Sunday, April 22, 2012

Book Review - Mr. Darcy Forever
by Victoria Connelly

Sarah and Mia Castle are closer than best friends and share just about everything, including a deep and abiding love for all things relating to Jane Austen. Their annual trip to the Jane Austen Festival in Bath is a highlight of their lives—until the year they discover that no matter how close two sisters may be, it’s impossible to share one man between them. Even if he does seem like their own perfect Mr. Darcy, if one wins him, won’t both of them lose?

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Victoria Connelly’s Jane Austen Addict Trilogy concludes with Mr. Darcy Forever, where we find not one but two Janeites together in Bath for the annual Jane Austen Festival.  As sisters Sarah and Mia are both fervent fans of the 1995 film adaptation of Sense and Sensibility, they are thrilled to have the opportunity to not only attend the festival, but also take their lodging in the very cottage used in the film. Staying in the fictional Barton cottage is a dream come true, and they look forward to their sisterly time together and time away from troublesome men.

Like Elinor in Austen’s novel, Sarah is the elder sister who operates primarily from her intellect.  She’s so disconnected from her feelings that she also suffers from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, having a driving need to constantly organize the world around her and maintain cleanliness at all times.  Mia, the younger sister by nine years, is very much like Austen’s Marianne, as she tends to follow her heart and make poor choices in her love life.

It’s not long before their serene holiday is interrupted by the arrival of a tall, dark and handsome man named Alec. He’s very charming, but his entrance into the Castle girls’ lives is the start of significant upheaval.  Whether he proves to be a Darcy or a Willoughby remains to be seen, but after meeting him, the lives of these two women will never be the same.

Connelly’s previous titles, A Weekend with Mr. Darcy and Dreaming of Mr. Darcy were fun, delightful novels, perfect for a Janeite to read on a weekend or a vacation. Her characters are likeable, and her plots always maintain my interest.  The same is true with Mr. Darcy Forever.  It’s imminently readable, and any fan of Austenesque fiction or cinematic portrayals of Austen’s work will enjoy this.  Connelly not only references her own work in the rest of the trilogy, but she also nods at fellow Austenesque writers as well. She is just a much a fan of this world as her characters and readers.

While the title and cover art may suggest that Mr. Darcy Forever is a romance, it’s really more of a tale of two estranged sisters.  We see them endure betrayal, secrets, and yes, romance, but the focus of the novel is primarily on their relationship and its undulations over the years. The women make some poor choices, some expected and some less so, and the both must go through trials and growth as they work out the consequences of their decisions. The overall tone of the plot is generally lighthearted, but the girls still deal with some heart wrenching issues as well. Connelly keeps things fairly clean, as sexual moments are referenced but no intimate details are given.  She easily could have taken advantage of a few romantic scenes, and I appreciate the fact that things didn’t become too graphic.

Connelly uses a literary device in her storytelling that I enjoyed very much. Her chapters tend to alternate between the present day and the girls’ visit to Barton Cottage three years before.  Through a series of flashbacks, we learn the origins behind the sisters’ estrangement and how they came to their current state of alienation. I loved how details of the past were doled out over several separate chapters, and on a couple of occasions, I was completely surprised by Victoria’s plot choices. In one instance, I put the book down, began shrieking in disbelief and glee, and began punching the bed on which I was sitting.  My husband looked up from his own reading and said, “Enjoying the book, are we?!”  I laughed with delight.  This was such fun!

Once again, I can highly recommend Victoria Connelly's work in Mr. Darcy Forever. It’s a delightful novel that any Janeite can enjoy.  Like a summer holiday in Bath can be, it’s full of fun, romance and drama.  There will be no slogging through this one—Victoria has once again woven a tale that I enjoyed from beginning to end.  Pick up her Austen Addicts trilogy today!

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