Bebris's fourth Mr. & Mrs. Darcy mystery is less true to the spirit of Jane Austen than its predecessor, North by Northanger(2006). Soon after the birth of their first child, Elizabeth and Darcy visit Mansfield Park, where they get caught up in intrigue involving mistaken identities and sudden disappearances more suited to a bedroom farce than anything in the Austen canon. Taken as a Regency romp, the story has much to recommend it-a lively plot, engaging characters and a surprising finale. Some of Austen's characters are cast in a different light than they appear in their original incarnations: Anne de Bourgh and Colonel Fitzwilliam benefit, while others become caricatures of themselves. As usual, Bebris slips in esoteric information on such matters as the code of honor and dueling without slowing the pace. (Sept.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
The Matters at Mansfield: Or, The Crawford Affairby Carrie Bebris
Jane Austen meets Anne Perry in a historical mystery series featuring the hero and heroine from Pride and Prejudice
Following the birth of their first child, Elizabeth and Fitzwilliam Darcy are looking forward to enjoying life at Pemberley, but family commitments draw them away to Mansfield Park. While there, the Darcys get involved with marriage/p>/i>
Jane Austen meets Anne Perry in a historical mystery series featuring the hero and heroine from Pride and Prejudice
Following the birth of their first child, Elizabeth and Fitzwilliam Darcy are looking forward to enjoying life at Pemberley, but family commitments draw them away to Mansfield Park. While there, the Darcys get involved with marriage arrangements, star-crossed lovers, deceit, mistaken identity, and even murder.
Once again the Darcys take center stage as the Regency era's answer to The Thin Man's Nick and Nora in this delightful series by the 2007 Daphne du Maurier Award-winning author of North by Northanger.
At the Publisher's request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management Software (DRM) applied.
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The Matters at Mansfield (Or, The Crawford Affair)
A Mr. & Mrs. Darcy Mystery
By Carrie Bebris
Tom Doherty AssociatesCopyright © 2008 Carrie Bebris
All rights reserved.
She was all surprise and embarrassment.
— Mansfield Park
It is a truth less frequently acknowledged, that a good mother in possession of a single child, must be in want of sleep.
Whatever the habits or inclinations of such a woman might have been prior to her first entering the maternal state, in very short order her feelings and thoughts are so well fixed on her progeny that at any given hour she is considered, at least in the young minds of the principals, as the rightful property of some one or other of her offspring.
Be she a woman of comfortable income, assistants may alleviate many of the demands imposed on her, and indeed there are ladies quite content to consign their little darlings entirely to the care of nurses and governesses until they reach a more independent age. But in most families, occasions arise when even the most competent, affectionate servant cannot replace a child's need for Mama, and when said Mama wants no proxy.
And so it was that Elizabeth Darcy, wife of Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy, mistress of the great estate of Pemberley, and presently the houseguest of the Earl of Southwell, found herself the only conscious person in all of Riveton Hall during the predawn hours of an early August morning. Or rather, the only conscious adult, her daughter being so awake to the pain of cutting her first tooth that none but her mother's arms could comfort her.
"Hush now, Lily-Anne. Mama's here." Elizabeth offered the crooked knuckle of her forefinger to the child to gum. Having come to the nursery to check on Lily before retiring, she had found both baby and nurse so overwrought by hours of ceaseless crying (on the child's part, not the nurse's) that she had dismissed Mrs. Flaherty to capture a few hours' rest. The stubborn tooth had troubled Lily since their arrival and rendered futile every traditional remedy the veteran nurse had tried. If it did not break through this eve, the morrow would prove an even longer day for Mrs. Flaherty and her charge. Elizabeth herself would be unavailable to soothe her daughter, her time instead commanded by the event that had occasioned her and Darcy's visit to Riveton.
Darcy's cousin Roger Fitzwilliam, the earl, was hosting a ball to introduce his new fiancée to his family and neighbors. The Pemberley party — Elizabeth, Darcy, Lily-Anne, and Darcy's sister, Georgiana — had traveled to the groom's Buckinghamshire estate earlier in the week, as had the bride's family and numerous other guests. Darcy and Roger's aunt, Lady Catherine de Bourgh, had been the first to arrive, appearing a full fortnight earlier than anticipated to oversee her nephew's preparations. As the late earl's sister, her ladyship had grown up at Riveton Hall, and continued to generously dispense opinions regarding its management. That the present earl had little interest in hearing her advice did little to check its flow.
