Were it not for overwhelming evidence of the contrary, I would suspect Berdoll of deliberately writing this book in a way to disgust and offend her readers and otherwise subvert both Jane Austen and a typical romance novel. Not that I really know what a typical romance novel has, but at a guess I would say it doesn’t have a lot of what we’ve seen. Or this:
With only an inkling of what weight her husband willingly took upon his shoulders, Elizabeth had lain that morning amidst her the covers admiring their broadness as he sat availing himself of the chamber pot.
I would guess that out of the number of married couples in the world, the amount that use the toilet in each other’s presence is fairly low. Out of the couples in the late 1700’s, even less. Out of the gentlemen class, where everything is concerned with propriety, I would venture that this number approaches zero, if not passing it entirely.
Elizabeth thinks about sex until Darcy leaves. She then goes down and talks with the housekeeper, who has a large portfolio with detailed lists of everything the mistress of Pemberley is in charge of. Elizabeth spends her time perusing this lists while Georgiana plays the piano. It would actually be interesting to see these lists, to get some kind of idea of what Elizabeth actually has to do. Of course, Berdoll doesn’t tell us what any of these things are. Instead, Darcy comes back, lies about why he returned early (bloody semeny sheet), and suggests they head off on a picnic.
They find a secluded grove, eat, and Darcy is lying down with his head in Elizabeth’s lap when suddenly a man comes walking out holding a gun and followed by a couple of hounds. Darcy immediately leaps up to his feet. The poacher looks at him, then Elizabeth, then beats feet back the way he came. After a minute or two Darcy lays back down and they have sex. Again.
We then cut over to the poacher. He’s not too worried because the Darcys don’t really care about poachers as long as they don’t poach too much. Suddenly he runs into another man, who punches him in the chest and knocks him down and grabs his gun. Said man tells him to run and be happy he got away with his life. Said man, is, of course, Tom Reed.
Others who rode upon the Pemberley coach might harbour enough officious sanguinity to find pleasure in frightening the bejeezus out of a harmless trespasser. Few, however, would receive the sadistic thrill Reed did.
A quick Googling of bejeezus tells us that Mirriam-Webster places it at 1861, other origins place it in the early 1900’s. Regardless, this word didn’t even exist until sixty years after this book takes place. Research? What’s that?
Also, in case you were wondering, Tom Reed is Evil. With a capital E. The only reason he’s here is because of Mrs. Darcy:
Tom Reed had never been in love. Until he first set eyes upon Elizabeth, Reed’s definition of “in love” was to rut a women and not have to pay her.
Right. So Elizabeth is just SO BEAUTIFUL that even the hardest, lowest of criminals fall for her the moment they see her. Elizabeth, as Berdoll is writing her, is a Mary-Sue. She’s obviously doing things that Berdoll wants (i.e. nailing Darcy). She’s beautiful. Everyone loves her. She’s a Sue. (Interestingly, Austen didn’t write her that way: it’s mentioned several times that Jane is considered by everyone to be the most handsome girl in the family, and while Elizabeth is pretty, she certainly doesn’t reduce everyone to babbling with a simple look.)
Reed knows that often rich people get sick of each other and turn to fornicating with their servants. He hopes Elizabeth will do this with him. Until that happens, he takes pleasure by sneaking up in a thicket near where the Darcys are engaging in conjugal felicity and sits there listening to them. Delightful. We’re 70 pages in. And I’m sorry, people wanting to have sex with the heroine does not count as a plot.
We then go back to Abigail Christie’s mind. We learn that when she was kicked out of Pemberley, she was pregnant, although she didn’t know who the father was. Now she’s pregnant again with Tom Reed’s child, and heads back to Kympton with her oldest son to work at the very inn that Darcy just recently left. It was inside this inn that Reed showed up holding said disgusting sheet. During the ensuing party, she insults Reed by indicating that his penis is only an inch long. So afterwards, he rapes her. After that, she drinks herself to death.
One of the hallmarks of a good writer is when writing a chapter from the point of view of different characters, and detailing their thoughts and inner monologues, is that said chapter will accurately reflect the character’s style of thinking and language and be distinguishable from other characters and chapters.
Linda Berdoll is not a good writer. Therefore, a chapter written from the POV of an uneducated thirteen-year-old peasant is written exactly the same as a chapter written from a well-educated twenty-one-year old gentlewomen, and when the kid waxes philosophic about everything he’s learned from his rough peasant, it rings quite hollow.
John Christie doesn’t cry as he watches his mother’s funeral. We then segue into backstory. Since he had grown, he had finally decided to fight the man who had fathered a couple of his siblings and beat everyone in the house regularly. However, they left before he could do that.
Also, his mother told him that the man who was nailing her at Pemberley is his father. So this could be either Wickham or Darcy, although she never gave John any names, only the location. He decides to go looking for his father.
Darcy teaches Elizabeth how to ride. Off-screen. On their way back in, they encounter Rhymes talking to a young man who wants some work – ostensibly, John Christie. Darcy says that he doesn’t look like he’s the sixteen years old he claims to be. Elizabeth then butts in and asks why age matters, since his mother has just died. Rhymes goggles at her for daring to contradict the Master. Darcy then escorts her back to the house and tells her to never reprove him in front of the help again. He then disappears and is gone for the rest of the day. Elizabeth spends over a page angsting before Darcy comes back that night and tells her that the boy will be second groom to her horse. Elizabeth apologizes. And then she mentions that the boy looks a lot like she thinks Darcy looked at that age [!].
Then they have sex.
Time passes. Elizabeth learns more about being the mistress of Pemberley. We don’t see any of this. Then she gets her period. She thinks about how she’s going to explain this to Darcy. So that night when he rolls over and takes her in his arms, Elizabeth says that she’s indisposed. Darcy looks concerned and feels her forehead. She looks away. He says that he should take his sleep elsewhere and leaves. And we get more angst:
It was quite evident the only interest he had in her bed was the kindness she obliged him there. Was there no possibility of conjugal embrace, he chose to sleep alone. Moreover, wifely poorliness clearly demanded not only abstinence, but distance as well.
It goes on like this for awhile until Darcy comes back and asks if he can just lie next to her for awhile since he can’t sleep without her anymore anyway. And he thought that when she said she was indisposed she wanted to be alone. Awww. So they talk and Darcy reveals that he knows all about such things. Then Darcy says there is more than one way to ‘crack her whip’.
The gentle art of pleasure was explored that night, Mrs. Darcy quite confounded that she was capable of tending Mr. Darcy’s natural vigours so…unconditionally.
Hannah Morehouse was the maid working at the Lambton Inn where Elizabeth was staying when she heard the news about Lydia taking off with Wickham. Suddenly, she’s summoned to Pemberley and offered a job as Elizabeth’s lady-maid. She agrees. The rest of the chapter is the servants discussing Darcy and Elizabeth’s sex life, as they’re in the habit of christening every single room in the 102-room house.
One day a large mirror vanishes. Everyone searches for it. Hannah is questioned by Mrs. Reynolds, the housekeeper. Then one day she finds it underneath the Darcy’s bed. When she tells Mrs. Reynolds, the housekeeper tells her to leave it there.
91 pages. Darcy may have an illegitimate son working in his stables. And one of their footmen is a criminal who has the hots for Mrs. Darcy. This is a very compelling plot.