Mrs. Darcy's Dilemma
Diana Birchall
Mrs Darcy's Dilemma
Paperback - 240 pages; (May 2004)
Egerton House Publishing; ISBN: 190501600X

       Review by Linda Waldemar, 25 July 2004
Ms Birchall borrows a lot from Jane Austen in this sequel, but this is not a bad thing. I see characters modeled on Lydia Bennet, Fanny Price, Mrs. Norris, Henry and Eleanor Tilney. The basic plot reminds one of Mansfield Park.

This novel is set five and twenty years after the marriage of the eldest Bennet daughters. At this point in her life, "Mrs. Darcy is one of the happiest women in the world."

Jane is also happy in her marriage. She and Mr. Bingley have one son only; an over-indulged "puppy". The Darcys are the parents of Fitzwilliam, the eldest, who is a lot like Tom Bertram,  Henry and Jane, 17; these two remind me of Henry and Eleanor Tilney.  Mary is now widowed and keeps house for the widower, Mr. Bennet; she had been married to Mr. Smith, a clerk. Kitty is married to a clergyman near Pemberley. She improved enough to attract and marry Mr. Clarke. However, after witnessing the happiness and prosperity of her eldest sisters, she became jealous and bitter. Never having children of her own, she spends most of her time at Pemberley, doting on her niece and nephews, leaving her husband to tend his award winning garden. Mrs. Clarke is a bit of a Mrs. Norris.

Now Lydia. She has produced a large number of children; eight. They are always moving from place to place and living hand to mouth; like Mrs. Price. Lydia frequently writes and requests monetary help from Jane and Elizabeth; they always comply. Mr. Wickham is lost to hard drink. He treats his family badly and does not provide for them. Lydia writes to ask Lizzy for help for her daughters; Bettina is 20 and Cloe, 17. Elizabeth decides to ask them to visit Pemberley and Mr. Darcy agrees.

"If they really are two Lydias, heedless, husband-hunting and noisy, we can send them back  home readily enough. But if there is something in them, if they are deserving girls, then some time away from their mother, enjoying the advantages of Pemberley, and most of all, of your company, my dear, may benefit them very much."
"And they really may catch husbands," said Elizabeth archly. Then she had a sudden thought. "But, heavens! Darcy! Can it be right? They are at a dangerous age indeed. What if they should take it into their heads to fall in love with Fitzwilliam or Henry?"
"Let us flatter ourselves," said Darcy, "that our sons would never think of making such an imprudent match. They have been properly brought up, and know their duty in such matters."

That last sentence sound a lot like Sir Thomas.

The girls arrive. Betty is like Lydia in looks and in personality; "tall and well formed, a bold, handsome young women who did not know what it was to feel at a loss for words...". Cloe is like Fanny Price; "smaller, and less striking in appearance, though altogether a very nice looking girl, with light hair and eyes and a sweet expression. Cloe never attracted the attention that Bettina commanded wherever she went; and being of a thoughtful disposition, with natural good sense, she had, despite her youth, already quietly drawn the conclusion that the manners of her mother and her sister were not the safest models to follow."

Lydia's daughters immediately fall in love with the Darcy sons and they with them. The story continues with the resolution of these love affairs.

This is a quick and pleasant read. The plot is light; the language good; the characters are similar to themselves. I recommend that you give this book a try.

        Written by LynneRobson (8/5/2004 2:40 p.m.)
I have just finished reading this book and it should have been a follow up to MP rather than P&P. I could not see a son of Mr Darcy being a gambler on horses, or one take a mistress of his own cousin. I did not even like this elder son he seemed more like a son of Wickham with little influence of Darcy. The younger son reminded me of the younger son in MP, but also had some traits of Elizabeth and Darcy as did their daughter. The two daughters of Lydia reminded me of the daughters in MP, the elder being like Maria(MP)also like Lydia in some ways. The younger daughter reminded me of a younger Jane. To me the story relied too much on the story of MP written by Austen herself. Both Elizabeth and Darcy's personalities seemed to have changed as well which I did not like at all.
        Written by Melanie Z (9/23/2004 12:23 p.m.)
Some weeks ago, I started it and read the first two chapters and a page further... I gave it up. I don`t like to watch at Lizzy and Darcy like this! The plot seems to be absolutely unsuitable and, though I am well aware about my short reading, I didn`t like the conversations and descriptions of the characters.

