An Assembly Such as This: A Novel of Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman

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Overview

"She is tolerable; but not handsome enough to tempt me."

So begins the timeless romance of Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice. Jane Austen's classic novel is beloved by millions, but little is revealed in the book about the mysterious and handsome hero, Mr. Darcy. And so the question has long remained: Who is Fitzwilliam Darcy?

In An Assembly Such as This, Pamela Aidan finally answers that long-standing question. In ...

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An Assembly Such as This: A Novel of Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman

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Overview

"She is tolerable; but not handsome enough to tempt me."

So begins the timeless romance of Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice. Jane Austen's classic novel is beloved by millions, but little is revealed in the book about the mysterious and handsome hero, Mr. Darcy. And so the question has long remained: Who is Fitzwilliam Darcy?

In An Assembly Such as This, Pamela Aidan finally answers that long-standing question. In this first book of her Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman trilogy, she reintroduces us to Darcy during his visit to Hertfordshire with his friend Charles Bingley and reveals Darcy's hidden perspective on the events of Pride and Prejudice. As Darcy spends more time at Netherfield supervising Bingley and fending off Miss Bingley's persistent advances, his unwilling attraction to Elizabeth grows — as does his concern about her relationship with his nemesis, George Wickham.

Setting the story vividly against the colorful historical and political background of the Regency, Aidan writes in a style comfortably at home with Austen but with a wit and humor very much her own. Aidan adds her own cast of fascinating characters to those in Austen's original, weaving a rich tapestry from Darcy's past and present. Austen fans and newcomers alike will love this new chapter of the most famous romance of all time.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
In this first installment of an originally self-published trilogy, Aidan succeeds in providing a complementary and expanded perspective on various events in Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, all from the viewpoint of Fitzwilliam Darcy. She develops the complexities of his friendship with Charles Bingley and reveals his opinions of Bingley's sisters, stresses Darcy's concern for his sister's welfare after her entanglement with Mr. Wickham, and, above all, explores his inner conflict as his attraction to Elizabeth Bennet intensifies despite his doubts about her family and social position. Her original contributions, particularly the exchanges between Darcy and his valet, Fletcher, infuse humor into the plot and reveal Darcy's humanity. Because this first volume ends with Darcy's plan to convince Bingley of Jane Bennet's indifference, libraries ordering this book should be prepared to purchase the sequels as well. Austen fans will definitely want Aidan's version of the rest of the story. In fact, since all three self-published volumes are still readily available, it is curious that Simon & Schuster decided to publish another three-book set rather than combine them in a single volume. [For other Pride and Prejudice reinterpretations, see also Linda Berdoll's Mr. Darcy Takes a Wife and Darcy & Elizabeth.-Ed.]-Kathy Piehl, Minnesota State Univ., Mankato Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A slow amble across the familiar terrain of Pride and Prejudice, this time recounting events through the eyes of Mr. Darcy. Wealthy and highborn Mr. Darcy comes to Netherfield with his friend Bingley, who is thinking of purchasing the place, meets the Bennet sisters, and is immediately smitten with Elizabeth. While Bingley's sister Caroline pursues him, he tries to suppress his feelings for Elizabeth since she is socially beneath him. All the familiar plot points are rehashed: Jane Bennet's convalescence, the various parties and social meetings complete with the sparring flirtation between Darcy and Elizabeth. Wickham appears, to Darcy's disgust. As if to let the reader know she's done her research on the period, Aidan goes into meticulous detail about Darcy's equestrian habits, his reading preferences and his relationship with his valet. The highpoint occurs at the London ball where the spectacular knot in Darcy's cravat wins over Beau Brummel. This first volume of what debut novelist Aidan plans as the "Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman" trilogy ends with Darcy in London, unsure of his plan to turn Bingley away from Jane. One can only hope a little more drama turns up in the next volume.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780743291347
  • Publisher: Touchstone
  • Publication date: 5/30/2006
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 287,173
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 11.04 (h) x 0.62 (d)

Meet the Author

Pamela Aidan has been a librarian for thirty years and a fan of Jane Austen even longer. She is the author of two previous books in the Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman trilogy: An Assembly Such as This and Duty and Desire. She lives with her husband in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One: At Such an Assembly as This

Fitzwilliam George Alexander Darcy rose from his seat in the Bingley carriage and reluctantly descended to earth before the assembly hall above the only inn to which the small market town of Meryton could lay claim. A window from the hall above opened, allowing the lively but poorly executed music of a country dance to invade the serenity of the night air. Grimacing, he looked down at the hat in his hands and then, with a sigh, positioned it at precisely the correct angle on his head. How, exactly, did you allow Bingley to maneuver you into this ill-conceived foray into country society? he berated himself. But before he could begin a review of the events that had deposited him there, a hound perched on a nearby carriage sent up a mournful howl.

"Precisely," Darcy commiserated aloud as he turned to the rest of his party. Immediately, he saw that his friend's sisters held the same expectation for an enjoyable evening as himself. The expression that passed between them as they shook out their skirts was at once equal parts elegant disdain and long-suffering. His gaze then traveled to his young friend, whose face, in contrast, was alive with excitement and curiosity. Not for the first time Darcy wondered how Charles Bingley and his sisters could possibly be related. The Bingley women were properly reserved, but Charles was invariably and indiscriminately gregarious. Mrs. Hurst and Miss Bingley were elegant in their dress and manners. Charles was...Well, he was now quietly fashionable in his dress — Darcy had at least taken him in hand in that regard — but he still retained an unfortunate propensity to treat anyone merely introduced to him as an intimate friend. The Bingley sisters were not easily impressed and radiated a studied boredom in regard to all but the most exclusive of entertainments; their brother took pleasure in everything.