Having herself recently endured an extended visit by Lady Catherine, Elizabeth sympathized with her besieged host.
The earl, however, enjoyed one advantage that Elizabeth, in Derbyshire, had not: Lady Catherine yet maintained a large acquaintance in her former neighborhood, and had absented herself from Riveton for part of each day to call upon them. Her daughter, Miss Anne de Bourgh, joined her on most of these excursions. How Southwell's neighbors bore Lady Catherine's company eluded Elizabeth and Darcy, but they were grateful to be subjected to so little of it themselves. Their already inharmonious relationship with Darcy's aunt had been further fractured by the events of her prolonged residence at Pemberley, and the present house party at Riveton marked their first meeting since. Her daily absences had enabled them all to settle into a tacit, if tense, truce.
In contrast, Elizabeth had taken great pleasure in renewing her acquaintance with Roger's younger brother, Colonel James Fitzwilliam, whom she had met two years previous. The colonel's forthright manners and intelligent conversation united to make him the most amiable of Darcy's maternal relations, and she regretted that his military duties prevented more frequent opportunities to enjoy his society.
The only society Elizabeth coveted at the moment, however, were the inhabitants of her dreams. She paced the nursery, murmuring the sort of sibilant nonsense mothers have employed for millennia to calm distressed infants. Despite the stimulus of Lily's wails, her own eyelids burned with the urge to close. Yet even if she roused Mrs. Flaherty and returned to her own quiet chamber, she knew that maternal anxiety, or at a minimum, maternal guilt, would not allow her to sleep while her daughter suffered.
She sang. She rocked. She paced still more.
At last, exhaustion claimed Lily-Anne, and blessed silence settled upon the nursery. It was, however, a fitful slumber. Lily was still in discomfort, unconsciously rubbing her jaw against her mother's shoulder and squirming each time Elizabeth tried to lower her into the crib. Elizabeth sat with her awhile in a chair, but was so tired that she did not trust herself to retain a safe hold on Lily should she, too, succumb to sleep.
She decided to bring Lily back to her own chamber, in hopes that a shared bed would enable them both to rest. Darcy would not mind. There had been a few occasions at Pemberley when Lily, in need of extra comfort, had slept in their bed, and Darcy's presence often had a calming effect on the baby, awake or asleep.
She moved quietly as she carried Lily down the corridor where the earl's relations were quartered. The bride and her family occupied the floor above, and several gentleman friends of Roger's were in another wing altogether. She did not fear disturbing these more distant guests should Lily suddenly waken and complain at full volume, but Lady Catherine's room she passed with extra caution. Her ladyship's tenure at Pemberley had proven her a light sleeper, ever alert to everyone else's affairs.
She rounded a corner and stopped suddenly.
Anne de Bourgh appeared equally startled. They had very nearly collided. "Mrs. Darcy!"
"Miss de Bourgh?"
Both spoke in the lowest of whispers. Anne cast an alarmed glance in the direction of her mother's chamber. In the weak grey light just beginning to penetrate a nearby window, her face appeared pale as usual, but her features had lost some of their sharpness. The angles of her cheekbones had rounded, dissolving her typically haughty expression and softening her countenance. Instead of pinched, she looked almost pretty.
"I — I did not expect to — that is ..."
"Nor I." Elizabeth shifted Lily to her other shoulder. The child had entered a deeper sleep as they walked and was becoming heavier by the minute. "I thought none but Lily and I was awake, and even she has finally decided the hour is grown quite late enough." She tried to formulate a polite query as to why Miss de Bourgh was wandering Riveton Hall fully dressed at half past four in the morning. She doubted that Anne, coddled since childhood for fragile health, routinely kept late hours. But her fatigued mind was not equal to the challenge of clever phrasing. "What draws you from your bed at this time of night?" she finally blurted.
"No one. I mean —" Anne nodded at Lily. "The child did not wake me, if that is your concern."
