Book Review: ‘Who needs Mr. Darcy?’ by Jean Burnett

My Darcy

Title: Who needs my Darcy?

Author: Jean Burnett

Publisher: Sphere, an imprint of Little Brown Publishers

Publication Date: 27th September 2012

Paperback: 416 pages

Why did I choose to read this book? I was asked to review this for a friend as part of a judge for the ‘Festival of Romance’

Where to read? Well the weather is getting a bit nippy so either stay in your own comfortable armchair complete with wool blanket or alternatively if you’ve got the budget head to the continent, Venice perhaps, for a weekend of warmth and reading.

Refreshments: Afternoon Tea – what could me more quintessentially English other than small sandwiches and scones? (Aside from buttered crumpets) Pootle off to York and enjoy a superior version at the famous Betty’s Tearooms.

Review:

Lydia Wickham, the scandalous younger sister of Elizabeth Bennett, has lost her scoundrel of a husband to the battlefields of Waterloo. Not one to be indulging for too long in mourning, much to the disappointment of her stern brother-in-law Mr Darcy, Lydia continues her quest to become a woman of means and high society. From a highwayman to an Austrian ambassador via a corrupt banker and heir to the English throne Lydia gambles and gallivants her way through London, Paris, Venice and Brighton on the hunt for a marriage. Leaving a trail of destruction in her wake this lady Bennett’s exploits would have Jane Austen herself turning in her grave.

Told in the first person, in the form of diary entries, our anti-heroine Lydia, who is intensely dis-likeable in Jane Austen’s novel, manages to worm herself into my good graces. Shifted to the role of leading lady her over dramatizing and frivolous nature is entertaining and humorous. This story is not ground breaking by any stretch of the imagination but taken as a silly fun break from the seriousness of everyday life it’s very enjoyable.

However, I felt aggrieved on behalf of Lizzy Darcy née Bennett, who, in Jane Austen’s original, was a vivacious and head strong young woman during a period in Britain when this was deemed unladylike. Unfortunately, Burnett has reduced her to a demure and placid housewife something which is both unbelievable and really quite annoying. The same can be said for Darcy’s sister who has been transformed into a pompous cow rather than the shy creature we knew so well. I understand artistic licence but if you’re going to rehash characters from other much-loved author’s novels then for the love of god think twice!

The positives came further into the story in the guise of Adelaide her cunning maid, the brow beaten Miles and Lord Finchbrook, and the roguish highwayman, Jerry Sartain. And hats off to the ridiculous character of Caroline of Brunswick, wife of King George IV, who entertained me immensely, especially with her demands for theatrical performances and scandalous affairs.

Overall if you want a bit of fluff then this is the book for you it will entertain however, it won’t set your heart or brain on fire – fervent Jane Austen fans should probably avoid at all costs.

Rating: 5 out of 10 – light-hearted fluff

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