The Unreformed Mr. Darcy by Mei Wei Lin
Summary: Darcy’s Hunsford proposal gets interrupted so ends up not being so bad. Elizabeth ends up accepting because there’s a terrible guy wanting to marry Jane and she wants to protect her. Thus, Darcy doesn’t know Elizabeth doesn’t like him, nor why, so he’s unchanged for much of the story. Wickham, Lydia, and the new Mr. Caruthers cause problems.
Review: How the Hunsford proposal is interrupted, and how this, plus a twist in Jane’s life, makes Elizabeth reconsider her reaction to Darcy’s proposal is well done and believable. No longer in the heat of the moment, and with other things to consider, you can see that Elizabeth might give a different answer.
Darcy, not getting Elizabeth’s dressing down at Hunsford, is still the same haughty and aloof man he was until a circumstance with Lydia reveals Elizabeth’s true feelings the day after their wedding. Shifting this revelation of how his behavior affects others makes for some uncomfortable, angsty scenes. I appreciated that though he was still haughty, he wasn’t mean or cruel (in another variation with a similar situation, Darcy is hateful until he magically becomes nice after Elizabeth finally tells him off), so once he has his awakening, it’s not hard to believe his shift in behavior.
The second plot change involving Jane was a little unbelievable, but it was well done. Given the events, everyone behaved in character appropriate ways. I would have liked a little more of Elizabeth and Darcy after their reconciliation—showing them overcoming the awkwardness of all they’d felt and believed and behaved. It felt a little too quick that they went from I can’t look at you when we speak to let’s stay in bed together all day. (Not that there was any description of any intimacies—this is not a steamy variation).
Overall I liked this variation a lot and definitely recommend it.
Unwilling by Elizabeth Adams
Summary: Due to Mr. Bennet’s impending death, Elizabeth agrees to marry Darcy.
Review: What I like best about this book is that it firmly establishes believable reasons why Elizabeth would go against her nature and accept Darcy’s first proposal. I also really like how many different people’s points of view we get, that Jane is given a deeper story, and that Mr. Bennett is fleshed out more—all without diminishing the fact that this is primarily Elizabeth and Darcy’s story.
Pemberley in Peril by Arthel Cake
Summary: In this version, Elder Mr. Darcy is still alive and is friends with Mr. Bennet, who is a London solicitor. Elder Mr. Darcy’s impending death and Mr. Bennet’s fear that Lizzy will end up a spinster lead to an arranged marriage of convenience. Complicating matters are the appearance of a Darcy’s reclusive great-aunt, Lady Agatha Quintain, a series of robberies, and an attempted murder.
Review: Intriguing plot—had me thinking about Lady Agatha and her mystery when I wasn’t reading. I liked the novelty of ODC being more socially equal and being forced to marry without pre-formed opinions of each other. Unfortunately, in this situation, there was little tension, so while a nice romance, it wasn’t the most compelling part of the story. But there was more than enough intrigue from the Lady Agatha subplot and the Wickham subplot. It’s only too bad that ODC’s relationship seemed second-fiddle to the other storylines. I almost feel this story would be better served if it weren’t a P&P variation—change the names and then there wouldn’t be any disappointment at the lackluster Darcy and Elizabeth romance. But the writing was good, with minimal typos—very minimal, thank goodness!
This Disconcerting Happiness by Christina Morland
Summary: Darcy’s family knows about Ramsgate and took Georgiana away—she’s now miserable living with Lady Catherine. Mr. Bennet is dying. So when they meet at the Meryton Assembly, Elizabeth and Darcy react differently, like each other, and decide on a marriage of convenience—Elizabeth can save her family from destitution, and Darcy can get Georgiana back. Complications arise because Elizabeth is not good enough for the family.
Review: I really liked the first half of this book—the banter and discussions Lizzy and Darcy had as they got to know each other were fun and made their growing affection seem realistic. I also liked the mirroring of small details that showed their compatibility even when they didn’t see those things.
The author did a good job of keeping the pace and tension high throughout most of the book, such that I found it hard to put down.
What I didn’t like is that starting about halfway through the book (slight spoiler) after they get married, there are fewer interactions between Lizzy and Darcy. Also, at one point Darcy has a sort of epiphany, but then there seems to be little action taken to address this insight.
Also, I get that theirs is supposed to be this “disconcerting happiness,” yet the back half of the book, even the end, feels more melancholy than happy.
**Spoilers** What I dislike the most is not that Darcy asks Elizabeth to learn more impeccable manners in order to help him get Georgiana back, but that doing so somehow takes her confidence from her. And worse, when he realizes he has asked her to change herself in a fundamental way and should not have, other than defending her himself, he never sets her free from those constraints (other than to proclaim that they’ll just stay out of society where it won’t matter)—or if he does it’s not mentioned in any way in the book. I would have loved to have a scene where she could have been her true self with his family. It just feels like the author and Darcy clipped Elizabeth’s wings and never let them grow back.
The Scandalous Stepmother by Renata McMann and Summer Hanford
Summary: Mrs. Bennet died many years before the events of the story begin, and Mr. Bennet has remarried a Lady Augusta who made sure the five Bennet girls were more refined and accomplished than in P&P, but she was not a very kind woman. At the opening of the story, all five Bennet daughters come home from the Netherfield ball engaged to be married. Elizabeth has accepted Darcy more to escape her stepmother than from affection for Darcy. Darcy thought Lady Augusta was Elizabeth’s mother, meaning that Elizabeth came with great connections. He’s unreformed at the beginning of their marriage. So things are awkward.
Review: I always enjoy McMann and Hanford’s writing, and this is no exception.
Lizzy may not love Darcy, she doesn’t hate him because she hasn’t met Wickham yet and Darcy never interfered with Jane and Bingley. But Lizzy doesn’t really know Darcy. And he doesn’t really know her. Unfortunately, while Lizzy is more inclined to like Darcy, he’s not had his crisis of conscience, and remains aloof, snobby, and distant, making it impossible for Lizzy to get to know him.
I sort of hate these kinds of stories where Darcy and Lizzy marry before he’s had his personal epiphany. He’s such a jerk. This isn’t the worst version of this type that I’ve read, but it’s still not fun. I really wanted Lizzy to tell him where he could shove his condescending, “I’m a man and I know best so just shut up and do as I say” attitude.
As so often happens in these types of stories, his change feels too fast and unearned. This one almost pulled it off (here at least Darcy starts to realize that Lizzy isn’t the same sparkling woman he married), but it just didn’t take the time to really make it believable. But his change of heart is way more believable than hers where one action on his part is enough for her to suddenly be madly in love with her husband despite the fact that nothing has changed at this point—she doesn’t know more about him than she did before, he doesn’t give her more credit than he did before (those things come, but not until after she’s already decided she does love him.) It’s a bit frustrating.
Unequal Affections by Lara S. Ormiston
Summary: Rather than responding as she does in P&P to Darcy’s insulting proposal, Elizabeth considers her situation and tells Darcy that she doesn’t love him, but will marry him anyway.
Review: The characterizations of Darcy and especially of Bingly are great, they feel spot on. I guess, in the end, I found the premise unbelievable—at least as presented: no clear reason is given for why Elizabeth this time wouldn’t let her temper get the better of her as she did in the original and without a compelling reason, it doesn’t feel true to her character. It is an engaging story—mostly. I finally got a little annoyed by how much the conflict was purely a lack of communication. This, too, I had a hard time believing, especially of Elizabeth as she doesn’t seem the type to hold back. I enjoyed the story, but Elizabeth didn’t feel like the real Elizabeth to me.