It had not been. In fact, the thought had not so much as entered Elizabeth's mind, which was primarily occupied with calculating how many hours' sleep she might yet manage to capture if she nodded off immediately upon reaching her pillow. Another part of her brain was attempting to determine whether Anne's improved appearance were indeed a trick of the light or a genuine transformation. Upon continued observation, the view afforded by their unusually close proximity suggested the latter.
Anne bristled under Elizabeth's scrutiny. Her gaze strayed to the window. "Actually, I am not up late, but very early. I woke and could not return to sleep, so I thought I would stroll in the rose garden whilst the sun rose."
Unlike herself, Elizabeth had never known Miss de Bourgh to take pleasure in walking or, for that matter, to walk any farther than necessity demanded. Lady Catherine had always kept her on a short tether, ostensibly to protect her weak constitution. The most vigorous exercise permitted was airings in a phaeton or immersions in the therapeutic waters at Bath.
The change of practice might account for Miss de Bourgh's improved looks — Elizabeth had previously entertained the opinion that Anne's health would benefit from more, not less, exercise — though she wondered that her mother allowed it.
Or did she?
Miss de Bourgh's eyes again looked toward Lady Catherine's door. Pity moved Elizabeth as realization dawned along with the sun. To escape her ladyship's disapprobation, Anne had to take her exercise before anyone in the household — her mother, her chaperone, even the servants — awoke. Else an accidental slip of someone's tongue could betray her actions to Lady Catherine, who would bring them to a swift and decisive halt.
Elizabeth had never given much thought to Anne's life. She knew that living with Lady Catherine would be intolerable for herself, but she had never contemplated Anne's happiness. Anne had always seemed a mere appendage to the formidable entity that was Lady Catherine, existing to serve her mother's convenience. Now she wondered whether the "poor health" from which Anne had suffered all these years were the result of smothering — a slow suffocation of the soul.
How long had Anne been rising early to enjoy an hour's freedom before the shackles of life under Lady Catherine's domination closed upon her each day? From her appearance, she had been engaging in the practice for some time.
Good for her. Elizabeth wanted to praise the benign deception, but tact restrained her. She would, however, encourage it.
"I suspect what you are about," she whispered, offering a slight, knowing smile. "But do not be uneasy. Your secret is safe with me."
Anne's eyes widened. She stared at Elizabeth, struggling to formulate a reply.
Elizabeth spared her the trouble. "I wish you a pleasant morning," she said as Lily released an unfeminine snore that was a sweet lullaby to her mother's ears. "I intend to spend mine lying abed as long as my daughter permits me."CHAPTER 2
There were more Dancers than the Room could conveniently hold, which is enough to constitute a good Ball at any time.
— Jane Austen, letter to her sister, Cassandra
Miss de Bourgh has altered since we saw her in Bath last October."
Mr. Darcy regarded his wife curiously, then followed her gaze across the ballroom. It required a full three minutes to spy his cousin amid the scores of guests milling about, but at last he caught sight of her. Anne de Bourgh stood with her mother and Mrs. Jenkinson, her ever-present attendant, at the side of the dance floor. The de Bourghs were engaged in conversation with an older gentleman he recognized as one of Riveton's neighbors, the Viscount Sennex.
More accurately, Lady Catherine conversed. Anne listened silently, her attention straying to other parts of the busy room as her mother soliloquized unchecked. Wandering concentration, however, was endemic to participants in Lady Catherine's conversations. It was how one survived them.
"Altered?" he asked. "How so?"
"She only half attends her mother's discourse."
"After nearly three decades of constant exposure to it, she has likely heard the main theme before."
"But note how closely she observes the couples dancing. I believe she wants to join them."
Darcy doubted his cousin harbored any such desire. In fact, so restricted had been Miss de Bourgh's upbringing — her mother had forbidden even pianoforte lessons as unduly taxing on her health — that he was not entirely confident Anne so much as knew a waltz from a reel. "I have never seen my cousin dance."
"That is precisely my point. Do you not think it possible that she longs to engage in some of the same pursuits and pleasures as all the other young women of her acquaintance?"
