Reviewed by Lisa Bentley
Mr Wickham turned out to be a disappointing husband in many ways, the most notable being his early demise on the battlefields of Waterloo. And so Lydia Wickham, nee Bennet, must make her fortune independently.
A lesser woman, without Lydia's natural ability to flirt uproariously on the dance floor and cheat seamlessly at the card table, would swoon in the wake of a dashing highwayman, a corrupt banker and even an amorous Royal or two. But on the hunt for a marriage that will make her rich, there's nothing that Lydia won't turn her hand to.
Taking in London, Paris and Brighton, The Bad Miss Bennet details the charming, lively and somewhat dastardly exploits of the youngest Bennet sister. Pride and Prejudice this isn't and Mr Darcy certainly won't be rescuing her this time.
Jane Austen’s Bennett girls have fascinated us reading folk since the publication of Pride and
Prejudice. Pretty Jane and her simple ways; the rugged Elizabeth, a heroine for those of us seeking independence and then there is Lydia Bennett. Arguably the more interesting of the siblings, she is flighty and irresponsible, a bit of a flibbertigibbet…but didn’t she always seem to have the most fun?
It is Miss Lydia Wickham nee Bennett who is the protagonist of Jean Burnett’s novel Who Needs Mr Darcy? which sees the widowed Ms Wickham take on society by herself. Through her eyes we see a different side to Mr Darcy and we become embroiled in Lydia’s perpetually foiled plans. This novel is seriously entertaining. Pride and Prejudice fans may not feel the same, purists may fail to find the fun in the novel, they will see it as tainting the Austen classic but if you can get past that you will enjoy the story.
Burnett has been very clever in writing in the style of a modern day Austen and by talking directly to the reader she creates a level of intimacy. It is a book that could quite plausibly be made into an entertaining rom com film (personally I think Helena Bonham Carter would make an excellent Lydia Wickham).
The savvy Burnett has blended fact with fiction so seamlessly in this novel that you do feel at times you could be reading an autobiography. The cocktail of high society hedonism is intoxicating. However, for me, the one downfall of this book was the feeling that one of the threads of the story was left incomplete (I won’t reveal too much as it would be a spoiler) but overall I loved the silliness and the gaiety of Lydia’s story. I am grateful that someone had the inclination to write it.
I'd like to thank Madeleine at Sphere for sending us a copy of this book to review. Amazon links: Paperback or Kindle