Do you ever wonder what happened to Charlotte Collins in Miss Austen's Pride & Prejudice? Yeah, me neither, but I have just burned through Jennifer Becton's Charlotte Collins: A Continuation of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice.
Summary: When Charlotte Lucas married Mr. Collins in Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, she believed herself to be fortunate indeed. Her nuptials gained her a comfortable home and financial security. If she acquired these things at the expense of true love, it did not matter one whit. To Charlotte, love in marriage was nothing more than a pleasant coincidence.
As the years of her marriage dragged by, Charlotte began to question her idea of love as she suffered continual embarrassment at her husband's simpering and fawning manners. When Mr. Collins dies, finally relieving everyone of his tedious conversation, she must work feverishly to secure her income and home. She give no further thought to the prospect of love until her flighty sister Maria begs her to act as her chaperone in place of their ailing parents. Hoping to prevent Maria from also entering an unhappy union, Charlotte agrees, and they are quickly thrust into a world of country dances, dinner parties, and marriageable gentlemen.
But when an unprincipled gentleman compromises Charlotte's reputation, her romantic thoughts disappear at the prospect of losing her independence. As she struggles to extricate herself from her slander, her situation reveals both the nature of each gentleman and of true love. (source: bectonliterary.com) *
Comments: As mentioned, I burned through this book. It is a great read and so very enjoyable. Charlotte, as a character in Pride and Prejudice, was so practical and in my mind lowered herself by accepting the odious Mr. Collins. No one could want to get married that badly, could they? Really? But Jennifer Becton has really made Charlotte Collins into a more complete, three dimensional character. Evidently intelligent (she must be, to be Lizzie Bennett's best friend), she's rational and conventional, but in reviewing her life with Mr. Collins she sees that perhaps she had made a mistake by agreeing to marry for security instead of love or even for respect. She does not want her younger sister Maria to make the same mistake.
Bring in the ugly Americans - a devise that I find absolutely charming in this case because it is handled so very well. Mr. James Westfield and his uncle and chaperone, Mr. Benjamin Basford arrive in the area on Mr. Westfield's tour his historical homeland. Westfield is practically worshiped by the younger ladies in attendance as he is both handsome and rich (which a young man should be, if possible). He shows a decided interest in Maria and they make a handsome couple. While Basford seems to have an odd sense of humor and plagues Charlotte with what she considers inappropriate comments. He's also relaxed and dressed quite differently from what she is accustomed to - but that's only the beginning. I adored him from the first - what a charming, disarming, and fun gentleman. Ms. Becton's description of the first ball in the novel made it almost feel like I was there - a nice place to be, I have to say.
Ms. Becton creates real characters, real situations and real tension. I do so hope there is a follow up to this book because I would like to see what happens next to both Charlotte and Maria.
Questions: Does rosemary grow in Kent? In England? I don't remember seeing any there while I was there, but who is to say.
Would Charlotte have used "Mrs. Charlotte Collins" on her calling card? What was Mr. Collins's christian name? Did he have one in Pride & Prejudice?
Would Sir William and Lady Lucas have sunk like that financially?
I totally think about random things like this while reading.
*The last sentence of this summary isn't clear if you don't know that there are two gentlemen interested in Charlotte.