Darcy looked at Anne again — truly looked at her, for perhaps the first time in twenty years. It is an easy thing to see one's longest acquaintances without actually seeing them — for familiarity to breed, if not contempt, incognizance — and to view people as they were, or as memory constructs them, rather than as they are. To Darcy, his cousin was merely a vassal in Lady Catherine's tightly controlled court. In all the years of their growing up, he had never thought of her as an independent being, and seldom thought of her at all. But now, forced by Elizabeth's conjecture to study Anne, he detected an air of wistfulness about her. The dancers indeed held more of her attention than did her own party.
"Perhaps she does wish to dance," he conceded.
Mrs. Jenkinson adjusted Anne's shawl, bringing it up round her shoulders. The heavy lavender fabric was more appropriate for winter wear, and appeared out of place amid the short sleeves and light wraps exhibited by all the other ladies of the assembly. The heat of the room rendered the garment entirely unnecessary — indeed, probably uncomfortable — but Mrs. Jenkinson persisted.
As soon as the attendant turned her head, Anne slipped it to her lower back.
Darcy approved the small display of spirit. He had never expended much thought on Miss de Bourgh's state of happiness as a permanent inmate of Lady Catherine's domestic circle. He had seen her only as the prim, emotionless person into which life under her mother's domination had formed her, and assumed that she had been content in that role. As babes yet in their cradles, Darcy and Anne had been the objects of an informal matchmaking scheme. Whensoever a boy and a girl of compatible age and station belong to families who share an acquaintance, the circumstance invites speculation from their mothers, if not the whole neighborhood, as to the possibility of a future wedding. The Fitzwilliam sisters had not been immune to this propensity, and had once indulged in an afternoon's fanciful supposition that perhaps one day the cousins would wed. Darcy's mother had died before he reached marriageable age, but in Lady Catherine's mind the idle "what-if" became an expectation — one that he had never intended to fulfill. He could by no means tolerate such a domineering woman as his mother-in-law, nor could he imagine her daughter capable of warming any man's bed, let alone heart. It would have been a marriage of misery, and from early adulthood he had tried to discourage all hope on the part of both his aunt and his cousin of its ever occurring.
Whether Miss de Bourgh had wished the match, he knew not, nor whether she harbored any other desires or dreams. If she did, he doubted Lady Catherine ever gave her opportunity to voice them. What a dreary existence his cousin must lead.
"This set will end soon," Elizabeth said. "Invite her to dance."
Darcy nodded, his eyes still on Anne.
"What is this I hear?" The familiar male voice behind him prompted Darcy to turn round and meet the cheerful countenance of Colonel Fitzwilliam. "Not two summers wed, and already your wife encourages you to stand up with other women rather than endure your dancing herself?"
Two years older than Darcy, the colonel was his favorite relation, his friend as well as his cousin, and one of the few people from whom Darcy accepted jesting.
"I am afraid so," Darcy responded. "Are you now disillusioned about the longevity of nuptial bliss?"
"Not in the least. Rather, I am convinced that only true devotion could have blinded Mrs. Darcy this long to your rigid deportment on the ballroom floor." The colonel bowed to Elizabeth, who answered with a broad smile.
"Fortunately, Colonel, should you ever decide to enter the marital state yourself, your bride will have no such deficiency to overlook," she said. "You and Georgiana acquitted yourselves quite well earlier."
"A compliment more deserved by my partner than by me. Miss Darcy inherited all her mother's grace, leaving her brother bankrupt in that asset."
"You unjustly disparage your own talent along with my husband's. I grant you leave to exercise all the modesty you like, but if you continue to tease Darcy so, he will never again dance with anybody, let alone with Miss de Bourgh."
His eyebrows rose. "Our cousin is the lady in question?"
"Someone ought to invite her. Whether she accepts or not, a woman likes to be asked." She cast an arch glance at Darcy. "Though I have heard that my husband is not in the habit of giving consequence to young ladies who are slighted by other men."
The gently delivered rebuke echoed in Darcy's mind, pricking his conscience. "You are correct — Miss de Bourgh should at least receive the compliment of an invitation, though she is certain to decline. It would displease Lady Catherine if she exerted herself unnecessarily."
