Another debut novelist uses Pride and Prejudice as a springboard.
This time the focus is on Mr. Darcy. Darcy worries about the war in France and the king’s mental health after the queen’s death. Much of his diary is given to his estate-management concerns. Slater relishes detailing aspects of a Regency gentleman’s world that Austen herself may not have been privy to: This Darcy is a man about town who boxes, drinks like a fish, dallies with the house servants and attends orgies at the estate of his school pal Lord Byron. Oh, and then there is the romance. Darcy barely notices Elizabeth Bennet at first, mainly concerned as he is with saving his friend Bingley from the imagined wiles of Elizabeth’s sister Jane. In London he attempts to divert Bingley by throwing him into the arms of a harlot. But Slater’s Bingley is not the innocent Austen fans are used to. His wisdom and virtue show up his friend as a snob and a sybarite even as Darcy realizes that Elizabeth has snagged his heart. Similarly, Darcy’s cousin Anne, who knows better than to accept his on-the-rebound marriage proposal after Elizabeth’s initial rejection, comes across as sharp and independent despite her lameness and asthma. Slowly Darcy goes through a metamorphosis, seeing how his rigid snobbery is both unfair and unproductive. By the time he steps in to save Elizabeth’s wild sister Lydia from disgrace at the hands of the evil Wickham, he has won Elizabeth’s heart. But the diary gives Elizabeth only passing attention. She’s pert and pretty, but if she has to struggle with any emotional development to parallel Darcy’s, he doesn’t notice.
A cocoa-by-the-fire read—pleasant but forgettable.