Although this novel rides the coattails of the classic Pride and Prejudice, using the Darcy name to people the story with characters in search of independence in a class-conscious society, the delightful marriage of Octavia Darcy to London society is peppered with Regency pretensions and the "classism" characteristic of the era. As the season for matchmaking arrives, the city teems with marriageable young ladies on the prowl for suitable arrangements. The black sheep of a notable London family, Octavia, daughter of a second wife, has been sent along with the "fishing fleet", single young women hoping to make matches with officers serving the crown in India. Less-than-marriageable females are considered fortunate to find suitable companions on the continent, when they might otherwise languish as old maids in an intolerant world where a woman's value is reflected through her husband.
Indeed, Octavia does marry a naval officer, Christopher Darcy, related to the infamous Mr. Darcy of Austen's beloved novel. Unfortunately, Mr. Darcy dies and Octavia must settle her affairs; Darby's estate is entailed to the male heir, George Warren, a man who is disinclined to offer the widow any remuneration whatsoever. Returning to London, Octavia understands that there will be few opportunities, but unexpected circumstances change her fortune; the second Mrs. Darcy turns London on its head. Arriving in London with the intention of residing with her half-sister, Octavia dreads her position in the family, the embarrassing step-sister. She is both shocked and delighted to learn she has inherited a vast fortune from a distant aunt on her mother's side. Suddenly the future is bright, the widow relieved from the burdensome interference of her step-siblings, soon to be a woman of independent means.
Keeping her inheritance secret until her situation is secured, Octavia visits her property in Yorkshire, where she meets an amiable group of acquaintances who welcome the newcomer. Once her fortune becomes common knowledge, Octavia's relatives are apoplectic at being bypassed. Nevertheless, Octavia is now a woman to be reckoned with, one of strong opinions and loyal character. As the season arrives, her circle is beset with incipient matches, a number of single people strictly observing the conventions, their every move in the mating dance severely restricted. Octavia watches with amusement, anticipating no such entanglement; she is taken aback to find herself drawn to a very eligible bachelor, Sholto Rutherford, although both Octavia and Sholto are the last of their set to acknowledge a mutual interest. The only cloud on the horizon is a legal action taken against Octavia's fortune by the very same George Warren who benefits from Mr. Darcy's entailed estate.
Aston assembles her characters with a wry touch, their foibles and outrageous sentiments making for lively engagements and disastrous situations. With a great deal of humor at the expense of a pretentious, class-conscious society, this lively tale proves that sometimes love trumps circumstance. Nor is Octavia exempt, her strong opinions about marriage turned on end. Luan Gaines.
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