Excerpted from The Matters at Mansfield (Or, The Crawford Affair) by Carrie Bebris. Copyright © 2008 Carrie Bebris. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author
Carrie Bebris is a freelance writer and editor. She holds a master's degree in English literature and is a life member of the Jane Austen Society of North America. A Wisconsin native, she now resides in Ohio. The Matters at Mansfield is her fourth Mr.&Mrs. Darcy mystery.
Award-winning author Carrie Bebris is best known for her Mr.&Mrs. Darcy Mystery series. Set in Regency England, the novels entangle some of Jane Austen’s most beloved characters in intrigue, with sharp dialogue, romantic interplay, and a dash of gothic atmosphere. Carrie began her career in publishing after previous roles as a newspaper reporter and college English teacher. As an editor for fantasy publisher TSR, Inc., she developed supplements for the Dungeons&Dragons® roleplaying game before striking out on her own as a freelance writer and editor. She wrote two fantasy novels, Pool of Radiance: Ruins of Myth Drannor (2001) and Shadowborn (1998, with William W. Connors), before making her mystery debut in 2004 with Pride and Prescience. The novel made the Independent Mystery Booksellers Association bestseller list and was named one of the five best mysteries of 2004 by Library Journal. The third book in the series, North by Northanger, won the 2007 Daphne du Maurier Award, which honors excellence in romantic suspense, and a Reviewers Choice Award from Romantic Times BookClub magazine for Best Historical Mystery of 2006.
In addition to fiction, Carrie pens remodeling articles for Better Homes and Gardens® Special Interest Publications and writes other nonfiction. She has also edited such books as Tea with Jane Austen (by Kim Wilson) and Walking with William Shakespeare (by Anne-Marie Edwards). She is on the faculty of the 2008 Antioch Writers' Workshop and speaks frequently about writing and publishing. Carrie holds a master’s degree in English literature with an emphasis on 19th-century authors and studied Austen on the graduate level with one of today’s most respected Austen scholars. She is a life member of the Jane Austen Society of North America and travels to England to enhance her understanding of Austen’s life and work. Originally from Wisconsin, Carrie now lives in Ohio. When not writing, she likes to travel, watch costume dramas on A&E that send her husband fleeing the house, and indulge in her love of all things British. She is currently working on the next Mr.&Mrs. Darcy mystery.
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The Mr and Mrs Darcy is absoultely great. It's a fun read. I didnt like Pride and Prejudice before but now I'm thinking I should give it another shot. A word of warning though when buying books through Market place -dont. It is a service that is nothing but headaches. I have ordered at least 5 times and there is always a problem. The exception to this MacKenzie Books.
Darcy must find his cousin Ann de Bourgh who eloped with Henry Crawford. They met at Bath and ran away together when Lady Catherine decides to marry ann off to a young man who is abusive but rich and titled. Darcy arrives too late but escorts the couple back to Lady Catherine. An accident occurs in Mansfield and they must all stay at a local inn. A murder then occurs which Mr. Darcy must solve. Mrs. Norris, Maria, Edward Bertram, and Mr. Rushworth all make an apperance. Fanny Price does not appear which was a disapointment.
