I’ve been a fan of Abigail Reynolds for several years now, having read almost everything that she’s published so far. I was giddy with anticipation when I heard that her novel With Reserve was being tweaked and re-published by Sourcebooks with the new title, Mr. Darcy’s Undoing. As in her other novels, Reynolds re-tells Pride and Prejudice by changing a piece of the plot, to create a new outcome.
In her work, Reynolds explores what many die-hard Austenites would consider high treason: having Lizzy accept a proposal other than that of Mr. Darcy’s. Realizing that none of her sisters have any marriage prospects, Elizabeth accepts a proposal to the bland Mr. Covington, after her disastrous meeting with Darcy in Kent. When they meet again Darcy is devastated by the news of her engagement, he must decide how far he is willing to go to win her affections back. Yet it is a time where such thoughts and actions would be considered truly scandalous. Would Darcy risk all in order to gain his true love? Will Elizabeth feel the same way, even though she would be doing the unthinkable by breaking her engagement?
Reynolds’ books are always exciting to read, because I love what-if P&P variations. It’s exciting to see how very many paths fan fiction writers can find to take Elizabeth and Darcy down. This might be my favorite of Reynolds’ variations, because I really enjoyed the changes to Darcy and Elizabeth’s circumstances here. Elizabeth winds up breaking off her engagement to Mr. Covington, knowing that social circumstances will not allow her to accept another man in the future without being ostracized from “good” society. She realizes her true feelings for Darcy, and would rather be alone for the rest of her life as a spinster than marry a man she doesn’t love unconditionally. I respect her decision so much when put in the context of that time period. She took the road less traveled, facing the judgement of her family, friends, and peers, knowing that they would turn against her after the broken engagement. The Darcy we see is willing to go outside the boundaries of propriety for his heart’s true desire. He is a man in love, willing to do anything to gain the love and trust of his soul mate.
The trials that Reynolds has them face are exhilarating to read, and had me exceedingly pleased with the outcome. Reynolds must be patted on the back for yet another job well done. (Be warned Austen purists, there are some romantic interludes present in the novel)
4 out of 5 Stars
Mr. Darcy’s Undoing by Abigail Reynolds
Paperback 336 pages