        Written by Krista B (3/8/2005 10:08 p.m.)

I waited 2 months for this book to arrive. It wasn't worth it.

1. If I was a publisher, I would have rejected the book.

a)The author uses huge, obscure words. There is one in particular, but I forget it. I consulted 2 dictionaries before I could find a listing for the word.
b)Too many of her emotions end in -ly. It's a lazy means of propping up a weak verb. Mrs. Darcy declared gravely. Sorry, doesn't cut it anymore. Not to mention when that same sentence is used more then one in the same scene!

2. I don't think the author read P&P.
Sure, she consulted Coles Notes and was able to add in a few of the popular quotes that JA penned, but beyond that, none of the characters were captured in that old light. Lydia was well down, although over the top. Considering her several beatings and births, one would expect her to have mellowed, not worsened.

3. We are told, but shown nothing.
Oh, how this irritates me. Don't tell me that Darcy is always affectionate to Lizzie; once only do we see them embrace and it was her going to him. Don't tell me that Lizzy didn't lose her good spirits, when it seems all she does is worry about her kids and be overwhelmed. If anything, I thought she turned into Mrs. Bennett.

4. Come up with something moderately original.
The London crowd did have different morals then country folk. That's been a consistent fact throughout English literature. The gentry in London, and especially the higher ranks, held different morals concerning mistresses, misters, lovers, gambling, and other such affairs. The characters act like it's the first time they've ever heard of a mistress. If they've been spending 25 seasons in London like the author says, then Lizzie and Darcy would be quited bored at the idea of anyone keeping a mistress. Nearly everyone has a mistress or a lover. The perfect world of JA gentry didn't happen in London.

Beyond that, Lizzie's boy taking his cousin as his mistress, and then Jane's boy taking up with her? I was hoping for something a bit more exciting then that.

Overall, it was a light and easy read. It was distracting enough for a couple of evenings, but I'll probably never read the book again.

Yes, I am venting. Mostly because I paid $20 for it and it took 2 months to arrive!!

        Written by Kathleen Glancy (3/9/2005 5:47 p.m.)

When I read it (and I quite liked it) there were no words in it that I could not understand. Nor is there anything intrinsically wrong in using long words. Mr Bingley tells us that a certain friend of his admired by most Pemberleans likes to use four-syllabled words.

I am personally acquainted with Diana. She has read P&P countless times, first read it long before P&P 2 ever aired, and is a long-time member of JASNA. 

There were, and still are, certainly different standards of morals among groups of people, but in my opinion it is a little sweeping to say all country people were moral - the highest rate of pregnant brides was found in the rural working classes - but all the London Gentry weren't. Most of them weren't, but there were exceptions and I would contend that Mr and Mrs Darcy, however often they visited London, would still have moral standards and would therefore be distressed if their heir behaved immorally, especially if he picked the worst possible girl to do it with. But that is only my opinion.

           Written by Linda (3/9/2005 9:30 p.m.)

Not so bad, IMO. I rather enjoyed this book and did not find much that was objectionable.

        Written by LynneRobson (3/12/2005 10:04 a.m.) 

I felt that I could not see a son of Mr Darcy being so lax, he would have been brought up with good morals as the Darcy in P&P did not approve of the beliefs of society in his day which would have been different in his son's Victoria was ruling and the ton was not as lax in their sexual ways as they had been when the regent and King George IV was on the throne.

Mistresses were not as popular in Victoria's time ok some men still had a mistress but not as many as in the regency era. Women were treated with more respect in Victoria's rein. For me Elizabeth and Darcy's son and Bingley and Jane's son taking their cousin as a mistress would have been an insult to their up bringing, and I therefore could not see this happening. Darcy would have disinherited his son and so would Bingley in my honest oppinion. To me this story was a carbon copy of MP but written with P&P characters in a different time period.

When I first read this book I was not over thrilled with the way it was written but after reading it a second time I found too many things I just could not see either Bingley or Darcy allowing their sons to do. It is a interesting little read but not one I could recommend to people.

        Written by Rike (May 3, 2007 )
I really enjoyed Mrs. Darcy's Dilemma by Diana Birchall. ...hard to get, but ... well-written and the characters fit to how Jane Austen described them.