It was just this exuberance of character that had made Charles the object of several cruel jokes among the more sophisticated young gentlemen in Town and had been the means of bringing him to Darcy's notice. Unwillingly privy to the planning of one such humiliation conducted during a game of cards at his club, he had heard enough to disgust him and form the resolve to seek out the unfortunate youth and warn him away from those he had thought his friends. To Darcy's surprise, what had started as Christian duty became a satisfying friendship. Charles had come far since his first visit to Town, but there were still moments, like the present, when Darcy despaired of ever cultivating in him a proper reserve.

"Shall we go in, then?" asked Charles, appearing at his side. "The music sounds delightful, and I expect the ladies shall be equally so." He turned and extended an arm to his unmarried sister. "Come, Caroline, let us meet our new neighbors."

Darcy took up a position in the rear as the Bingley party moved into the small hall and ascended the stairs to the assembly room floor. Having disposed of their hats and the ladies' wraps, Bingley; his brother-in-law, Mr. Hurst; and Darcy ushered the ladies to the entrance, where they paused to assess the features of the room and its rustic occupants. At that unfortunate moment the music came to a halt, and the dancers made their final turn in the pattern, causing most of the room to face the door. For a few breathless heartbeats, Town and Country took stock of each other and rushed to a dizzying variety of conclusions.

Darcy nudged Bingley forward into the room as the dancers quit the floor in search of refreshment and gossip. He could feel the eyes of the entire room upon him and wondered that he had ever doubted the rudeness of country manners. It was as bad as he had feared. The room was abuzz with speculation as he and the rest of Bingley's party were exclaimed over and weighed to the last guinea. He could almost hear the clink of coins as they counted his fortune. In the space of a few moments, the man to whom Darcy guessed he might lay the blame for their invitation to the evening's entertainment came hurrying toward them. Bowing a degree more than was necessary, he took Bingley's hand in a vigorous clasp.

"Welcome, welcome, Mr. Bingley, and all your fine party, too, I am quite sure," exclaimed Sir William Lucas as he encompassed them all in a great smile. "We are so very honored that you have come to our small assembly. Of course we are all anxious to make the acquaintance of your estimable guests..." Sir William's voice trailed off as he turned an expectant countenance upon Darcy and then Bingley's sisters.

With great enthusiasm, Bingley made the proper introductions. Darcy's own bow to the obsequious little man was one of the merest civility. To Darcy's pained annoyance, instead of depressing Sir William's deference, it had the unfortunate effect of increasing that gentleman's regard and secured the man's continued efforts to engage him. Finally, after the ladies and Mr. Hurst were introduced, Sir William ushered them all to the refreshment table where Miss Lucas, his eldest daughter, stood with her mother and family. There, the Bingley party was introduced to the rest of the Lucas family, and Bingley, knowing his duty when it presented itself to him, offered himself to Miss Lucas for the next dance. Sir William presented his arm to Miss Bingley, and the Hursts followed the two couples out onto the dance floor.

As the music began and the other dancers took their places, Darcy positioned himself against the wall, away from the table and the knots of neighbors and relatives that framed the room. Everywhere he turned, eyes narrowed on him in frank appraisal or fluttered in a mock of modesty. His countenance hardening, he withdrew into a stance of studied indifference, masking the cool disdain that vied with hot annoyance in his chest as he watched the ebb and flow of country society before him.

Why had he agreed to this waste of an evening? There was no beauty, conversation, or fashion to be found in the entire room save among those with whom he had arrived. Rather, he was surrounded by the common, the dull, and the trite, that class of the barely gentrified whose idea of conversation was no more than gossip — and that of the vulgar sort of which he was the current object. Darcy could not help but compare his present circumstance with the last time he had been to Tattersall's in search of a suitable new Thoroughbred stallion for his brood mares. Then and there, he privately vowed to purchase no more horseflesh at auction.

Hoping for relief from his solitary disquiet, he looked about for Bingley as the dance came to an end, finally locating him across the room in the process of being introduced to a matron surrounded by several young women. Darcy watched in resignation as Bingley bowed to each of them during the introductions and then offered his arm to the handsomest girl, securing her for the next dance. Bingley's ease in any society in which he found himself always amazed Darcy. How did one converse with perfect strangers across the boundaries of class or station and in such a setting? A score of cautions and strictures acquired over a lifetime loomed darkly in Darcy's mind, adding to his discomposure and deepening further still his withdrawal from social intercourse. His eyes followed Bingley and his partner through the first patterns of the dance and then returned to the matron and her entourage. What he saw there caused him to groan, startling a passing young gentleman who, after a brief glance into Darcy's stony visage, hurried on.

