REVIEW of The Unreformed Mr. Darcy by Lin Mei Wei

Lizzy has an impossible choice before her. Her sister Jane, abandoned by Mr. Bingley (due to Mr. Darcy’s interference), has attracted an odious new (rich!) suitor whom Mrs. Bennet is pressuring her to marry. Unwilling to let her sister be the sacrificial lamb, Lizzy decides to accept Mr. Darcy’s insolent proposal at the Hunsford Parsonage. She has a whole list of reasons why she detests Mr. Darcy, but for Jane’s sake, she will swallow her pride and enter a marriage of convenience. As the wedding nears, Lizzy discovers that the proud man she is destined to marry has a kindlier side. Is it possible they could live happily ever after even without an apology from Darcy?

When foolish Lydia’s plan to elope with Wickham is thwarted by her sister’s fiance, she takes her revenge by sending Lizzy’s ill-conceived “list” to Mr. Darcy. Stopped cold by the revelation, Darcy now knows himself trapped in a sham of a marriage to a woman who hates him. Can their strained relationship ever recover? Will either of them find the right words to change this marriage of convenience into a marriage of love and affection?

This Pride and Prejudice variation explores a tantalizing “what-if?” and allows us to imagine our favorite literary couple in that well-worn trope, the marriage of convenience. Darcy is blindsided that his new bride detests him but soon comes to realize that he had always assumed that she would be swept off her feet instead of making any real effort to woo her. Their fumbling efforts to reconcile provoke sympathy, and in the end, both realize and amend the flaws that have kept them apart, just as in the original Austen story. Although no variation can ever surpass the original, this is a worthy addition to the P&P fan-fiction canon.

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