Mr. Darcy’s Daughter (The Pemberley Chronicles #5), by Rebecca Ann Collins
This book is an example where the back cover text really lets one down. The back cover talks about the way that Mr. Darcy’s daughter Cassandra Gardiner nee Darcy is viewed in desperation as a surrogate heir for a son who has fallen down in his responsibilities, but the real concern is that Caroline was chosen to inherit the leadership in the Gardiner firm over her brothers Richard (husband of Cassandra) and Robert. Instead of Cassandra fretting about her daughter’s inappropriate marriage, the author’s typical heavy-handedness makes it obvious that Mr. Carr, American-born grandson of the Fitzwilliams’ Irish groom, is the proper choice to marry the spirited Lizzie Gardiner. And instead of being investigated by the cops, Darcy Gardiner is helping an innocent young man from being transported for a mysterious death of an unsavory and corrupt man. Of course, many people will read the erroneous back cover and not realize that it takes nearly 300 pages to demonstrate that the cover in fact is wrong and was written by someone who did not understand and perhaps did not even read the book. Those who have read other books by the author will have a good idea of what will happen because it follows her usual lunkheaded approach.
In the course of this novel, we witness the attempts of Cassandra to keep the family and keep Pemberley together despite a great deal of pressure. Of course, there are the usual tedious politics in the period approaching the Reform Act of 1867, approached with the usual lack of balance and tedious bias by the author. Of course the author focuses some of her attention on courtships, and her focus is limited in the sense that we really only care about Lizzie’s rather perfunctory courtship by the charming American Mr. Carr, whose American openness is something that is particularly frequently commented in a manner that is scarcely more subtle than the national characterizations found in an anime like Hetalia. Subtlety, though, is not among the author’s strengths. Keeping Pemberley together involves purchasing a neighboring estate to keep it out of the hands of property developers and seeking to prevent nouveau riche leaseholders from being able to access the commons, showing noblesse oblige to the deserving poor and their descendants (even an artistic and decent member of the Wickham family), and generally working oneself to the bone in order to help preserve the family patrimony while simultaneously supporting radical politics for everyone else.
Indeed, this novel exposes what is a particularly intense hypocrisy on the part of the author. The author’s obvious and bluntly wielded bias in favor of radical politics cuts against the tone and behavior of the characters in the novel, who themselves are nearly universally portrayed as being compassionate elites who are seeking to preserve their wealth through savvy investments while also showing themselves to be compassionate and decent people. Although the author cannot find it within herself to praise conservatism, she shows as her protagonists people who are in fact very good examples of principled conservatives in matters of morality as well as in terms of their ability to combine strong networking, elite background, and a strong recognition of merit that is turned to preserving their own political power and personal wealth. The political worldview of the author is therefore at war with the plot and the behavior of the characters themselves. One wonders whether the author is aware of this deep hypocrisy and the contradiction between her ideas to celebrate radicalism and the savvy conservative behavior she shows in action from her praiseworthy and decent main characters or not.