Mr. Darcy's Dream: A Novel

( 17 )

Overview

From the author of Mr. Darcy's Daughters, the delightful escapades of the Darcy family continue with an enchanting story set at Pride and Prejudice's Pemberley.

When Phoebe, a young niece of Pride and Prejudice's Mr. Darcy, is shattered by an unhappy romance, she retreats to Pemberley and is joined by kind-hearted Louisa Bingley, unmarried after three London seasons. Once the young ladies are situated in the house, several handsome strangers also arrive — all hopeful of winning ...

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Overview

From the author of Mr. Darcy's Daughters, the delightful escapades of the Darcy family continue with an enchanting story set at Pride and Prejudice's Pemberley.

When Phoebe, a young niece of Pride and Prejudice's Mr. Darcy, is shattered by an unhappy romance, she retreats to Pemberley and is joined by kind-hearted Louisa Bingley, unmarried after three London seasons. Once the young ladies are situated in the house, several handsome strangers also arrive — all hopeful of winning the girls' hearts. As preparations for the ball which Mr. and Mrs. Darcy are to give at Pemberley gain momentum, mischief and love triangles abound, making life as difficult as possible for anyone connected with the Darcy family.

Populated with authentic characters firmly rooted in Jane Austen's mores and stylistic traditions, Mr. Darcy's Dream has an unforgettable combination of romance, societal scandals, friendship, family, and marriage.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"This is historical fiction at its most enjoyable... Miss Jane Austen would be very comfortable in Ms. Elizabeth's Aston's world." — Historical Novels Review
From the Publisher

"This is historical fiction at its most enjoyable... Miss Jane Austen would be very comfortable in Ms. Elizabeth's Aston's world." -- Historical Novels Review
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781416547266
  • Publisher: Touchstone
  • Publication date: 2/3/2009
  • Edition description: Original
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 789,862
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Elizabeth Aston is a passionate Jane Austen fan who studied with Austen biographer Lord David Cecil at Oxford. The author of several novels, including Mr. Darcy's Daughters, she lives in England and Italy.

Visit www.elizabeth-aston.com for more information.

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Read an Excerpt


Chapter One

Phoebe Hawkins was twenty years old, handsome, well-born, and with a fortune of fifty thousand pounds. Here she was, at the start of her second London season, the world at her feet, and yet if there were a more miserable young lady in all of London, she would be surprised.

It was mid-morning. Phoebe was standing in the study of her family's London house, a fine building in Aubrey Square, looking across the desk at her father, Sir Giles Hawkins, with a mixture of despair and hatred.

Phoebe had been fast asleep, lost in dreams of present and future bliss, when her maid abruptly awakened her, saying that Sir Giles wanted to speak to her at once. And with the quick sensibility of a young woman in love, she knew exactly why her father had summoned her. Mr. Stanhope must have called, just as he said he would, to ask for her hand in marriage -- "As to my heart, you already have it," she had told him. Perhaps he was downstairs now, at this very moment, waiting for her. Phoebe shrugged herself into a morning gown with more speed than care, and stood, wild with impatience, while Miniver did up the hooks and coaxed a brush through her tangled hair.

Phoebe did not for a moment expect her father would raise any objection. To be sure, Arthur Stanhope was some ten years older than she, but that was no kind of an age difference. He was rich, well-bred, and would one day inherit his father's title.

So it was with utter disbelief that she heard her father's cold and definite words.

"There is no possible way that I would give my consent to your marriage to Mr. Stanhope." Phoebe's heart missed a beat. She had misheard, this couldn't be right. "I don't understand," she cried. "Mr. Stanhope wants to marry me, and I wish to be his wife. How can you refuse your consent?"

