Netherfield Park Revisited (The Pemberley Chronicles #3), by Rebecca Ann Collins
There is something dangerous about an imaginary family being in the hands of someone like this author. Woe be to you if you happen to be in an unhappy marriage in this particular series, as we see when we examine the sad fate of Amelia-Jane, foolish and unwise wife of Jonathan Bingley in this particular novel. After reading enough of a novelist’s works (and here it was only necessary to be in one’s second novel), sometimes you can get a sense of how the novelist is going to operate, and that certainly was the case here. Reading such heavy-handed writing as one finds here, if it is far more discreet in its portrayal of the integrity of others than that of other writers in this vein, but there are definitely some serious problems with the books, not least in the author’s political worldview. One of the benefits of Austen’s writings was her relative restraint about politics, something that this particular book series does not have and something that detracts immensely from one’s enjoyment of the books when one realizes that the author has a political worldview that is simply unpleasant and deeply mistaken and all too present in the workings of the novel.
The plot of this book is pretty pedestrian, it must be admitted. About 300 pages in length and divided into two parts, the author shows as her lead character one Jonathan Bingley, son of Charles and James, and a fairly easy going person who has some political ambitions to help the radical Whigs (of course) and also to become a landowner of himself, a chance he takes when he buys Netherfield House for his own after it happens to come up for sale by its unnamed previous owner. While he is attempting to find a more exciting and worthwhile life for himself than being the manager of Lady Catherine’s Rosings Park, he is also dealing with marriage problems, as his wife has made some very bad friends in Miss Bingley, her sister, and the mysterious Mrs. Arabella Watkins. Given the pull that Jonathan has for the lovely Anne Faulkner, it is clear that his estranged wife is not long for this world and she is felled by an opportune carriage mishap in a thunderstorm. The loss and grief over this nevertheless frees Bingley from a bad marriage and leads him and his eldest daughter Anne-Marie to become closer to each other and the family of course blesses his wish to marry Anne, which happens in a proper fashion after their public engagement is forced open thanks to some shenanigans from Lydia Wickham.
In reading this sort of novel one becomes aware of a very heavy-handed author. The author tips her hand way too early about the desirability of a marriage between Jonathan and Anne. Their mutual partiality is early obvious to those around them, all of whom think that since Jonathan is such a swell guy™ that he is of course not doing anything untoward, and of course he is not. Nevertheless, Anne’s desire to be private threatens his reputation, and so they have to thrash out what they are about. The romantic plot itself is nothing special, but the way it is done is extremely awkward. It appears that this author is like many in that she appreciates the plot of Jane Austen’s novels but simply does not have the same sure touch and the same restraint and evenhandedness when it comes to handling a plot without making the characters seem like puppets of the author’s own worldview. And here the author’s worldview is so obvious and so unpleasant that it actively detracts from the enjoyment of what is a perfectly passable if unspectacular romance novel.