Austen Author Brenda J. Webb asked if I would like to read one of her books last year, and I eagerly accepted a copy. According to the guidelines I imposed on myself in 2014, I let her know I would only post a review if I could write a glowing one, and I am very pleased to be able to do so today.
It was really rather ironic reading this book while still gathering reactions to The Madness of Mr. Darcy. I imagine if I got on Amazon and looked through Ms. Webb's reviews that I would find a lot of comments akin to those I have received. Like my book, Fitzwilliam Darcy: An Honourable Man has a very difficult beginning. We come upon an Elizabeth horrifically traumatized: mute and unresponsive. So hard to read! Our beloved heroine, reduced to such state by the machinations of a vile mother (Mrs. Bennet is a true villain in this story) and an unscrupulous husband (an Italian count, no less, right out of Radcliffe), is a nauseating spectacle. It's painful, which it should be, for it allows you to fully enter into Darcy's feelings when he returns to Netherfield, two years after being rejected at Hunsford, to learn the woman he thought he had expunged from his heart was dead (a lie spread by the Binlgeys to protect Elizabeth from her mother), yet to then come upon her in her disordered state! It is a heart wrenching moment as we learn the full sordid details of what happened to Elizabeth through Jane and Charles, but it also the beginning of the healing process, for though apart Darcy and Elizabeth prove so vulnerable, together they will overcome all that stands in their path to happiness.
One of my favorite aspects of this variation was that it positioned our meek and mild Jane to become a protective lioness in regards to her sister, even when that means cutting ties with her mother. I was very proud of this Mr. and Mrs. Bingley as I read the book. I really wanted to quote the passage in which it happened, or the one when Jane and Bingley first tell Darcy about Elizabeth, but all the passages considered seem to give too much away. The story holds so many surprises, and I would hate to reveal them. Rest assured Ms. Webbs prose are clear and artistically crafted.
The story ends very happily, but the road there is filled with machinations and impediments. There is a lot going on in this book with multiple layers of villains, all pursuing their own vicious ends, making things difficult for our beloved couple. Further, there are vivid portraits of the Darcy and Fitzwilliam families, complete with complex family skeletons, emotional trauma, and romance. I was impressed by Ms. Webb's ability to weave such a complicated tale while maintaining the personal, emotional connection between the main characters and the readers. Fitzwilliam Darcy is a rich and captivating story. A hard read for the feint hearted, but worth the effort. I look forward to reading more of Ms. Webb's work.