Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Monica Fairview and THE DARCY COUSINS

Today I welcome guest blogger Monica Fairview, whose latest book, The Darcy Cousins, is the second chapter in the saga of the American (gasp!) branch of the Darcy family. Here she explains how her books, which contain many of the characters introduced in Pride and Prejudice, are Austen-inspired, rather than continuations of that novel. The winners are Susan and aarbaugh. Susan, please contact me at by April 22 with your snail mail address so you can receive your book.

Leave a comment for a chance to win one of the two copies of THE DARCY COUSINS which Sourcebooks has generously provided. Monica will select the winners. Check the comments to see who won, and how to contact me to claim your book. If I cannot contact the winners within a week of their selection, I will award the books to alternates. Note, Sourcebooks can mail to US and Canada addresses only.

Now that the housekeeping is done, we can get down to the fun. Great to have you here, Monica!

It’s a pleasure to be here on your blog, Linda, especially since it gives me a chance to answer a question dear to my heart, which is: why I chose to continue Pride and Prejudice. I’ll have to qualify the question, though, because I think of The Other Mr Darcy and The Darcy Cousins as Austen-inspired or Austenesques rather than continuations.

I’d like to start with one of Jane Austen’s well-known quotations: “Pictures of perfection make me sick and wicked,” she says in a letter to her niece. To put the quotation in its context, she’s saying this as a response to criticism of her work for not portraying virtuous heroines. Despite the fact that she’s often presented as a very traditional writer (an image fostered by the Victorians, no less!), the fact is that Jane Austen wrote against the literature of her day. She deliberately went against the Gothic literature which was most popular at that time, and against the kind of heroines that Richardson presented as the model for what a heroine should be.

In fact one of Jane Austen’s most original contributions (and you have to constantly remind yourself of this) was that she was one of the first novelists to create realistic women characters, hardly an easy task since she had to invent the wheel. Consequently, she was able to create some of the most memorable female characters. Think of the range of women characters in just one novel , whether it’s Lydia, Lady Catherine, Charlotte, Mrs Bennet, Jane, or Mary, to name just the main ones. In fact, Pride and Prejudice stands out from the rest of Jane Austen’s novels because of the sheer variety of her portrayals.

Yet there are two characters in the novel that have always been a puzzle for me. The first is Caroline Bingley, who is the object of Elizabeth’s scorn, but is clearly agreeable to Mr Darcy. Clearly Darcy spends a great deal of time in her company, and this cannot simply be explained by the fact that she follows around with her brother. It is clear at the beginning of the novel that Darcy respects her – he dances with her, agrees initially with her assessment of Meryton, enlists her aid to keep Bingley away from Jane, and spends time with her in London. Elizabeth realizes on more than one occasion that she was mistaken in her perception of Caroline. For example, after talking to Colonel Fitzwilliam, she realizes that Darcy was the one who kept Bingley away from Jane:

“That he had been concerned in the measures taken to separate Mr Bingley and Jane she had never doubted: but she had always attributed to Miss Bingley the principle design and arrangement of them. ... he was the cause, his pride and caprice were the cause, of all that Jane had suffered and still continued to suffer.”

The information she receives from the colonel shifts the blame away from Miss Bingley and is one of the reasons she rejects Darcy’s proposal so forcefully.

Later in the novel, Darcy has fallen in love with Elizabeth, but he still invites Caroline and her sister to stay with him and Georgiana in Pemberley. Clearly, he is quite comfortable spending time in her company. Either Mr Darcy has bad taste in his friends, or Elizabeth’s view of Caroline Bingley has been skewed throughout. In fact, Elizabeth acknowledges later that Caroline’s behaviour “had originated in jealousy.” It seemed as if Caroline’s character was subjected to constant revisions, providing an example of Elizabeth’s tendency to prejudge others. The real Caroline – the one that emerges between the lines, the one that is jealous -- intrigued me, and I felt compelled to look at her more closely and to tell her story, which is why I wrote The Other Mr Darcy.

In a very different way, Georgiana is also a puzzle. She is the closest Jane Austen comes in Pride and Prejudice to creating a “picture of perfection.” Like Caroline, she is pitted against Elizabeth, who decides that she must be a haughty disagreeable kind of person because she is presented as being very “accomplished”. Elizabeth’s prejudice against her, like her prejudice against Caroline, is proven to be mistaken. She is astonished to find that Georgiana is very sweet, especially when Georgiana is very nice to her.

In the case of Georgiana, I saw a lonely orphan with a disastrous experience in love at a tender age. Is Georgiana capable of overcoming her past and learning to love?

The Darcy Cousins is my response to the question. What do you think? What are some of the obstacles?

A young lady in disgrace should at least strive to behave with decorum…

Dispatched from America to England under a cloud of scandal, Mr. Darcy’s incorrigible American cousin, Clarissa Darcy, manages to provoke Lady Catherine de Bourgh, Mr. Collins, and the parishioners of Hunsford all in one morning!