Sir Giles shook his head. "You and Mr. Stanhope are not going to marry. I expressly forbid it. It is nearly a year until you are of age, but I will not give you any hope that at the end of that period you will be able to marry him. He knows that I am not prepared to give my consent, now or in the future. You may think that when you are one-and-twenty you will be able to marry whom you please. However, should you go against my wishes in this matter, do not expect to take your fortune with you. I have control of that until you are twenty-five. You may say Mr. Stanhope will take you as you are, without a penny to your name. But he knows that at present he cannot marry you, and I told him that by the time you attain your majority, you will have forgotten him."

"How can this be? When did you speak to him? Has he been to the house this morning? Why did you not call me sooner? Why was I not allowed to see him?" Phoebe put her hand on the corner of her father's desk, feeling quite dizzy. She could not believe that this was happening to her. How could her father, her kind, affectionate father, be speaking to her in this cold and forceful way?

"Mr. Stanhope called upon me to ask formally for your hand in marriage. I told him, as I am now telling you, that there can be no question of my agreeing to him marrying you. I have asked him not to seek an interview with you, and not to approach you, or talk to you, should you meet at any of the parties and functions which lie ahead. I cannot say that he took it in good part, but he is a man with some sense of honour, and when he considers what I had to say, he will see that I am right."

Phoebe pressed her hands to her ears, wanting to shut out her father's cruel words. Why was he behaving like this? Forget Mr. Stanhope, and in the few brief months until her birthday? Impossible! She was in love with him, as he was with her, how could they forget one another? She tried to explain this to her father, but he brushed her words aside. "It is not for you to decide whether you may or may not accept an offer of marriage. While you must have a preference, an engagement is a matter for your family, for their lawyers, and for the family and lawyers of the man to whom you finally become betrothed. That man is not Mr. Stanhope."

Phoebe's dismay began to give way to anger. She was a dutiful daughter, and while she was normally on excellent terms with her father, teasing him and joking with him, knowing that he liked her playful ways, she rarely stood up against his authority, mostly because he so rarely exerted it. This was a stranger sitting in front of her, and she could not fathom what had turned him into a man that she had never seen before: stern, forbidding, and refusing to listen to her.

His face softened. "Believe me, Phoebe, I do understand something of your feelings. However, in this case you must allow me, as your father and as a man with a great deal more experience of the world, to know better than you do what is possible, and what is right. And, forgive me, but your attachment to Mr. Stanhope is of such recent standing that you will accept that any parent would be alarmed by talk of engagement. Am I not right in saying that you were unacquainted with Mr. Stanhope previous to your coming to London this time?"

"You know that to be the case, for Mr. Stanhope has been abroad. He is not a friend of our family, and I could not have met him before this year."

"Exactly. And by saying that he is not a friend of the family, you bring me to one of my principal objections to the match. You are, I suppose, aware of who his parents are?"

Phoebe was irritated by this. Yes, she did know that Mr. Stanhope's parents were Lord and Lady Stanhope. What was remarkable about that? Her father seemed to expect an answer, so she simply nodded.

He continued, "You should also be aware that Lord Stanhope, and indeed Lady Stanhope, are prominent in Whig circles. Now I am not to be suggesting that simply because a man is a member of the opposition, while I am a staunch Conservative, means that any antagonism existing within the Houses of Parliament should be carried into the outside world. Yet there is a grain of truth in the saying, 'Once a Whig, always a Whig.' And Whiggishness is not simply a matter of how a man votes in the House. It is also a matter of outlook, and going beyond politics, into the realm of morality; public morality and private morality. I do not personally think we will see another Whig government within my lifetime. That does not diminish the power and influence carried by the leading families. They have always worked behind the scenes, and by means of marriages and using family connections have exerted a force beyond what is reasonable."

What had this to do with her and Mr. Stanhope? Whatwas all this talk of Whigs? She knew that Lord Stanhope did not share her father's political views, but was that so important? Certainly, her father had always had a dislike of Whigs, as many Tories did. But this was the nineteenth century, they were not living in the Middle Ages. Was he going to try to pretend that the Hawkins family and the Stanhopes were like the Montagues and Capulets in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet?

"Fustian!"