The object of Darcy's displeasure wore the expression of a plump, old tabby that had just been presented with a bowl of rich cream. Her satisfaction and avarice were almost palpable as she kept close watch on Bingley and the girl. Her daughter? Likely, he determined, although there is little resemblance. There was no doubt in his mind as to where her thoughts were leading; he had seen that look too many times to be mistaken. Bingley must be warned against showing any particular attention in that direction. The slightest sense of partiality and the woman would be encamped upon the doorstep of Bingley's home, Netherfield.

Darcy made his way to the refreshment table, his back stiff with displeasure at the duty to his friend that lay before him. Accepting a cup of punch from the girl behind the table, he suffered her smiles and giggles with a show of composure he was far from feeling.

At that moment, Bingley appeared next to him, secured a cup from the girl with a smile and a wink, and turned to his friend. "I say, Darcy, have you ever seen so many lovely young ladies in one place in your life? What do you think of country manners now?"

"I think of them as I have always thought, having certainly been given no cause this evening to do otherwise."

"But, Darcy, surely you cannot have been offended by Sir William's attentions." Bingley smiled ruefully. "He is a good sort, a trifle officious, but — "

"Sir William's attentions were not uppermost in my mind as I considered your question. You cannot be unaware of the vulgar gossip we are figuring in even at this moment." Darcy's jaw clenched in agitation as a rapid review of the room confirmed the truth of his observation.

"They probably wonder, as do I, why you have not danced as yet tonight. Come, Darcy, I must have you dance. I hate to see you standing about by yourself in this stupid manner. You had much better dance. There are many pretty girls who would, no doubt — "

"I certainly shall not! You know how I detest it, unless I am particularly acquainted with my partner. At such an assembly as this" — Darcy's eyes swept the room disdainfully — "it would be insupportable. Your sisters are engaged, and there is not another woman in the room whom it would not be a punishment to me to stand up with."

"I would not be as fastidious as you are for a kingdom!" exclaimed Bingley. "I cannot stand seeing you so! Upon my honor, I never met with so many pleasant girls in my life as I have this evening; and there are several of them, you see, uncommonly pretty."

"You are dancing with the only handsome girl in the room," Darcy replied, looking at Bingley's partner from the last dance.

"Oh! She is the most beautiful creature I ever beheld! But come, she has a very charming sister who would, I believe, suit even your taste, at least for an evening. Let me procure an introduction. She sits out the dancing just over there."

"Which do you mean?" replied Darcy, turning in the direction of Bingley's gaze. A few chairs distant from where they stood sat a young woman of about twenty who, in contrast to himself, was obviously enjoying the evening. Although she was sitting out the dance for a lack of available gentlemen, her small feet would not accept their banishment from the dancing and tapped discreetly beneath her gown. Her eyes bright with amusement in the scene before her, she seemed a favorite with many, being saluted by both ladies and gentlemen as they passed by her. She was near enough that a slight change in the direction of her gaze caused Darcy to wonder if she had been listening to their conversation. His suspicions were confirmed when her smile seemed to take on a more quizzical appearance.

What was she thinking? Intrigued, he allowed himself to examine her. At that moment, his object turned toward him, the smile still gracing her face, but now with one delicate brow arched in question at his blatant scrutiny. He hastily turned away, his discomposure with her discovery of him setting him further at odds with his companion. If Bingley imagined he would be content with what other men overlooked while he enjoyed the company of the only passable young woman present, he must think again!

"She is tolerable, but not handsome enough to tempt me; and I am in no humor at present to give consequence to young ladies who are slighted by other men," he objected sharply. "You had better return to your partner and enjoy her smiles, for you are wasting your time with me." Leaving Bingley to make of his advice what he would, Darcy turned abruptly and walked as far from the vicinity of the disturbing female as he could. For the rest of the evening he occupied himself dancing with his friend's two sisters and, when not engaged with them, discouraging any who attempted to draw him in conversation. His indignation with the utter waste of an entire evening among undistinguished strangers was reflected in a countenance which assumed such a forbidding cast that he was soon left to himself. He could only sigh with relief when the assembly finally came to an end and Bingley's carriage pulled forward to receive them.

While Bingley extolled the pleasures of the evening, Darcy settled back into the squabs, observing his companions. As he had suspected, Miss Bingley and Mrs. Hurst would not concur with their brother's raptures and were in nowise hesitant to express their complete dissatisfaction. As the Bingley family discussed their differences, Darcy turned his gaze out the open carriage window into the night. Some small commotion at the inn's entrance attracted his attention, and leaning forward, he espied several of the local militia playing the gallant to a group of young women emerging into the night. With great flourishes and exaggerated bows, they competed to escort the ladies to their carriage. A low, delightful laugh escaped from one of the ladies, drawing Darcy forward to seek out its source. There, beneath the crackling torch, he found it and, with a tingling jolt, saw that it was the young woman of the enigmatic smile who had so discomposed him earlier. He watched as she gently refused the arm of the young officer and motioned him off to assist one of her sisters. Then, with a sigh of pleasure, she gracefully adjusted her wrap and lifted her face to the beauty of the night sky. The simplicity of her joy caught him, and as the carriage lurched forward, Darcy found that he could not take his eyes from her. With an inexplicable fascination, he watched her until a turn in the street took her from his view.

"Ahem."

