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Book Review: The Other Mr. Darcy by Monica Fairview

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In Jane Austen's classic novel Pride and Prejudice, Caroline Bingley has her eyes set on marrying Fitzwilliam Darcy, a handsome gentleman of no small fortune. As anyone who is familiar with the novel knows, Mr. Darcy ends up marrying Elizabeth Bennett and Caroline is heartbroken to see the man she loves marry another woman. But Fitzwilliam has an American cousin Robert who sees Caroline weeping at the wedding. He's immediately smitten but will he be able to win the affection of Miss Bingley?

Author and literature professor Monica Fairview has assumed a monumental task: to write a sequel to one of the most beloved and hotly debated novels of all time. This is a double-edged sword. Ms. Fairview has a practically built-in audience for her novel. But comparisons to the original book, rightly or wrongly, are inevitable.

On the positive side, Ms. Fairview has done a fairly good job of capturing the spirit and culture of the original novel. She has a solid grasp of the manners and customs of the day. She makes a point of stressing the fact that Caroline's family is looked down upon by the upper classes because her family has amassed their fortune in trade. The Bennetts appear to be fairly true to their original characterizations. She also captures the relationship between Jane and Elizabeth as close sisters which was such an important part of the source material.

In addition, Ms. Fairview makes a point to positively represent marriage, particularly the relationship between Elizabeth and Fitzwilliam. It's a happy marriage in spite of personal tragedies and Ms. Fairview does a good job of showing how such adversity can actually strengthen a relationship.

Another positive aspect of the book is the dissolution of Lydia and Wickham's marriage. Lydia's indiscretions in the first book have consequences and Ms. Fairview does an excellent job of showing how the choices we make can have a lasting impact.

Despite all of these positive elements, there are some significant shortcomings. Caroline Bingley is much different from the woman presented in the first book. She was originally presented as a scheming, manipulative woman. She abandons the propriety that she cherished in the first book. The changes in her personality are dramatic and require an explanation that isn't fully supplied. 

One one level The Other Mr. Darcy works well as a historical romance novel. It's a pleasant read and an enjoyable love story. But it's constrained by the original novel and the expectations that Austen's fans will bring to the book. It's a good effort but not great and pales in comparison to the original book. Then again, almost any sequel to Pride and Prejudice won't be able to match its charm.

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