"No, it is not fustian. You are very young, Phoebe, and do not yet know what makes the world go round. You have had a protected upbringing, I am glad to say, and know no more than is suitable for a well-bred young lady. You will not have heard the scandals and intrigue that follow every member of these Whig circles. They make light of the marriage bond..."

His voice faltered and faded away. He had touched on an unmentionable subject, and his eyes dropped as Phoebe looked straight at him. "I do believe I know something about the loosening of marriage bonds," she said.

They looked at one another for a long minute, the unspoken words clear in both their minds, the knowledge of a time when the marriage bonds of Sir Giles and Lady Hawkins had been stretched to breaking point.

The long-repressed fury finally spilled out of Phoebe as those words rang in her ears, make light of the marriage bond. "You say that to me! You who caused Mama so much unhappiness when you set up that woman as your mistress, how dare you criticise other people?"

Sir Giles had risen to his feet, his face thunderous. "That ever I should hear a daughter of mine speak in that way. You sound like a woman brought up in the gutter."

"I sound like a girl who was brought up in a household where her father had a mistress, and her mother -- "

"I forbid you to say it," said Sir Giles.

"Feelings are not to be silenced. And you condemn an entire group of people, not quoting any individual circumstances; I find it disgraceful, and uncharitable, and in the circumstances inappropriate."

"It is for me to decide what is and what is not appropriate."

They fell silent. Phoebe's chin was up and she stared at her father with such defiance that he in his turn found it difficult to say anything more. Finally, he banged his fist on to the desk. "Very well, I am sorry it has come to this. You are saying that I have condemned all the Stanhopes, Lord and Lady Stanhope, and therefore by association their son, Mr. Stanhope, merely for being Whigs. This is not so. Your Mr. Stanhope has to my certain knowledge been conducting a lengthy affair with a woman called Mrs. Vereker. You look conscious. You know the lady, an uncommonly beautiful woman, an actress of humble origins who managed to ensnare the late Mr. Vereker, and so insinuate herself into society, where by birth, manners, and behaviour she had no place."

"I do not care if Mr. Stanhope has had a mistress. He is a military man, a man of more than thirty. I do not expect to be his first love."

"No, and if I were fool enough to let you marry him, you would most certainly not be his last love. The man is a rake, Mrs. Vereker is simply the latest in a long line of paramours. I dare say she was at the party last night where you were with Mr. Stanhope. When he came this morning, he swore he had fallen in love with you; I do not consider his words to be worth anything. Were I to give my consent to your marriage, you would, he supposes, go to him as a bride with a substantial fortune. I can only suppose that with high living he finds himself in financial difficulties and so looks for an heiress to wed."

Tears started into Phoebe's eyes, but they were tears of rage, not of weakness. Fighting them back, she looked down at the carpet, where the rich Turkish patterns wavered and blurred before her eyes. "You slander him, you have no justification for what you say."

"I speak nothing but the truth. Ask one of your married cousins about Mr. Stanhope's reputation, about Mrs. Vereker and the others before her, all at the same time, for all I know." He lowered his voice. "Phoebe, believe me, it hurts me immeasurably to distress you in this way, but it is too important a matter for anything less than honesty and clear-headedness." He took a heavy breath, and speaking with apparent difficulty said, "You referred to an episode in my own past life, an episode of which I am ashamed. I will not speak of it, now or ever. It is not a subject to be discussed with my daughter. However, it is because I wish to spare you the unhappiness I caused your mother that I refuse to let you marry a man like Mr. Stanhope. It is my final word. You can weep and wail, although that is not natural to you, or you may rant and rage at me; it will not alter my resolution one jot. You may write to your mother, to ask her to exert her influence with me, but I tell you that it will all be in vain. I know that your mama will be at one with me on this, and you know me well enough to be sure that once my mind is made up I am implacable."

