Suspense and Sensibility (Or, First Impressions Revisited): A Mr. and Mrs. Darcy Mystery

They say be careful what you wish for because you might get it.

In my review on an Elizabeth Aston sequel to P&P, I posed the idea that one of these continuations writers put some of our beloved characters from the different novels together; little did I imagine that the next book I would read—one that my mom found for me knowing my interests, would do just that, and do it so well that I am eager to see it done again.

Suspense and Sensibility is the second of Ms. Bebris’ Darcy mysteries. It takes place not long after the wedding and involves the Darcy couple taking Kitty, as promised at the end of P&P, under their care for a while, specifically to London for the marriage market. While there, they meet a most interesting young man—Harry Dashwood, whom we last saw as the young son of the usurpers of our Dashwood girls’ estate, Norwood. You recall, of course, his scheming mother, Fanny, persuading her malleable husband to deny his sisters sufficient means of living. Fanny is still alive (and still awful), and other S&S characters enter the picture as well:  Lucy Ferrars (even worse than you could imagine, even at the start of this story—so awful that Elizabeth at one point actually misses Lady Catherine!), Robert Ferrars (watch for a hilarious scene involving Robert and many gleaming silver objects in which he studies his own reflection), Edward and Elinor (who, as we’d expect, immediately takes to Elizabeth, and vice-versa), Marianne and Colonel Brandon (only briefly, but deeply in love), Mrs. Dashwood, and the Middeltons.

Everything you’d want to happen, in terms of relationships blossoming, seems to happen here: Georgiana Darcy befriends Kitty Bennet, Elinor befriends Elizabeth, Edward assists Darcy, and Darcy assists Harry Dashwood; somehow, in the midst of this heavenly concoction, Bebris manages to sustain a riveting mystery. The way she sets it up makes the reader both enjoy the story and figure things out before the characters, which makes for a fulfilling read. Once you figure it out (there are so many clues!), it is so much fun to watch the mystery unfold! And if you enjoy a clever narrator and clever central characters (and what Janeite doesn’t?), then you will certainly enjoy this work for that asset as well. Even the subtitle is clever, suggesting a melding of two Austen novels without directly telling us.

There is also the thought-provoking tension between logic and reason on the one hand, and instinct and intuition on the other. Part of Darcy’s struggle here, as in the earlier book, is that he relies almost exclusively on the former, whereas Elizabeth, though hesitant to use the latter given her mistakes in P&P, has access to instinct that is key to solving the problems presented here.

Other issues Bebris explores here include the necessary ingredients for reformation of a silly man (here, good principles, intelligence, a desire to change, and an influential teacher) and the problems faced by people with money in the marriage market (never really being courted for themselves and therefore being LESS likely to experience true love than poorer characters like Kitty).

Though there may be an instance or two of milking humor unnecessarily—Regina, Lucy’s daughter, for instance, has weight issues, and is often mocked for it (she appears “to be chewing her cud”)—and some of the text’s events are just plain creepy (keep an eye on the mirror and the portrait), this story offers us some of our favorite characters in situations that we could hardly have imagined but that bring out the qualities we love in them. Darcy, for instance—I love him more than ever; there is nothing he will not sacrifice for the woman he loves, and even for innocent people he does not love. Look forward to more information about this towards the end of the story.

And to a little catch you might not have “caught” when it was thrown at you amid other information (but which the epilogue will clarify).

Stephanie Barron says it best on the back cover when she calls this work, like Austen’s, “thoroughly ‘light and bright and sparkling.’” Really, it is.

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Published in: on March 29, 2010 at 11:30 am  Leave a Comment  

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