The Matters at Mansfield is the fourth installment in the Mr. and Mrs. Darcy mystery series, written by Carrie Bebris. The Matters at Mansfield take the characters from Jane Austen's Mansfield Park and embroils them into a scandalous murder mystery that must be solved by Mr. and Mrs. Darcy. (For those who know black and white films and know what The Thin Man series is, the Mr. and Mrs. Darcy characters are exactly like Nick and Nora) This book takes the Darcy's to Riverton house for an engagement party for their cousin Roger Fitzwilliam. They wish to be back at Pemberley enjoying the peace and quiet with their new daughter. While at Riverton they discover that Lady Catherine de Bourgh is planning a well to do marriage for Anne and that Anne is completely unaware of the plan. While everyone is at a ball one evening, Anne makes her escape. A note is found from Anne telling Elizabeth that she has left with Mr. Henry Crawford and they are going to Gretna Green to be married. "Forgive my burdening you with the responsibility of imparting news to my mother which it will distress her to hear, but you alone understand the decision I now make. ..Tonight I leave for Gretna Green with Mr. Crawford." Darcy and Colonel Fitzwilliam leave at once to try to reach the couple before the marriage ceremony takes place. Upon arriving in Gretna Green they find the young couple married. Darcy and Fitzwilliam tell them they must start to journey back towards Riverton so that they can face the wrath of Lady Catherine. On the way back they stop in Mansfield to change the horses when Anne befalls an accident. A carriage runs over her, rending her unable to walk for a time. They are forced to stay in Mansfield until Anne is healed. While there they learn that most of Mansfield is familiar with Mr. Crawford and that the town is ripe with gossip of his return. Darcy and Fitzwilliam vow that they will find out what is amiss when who else but Lady Catherine and Elizabeth show up. Soon after her arrival gossip begins about Crawford, a second wife shows up, and murders begin happening. It's up to Darcy and Elizabeth to figure out what is going on and fast, or run the risk of the family honor lost forever. While I was interested in the goings-on of this novel, it was my least favorite of the four I've read so far. The first three novels in the series I read cover to cover in one sitting. This one took me a few days to complete, as each time I picked it up I couldn't get into it. I think that it was an interesting and original idea, but there was A LOT going on in this one. I found myself repeating passages and going back a few chapters to re-read parts to remember who a character was or what their connection to person x was. It really was a great mystery, but I think that it was just a bit much to process in the amount of pages written. Kimberly (Reflections of a Book Addict)
I think I really liked this book in the Darcy series. I have read many books lately in the Jane Austen genre, and I really like these the best, along with Stephanie Barron's Jane Austen series. Carrie Bebris has caught Jane Austen's style just right and uses the characters in the same way Jane would, at least in my opinion, My only complaint is that I wish she wold write a little faster. I am anxious to read the next in the series.
Always thought these books would not hold my interest as I liked to hear about Darcy and Elizabeth but they are really good. Their lives continue in these books but it also shows they have many things going on in their lives. The saga continues.
A fun mix of the families of Mansfield Park with the Bennetts! Author Bebris finally manages the leave the spirit world completely out of the plot, making a vast improvement over the previous stories in her series. Lady Catherine and daughter Anne are the focus of this book, the domineering mother determined to marry her hapless daughter off to a wealthy peer, no matter his age or mental state. Anne is equally determined to avoid wedding a man who might beat her. The Darcys are commanded to attend Lady Catherine, and have a sincere desire to rescue Anne. I liked the way Col. Fitzwilliam has been brought in to the story, and find Anne's personality fairly believable, given her overbearing and odious mother. I still think Pamela Aidan's trilogy "Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman" is the best of the P&P spinoffs, but I am liking this series more with this 4th volume. I was about to give it up, but I will look for the 5th one now, and hope for no madmen as well as no spiritists in it.
Henry Crawford (the villain from Mansfield Park) has his hooks into Miss Anne de Bourgh. Rather than excepting her fate and marry the man her manipulative mother has chosen for her, Anne escapes with Mr. Crawford to Scotland. Here they elope, just before Mr. Darcy and Colonel Fitzwilliam arrive. Those two gentleman armed with the knowledge of the marriage, must now bring the pair back to face Lady Catherine. However, an accident in Mansfield prevents them from going any further. Instead, Mrs. Darcy (nee Bennet) and Lady Catherine arrive at the inn. Here Mr Crawford's past catches up with him. Before long, he's dead and the list of suspects grows by the minute. Can the Darcy's solve the case before it's declared a suicide and save Anne's reputation? The Jane Austen fan in me loved this book, although I did figure it out before the ending. Still, it was an enjoyable read. It's the 4th in a series, but most of the books stand alone. I love the societal bits as I'm a sucker for the era.
