A Ramble & Brief Review: Mr. Darcy’s Daughters by Elizabeth Aston

I’ve had an amazing run of reading really great books. Sometimes, when you post a string of 4 out of 5 star reviews, you start to think that you aren’t being very discerning. Well, I’ve just had great reads recently! I also tend to enjoy reviewing books I like and write long reviews. They’re almost like journals for myself. Having a nice long review is a good way to help me remember the book. I really regret all the years that I read books and didn’t review them.

However, I have come to a sort of meh read. I can only give Mr. Darcy’s Daughters 3 out of 5 stars.

It was…. a little too… too…. Too much. Too long. Too rushed. Too tied up at the end. Too many unlikeable characters. Too spiteful. And too fractured. Also – too homophobic. I will address that all at once, after I am done with the rest of the plot review.

It started out well. I thought the voice was good for a Regency era romance. But it had so many of the Regency tropes – the young girls run wild has run its course for me. There are 5 Darcy girls. Letitia, the prig, who preaches at everyone and is still mourning the loss of her fiancee. Camllla, who is clearly a copy of her mother, having those dark, lively eyes. She’s a good girl, very likable, and the only one who is. Then there are the twins, Belle and Georgina who I couldn’t keep straight. They are 17, wild and unruly – basically, Kitty and Lydia from the original. Then there is Alethea, who might have been the most interesting. She is a musical ingenue who has her own wild streak, and will not keep silent when she has an opinion. She is very observant, and has a way of putting things that cut right to the heart of the matter. This doesn’t go over well in polite Regency society, so she is often sent from the room.

Basically, Mr. Darcy has taken a diplomatic post in Turkey just when his girls are ready to come out. They’ve come to have a season in London with the Fitzwilliams (you remember Captain Fitzwilliam, Darcy’s cousin?) The twins are 17, just on the verge of coming out, but they refuse to stay in the schoolroom and are soon running wild over Fanny, Mr. Fitzwilliam’s wife, who is sweet and kind and believes the best of everyone. Camilla and Letitia try to warn her (Letitia sees disaster in everything and is a total nightmare). All the girls find a way to cause a scandal, and frankly, it was all too much.

Too, again. Too much black and white in the characterization of all the girls. There was nothing to like about anyone but Camilla. No one had any depth. London was a quagmire of rumor and gossip, we know that, but so much going on was just unbelievable. And it felt formless. The indolent Lady Warren, who is former Caroline Bingley, is bent on ruining Darcy’s daughters, but she’s very ineffective. She’s all bluster and no follow through. So it just felt a little muddy and like the plot rambled, it had promise, but none of those things came to fruition. Instead, all hell broke loose and then it was all wrapped up very neatly.

I did enjoy reading it until the part where all hell broke loose. I wanted more. I wanted to see some real friendship between women instead of all the cattyness. I felt the romantic possibilities were lukewarm. I didn’t like our love interest until very late in the game. I didn’t want everything to be so hateful. And speaking of hateful.

I like to think this wouldn’t be published now, unless by a Christian publisher. Why? Because of the homophobia in the name of historical accuracy. I know that homosexual men were demonized and imprisoned, the word “sodomite” hissed in their wake during this period in history – homosexuality was illegal in England. There is a homosexual man in this and they way he is presented, I think I’d rather he were an out-and-out villain. People are unnerved by him, the characters “see” things in his eyes that aren’t quite right. Before he is “revealed” as a homosexual, you know there is something “off” with him but you don’t know what. Not that a homosexual can’t be a villain, or a bad person, but this character is flat and his “deviance” is what defines him. There are one or two people who somewhat defend him, both men, but one is the most vile person in the whole book. I have read historical fiction with homosexuality in them and though the people are in the closet “for historical accuracy”, the characters around them are compassionate and treat them like people. In this, our main character and everyone around her is horrified by the discovery that he is gay. It causes a scandal, her name is in the mud, and just the way it is presented made me sick. I mean, we are clearly supposed to think this person is an animal, an unnatural creature, in the parlance of the day.

If not for that I would give Elizabeth Aston another try, as I think she has a handle on the Regency period and her writing style is good. But there are ways to be historically accurate, and be compassionate. That is all for now, and to most of you, I say Happy Reading. I normally don’t do spoilers in reviews, but below I mention another problem I have about the plot, but I won’t tell you how it wraps up. Skip the paragraph below if you don’t want to know about my main problem with the plot.

I mean, one elopement is a plot in a Regency romance. Two is a trainwreck. I know Austen did it once but Mansfield was a morality tale. I just felt that it took a book with a directionless plot off the rails.

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