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Fortuitously timed amidst a virtual Austen revival, Barrett's continuation of the classic marriage novel leaves us with the dilemmas of the forgotten third sister Margaret, described by Austen as a "well-disposed girl; but as she had already imbibed a good deal of Marianne's romance, without having much of her sense, she did not, at thirteen, bid fair to equal her sisters at a more advanced period of her life." Barrett, taking up Margaret's cause, gives her a plot of her own. Her sisters are both happily married and comfortably established: Elinor is a useful matron to her husband's Dorset parsonage, and Marianne is happy as the wife of Colonel Brandon, a wealthy landowner. Margaret, eager to leave the dull life of Barton cottage and her unofficial position as nanny to her cousins, the nearby Middletons, goes looking for a proper match. Potential husbands line up from the right and the left, with a few red herrings thrown in for good measure. The arrogant and dashing William du Plessy is the first contender but proves too bold for Margaret's liking. Then there's the humble and handsome George Osborne, a more suitable candidate, though surprisingly secretive. Meanwhile, a diverting subplot concerning sister Elinor and her husband's inheritance breaks up the predictability of Margaret's fate. Going back and forth to Brighton with her new- found friend Lady Clara, Margaret encounters some not so surprising coincidences and has some chance meetings, becoming engaged to the wrong kind of man and saved in the final hour by the right kind.
An interesting and ambitious idea gone to waste. Lacking the broad panorama of Austen's social insight and her depiction of provincial life, only the details and many plotting devices remain, leaving, at best, a momentary amusement.