Austenesque author Carrie Bebris ventures into her fourth excursion in the Mr. and Mrs. Darcy mysteries series with the recently released, The Matters at Mansfield: or the Crawford Affair, continuing the story of Elizabeth and Fitzwilliam Darcy after their marriage in Jane Austen¿s novel Pride and Prejudice. Once again we join the famous couple as they investigate crime and murder among the gentry of Regency England involving many familiar characters from Jane Austen¿s novels. It has been two summers since the Darcy¿s marriage in 1803 and the story opens at Riverton Hall in Buckinghamshire, the ancestral home of Mr. Darcy¿s mother Anne Fitzwilliam. The present Earl is giving a ball in honor of his new fiancé and the Darcy¿s are house guests along with other family members sister Georgiana Darcy, cousins Colonel Fitzwilliam and Anne de Borough, and their aunt, the officious and overbearing Lady Catherine de Borough still giving unsolicited advice and talking a blue streak. Lady Catherine¿s hen pecked and sickly daughter Anne is now 28 years old and being micro-managed by her mother to within an inch of her life. Lady Catherine is determined to secure a prominent match for her daughter since the mate chosen for her since birth, Fitzwilliam Darcy, defied her wishes and married that `gentleman¿s daughter¿, Elizabeth Bennet. Unbeknownst to Anne, her mother brokers a marriage to the son of a family friend and neighbor Lord Sennex, of Hawthorn Manor. This is purely a match of convenience as the future husband is a hot tempered Caliban, about as suitable a love match for fragile and retiring Anne as the odious Rev. Mr. Collins was for Elizabeth Bennet in the original novel. Certain that her mother will chain her to an abysmal marriage, Anne makes an uncharacteristically bold move and elopes with a man unknown to her family or friends, Henry Crawford of Everingham in Norfolk. Darcy and Colonel Fitzwilliam pursue the couple to Gretna Green, Scotland only to discover that they are too late. The irregular marriage has already taken place and duly consummated. At Lady Catherine¿s biding, they escort the couple back to Riverton Hall for an audience with her Ladyship. Along the road they are detained in a country village quite familiar to Henry Crawford, Mansfield Park, the last village in England where we would like to be stranded. Unavoidably he must deal with the village locals and many of the characters in Jane Austen¿s novel Mansfield Park such as Sir Thomas Bertram, Mrs. Norris and his former paramour, the spiteful Maria Rushworth. While there, a murder is discovered. Who, I will not reveal, but suffice it to say, if you ever felt the desire to kill off one of Jane Austen¿s most undeserving cads, you will not be disappointed. Ms Berbris is truly fond of a good Austen quote skillfully applying them as a epigraph to open each of the chapters. In that spirit, I shall paraphrase a quote by Lady Catherine de Borough from Pride and Prejudice and exclaim that with The Matters at Mansfield she ¿has given us a treasure.¿ I was continually charmed by her imaginings of Mr. and Mrs. Darcy as the Nick and Nora Charles of the Regency set, exhibiting all the sensibilities that any Janeite would appreciate in an Austen pastiche respect for the original author¿s style, observance of period detail, reverence to the characters, and interjection of circuitous humour and lighthearted banter, all combined in a well thought out and absorbing whodunit that keeps us guessing and engaged to the last. My only disappointment was that it ended all too quickly, and I hope that the next novel currently being penned about Austen¿s novel Emma will suspend our pleasure for a bit longer.
Elizabeth and Fitzwilliam Darcy are euphoric over the birth of their first child. However, both are bit stunned when they attend a party, as their mousy cousin Anne de Bourgh shows shocking courage and even stunningly a backbone by standing up to her martinet mother Lady Catherine for the first time at least in public. Catherine plans for her daughter to wed odious Neville Sennex, heir to senile Lord Sennex instead Anne elopes with Mr. Crawford.-------------- Darcy and Colonel Fitzwilliam give chase, but arrive at Gretna Green too late to stop the marriage. Instead they escort the couple home only Annie hurts her foot so they stop at Mansfield. However, soon afterward, a horde descends on the village. Annie¿s mom with her lawyer wants the marriage annulled. Crawford¿s mistress and his second wife claim he cannot marry someone else. As everyone argues over whom is married to who, Crawford¿s battered corpse is found the magistrate proclaims suicide but Elizabeth and Fitz think otherwise and begin investigating.-------------- Although some Jane Austen die-hards might take exception to liberties with characters like Anne (critically needed to put the plot in gear), Carrie Bebris provides a fun lighthearted Regency amateur sleuth tale. The story line is a fast-paced Regency and of course includes Austen tidbits. For the most part fans of Ms. Austen will appreciate Elizabeth and Fitzwilliam starring in their fourth entertaining whodunit (see PRIDE AND PRESCIENCE, NORTH BY NORTHANGER and SUSPENSE AND SENSIBILITY).----------- Harriet Klausner