Phoebe left her father's study in a state of greater anger than she had ever known. Her father had risen from his seat and come around the desk to pat her on the shoulder, and had wanted to embrace her, although she drew away from him. Then he said, unforgivably, in her eyes, "One day you will thank me for this. You will meet another man, a better man, who loves you and whom you will love and with whom you will make a very happy marriage. It is not as though you have not had other admirers; indeed, you know I have had more than one young man approach me to ask consent to pay his addresses. You have laughed and scorned them all and asked me to refuse all your suitors, however eligible some of them were. I can understand how a man of fashion and address such as Mr. Stanhope could have caught your fancy, but I assure you fancy is all it is. You could not truly love a man of his character."

The problem was that Phoebe did love Arthur Stanhope, that she had never loved any man before, and that she could see no way that she would ever care for another man as intensely as she did for Mr. Stanhope.

She had come dancing down the stairs, but it was with feet of lead, and a heart as heavy, that she ascended the stairs to return to her room. To her relief, Miniver was not in the room. She did not give way to tears, nor throw herself on the bed, nor take up the pretty vase from beside her bed and dash it to the floor. Instead, she went to the window and looked out over the square, her heart thumping inside her chest like a drum marching men into battle. The weather matched her mood. Lowering grey clouds hung over London, a steady drizzle made the pavements look dark and dirty. The trees in the garden in the centre of the square still had a wintry look to them; spring was late this year. She turned away from the window and went across to her little walnut writing desk. She sat down, took out a sheet of notepaper, dipped a quill into the ink, and began to write.

Dear Mr. Stanhope...

She got no further. A letter would not do, how could she say all she had to in a letter? No, she wouldn't write to him, she would go to see him.

Once this plan entered her head, she brushed away all thoughts of how improper such an action would be. If anyone saw her going into his house, then her reputation would lie in shreds.

So much the better, she told herself as she pulled the bell with vigour, calling out at the same time for Miniver, whom she felt sure would be lurking somewhere in the vicinity. She didn't want to take Miniver into her confidence, and so she simply told her to fetch her pelisse, as she was going out.

"Going out where, Miss Phoebe? Shall I ask for the carriage to be brought round? And I'll have to put on my own outdoor clothes, I had no idea of your going out so early, and I've all your jewellery lying soaking -- "

"I am going out alone. Go and fetch me a hackney cab, and don't you dare let my father get wind of what I am about."

"A hackney cab? Go alone in a hackney cab? And where to, may I ask?"

"You may not."

"It's more than my place is worth. Sir Giles would scalp me, and then turn me off without a reference. A fine thing that would be!"

"Oh, very well, you may come with me. Go and find a cab, and tell it to wait around the corner."

Miniver pursed her lips. "It isn't right."

Phoebe was not in the mood to put up with Miniver's moral disapproval. "It isn't for you to say what is or isn't right. I will be out in ten minutes, be there with the hackney cab."

Miniver shut the door behind her with a bang discreet enough not to be noticed by other servants, and loud enough to express her disapproval. Phoebe sank down on the chintz-covered sofa. She closed her eyes, as if by doing so she could shut out the images flitting through her mind. She could remember last night with such startling clarity that the scene might be taking place again there before her eyes. She had been at an informal party, given by the rich and amiable Mr. Portal. The season was not yet under way, but Phoebe had come early to town with her father, who had parliamentary business to attend to. Her mother was due to come up to London next week.

It was just such a party as Phoebe liked best. And her pleasure in the evening was capped by the arrival of Arthur Stanhope. She had been standing beside Mr. Portal, and laughing at one of his witty remarks, when she saw Arthur Stanhope standing at the door. Their eyes met, hers brimming with merriment, and his amused and alight with pleasure in seeing her.

They talked, as they had done ever since they first met, a conversation which, Phoebe felt, could go on for the rest of their lives and never grow boring. They went down to supper together, and then afterwards, her cousin Camilla persuaded her sister Alethea to play some dances for the company.