Darcy settled back into his seat and faced Bingley, whose cough and raised eyebrow asked a question he was not willing to answer. With a shrug, Darcy again turned his gaze out the window and into the night, steadfastly dismissing all thoughts of country misses, especially those with amusing secrets lighting their eyes.

The morning following the Meryton assembly found Darcy alone at table in Netherfield's sunny breakfast room nursing a cup of black coffee as he perused a letter from his sister. The Bingleys and Hursts were not yet down, recovering, as it were, from the previous evening's events. Discerning no reason to break his habit of rising early, he had come down to find he had the breakfast room to himself and an eagerly anticipated letter from his sister, Georgiana, awaiting his attention on the sideboard. He had poured a cup of the steaming brew, tucked the letter under his arm, and looked about him for a comfortable place to enjoy both. If he had been at either his London home or his estate, Pemberley, he would have headed for his library. This, however, was not Pemberley but Netherfield. And as the house was lately rented by his friend, its library was sadly neglected and quite the most uncomfortable room in the place. He would have to settle for the more public breakfast room and hope that his hosts would indulge in enough sleep to allow him the privacy his letter deserved.

As the rich coffee aroma wafted around him, Darcy broke the seal on a more substantial letter than he was used to receiving from his sister. Lately, since the incident with George Wickham, her letters had consisted of a few lines merely: reports on her lessons, her progress at the pianoforte, names of visitors, and the like. The gentle glow that had heretofore characterized Georgiana had receded to gray ash in her heart — wrenching retreat from the world. Darcy prayed that the glow was banked only for the moment and that her exposure to such evil had not permanently damaged her ability to take her place in Society. He unfolded the fine pressed sheets and read:

18 October

Dearest Brother,

I pray this letter finds you well and happy in your sojourn with Mr. Bingley and his family. How do you find Netherfield? Does it please, as Mr. Bingley promised?

How did he find Netherfield? The manor was pleasant enough, except for the library. It was certainly enough for Bingley to handle at this point in his life. Yes, it would do...if only the society...He returned to the letter.

I received your letter of the — — th on Wednesday last and meant to respond immediately to your kind solicitude but found that, at the time, I had too little to warrant the trouble of sending a letter to Hertfordshire. That has now materially changed, and I doubt that I can express myself in a way that will adequately convey my present feelings.

Darcy sat up a little straighter as a tingle of concern sped down his back. He reached for his coffee and took a large sip.

I know that you have been greatly concerned about me since the events of last summer and, frankly, dearest brother, I have been very uneasy. I could not find it possible to trust anyone, excepting yourself, or accept the merest commonplace without suspicion. I desired no social intercourse and took no joy in anything save my music, which, I must confess, also took on a melancholy air. This did not go unnoticed by the new companion you sent me. Mrs. Annesley, wise woman that she is, forbore to tease me with it or offer bracing reproofs. She did, however, insist on taking extended walks about Pemberley, claiming that only I could truly show her its beauties and, of course, my favorite views. She also encouraged me to take up what Mother had to lay aside so long ago: visiting the families of our tenants. After considering her proposal, I found that I desired to make these visits; indeed, that I should have done so long ago.

I know not how, precisely, it came about, Brother, but I find myself no longer cast down about the past. It will always affect me, but now I know it will not rule me. Mrs. Annesley's gentle counsel and quiet self-possession have been a soothing balm and a worthy model. You have chosen well, dear brother, and I am mending under her care into a stronger vessel.

The letter fell gently onto the table as Darcy's tension evaporated with a sigh he could not repress. The remainder contained the usual reports of educational and musical progress, albeit with a more lively tone than he had received from Georgiana in some months. He closed his eyes briefly. She will be well, he silently assured himself.

Hearing footsteps, Darcy quickly folded the letter, slid it into his coat pocket, and rose from his chair. Miss Bingley swept into the breakfast room, checking only for a moment upon seeing that he was alone at the table. Motioning to a servant to abandon his post at the door to serve as waiter, she nodded in response to Darcy's bow and allowed him to select a chair for her.

"Mr. Darcy, you are a model for us all." Miss Bingley looked up at him as he assisted her in sitting down. "Up so early — before dawn, I daresay — after such a fatiguing evening in such fatiguing company. I wonder at your fortitude, sir!"

Darcy retrieved his coffee and resumed his seat at the far end of the table. "I cannot lay claim to such merit, Miss Bingley. Merely habit, I assure you."

"A well-considered habit, Mr. Darcy, I am convinced. But your coffee must have gone cold! Let Stevenson pour you fresh. There can be little more disagreeable than cold coffee! I cannot abide it." Miss Bingley shuddered prettily. Darcy hid the twitch of an incipient grimace behind his cup as he took another sip. It had gone tepid, but he would not give Caroline Bingley encouragement to play out the cozy domestic scene she was creating in yet another unwelcome bid for his personal interest. Snapping his cup down upon the saucer, he began to rise when she surprised him with a question about his letter.

"Pray, tell me what your dear sister writes. I long to know how she gets on with her new companion. Does she complain of her, or is it too soon for that? I do wish she could have come with us to Netherfield." She sighed pettishly. "What a relief her company would be from the local country squires and their 'worthy' dames." Miss Bingley rearranged the food on her plate as she contemplated her new neighbors. "Charles insists that we make calls. I am sure, Mr. Darcy, you will agree that it will hardly be a pleasure. No more so than last night's assembly. I ask you, sir, was last night not trying to your sensibilities?"

