Warning! Warning! Jane Austen is my favourite author. Like many other Jane-ites, I am a sucker for novels written by other authors who take minor characters from Jane Austen’s novels and use them to write their own books, although I draw the line at spin offs with zombies.
The Darcy Connection by Elizabeth Aston is a misleading name for this novel, which takes characters from Pride and Prejudice, as none of the Darcy’s appear as characters in the novel at all, despite playing pivotal roles.
The Darcy Connection is actually all about Eliza Collins, who is the youngest daughter of Mr Collins from Pride and Prejudice and his wife Charlotte. Eliza’s character is quite like Elizabeth Bennet’s, in that she is lively and clever and far more interesting than her older sister, Charlotte, who is extraordinarily beautiful. (Charlotte Collins must have been adopted, as neither of her parents, according to Jane Austen, were physically attractive. Mr Collins was described as tall and heavy and Charlotte Lucas as sensible and intelligent looking. I’m positive Charlotte would much prefer to have been described as pretty, but Jane Austen did not give her that gift).
The story begins with Eliza’s romance with Anthony Diggory, who is the son of the local squire. Mr Collins is now the Bishop of Ripon, but he is quite poor and Anthony’s father, Sir Roger Diggory, wants a richer wife for his son. Instead of sticking up for his daughter when Sir Roger accuses her of trying to ensnare his son, Bishop Collins does his best to appease Sir Roger and agrees to send Eliza away somewhere where she can not make “sheep’s eyes” at Anthony.
Charlotte (Eliza’s sister, not mother) has a rich godmother, Lady Grandpoint, who has arranged to take Charlotte to London for a season. Because she is so beautiful, Charlotte is expected to find herself a rich and aristocratic husband. Lady Grandpoint agrees to take Eliza with them also, although she points out that she can not be expected to fund Eliza’s visit. Eliza goes along to London unwillingly as a poor relation to Charlotte.
The story borrows slightly from Cinderella at this point. Lady Grandpoint spends a great deal of money on Charlotte’s clothing and appearance in order to attend society functions, where she very soon begins to win the hearts of eligible suitors.
Eliza, when she does attend parties, is dressed in unsuitable and unfashionable clothing, and is snubbed by a new acquaintance, Mr Bartholomew Bruton, who Eliza overhears calling her a “provincial” in a manner reminiscent of Mr Darcy calling Elizabeth Bennet “tolerable.” Luckily Eliza’s resourceful maid knows where to buy affordable fabric and creates dresses which show Eliza to her best advantage. Eliza wows Mr Bruton when she appears at a function beautifully dressed, something which would have been far more satisfying than being thought clever.
The story has adventures and scandals, love affairs and even a duel. There are plenty of twists and turns in the plot to keep things interesting, even though, let’s be honest, it is at heart a romance novel. There will be a happy ending, even though Caroline Bingley makes an appearance and guess what? She is still mean.