In this enjoyable work of historical fiction set in the Jane Austen universe, Cromlin imagines what makes the mysterious Fitzwilliam Darcy tick.
In her book Pride and Prejudice, Austen famously suggests, “a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.” With these words, the scene is set for Fitzwilliam Darcy, one of the most beloved, well-known characters in Austen’s oeuvre. Cromlin, in her book set prior to Darcy’s debut in Pride and Prejudice, envisions Darcy’s formative years, beginning with Darcy’s birth and continuing through his childhood and young-adult years. She breathes life into his parents, illuminates the bond between Darcy and his sister, and delves with great detail into the history of the contentious relationship between Darcy and George Wickham. Readers are invited to celebrate holidays at Pemberley and travel the world with Darcy during his adventurous grand tour abroad. Perhaps of most interest, Cromlin seeks to explain how Austen’s Darcy, a gentleman of great wealth, good character and impeccable manners, becomes a man perceived as distant and unpleasant. The journey toward understanding this complex character is immensely enjoyable, and the supporting cast of familiar characters, such as Col. Fitzwilliam and Georgiana Darcy, helps round out the satisfying story. Cromlin’s poetic descriptions paint a clear portrait of Darcy’s life of privilege in 18th-century England, tackling the many facets of Darcy’s personality with aplomb, often using his own thoughts to better explain his actions and defining characteristics. Ultimately, Cromlin’s tale arrives at the fateful moment when Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet first set eyes on each other, providing a seamless transition into Austen’s literature and Darcy’s future.
Austen devotees may enjoy this glimpse into Darcy’s background, and Austen newcomers might find themselves searching the shelves for her classic novels.