Darcy cast about for remembrances of the previous evening. Trying to his sensibilities? An echo of the distaste he had felt reverberated through his body. Yes, most trying. Officious bores, simpering young women, and forward older ones. All of them measuring, weighing, their eyes following every move...Suddenly he remembered eyes with expressive brows arched in challenge at him, intriguing eyes alight with secrets and amusement. He must have dwelt on the memory for some little time, for the loud clink of a spoon vigorously stirred against the sides of a cup recalled him to the presence of his questioner. Miss Bingley's smile barely covered the pique she was obviously feeling at his inattention, for her eyes were narrowed as she waited for him to answer her question.

"Trying, Miss Bingley? Perhaps to those gentlemen like myself who find no great pleasure in dancing. But surely you were the recipient of much kind attention and admiration?" Darcy's smile was smug. She could not deny the obvious solicitude that had enveloped her at the assembly. Disdain of that solicitude would be unbecoming while acknowledgment of success in such restricted society was nothing with which to feather her cap, especially in his company.

"You will excuse me, Miss Bingley," he continued, claiming rather than requesting his release. With an uncertain smile, she could do no more than nod as he rose to take his leave. As he strode toward the door and the stables beyond, the picture of a quite different young woman, her eyes lifted to the night sky, formed in his mind, catching him in midstride. Shaking his head, he resumed his way to the stables. To horse, sir! It is the fields and fences you've come to explore, not the local nurseries!

He entered the stable yard, gratified to see Nelson ready at the mounting block and eager for a good run. Swinging into the saddle, he brought his thoughts into line with the desires of his mount and made for a beckoning countryside awash in the rays of a glorious autumn morning.

Copyright © 2003 by Wytherngate Press

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Table of Contents

Contents

Chapter 1 At Such an Assembly as This

Chapter 2 A Man of Property

Chapter 3 En Garde!

Chapter 4 Intermezzo

Chapter 5 To Know More of Her

Chapter 6 Feint and Parry

Chapter 7 Dueling in Earnest

Chapter 8 His Own Worst Enemy

Chapter 9 The Illustration of His Character

Chapter 10 Beyond the Pale

Chapter 11 Certain Evils

Chapter 12 All That Glitters...

Chapter 13 The Wounds of a Friend

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Introduction

Reading Group Guide

An Assembly Such As This

By Pamela Aidan

Summary

In this, the first book of her "Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman" trilogy, Pamela Aidan reintroduces us to Jane Austen's Mr. Darcy — through his own eyes. We meet Darcy during his visit to Hertfordshire to see his friend Charles Bingley at his estate, Netherfield Park. There he struggles to maintain "proper reserve" in the face of crude country manners, surprising country misses and Caroline Bingley's country plots! Revealing to us Darcy's growing fascination with Elizabeth Bennet, the book culminates with the disastrous ball at Netherfield — where he and Elizabeth quarrel — and his subsequent return to London with the express intention of forgetting Elizabeth and keeping Charles from ever returning to Hertfordshire.

Discussion Points

  1. Darcy notes with pleasure that he's assuming the same role of educator to Charles Bingley as his father once assumed for him. What does this insight tell you about Darcy and his relationship with the Bingleys?
  2. Charles Bingley is often found expressing his gratitude to Darcy for his assistance, advice, and various acts of goodwill. But Darcy cuts him off every time. Why do you think he does this?
  3. At the Assembly that opens the novel, Darcy claims that only the Bingley/Hurst sisters are worth dancing with or talking to. Why, then, does he take such joy in rebuffing Caroline's advances?
  4. Darcy often notes with disdain the "ambitions" of the various women he encounters at functions, both in Hertfordshire and London. Compare his two worst nightmares —Caroline Bingley and Mrs. Bennet, or "the tabby" as Darcy calls her.
  5. At Squire Justin's, Darcy first begins to wax poetic to himself about Elizabeth. He compares her eyes to fine French brandy, notes her fingers as "delicately formed," her brow as "lovely," and is otherwise enchanted by her. What is at war within Darcy? Why is he so resistant where Charles leaps forward with abandon?
  6. When Darcy finally confesses to himself his feelings for Elizabeth, he checks himself by remembering "he had been well prepared from birth for his station in life and what was due his family." What do you think he means by this?
  7. After Darcy and Caroline compile an outrageous list of accomplishments that the perfect woman must possess, he muses, "Would the embodiment of that list offer a better surety of his future happiness than a woman who was true, pure, and lovely?" What do you think?
  8. Fletcher and Darcy butt heads several times over the course of the novel. Do you sympathize with Fletcher, given his attempts to surreptitiously help his master find happiness? Or is he overstepping his bounds as a valet, selfishly attempting to reach "the pinnacle of his profession" through Darcy?
  9. How do you feel about the ending of this first part of the trilogy? Darcy is introspective and aware of his dubious motives in keeping Bingley away from Hertfordshire, yet at novel's end he is still continuing with them. Why?
  10. What other Jane Austen novels would you like to see Aidan's take on? If you were to write a spin-off, which novel or series would you choose and why?
  11. In the original Pride and Prejudice, Darcy's standoffishness is often attributed to his high social standing, as if snobbery were a part of being a gentleman. Now that you've been given a glimpse into what might have been going through Darcy's head, what do you think of this opinion of him?
  12. Do Austen's characters, as portrayed by Aidan, live up to your expectations? How are they similar to their counterparts in Pride and Prejudice? How are they different?

