In reading The Mistress’s Black Veil by M.K. Baxley I found myself thinking about sins and secrets. In this vagary we find that Bennet women in a precarious state, teetering on the brink of the kind of poverty from which no Austen heroine has ever been found for redemption. I blame patriarchy for that and thought it a nice touch of Baxley to have that very topic discussed by the men in this novel.
Chapter one begins with a recap of events so those familiar with Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice will understand exactly the point at which we deviate from the iconic story we know so well. While Elizabeth is visiting Charlotte in Kent, just after Darcy hands over the letter he wrote to absolve himself of some of Elizabeth’s accusations during his botched proposal Elizabeth is called home on a family emergency: Lydia has run off with Wickham.
This time there is no Darcy to happen upon a distressed Elizabeth to hear of it and lend his unsolicited aid. This time it is a series of deaths and misfortune that leads our heroine to enter into a world that significantly deviates from the Austen familiar. I advise you to cast your prudish inclinations into the hedgerows and prepare for something darkly intriguing full of sins and secrets.
Baxley takes liberties that are daring as she retailers dialogue and encounters so as not to do away with all of the story we are familiar with, but finds a away to give this alternate reality some tenuous ties to what we remember. There are some things that may raise the hackles of the devout Janeite and challenge your ability to suspend disbelief, but I found the story worth it.
I wasn’t all that fond of the initial chapter narrations which seem interjected at times unnecessarily, but that is entirely a preference thing which did not effect my enjoyment of the story. And if you are a reader who always wants to know what becomes of everyone (like me), Baxley addressed this in varying degrees for the entire dramatis personae including the cat. (You will simply have to read it to understand.)
I must also tip my hat to Baxley for her handling of those intimate moments that could have turned this book into an X-rated scandal, but instead kept it tastefully R-rated. (Yes, I think there is a distinction.)
What are your thoughts on Pride and Prejudice defiations? Which would you recommend? Have you read this one?
Don’t forget to check out M.K. Baxley’s guest post and enter for a chance to win a copy of The Mistress’s Black Veil for yourself!