The Darcys and the Bingleys by Marsha Altman
A Tale of Two Gentlemen's Marriages to Two Most Devoted Sisters
Three days before their double wedding, Charles Bingley is desperate to have a word with his dear friend Fitzwilliam Darcy, seeking advice of a most delicate nature. Bingley is shocked when Darcy gives him a copy of The Kama Sutra - but it does tell him everything he needs to know.
Eventually, of course, Jane finds this remarkable volume and in utmost secrecy shows it to her dear sister Elizabeth, who goes searching for a copy in the Pemberley library...
By turns hilarious and sweet, The Darcys & the Bingleys follows the two couples and the cast of characters surrounding them. Miss Caroline Bingley, it turns out, has such good reasons for being the way she is that the reader can't help but hold her in charity. Delightfully, she makes a most eligible match, and in spite of Darcy's abhorrence of being asked for advice, he and Bingley have a most enduring and adventure-prone friendship.
I was very entertained by this novel. I will be the first to admit that I haven't read any of the rash of Pride and Prejudice "sequel" novels that have come out in recent years, so I don't have a frame of reference with which to judge this one. I also don't hold P&P to be my favorite novel I've ever read - it's quite good, certainly, and deserves a place on any list of great works, but I don't put it on the pedestal that I know some readers do. So to say I might not be the target audience for this book is probably accurate, but frankly, I don't really care.
I enjoyed The Darcys and the Bingleys very much. Do I think the author captured the "voice" of Jane Autsen? Probably not. I'm not sure anyone can replicate Austen's biting social commentary. Do I think she was faithful to the social more's of the period? Yes, for the most part, although a comment about being "barefoot and pregnant" seemed a little 21st century for the Bennet sisters to have invented. Do I think she stayed true to the essence of the characters? Yes, and that is why I enjoyed the novel. Charles Bingley is bumbling and kind, Elizabeth Bennet smart and adventerous, Darcy aloof and abrupt - all these elements of the original are preserved in The Darcys and the Bingley, and I think that is one of the reasons the novel worked for me.
Of course, the other reason I enjoyed it is because Altman has written a thoroughly engaging tale, and I enjoyed every moment of reading it. The relationships between Jane and Elizabeth, Elizabeth and Mr. Bennet, and Bingley and Darcy were the highlights of the novel, and I loved listening to the characters exchange wits with each other. Many times I laughed out loud, and found myself enjoying the romance between the married couples.
If you are a reader looking for a strict, completely true-to-form P&P sequel, this probably isn't the book for you. If, however, you would enjoy a contemporary romance using the characters from Pride and Prejudice, I suggest you give this one a chance. I am certainly happy to have been given the chance to read it!
Here is Marsha Altman's website, if you want more info.