Enhance Your Book Club Experience

  1. Don your Regency best (the nicest gown in your closet will do — and don't forget a bonnet!), whip out your finest china, and host your next Book Club meeting over tea and sweets that even Darcy wouldn't pass up.
  2. Call your local Chamber of Commerce, Tourism Board, or check out the Historical Museums' Guide for Historical Museums in the United States (http://www.censusfinder.com/guide_to_historical_museums.htm) and the National Register of Historic Places (http://www.cr.nps.gov/places.htm) to find a grand estate open to the public in your region. Have the members of your Club meet there for a tour through the high life. Can't you just imagine the ladies strolling down that carpeted marble staircase?
  3. Spend some time browsing the Internet checking out the many Austen fansites, such as The Republic of Pemberly (http://www.pemberley.com), Misjudgments (http://www.dream-creations.net/pride/) and http://www.visitprideandprejudice.com.

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Reading Group Guide

Reading Group Guide

An Assembly Such As This

By Pamela Aidan

Summary

In this, the first book of her "Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman" trilogy, Pamela Aidan reintroduces us to Jane Austen's Mr. Darcy — through his own eyes. We meet Darcy during his visit to Hertfordshire to see his friend Charles Bingley at his estate, Netherfield Park. There he struggles to maintain "proper reserve" in the face of crude country manners, surprising country misses and Caroline Bingley's country plots! Revealing to us Darcy's growing fascination with Elizabeth Bennet, the book culminates with the disastrous ball at Netherfield — where he and Elizabeth quarrel — and his subsequent return to London with the express intention of forgetting Elizabeth and keeping Charles from ever returning to Hertfordshire.

Discussion Points

  1. Darcy notes with pleasure that he's assuming the same role of educator to Charles Bingley as his father once assumed for him. What does this insight tell you about Darcy and his relationship with the Bingleys?
  2. Charles Bingley is often found expressing his gratitude to Darcy for his assistance, advice, and various acts of goodwill. But Darcy cuts him off every time. Why do you think he does this?
  3. At the Assembly that opens the novel, Darcy claims that only the Bingley/Hurst sisters are worth dancing with or talking to. Why, then, does he take such joy in rebuffing Caroline's advances?
  4. Darcy often notes with disdain the "ambitions" of the various women he encounters at functions, both in Hertfordshire and London. Compare his two worst nightmares — Caroline Bingley and Mrs. Bennet, or "the tabby" as Darcy calls her.
  5. At Squire Justin's, Darcy first begins to wax poetic to himself about Elizabeth. He compares her eyes to fine French brandy, notes her fingers as "delicately formed," her brow as "lovely," and is otherwise enchanted by her. What is at war within Darcy? Why is he so resistant where Charles leaps forward with abandon?
  6. When Darcy finally confesses to himself his feelings for Elizabeth, he checks himself by remembering "he had been well prepared from birth for his station in life and what was due his family." What do you think he means by this?
  7. After Darcy and Caroline compile an outrageous list of accomplishments that the perfect woman must possess, he muses, "Would the embodiment of that list offer a better surety of his future happiness than a woman who was true, pure, and lovely?" What do you think?
  8. Fletcher and Darcy butt heads several times over the course of the novel. Do you sympathize with Fletcher, given his attempts to surreptitiously help his master find happiness? Or is he overstepping his bounds as a valet, selfishly attempting to reach "the pinnacle of his profession" through Darcy?
  9. How do you feel about the ending of this first part of the trilogy? Darcy is introspective and aware of his dubious motives in keeping Bingley away from Hertfordshire, yet at novel's end he is still continuing with them. Why?
  10. What other Jane Austen novels would you like to see Aidan's take on? If you were to write a spin-off, which novel or series would you choose and why?
  11. In the original Pride and Prejudice, Darcy's standoffishness is often attributed to his high social standing, as if snobbery were a part of being a gentleman. Now that you've been given a glimpse into what might have been going through Darcy's head, what do you think of this opinion of him?
  12. Do Austen's characters, as portrayed by Aidan, live up to your expectations? How are they similar to their counterparts in Pride and Prejudice? How are they different?

Enhance Your Book Club Experience

  1. Don your Regency best (the nicest gown in your closet will do — and don't forget a bonnet!), whip out your finest china, and host your next Book Club meeting over tea and sweets that even Darcy wouldn't pass up.
  2. Call your local Chamber of Commerce, Tourism Board, or check out the Historical Museums' Guide for Historical Museums in the United States (http://www.censusfinder.com/guide_to_historical_museums.htm) and the National Register of Historic Places (http://www.cr.nps.gov/places.htm) to find a grand estate open to the public in your region. Have the members of your Club meet there for a tour through the high life. Can't you just imagine the ladies strolling down that carpeted marble staircase?
  3. Spend some time browsing the Internet checking out the many Austen fansites, such as The Republic of Pemberly (http://www.pemberley.com), Misjudgments (http://www.dream-creations.net/pride/) and http://www.visitprideandprejudice.com.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 84 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(50)

4 Star

(24)

3 Star

(3)

2 Star

(4)

1 Star

(3)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 85 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 10, 2010

    I liked It Very Much!

