy Brothers, page 100)

The Plight of the Darcy Brothers is the second book in Marsha Altman's series about the Darcys and the Bingleys, making it essentially a sequel to a sequel to Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice.  At this point in the series, Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Bingley and Jane Bennet have been happily married for a couple of years and are now parents.  Life is passing by smoothly -- aside from the antics of the Darcy's rambunctious son -- until a letter arrives informing them that another Bennet sister is in trouble.

While the Darcys travel to Italy via France to ward off another Bennet family scandal, Mr. Darcy's world is turned upside down when he learns that his father is not the man he thought he was.  Meanwhile, as Mr. Darcy, Elizabeth, and their monk companion continue their travels, Caroline Bingley and her husband are invited to a royal ball, which leads to her husband encountering the crazy King George.  Readers also will enjoy a showdown between Mr. Darcy and the scoundrel George Wickham, who nearly ruined Georgiana Darcy and eloped with Lydia Bennet in Pride and Prejudice.

In The Plight of the Darcy Brothers, Altman once again captures the humor that I so enjoy in Austen's novels and takes it up a notch.  The story is far from the one Austen told in Pride and Prejudice, but I think readers will recognize their favorite characters, just older and wiser.  Altman makes the characters her own in a way that I think Austen herself could appreciate.  Of course, some of the situations in which Altman places them are a bit outlandish, but that's just the kind of drama that makes the book so captivating.  While the humorous bantering between the characters is what I love about Altman's novels, The Plight of the Darcy Brothers isn't all fun and games.  Altman does a great job introducing more serious topics -- the Darcy family's secrets -- without making the story too heavy, and I like how the characters continue to evolve and change, especially Mr. Darcy, Caroline Bingley, and Mrs. Bennet.  Altman also introduces several characters who never graced the pages of an Austen novel, and their stories are just as interesting as that of the characters we've long known and loved.

It's hard to compare The Plight of the Darcy Brothers to Pride and Prejudice because it is not a traditional Austen sequel, picking up where The Darcys & the Bingleys left off.  Though far removed from Austen's original story, I never once forgot that these characters were Austen's creations, but Altman has convinced me that these events really could have occurred after Austen's novel ends.  I think readers should read The Darcys & the Bingleys first to get a feel for Altman's version of events, and well, because it's pretty darn funny.  If you, like me, find Austen's humor to be one of the main reasons why you enjoy her novels, then Altman's series of sequels may be to your liking.

This is the 4th book I've read for the Jane Austen Challenge.

Disclosure:  I purchased my copy of The Plight of the Darcy Brothers.


Serena said...

You are just chugging along with the Austen challenge! Great review. I think these will be fun reads.

bermudaonion said...

It sounds like you are enjoying Altman's Austen sequels. You've really piqued my interest in them, that's for sure!

Sandy Nawrot said...

There are so many of these spin-offs, I get confused about who writes what. It is all a blur! This series does sound good though!

Blodeuedd said...

Hm, I do wanna read some more Austen books :D

Darlene said...

I'm going to be reading the Darcys & the Bingleys this year so I'll see if I like that one and move on from there. I'm glad you're having fun with them.

Suko said...

Excellent review! Marsha Altman sounds like a wonderful writer.

Jeanne said...

I want to read this one. I wish the library would get on the ball!

Allie ~ Hist-Fic Chick said...

I wish I had joined the Jane Austen Challenge back when it was going on... I signed up for the Jane Austen Challenge and am looking forward to getting started on some spinoffs. I have Lady Vernon and her Daughter and The Other Mr Darcy in the TBR. This one sounds great!

bookmagic said...

Great review! I have been off Austin sequels for awhile but when I get that urge again, I will check these out

Anna said...

Serena: I'm having a lot of fun with this challenge, aren't I? It's so much lighter than all the war books, you know?

bermudaonion: I do hope you decide to read them at some point. They're a lot of fun!

Sandy: I hear you! Like the WWII books, I have plenty of these on the shelf to last me awhile.

Blodeuedd: Go for it!

Dar: I can't wait to hear what you think of that one. It's my favorite of Altman's books so far.

Suko: Thanks!

Jeanne: I hate it when libraries don't keep up. But there are a ton of books out there and only a limited amount of space.

Allie: I don't have either of those, so I'm looking forward to your thoughts on them.

bookmagic: I go through phases, too. I hope you give them a try at some point.