From the back cover:
Six months after his father's passing, Fitzwilliam Darcy still finds solace in his morning reflections at his parents' graves. Only in the quiet solitude of the churchyard does he indulge his grief. None but his unlikely mentor recognize the heartache and insecurity plaguing him as he shoulders the enormous burden of being Master of Pemberley.
Not all are pleased with his choice of adviser. Lady Catherine complains Darcy allows him too much influence. Lord Matlock argues, "Who is he to question the God-appointed social order?" But the compassionate wisdom Darcy finds in his counselor keeps him returning for guidance even though it causes him to doubt everything he has been taught.
In the midst of his struggles to reinvent himself, his school chum, Charles Bingley, arrives. Darcy hopes the visit will offer some respite from the uproar in his life. Instead of relief, Darcy discovers his father's darkest secret staring him in the face. Pushed to his limits, Darcy must overcome the issues that ruined his father and, with his friends and mentor at his side, restore his tarnished birthright.
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The book world is currently awash in many sequels and retellings of Jane Austen’s novels, and I’ve had the privilege (and on rare occasion, dishonor) of reading quite a few of them. Yet somehow Austenesque prequels have escaped my reading, if memory serves. The concept of an extended Pride and Prejudice prelude is an intriguing one, as Austen alluded to more than one pre-Lizzy and Darcy moment in her writing.
In Maria Grace’s novella Darcy’s Decision, events falling shortly after the death of Fitzwilliam Darcy’s father are examined. Through the young master of Pemberley’s memories and his father’s journals, we are given an opportunity to get to know the character of George Darcy a bit better, and we see his son Fitzwilliam struggling with many issues as he is at the dawn of his estate management.
Likewise, the character of George Wickham also takes a prominent position. As was mentioned in the source material, Wickham and Darcy had a bit of a history together. This included spending time as children, as Wickham’s father was Mr. Darcy’s steward. These aspects are worked into the plot of Darcy’s Decision, as was the unfortunate incident between Wickham and Darcy’s younger sister, Georgiana. A bit of literary license is taken with some of these points in history, but the changes that were made work well with the story.
As a novella, Maria Grace’s work is short, less than 120 pages in print. However, she is able to do much with the limited amount of time she’s taken to tell this portion of her story. The plot is brisk and interesting, and completely believable as a Pride and Prejudice prequel. I loved the choices that she made and the way in which she chose to play out the story. She kept things chaste, but she acknowledges that not everyone in society held the same morals.
As a Christian I particularly appreciated her viewpoints on a number of spiritual issues, many of which were addressed by the Darcy family minister, John Bradley, who was a dear friend to Mr. Darcy and a mentor to Fitzwilliam. Grace’s characters struggle with forgiveness, despair, and questioning God’s goodness. These are all issues that many of us can or will relate to at one time or another. They are addressed in a natural way that was not only appreciated, but also fit well into the story and the characters.
My one minor criticism comes with my reaction to Grace’s usage of colloquialisms in Darcy’s Decision. As the story is set in 19th Century England, there will always be phrases and terms which may be unfamiliar to the modern reader. These bits of dialect do lend an air of authenticity to the writing, but as they were used so frequently and included footnotes, more often than not I felt “taken out of” that world. I became a more informed reader after reading the footnote for each antiquated turn of phrase (e.g., “blunt” = paper money), but in this case I would have preferred for this literary device to have been used a bit less. That’s just my preference as a reader—I am certainly not a professional writer and don’t have much of a leg to stand on when it comes to colloquialism usage! ;)
My one major criticism is more of a backhanded compliment. I simply adored Maria Grace’s writing and absolutely dreaded the end of this portion of her story! The conclusion of the title does include a few preliminary pages of the next volume, which seems to focus on Elizabeth Bennet and her days leading up to Pride and Prejudice. This turned out to be a delectable appetizer for me, and now I simply am twitching with anticipation!
It is my sincere hope that Maria Grace’s work receives growing exposure, which will enable her to continue writing and publishing. She is a fabulous author, and I can’t sing her praises highly enough. The source material is respected, the writing is well done, the morals are consistent with Austen and the plot is always engaging. There isn’t a recipe much more enticing than that! Make the right decision today and read Given Good Principles Volume 1. And be prepared to hunger for more!
Post Update: Read my review of the sequel,
The Future Mrs. Darcy
The Future Mrs. Darcy
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Darcy's Decision Giveaway!
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