    This is the first of a trilogy which explores Darcy's contemporaneous experience of the events and timeline of P& P. The forms of expression, social and political currents, and the interplay of personalities feel delightfully authentic as the reader learns the Darcy side of things - while the initial portion the classic "Pride & Prejudice" saga unfolds. Pamela Aidan provides an exquisitely fashioned design of Darcy's actions and reactions, exchanges and shifting viewpoints, as he fumbles and stumbles under the first of Miss Elizabeth Bennett's effects on his life. "An Assembly Such As This" sparkles with mischief, wit, and apt literary allusions which carry the story along very nicely. Within this multi-dimensional plot Ms Aidan adheres to the notion of a basically noble man who is confronted with his own ignoble (if unintentionally so) attitudes and behaviors toward those outside his own small and select circles. The characters we know are kindly drawn and coherent with their originals, while we are introduced to new and intriguing characters and allowed fleeting glimpses of parallel lives between gentle-persons and those who serve them. A richly rewarding reading experience!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 11, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Great insight on Mr Darcy

    Like I've been saying with most Austen spinoffs, I always proceed with caution. I don't like being disappointed and I certainly don't like it when my beloved classic have been ripped to shreds, and especially when it's done horribly. Fortunately! this book has passed and I don't regret reading this book. I actually quite liked it and I found myself laughing over parts of the book which were cleverly written and provided a lot of good humor. It was certainly nice seeing Mr Darcy's daily life in more detail besides just hearing his thoughts and his behavior. I actually liked how this book put in little bits and pieces added to the main Pride and Prejudice plot to add more color and life to Mr Darcy. We usually see him as a brooding solitary figure which immediately we think of how boring he might be. In reality, well, Mr Darcy just doesn't like gatherings and parties period. That's just his nature and what's even better, he's a bookworm! this is one of the main reasons why I liked reading this book. Mr Darcy isn't seen as boring, silent in his corner with his stormy thoughts. Although yes, it's romantic but seeing a different side of him, where he's able to show a sense of humor towards Mr Bingley (even having a moment where Bingley throws a cube of sugar at
    him) makes Mr Darcy seem much more real and twice as likable. (We Darcy fanatics can all sigh in relief here!).

    I'd have to say though, the plot was a little too slow to come to action and if you're one who needs to have their attention captured right away, this might be a deterrent. I would suggest, stick with it. Especially if you're a huge Pride and Prejudice fan. Patience is well rewarded later in the book with comical scenes and even scenes which will make you want to yank Caroline Bingley's hair for being such a vain and vicious witch. (Yes, Miss Bingley is quite the snake in this one). Another criticism I'd have to add, not much Elizabeth in this one! you can't feel the love between them yet. It's understandable considering the book doesn't even cover half of the main plot and you do feel Mr Darcy's true feelings towards Elizabeth. It's still growing so the romance factor in this book is rather cold which may be disappointing. As with a few previous spinoff novels I've read, Mr Bingley still stays the same, cheerful and so friendly but always needing someone to advise or look after him. More has been added to his character as well and his relationship with Darcy is seen in more detail. I actually liked it. It seemed as if he brought out the comical side of Mr Darcy which was nice to see.

    Overall, I greatly enjoyed this read. It was entertaining and although slow to start, I was glad I stayed with it until the end. I will definitely be getting the second one after this. I recommend this to all Jane Austen fans.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 10, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Mr. Darcy, Beast Whisperer

    In some ways, I was pleasantly surprised by this book. Pamela Aiden's writing style, while contemporary and using modern humor, is also very at home with Jane Austen's Regency lingo-- enough that the writing of both authors can intertwine quite seamlessly. Her introduction of new characters (which I often find annoying in spin-offs of such classics as this) is very enjoyable, especially in the form of a loyal and cheeky valet. Aiden's writing lacks the stinging edge of Austen's wit, but it has a much greater insight concerning the culture of the time as well as bringing us right into the head of our favorite man of all time, Mr. Darcy. What better place to hear all his thoughts and witness all the pining and panic the poor man goes through for the sake of a woman? It's rather delicious to observe what goes on in is mind while he engages in "verbal swordplay" (a cute, if slightly cheesy, concept) with the woman he is haplessly in love with, and sometimes Aiden puts an interesting twist into a situation that we before only witnessed through Lizzie's point of view. It is clear that Fitzwilliam has Lizzie on the brain most of the time, making us realize how downright silly someone in love can be.

    ---While climbing into our hero's mind is the main selling point of the story, it actually can get a little muggy in there, constantly surrounded by his besotted broodings of said woman. The bits where Darcy is momentarily sidetracked by financial, familial and social duties-and yes, interludes demonstrating his peculiar aptitude with animals--are oddly as refreshing to us as they probably were to Darcy himself. It begs to be questioned: what if Darcy were to sometimes keep at least some his thoughts from us and retain some of his famous mystery and allure, and instead demonstrated them by means of his actions? This would, I believe, have made for a more intriguing, albeit entirely altered, novel. Nonetheless, Aiden has done an impressive job with this story, having written it convincingly and researched the subject exceedingly well, and the result is a good lot of fun that I'm willing to read the sequels for.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 16, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Absolutely Faithful to Austen!

