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The Secret Mrs. Darcy*

Not a Good Variation

I am a big fan of Jane Austen fanfiction, as I have often said in these reviews. I especially enjoy the stories by Brenda J. Webb, J. Dawn King (and her alter-ego Christie Capps), Jan Hahn, Elaine Owen, and several others whose names I cannot recall, but whose stories I have loved. I’m always game for a new story and a new author of Pride and Prejudice fanfiction, and I secretly hope that I’m going to find a great new story or author, but I do have high standards. The ones I seem to like the most are typically something really different than canon, which take our beloved characters and put them in new situations or settings. So I had high hopes for this book, which places Darcy and Elizabeth in the American south of the 1880s. Specifically, Elizabeth traveled from Mississippi to Texas, believing that Jane and Mr. Bingley had set up for her and Mr. Darcy to marry. Not quite a mail-order bride, but more like a pre-arranged betrothal that seemed to have developed while Jane and Mr. Bingley corresponded. Imagine Elizabeth’s surprise when Mr. Darcy has no clue who she is or why she’s there after Bingley drops her off on his doorstep.

As you might be able to guess by the cover, this story’s setting—the American South—seems entirely overshadowed by the setting of the original story. The cover, at least the one that I see, shows a very Regency-looking Darcy in front of a very English manor-style home. This is supposed to be 1880s Texas? Especially a small town with only 12 families around. This disconnect is reflected in the story as well. I don’t get a sense of the south from it at all. The way the characters talk and interact is more Regency than anything remotely southern. Given what I was supposed to understand the setting was, I found the speech and mannerisms of Regency England jarring and out of place. I have read a few variations that place the couple in a different time and place. Some successfully pull this off while others do not. I’m reminded of a book by J. Dawn King in which she places them in pioneer-time Oregon. While the characters remained true to themselves in their essentials, that setting was accurately reflected in the story. In this story, however, it is not. So, the entire book just felt completely off to me. There are also issues with grammar, punctuation, and usage, some quite glaring and distracting. I also felt like parts of the book were drawn out excessively. Like in the beginning, it takes a bit for Darcy to figure everything out. And Darcy isn’t terribly Darcy like despite the way he insulted her, this time to her face, like in canon. Before he realized what’s going on, he actually laughs quite often and seems to be highly amused at times, neither of which is terribly Darcy like. All in all, if you enjoy Jane Austen fanfiction, I would give this book a pass.