Who Needs Mr Darcy?
Lydia Bennet on the loose
Author: Jean Burnett
Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group
“Fantastic” (Top 500 Amazon reviewer)
I once heard an agent say that there was no female equivalent of the picaresque novel –those tales of men in former times having adventures everywhere, swashing their buckles and wowing the ladies. There were obvious reasons for this. Women did not get about very much in past eras and their behaviour was circumscribed.
Nevertheless, some were able to defy custom. Leaving aside female pirates and those possibly mythical Amazons, I wanted a heroine from literature. Becky Sharpe from Vanity Fair would not do because by the end of the novel she is middle aged and retiring to Bath. I needed a heroine with longevity –it had to be one of the Bennet sisters. Who else but Lydia? When you make a runaway marriage with an unsuitable man at the age of sixteen, things can only get worse.
And so The Bad Miss Bennet was born, also known as Who Needs Mr Darcy? Having killed off Mr Wickham at Waterloo, I gave Lydia plenty of scope for adventures in various parts of the world, in which she grows older but not a great deal wiser. She follows her hero Lord Byron to Venice, becomes embroiled with a dashing Austrian Count…and eventually… but you need to read the book!
Of course, she continues to annoy Mr Darcy considerably especially when she turns up at Pemberley needing money.
Everyone has an Austen fantasy and this is mine.
Pemberley – Sept.1815
Black does not become me: I am convinced that it drains my complexion of all life. I suggested to Lizzie that I might wear something in pale grey; perhaps a frilled muslin threaded with purple velvet ribbon at dinner this evening. The look of horror on her face rapidly put an end to that idea. Marriage to Mr Darcy has transformed my sister into a model of propriety and mysteriously removed her sense of humour.
‘How can you think of going into half mourning so soon?’ she gasped. ‘Think of the scandal it would cause.’ I lowered my eyes so that she would not see the gleam in them at the prospect of a little scandal - anything that would lighten the atmosphere here at Pemberley. Spirits were higher on the battlefield at Waterloo.
‘I only thought…my black dress is so drab. I would not want to embarrass you.’ I am, naturally, regarded as an embarrassment by the entire family. Miss Georgiana Darcy looks down her long, aristocratic nose at me. I am not fooled by her reputation for sweetness.