And there are more surprises in store for that bastion of tradition, Rosings Park, when the family gathers for their annual Easter visit. Georgiana Darcy, generally a shy model of propriety, decides to take a few lessons from her unconventional cousin, to the delight of a neighboring gentleman. Anne de Bourgh, encouraged to escape her “keeper” Mrs. Jenkinson, simply…vanishes. But the trouble really starts when Clarissa and Georgiana both set out to win the heart of the same young man…

Literature professor Monica Fairview loves teaching students the joys of reading. But after years of postponing the urge, she finally realized that what she really wanted to do was write. The author of The Other Mr. Darcy and An Improper Suitor, the American-born Ms. Fairview currently resides in London. For more information, please visit


Linda Banche said...

Hi Monica, great to have you here.

I loved the way you treated Georgiana in THE DARCY COUSINS. And I adore your hero, Mr. Gatley, especially after he stops being such a stuffed shirt.

But the best surprise is your treatment of Anne de Bourgh, and how you kept the mystery surrounding her going right until the end. Good for Anne!

I'm posting my review of THE DARCY COUSINS here on Sunday. But no spoilers! If people want to find out about the characters, they'll have to read the book. **grins**

catslady said...

What a great premise. I'm definitely going to read the review. It all wants me to go back and reread Pride and Prejudice too.

aarbaugh said...

Wow! I had no idea about Darcy cousins. I'll have to hit the bookstore for that one. Can't wait to read it.

Monica Fairview said...

Thank you, Linda, for your gracious introduction and kind words. I'm certainly looking forward to the review.

Nice to see you here, catslady and aarbaugh.

Anonymous said...

Hi Linda & Monica,
Whenever the question comes up, I always cite Pride and Prejudice as my first and favorite romance novel. I've reread it many times over the years. So I was intrigued by the topic of this blog.
Oddly enough, in the last 6 months, I found 2 theme related books at my local Salvation Army. The first is Darcy's Story by Janet Aylmer and the other is Jane and the Unpleasantness at Scargrave Manor by Stephanie Barron featuring Jane Austen as a crime-solving detective!
I was wondering Monica, have you heard of or read either or both of these books? If so, what did you think?
Also, as a fellow Austen fan, do you have any universally acknowledged truths you'd like to share, ;-)?
Sara J. ~ : - ],

Monica Fairview said...

Sara -- thanks for your comments and questions. I used to read Austenesque/Jane Austen spin-offs before I started writing them myself, but I find I have to avoid them now since I don't want to be influenced by the way they present the characters. I've been meaning to read something by Stephanie Barron for some time, though, as she's writing crime and that's a completely different kind of writing. Would you recommend Scargrave Manor to begin with?

I have a few universally acknowledged truths in The Darcy Cousins ;-) though I only use the phrase once. They pale next to Jane Austen's justifiably famous sentence, but they were a lot of fun to write.

Anonymous said...

Hi Monica,
Scargrave Manor is on my TBR list so I don't have an opinion on it as yet. I can tell you that the cover has a banner that reads "Being the First Jane Austen Mystery" [1996]. On the inside of the cover, there is an ad that states Jane and the Man of the Cloth, ["Being the Second Jane Austen Mystery"] comes out January, 1997.
I think that your Robert Hale cover in it's surface simplicity [hinting at a complex story] and style, appealingly portrays my vision of the time and tone of Austen's work [not having read your story yet, that is].
I've been thinking about your take on Austen's characters Caroline and Georgiana. It's different from my impressions of the characters and has sparked my interest. I think it's time I reread P&P, :-).
I'm a novice in your area of expertise ~ in fact, I hadn't even known of the word "Austenesque" prior to reading your blog and visiting your website! I was surprised to find the 2 books I mentioned to you. I gather there's a quite a body of works that 'Austenesque' covers. I am already eager to explore that world. And you and your work are my first stop. I thank you for this.
And I want to thank, once again, Linda Banche [I won a PDF of her Lady of the Stars, also on my TBR] for introducing you to me on her blog.

I wish you much success,
Sara J. ~ : - ],

Linda Banche said...

Thank you, Sarah. I hope you enjoy LADY OF THE STARS.

I like historical mysteries and I've read Stephanie Barron's "Jane" mysteries. I liked them. They rang true to me. I think she did a good job of inserting the mystery into Jane Austen's life.

And tune in tomorrow for my review of THE DARCY COUSINS.

susan said...

The Darcy Cousins sounds so good and I hope to be entered in the contest. I love your 1st book and know I would love this one as well. Have a good day. susan L.

LK Hunsaker said...

Hello Monica and Linda,

I enjoyed the info about how Austen went against the grain with her work. You have to admire a writer for that.

The story of how you pulled characters out was interesting, as well. Art does invoke art. ;-)

Monica Fairview said...

Thank you all for your comments. I'm glad I was your introduction to the world of the Austenesque.

Meanwhile, it's time to announce winners of a copy of The Darcy Cousins (each, of course). They are:


Please contact Linda to give her your e-mail and address so she can arrange to have the book sent to you.

I hope you enjoy The Darcy Cousins. Let me know what you think!

aarbaugh said...

Woohoo, I won! Thanks, I can't wait to read it.

Linda Banche said...

Susan, I can't find your email address. Please contact me at with your snail mail address so Sourcebooks can mail you your book. If I haven't heard from you by April 22, I will award the book to another commenter.

aarbaugh (Ann) I have your address, and you're on my list.