Beth Ann Bennet, 26, is gathering “sociological data” for Soc 369 with best friend Jane Henderson, planning to avoid getting “emotionally invested” in any way as she tries to follow the instructions of her professor (1). They’re using a website called Lady Catherine’s Love Match (2). And I thought jdate was too much. Beth Ann lives in Chicago, struggles financially, and has a six-year-old, Charlie. Two of the website’s offerings are Reverend Ezekiel Collins and Will Darcy. Jane encourages her friend to use the alias of Charlotte Lucas and to “have a little fun” with her profile (5).
Dr. William Darcy has a goofy cousin, Bingley McNamara, and practices in the Regents General Hospital. Bingley is a gambler whom Darcy accuses of just “overseeing [his] trust fund” (7). Darcy has an ulterior motive in on-line dating, too; Bingley will help fund Darcy’s clinic only with “evidence that (Darcy has) scored a little balance” in his life (8).
Darcy is a compelling hero right away: he makes a ninety-year-old woman feel special, and he has big dreams of helping people with his clinic. Beth is a bit less so but has potential as a single mom who lies—but has a conscience about it and does it to be able to earn a degree and thus more money to support her kid. Soon, though, we see her preparing to help (in the role of social worker) the same elderly people Darcy helps. Pete Wickham is Charlie’s dead-beat dad.
Their first date begins awkwardly—or Beth thinks it does, but we know that’s because she saw the arrogant cousin (why do this to Bingley), not the big D himself. Such a different take than P and P–there’s nothing remotely negative about Darcy (though he keeps putting himself down for having motives he isn’t sharing), and Beth is drawn to him immediately, but lies to him anyway. Darcy does plan their future without really consulting her, but it’s a lovely vision of possibilities.
Clever: Lydia is a young, single mother who received hardly “any prenatal checkups because she didn’t have a job” (26).
Not sure who characters Abby (Beth’s co-worker), Robby (also), Mr. Moratti (Charlie’s “stand-in grandmother”), and Anne Marie Dermott (“cantankerous” elderly patient) are supposed to be in P and P (32, 30).
Interesting twist: Beth actually hopes (not really) that her project won’t get into trouble because her “positive first impression” of Darcy was wrong! (35) it takes until date #2 for him to offend her; thinking she is someone different from who she is, he says that social workers are basically “cruise directors” who often “cause more trouble than they solve” (37). Now, we know he was raised by a single mother and no doubt had trouble with a specific social worker. We also know that Beth is a social worker and single mom. But each of them knows only his or her own secret, not the other’s.
Beth goes into this hoping to prove her assumption: “men had a tendency to avoid relationships where they had to raise another man’s offspring” (41). So frustrating how they misunderstand each other during the conversation about the children of single mothers! The whole time, Beth thinks he’s saying he’d want nothing to do with her or her child because they’re “left-overs,” and really he’s talking about himself and his mom! (46) But then—miraculously—he does tell her, and she’s immediately sympathetic, imagining both young Will and her own Charlie in that situation.
Typo: “I’m an impatient man who likes be where the action is” (42). We were doing so well.
Oh, ew. Then the Bingley situation reveals itself, and it’s pretty bad, even if Darcy is doing it for a good cause. Sample: Bingley says if Darcy brings Beth to his place in one month “with an engagement ring,” he’ll “double the money” he promised (55).
Great advice from Mrs. Hammond: “life don’t come smooth, but you make a path, even with all them rocks in your way, that you can walk on and be proud of” (59).
Meanwhile, Darcy is in talks with Dan Noelen, who heads the group where Beth works. That will be interesting. Just when things seem to be going well between them, Beth thinks Darcy pities single mothers and decides she can’t see him anymore—but doesn’t explain any of that to him.
In a rare moment of Bingley seriousness, he acts more honorably when he tells Will this is the first time he has seen his cousin “more concerned with a woman’s reputation than with [Will’s] . . . ambition to seek revenge on the system” (87). That is interesting. Jane, too, is doing some changed talking. (Since the two of them need to get together, too, this parallel works well.) Both of them have kind intentions and a much more responsible side by the end of the story than I had sensed at the beginning, Jane always bringing over good food and babysitting, Bingley really trying to free Darcy for love.
Then the moment we were waiting to happen happens, and Beth thinks everything has fallen apart; we, by contrast, think it’s going to get worse if she submits her paper on the experience, a paper in which she doesn’t quite lie but certainly doesn’t tell the truth. Both hero and heroine are forced to confront some unpleasant perceptions by people close to them at work about their own attitudes.
Nice little parallel to P and P: after their big “fight,” Beth goes to the Koffee Haus, hoping “she might run into Will Darcy there” but also hoping “she wouldn’t,” the same ambivalence Elizabeth Bennet feels at Pemberley when Georgiana is hosting the ladies (123).