Oh, that exquisite moment when Mr. Stanhope took Phoebe aside and led her into a little alcove, quite deserted, and there took her into his arms, and in a voice quite unlike his usual calm tones, told her he loved her. His kiss, gentle, then growing more passionate, had wrapped Phoebe in a cloud of velvet delight, and when they drew apart to look into one another's eyes, she felt a joy such as she had never experienced.

Copyright © 2009 by AEB Ltd.

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Reading Group Guide


This reading group guide includes discussion questions, ideas for enhancing your book club, and a Q&A with author Elizabeth Aston. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.

Questions for Discussion

1. Discuss the title of the novel. What is Mr. Darcy's dream? What are his wishes for his family, and for the Pemberley estate?

2. "Nothing is constant, nothing can stay the same as it is year in and year out," according to Louisa. (page 155) What changes are afoot in Mr. Darcy's Dream? Which characters embrace progress, and which characters resist it? What are their motivations for change or resistance?

3. Politics come between Phoebe and Stanhope: her Tory family and his Whig family are at odds. Do you think politics play as great a role in family relations and romance today? Why or why not?

4. Compare Miniver, Phoebe's maid, to Betsy, Louisa's maid. Who is more outspoken? Who has a better relationship with the woman she serves? What do these characters add to the novel?

5. Louisa tells Phoebe, "You are too rigorous in your judgments. You do not give time for people's virtues to grow on you, you are so quick to dismiss them that you never find out their true worth." (page 43) Is Louisa right about Phoebe's quick judgments? Who does Phoebe judge correctly, and who does she misjudge at first? Are her instincts unreliable?

6. Regarding unfaithful husbands, Phoebe wonders, "Was this the common lot of wives?" (page 202) How do female characters address marital infidelity in the novel? How would you answer Phoebe's question about husbands and wives?

7. Discussing women with Mr. Drummond, Phoebe says, "Our world is a smaller one than that of you men." (page 106) Do you think that the world is still a smaller place for women today?

8. Accepting Mr. Drummond's proposal, Louisa says, "Fortune and estates mean nothing to me. I can imagine no greater happiness than being your wife." (page 286) Is Louisa naïve to dismiss money and social standing in her choice of a husband, or is she likely to find happiness with Mr. Drummond? What challenges might the couple face in the future?

9. Mr. Stanhope is a gentleman of the city, while Phoebe enjoys activities of the country, especially horseback riding. Where do you think the couple should make their home?

10. If you have read other works by Aston, how does Mr. Darcy's Dream compare to the other books in the series?

Enhance Your Book Club:

Make your book club into a seed swap, where you trade seeds and clippings from your own gardens with each other. Or take your book club to visit your local greenhouse or botanical garden. Learn what vegetation grows in your climate, and purchase local plants and delicious produce!

Phoebe and Louisa love sharing the exotic pineapples that grow at Pemberley. Celebrate this symbol of hospitality by bringing a pineapple dessert to your book club meeting! Use your own favorite recipe, or try this pineapple upside-down cake: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/PINEAPPLE-UPSIDE-DOWN-CAKE-103088.

Phoebe and Stanhope discuss Nicolas Poussin's painting Apollo and Daphne at dinner, before the Pemberley ball. View or print an image of Apollo and Daphne and discuss it with your book club. You can find it here: http://www.humanitiesweb.org/human.php?s=g&p=c&a=p&ID=8231.

A Conversation with Elizabeth Aston

Mr. Darcy's Dream begins with heartbreak: Sir Giles Hawkins forbids Phoebe to marry Arthur Stanhope. Why did you begin the novel in the middle of Phoebe and Stanhope's love story: after they fall in love at first sight, and at the beginning of their separation and misunderstanding?

Because this is a very dramatic point in their love story, and because the story is about how they come to know and understand each other better, so that, in contrast to some of the other marriages we see in the story, they can build a relationship which should make for a strong and lasting marriage.

