Title: The Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman trilogy, comprising of An Assembly Such as This, Duty and Desire, and These Three Remain
Author: Pamela Aidan
Published: 2003, 2004, 2005; Wytherngate Press
Genre: Historical Romance
Date Started: April 17, 2012 Date Finished: June 7, 2012
Worthy of Note: I bought all three books on March 30, 2007, days before I left for my very first flight, my first trip to Europe, and what would turn out to be my first encounter with the man who is now my fiance. I cannot remember how I heard about these books, but I will admit that I have shamelessly pushed them on every Jane Austen fan I meet. Like, violently. Prepare yourselves.
Fitzwilliam George Alexander Darcy rose from his seat in the Bingley carriage and reluctantly descended to earth before the assembly hall above the only inn to which the small market town of Meryton could lay claim.
From that first sentence in An Assembly Such as This, Pamela Aidan convinced me completely that she had the authority to tell Darcy’s side of the Pride and Prejudice story. Of course! I found myself constantly repeating. Of course that would be Darcy’s full name! Of course he would roll his eyes at his cousin Richard’s antics! Of course he would feel that way after being qualified as “the last man on earth” Elizabeth Bennet could ever be prevailed on to marry.
But Ms. Aidan’s incredible insight does not stop at Darcy, who we all fancy we know so well. Her characterization of those who, in Pride and Prejudice, are mere acquaintances is as intriguing as if those characters were new again: Bingley, Richard Fitzwilliam, Georgiana, and even Wickham evolve so much – and so honestly – that I cannot help but carry their developments with me whenever I return to Pride and Prejudice.
Ms. Aidan also establishes a host of new characters and places to create Darcy’s world in Regency London. Of Darcy’s household staff, I will single out Fletcher, his valet, who quotes Shakespeare endlessly and is as astute a stylist as he is a spy. (He even manages to combine the two when Elizabeth is staying at Netherfield and Fletcher insists on Darcy wearing green to church after he discovers that Elizabeth will be wearing green. Quite a happy surprise for Darcy on a Sunday morning!) Among Darcy’s friends and social circle, there is his university classmate, Dyfed Brougham, who shares his true wit and intelligence with few while presenting the rest of society with the character of a noble fool. He is intriguing, to say the least.
Truly, Elizabeth is probably one of the least developed characters of the series, as Darcy spends much less time with her than he does with the other characters previously mentioned. It is not until they are reunited in Hertfordshire that he spends any significant period with her. Up until then, she has constantly been a figure in Darcy’s mind, of course, but for the first two books and half of the third, his impression of her is quite skewed and idealistic, especially concerning her impression of him.
“You gave her to know all the reasons you should not be making her an offer of marriage?” Setting down his coffee, Brougham regarded his old friend in fascination. But after a moment’s reflection, the corners of his mouth hinted at an upward turn and he began to nod his head in agreement. “Yes, yes, that would be the Darcy approach wouldn’t it? No need to pander to the lady’s sensibilities now, is there?”
Everything there is to love about Pride and Prejudice is remembered in the pages of these books; though Duty and Desire strays far from the original plot, as Elizabeth had no contact nor knowledge of Mr. Darcy between his quitting Netherfield and arrival and Rosings. Duty and Desire does, however, pay homage to Jane Austen’s gothic Northanger Abbey, albeit in a much more sinister and political fashion. Regency England through Darcy’s eyes is quite difference from Elizabeth’s. The corruption of the upper class, the American Revolution, the Napoleonic Wars, and even Lord Byron’s scandalous behaviour all attract Darcy’s attention and concern. (His dog’s name is Trafalgar, which is just too perfect.)
The reader’s real pleasure, though, is in the evolution of Darcy himself. Though he may not be the most endearing of men to start out with, I assume most readers, like myself, come to this trilogy from Pride and Prejudice, so Darcy is already beloved because we know the great man he becomes. Yet, for me, all of the knowledge of the story’s ending does not diminish the story itself. Even when I reread Pride and Prejudice, I think to myself that Darcy and Elizabeth cannot reconcile after all that passes between them. In Pride and Prejudice I think “she hates him so much!” In These Three Remain, I think “she hurt him so badly.”
I think it’s a true testament to Ms. Aidan that she can take such a beloved story and create something that is both a complement to the inspiring material and a great work in its own right. The Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman trilogy will only make you love Darcy more. You just run out and buy the books and I’ll wait here. We can gush about them over tea as soon as you’re done.