    I was on the internet to look for good novels to read and I came upon this novel, and I being a Jane Austen addict I decided to give this a shot... And I loved it very much! I couldn't put the book down for even one second and it was so faithful to the TRUE Mr. Darcy and I applaud the author for her great sequel to Pride and Prejudice. The Mr. Darcy in this novel makes you picture in your mind Colin Firth every second you read the book and it makes you smile while you read it! I would chuckle once in a while whenever I read a book but this sequel to Pride and Prejudice made me smile the entire book from start to finish! If anyone is a Janite and a Darcy Lover READ THIS BOOK, you WON'T regret it! Also read the other two books, it is just as wonderful and fantastic and whimsical as the REAL Pride and Prejudice!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 31, 2014

    Stand Alone - Excellent

    As a stand alone, I think the book is excellent. The author has a wonderful feel for imagery and story-telling. If it were not a spin-off I would have given it five stars. However, as a spin-off of a beloved novel I failed to make the connection between it and Pride and Prejudice. It didn't it didn't make me feel as if this really could have been Mr. Darcy's point of view of the whole affair, which is what we're really after in a book like this.

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  • Posted August 27, 2013

    Good read

    I will read the other books in the series

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  • Posted July 26, 2013

    This book did not hold my interest. I did finish it but I was b

    This book did not hold my interest. I did finish it but I was bored. and struggled to get to the end. I felt the author was re writing Pride & Prejudice and I enjoyed the original version. Of all the P&P sequels that I have read I enjoyed this one the least..

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 18, 2012

    Disappointing

    I hoped for an interesting take on Pride and Prejudice but I didn't find it here. It feels like the author is padding the story with boring fashion wars, inserting religion every chance she gets, and it seems like she's throwing in things like that that just drag the plot to a screeching halt. The characters don't seem as real as they should be. I kept putting it down because I was bored out of my mind, but I picked it back up and finished it because sometimes the end can redeem it and I wanted to get my money's worth. This book was one of those I finished only because I paid for it. Please get my money's worth and avoid this dull, plodding effort.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 4, 2012

    Love!

    Who doesn't love Mr. Darcy? Great story from his view point I love the side story with his sister and school friend! I hope she writes their story for us...i can already tell i would love it!

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  • Posted April 13, 2011

    a must read

    P & P is a fav of mine no doubt, but the way Aidan keeps the old speak and adds contemporary tones that make the meaning clearer and don't let me get lost in disecting vocabulary made this a very easy read and a hard one to put down. It never looses the feel or pace of P&P, and I feel like there were things that Austen could not include because of the time and era the book was written in. Aidan cold take more liberties and it enhances everything i already loved about the charcters! Can't wait to dive into #2

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  • Posted February 21, 2011

    The best Pride and Prejudice companion series!

    Keeps true to the original while adding depth to the characters in Darcy's world.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 30, 2011

    Fantastic!

    This is the first of a three-book series. The series is very well written and provides the other half of the story - Darcy's perspective. The author develops supporting characters very well and follows the original story very closely. Book 2 is the timeframe from when Darcy leaves Netherfield to when he appears at Rosing. The author adds the aspect of how Darcy is trying to get over Elizabeth by looking for a replacement that would be socially more acceptable. Of course, he doesnt succeed but intriguing nonetheless. These books are a great supplement to the original story.

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  • Posted September 17, 2010

    Delighful!

    This book was a delightful look into the mind of Mr. Darcy. It was written in a style similar to Jane Austen. I found that I really did not like Mr. Darcy character that much. However, we all know that things will change. This book is a series of three books and this is the first in that series.

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  • Posted August 22, 2009

    great!

    I really enjoyed this series. It gave realistic insight into the changes in Darcy.

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  • Posted February 23, 2009

    enjoy!!

    If your a jane austen fan save yourself the time and just buy the hole series at once because even though you know how it turns out, you'll want to know the details. I've read other austen fan fiction but they didn't fit the style of Ms austen. these realy did enjoy!

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  • Posted February 17, 2009

    a fantastic read!

    I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It provided a very different take on what might have been the workings of our Mr. Darcy¿s mind ¿ nothing I¿ve read before. It was interesting, thrilling, and all in all very engaging from the first page to the last. This is definitely one of the better Pride and Prejudice offshoots around. Fantastic writing style. Highly Recommended!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 3, 2008

    WOW!!!!

    I LOVED this series!!!!!! The books were good, but the first and the third were the best. It gives a very detailed look into Darcy's life and thoughts. You get to know Gorgiana a little better, and meet some new people. Very well written and great for the Pride and Prejudice fan!!!!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 11, 2008

    True to Austen

    I love Austen, and I love this trilogy. It was fun to read and very consistent with the original novel. I rushed out to buy the second and third volumes as soon as I finished the first.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 4, 2008

    A Worthy Waste of My Time

    This was an interesting--if not believable--twist of Pride and Prejudice. It allows you to look into the life of the much-loved character Mr. Darcy. I would recommend this as a good read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 19, 2008

    I loved this

    This book shows Darcy's true passion for Elizabeth. How he describes her made me sigh several times through out the book. I would even read this series again and again.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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