The climax of Mr. Darcy's Dream takes place in the glasshouse that Mr. Darcy dreamed of and Hugh Drummond designed. What inspired you to feature a glasshouse in the novel? What does it symbolize to you?

I found a picture of an extraordinary glasshouse that was built at about this time in England. It was an amazing structure of curves and lightness and elegance - in fact you would think it was modern. It was the new iron technology that allowed people at this time to erect a glasshouse like that one. Glasshouses are about growth and light, just as the pineapples which grew in them are symbols of prosperity.

One could argue that Mr. Darcy's Dream - with its cat-and-mouse love story and rampant misunderstanding between the two lovers - is the most similar of your books to Pride and Prejudice. What do you think?

I don't think I would agree with that. The misunderstanding in Pride and Prejudice comes from exactly that, Darcy's pride and Elizabeth's prejudice. The misunderstanding in Mr. Darcy's Dream comes from Phoebe's mistaken belief that Mr. Stanhope is a rake. She is inclined to jump to this conclusion, without finding out if it is true or not, because of her experience of infidelity in her own family, and her knowledge of the amorality of the Whig families such as the Stanhopes.

Servants play a substantial role in the novel, especially the two maids, Miniver and Betsy. Why are they given such a strong voice in the novel?

I wanted servants to have a voice in this novel because so much of it is set at Pemberley, a great house, and these households were very much a community, with the servants in their way as important to the well-being and well-running of the house as their masters and mistresses.

Relations between England and France are highlighted in the plot, from Stanhope's memories of the Battle of Waterloo to Hélène Verney's spying for France. Do you see this political and military background as a departure from Jane Austen? Why did you include this historical context in Mr. Darcy's Dream?

Jane Austen famously makes few references to the war with France that went on for most of her lifetime, even though several members of her family were caught up in the aftermath of the French Revolution and in the Napoleonic Wars. I'm not attempting to write a new Jane Austen novel, nor a sequel, and for me the historical and political context adds an extra dimension to the story.

George Warren resurfaces in Mr. Darcy's Dream as a villain; readers will remember his scheming ways from previous books in your series. Why did you revisit this conniving character?

George Warren has been the villain of all the previous books in this series, and so of course, I had to include him in Mr. Darcy's Dream and show him getting his final come-uppance!

A reader could easily enjoy Mr. Darcy's Dream without having read the earlier books in your series. Do you purposely craft each novel as a stand-alone experience? Do you recommend that new readers start at the beginning of the series?

It's always fun to follow a series through from its beginning, but since each book in this series has its own heroine and a stand-alone story, although with some characters from the other books playing a part or being mentioned, I don't think it much matters which book you begin with - as long as you enjoy it.

From architecture to evening dress, the details of nineteenth-century England truly come alive in Mr. Darcy's Dream. What is your most reliable resource for researching this historical period?

There's no single reliable resource that I use for research. It's partly knowledge and awareness of the period accumulated over many years, and partly having access to a good collection of books about the period and of that time.

Mr. Darcy's short speech about Phoebe's happiness closes the novel. Why does Darcy get the last word?

Mr. Darcy is only an unspeaking 'presence' in the previous five books, as I deliberately decided not to use Jane Austen's main characters as characters in my stories. But I felt that he should have the last word in Mr. Darcy's Dream. Simon & Schuster

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 17 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 9, 2009

    Good read

    Aston adds another enjoyable, light-hearted Regency read to her "Darcy" series--and this one includes the man himself, albeit breifly! It seems to start in an odd place, but the interview with the author at the end explains Aston's reasoning, and overall it is very enjoyable. I liked how in this particular book, Aston showcases more of the behind-the-scenes work done by the servants in that particular time period; it gives an interesting perspective and added depth to a pretty simple plot.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 28, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Mr Darcy's Dreadful Dream

    Having recently re-read Austen's Pride & Prejudice, as well as Georgette Heyer's regency novels, this book, by comparison, is extremely shallow. I find a lack of depth of character and writing style the saddest. I had high expectations, but they went unfulfilled. This author should read and study Heyer, the master of the genre. Then go back and do a re-write.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 7, 2009

    A good read, with some issues

    As always, Elizabeth Aston delivers. However, I waited for this book for a really long time and I was just a little bit disappointed about how the series as a whole ended. I was glad that Darcy's was slightly more than just a presence in this book, but I wanted a little extra. I choose not to think of this book as the last even though it is. It just makes it go down a little easier. Other than that, it is still a worthy read.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 21, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Delightful, even without Mr. Darcy!

