In The Darcy Connection, Mr. Collins of Pride and Prejudice is now the Bishop of Ripon, living with his wife, Charlotte, and their two daughters, who have reached marriageable age. The elder, another Charlotte, is extraordinarily beautiful, and her parents hope her looks and connections will ensure a brilliant marriage. Her sister, Eliza, while not as handsome, possesses a lively intelligence that, in Mr. Collins's opinion, is too like her godmother, Mrs. Darcy.
In London, Charlotte's beauty wins her many admirers, despite her small fortune. But Eliza's wit and attempts to interfere in what she considers an unsuitable marriage for her sister infuriate her family and Charlotte's suitor -- until Eliza herself meets her match. New and old fans alike will relish this witty, romantic, thoroughly entertaining novel from a highly talented author.
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS 1. What is Eliza Collins's first impression of Bartholomew Bruton? What is Bruton's first impression of Eliza? How do their initial "prejudices" turn to affection? Why do you think Bruton realizes his love for Eliza long before she can admit her feelings to herself? 2. Charlotte is like a "marble statue" (page 111), yet she reveals her passionate side when she falls for George Warren. What do you think of Charlotte's character? Is she a good match for Montblaine, the Marble Marquis? Why does Eliza object to the match between Charlotte and Montblaine? 3. What is the difference between Eliza and Anthony's secret engagement, deemed a "boy-and-girl attachment" (page 225), and Eliza's feelings for Bruton? Do you believe that Eliza could fall in and out of love so quickly? 4. Eliza's anonymous sketches of clerical life and London society are a big hit in the Leeds Gazette and London Magazine. Why is it so risky for Eliza to write these satires? Do you think it is worth the risk? Do you suppose that after her marriage to Bruton, she could possibly reveal herself as the author of the sketches? Why or why not? 5. The Darcy Connection features at least two formidable villains: the slick clergyman Mr. Pyke and the dark and dangerous George Warren. Discuss what makes them the villains in the story. Which character do you find more villainous, and why? 6. Eliza escapes Mr. Pyke's blackmail by asking him what is inside the black box he keeps at Bruton's bank. What do you suppose the mysterious black box contains? 7. In the end, how does the "Darcy connection" influence Eliza's social standing? How does it affect her love life? Do you think that such a connection could make or break a marriage in our century? If so, how? 8. Eliza teases her friend Maria for her "melodramatic way of speaking, culled from intensive reading of popular novels whose heroines were greatly admired by Maria" (page 18). Do you think readers are more or less influenced by novels today than they were in the era in which The Darcy Connection is set? Do you believe there is a great difference "between the marbled covers of a novel" and "real life," as Eliza asserts (page 23)? Explain your answer. 9. The word provincial appears frequently in the novel, from Mr. Bruton's thoughts on Eliza to Eliza's change of heart about marrying a squire. Do you think Bruton meant the term provincial as an insult? Eliza tells Bruton at the end, "Who would have thought you'd end up marrying a mere provincial!" (page 287). Is Eliza still a provincial? Why or why not? 10. If you have read Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, which of Aston's original characters remind you of the characters Austen created two hundred years ago? Which character from Pride and Prejudice were you most pleased to revisit in The Darcy Connection? 11. How does The Darcy Connection compare to other books by Elizabeth Aston? ENHANCE YOUR BOOK CLUB 1. Eliza writes her satires anonymously, and her publishers know her as "Mrs. Palmer." If you were to write under a pen name, what would it be? Write down your imaginary pseudonym, and have your meeting's host pick each name out of a hat. Can your book club guess whose pen name is whose? 2. Bring a map of England to your book club meeting. Find all the places that Eliza visits on the map: Ripon, Derbyshire, London, and Dover. Also locate on a detailed map of London the areas mentioned in the book: Spitalfields, the Strand, and Covent Garden. 3. Research the history of Spitalfields, the market neighborhood where Eliza and Annie encounter merchants, pickpockets, and Bartholomew Bruton. Compare the novel's description of Spitalfields to what today's visitors see, hear, and buy. You can find pictures and shop descriptions at www.visitspitalfields.com.
Elizabeth Aston is a passionate Jane Austen fan who studied with Austen biographer Lord David Cecil at Oxford. The author of several novels, including Mr. Darcy's Daughters, she lives in England and Italy.
Visit www.elizabeth-aston.com for more information.