The Mistress's Black Veil by M.K. Baxley. I have avoided Ms. Baxley's books in the past because I knew that they were racier than what I typically enjoy (the fact that I usually don't go for modernization, and that is what was previously available, had something to do with it too), but this book had received so many great reviews, and in such a short amount of time, that I decided to check it out. I think if the product description of the book had been more accurate, I probably wouldn't have bothered. However, that being said, I'm not sorry I read it. A discussion of the story's plot will help illuminate this somewhat mixed reaction.
This is basically a tale of Elizabeth Bennet becoming Mr. Darcy's mistress. Five years after the proposal at Hunsford, the Bennet family, following a multitude of deaths, are horribly impoverished, driving our heroine to make that most desperate of decisions by joining the demimonde. Mr. Darcy, meanwhile, continues to mourn for the lady who inadvertently stole his heart, losing himself in his business interests, which has resulted in his accumulation of a fortune surpassing the Duke of Devonshire's. At the urging of his cousins, he finally concedes to the need for female companionship and attends the ball at which Elizabeth, disguised as Sofia Molina, a Spanish lady who never removes her mask and veil, makes her debut. As she reminds him of Elizabeth, the two quickly enter into a contract, and soon this "business" relationship blooms into love.
Now had I read such a synopsis before buying this book, I would never have made the purchase, and as I began to read and discovered what the plot actually was, I admit to fearing for the very worse. But besides a few scenes, the storyline really isn't as lewd as you would expect, especially considering the subject matter. I have read many far more sexualized Pride and Prejudice reimaginations that follow much more innocent story lines. I was actually rather impressed by how Ms. Baxley took these dramatically altered circumstances and manipulated them so that the course of Darcy and Elizabeth's relationship remained remarkably true to the original tale. That being said, the obviously episodic writing of the story (I believe it was first published at A Happy Assembly) was a little frustrating. Each chapter begins and ends with a first person narration recap and conclusion, while in between the level of dramatic content almost overwhelms. Putting that aside, I was pretty entertained. I read the book in a single day, it was light and compelling, and it succeeded in keeping my mind off the elephant in the room - my enormously bulging belly. If you enjoy darker and more sexual Pride and Prejudice retellings, you will probably greatly enjoy this book. If the notion of Elizabeth selling herself to the highest bidder makes you want to scream, I would probably look elsewhere for your next read. With so many great "What if?" stories out there these days, we readers have the luxury of picking and choosing precisely those which cater most to our individual tastes.