    Twenty-year old Phoebe Hawkins is handsome, well-born, and endowed with a fortune of fifty thousand pounds to the lucky man to win her affections. Unfortunately, her choice Mr. Anthony Stanhope has a bit of a bad rep prompting her father to reject his offer of marriage. Undaunted, Phoebe is certain that Stanhope is no rake until she witnesses his assignation with a notorious woman. Heartbroken and dejected, her clever ma'ma Lady Georgiana averts London gossip by devising a plan to send her to the country to her uncle Darcy's estate in Derbyshire until it blows over. Joining her is her amiable cousin Louisa Bingley whose failure to engage after three London seasons is a bit of flop. Their temperaments could not be more opposite. Quick to judge, Phoebe's free spirit challenges social stricture, while easygoing Louisa is as accepting of fate as her mother Jane Bingley seeing little fault in anything. Both feel the pressure to fulfill their family obligations with brilliant marriages yet neither have a clue as to why they have not succeeded. Together they hope for a respite at Pemberley free from the pressures of thinking about men, while focusing instead on planning a summer ball while the Darcy's are abroad.

    The young ladies arrive at Pemberley to see great improvements underway with the construction of a grand new glasshouse supervised by Mr. Darcy's estate manager Hugh Drummond, all part of Mr. Darcy's dream of modernizing Pemberley, (thus the book title). When Mr. Stanhope arrives in the neighborhood on the pretext of visiting his married sister, Phoebe is resigned not to see him averting his persistent attempts until she must face the music. Add to this mix the return of devilish George Warren and you have your sinister element. When Mr. Darcy finally arrives at Pemberley to attend the ball, the story swiftly concludes as all the romantic misunderstanding and machinations have been resolved, but not to everyone's satisfaction.

    Underneath this diverting historical romance, Aston has supplied us with perceptive commentary on early 19th-century life in upper class England where women's worlds were governed by men and social convention. Throughout the novel there is a thin thread of cynicism about marriage illustrated by Mr. Stanhope's unhappily married sister Kitty, "one day you'll realize you need an heir, and will propose to the nearest available girl, who will proceed to make your life misery.", and the fear of infidelity by Phoebe after witnessing the affects on her parent's relationship after their own affairs. These honest themes can be a bit leveling, but move this novel away from being escapist fluff. To lighten it up, Aston has supplied the requisite ensemble of secondary characters to add interest, but little humor: a peevish Frog governess, fussy and gossipy maids, an officious great aunt, a toady Minister, and a bit of espionage to keep the plot churning and our attention engaged. Overall, I found the tone of Mr. Darcy's Dream a bit dark and overshadowed with angst. When reading a sequel to the light, bright and sparkling Pride and Prejudice it is difficult not to compare the two, but in all fairness to Ms. Aston this novel is so far removed in time and characters to the original that it is an entirely new entity. On its own merit I enjoyed it thoroughly and recommend it highly. As a continuation of a 'Mr. Darcy does something novel', well, that it debatable.

    Laurel Ann, Austenprose

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 16, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Wonderful historical fiction

    I Loved This Book! This is the latest in the series of sequals to Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice written by Elizabeth Aston. I highly recomend the entire seies in the order that they were written. Although I have read other sequals, this series is my favorite! If you enjoy historical mysteries as well, you will enjoy the series by Carrie Bebris which starts up right after the classic pride and prejudice leaves off.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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