An Appearance of Goodness by Heather Moll
I received this advanced reader copy free in exchange for an honest review.
What if in Pride and Prejudice, Darcy gave Elizabeth his letter at Rosing Park, immediately left to tell Charles Bingley his regret at separating him and Jane, and let Mr. Bennet know what happened to his sister?
What if Mr. Bennet never let Lydia run off with Mrs Forester and the officers? What if she never was compromised and forced to marry Wickham?
Well that is the alternate universe this adaption takes place. In this Bingley immediately came to ask for Jane’s hand, the two married, and as Mr. Bingley was told through Bingley not only what happened to Georgiana (but also of Wickham’s debts), Mr. Bennet the family were not disgraced and Darcy wasn’t needed to save the day.
Instead Mr. and Mrs. Bingley (plus Elizabeth) have been living at Netherfield Park. A very happy circumstance for all, except that Mrs. Bennet comes too often with her friends. Mr. Bingley decides a break is needed and intends to take Jane to meet all his friends this summer, ending their vacation in Scarborough. He also invites his sister Caroline Bingley, his other sister Mrs. Hurst, her husband Mr. Hurst, and Elizabeth to accompany him.
As they travel they have fun meeting all Bingley’s friends, stopping of course to visit his best friend; Mr. Darcy at Pemberley. Mr. Darcy has been in anguish over his rejected proposal, but in light of what had happened he tried to fix his mistakes, continuously works hard better himself, and is eager to host a party at his beloved home. Staying with him will be Georgina Darcy: her companion/governess Mrs. Annesley; his friend Lewis Balfour; Balfour’s sister and rich widow, Mrs Lanyon; Mr. Utterson, a newer acquaintance training in law; along with Mr. Bingley and his party.
What Mr. Darcy was not expecting was to find Elizabeth along the party. At first the two are rather awkward around each other; but as Darcy’s feelings remain steadfast and loyal to her, he tries his best to show how her words have affected and changed him, while trying not to make her uncomfortable.
Stuck inside due to heavy rainfalls, Elizabeth thought being at Pemberley with Mr. Darcy would be truly terrible. However, the more time she spends there with him; the more she realizes that her view of him was discolored and finds herself not only enjoying time with him but actively seeking it out.
Elizabeth falls for him and is trying to find a way to show or tell him, when there lovely trip goes to complete ruin. The very heavy rainfalls have caused incredible damage to the fields, crops, bridge, mills, homes, etc. Tensions run high and Darcy is pulled in every directions as he tries to help take care of everything and every one of his tenets. This is not the time to propose as not only is it a very depressing time but he isn’t even sure if he will have anything to offer after all this.
Elizabeth was certain that Mr. Darcy was heading toward a proposal but after all the aftermath of the storms it looks as if that will not be happening anytime in the future. She is heartbroken at all that has happened and wishes she could be there for Mr. Darcy, but as she is just the sister-in-law of his friend she has no place acting as is they are more “familiar”. Elizabeth does all she can while following propriety, but if only she could do more.
Mr. Bingley wants to make things easier on his dear friend Mr. Darcy and will take his party to stay with other friends to help him; leaving Mr. Utterson, Mr. Balfour, and Mrs. Lanyon behind. As Mr. Bingley is going, so will be Elizabeth and any chance of them being more…
Luckily, Mrs. Lanyon loves to matchmake, having been instrumental in assisting Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth. She asks is Elizabeth could stay and be her companion; and Elizabeth eager to have more time with Mr. Darcy readily agrees.
Things are still dire and Darcy is hanging on; but knowing he still has chance with Elizabeth has him feeling like things are looking up…except they aren’t.
While in the middle of clean up the body of Georgiana’s lady’s maid is found in the river. At first Darcy believe her to be Elizabeth as she is wearing her coat, but upon closer examination they discover her the identity and that she has been murdered. How? By a silver candlestick stolen from Pemberley. The reason for the murder is uncertain: could it be she saw something she shouldn’t? Perhaps she was in an illicit relationship? Could she be pregnant and the father not wishing to be in her life? Could she know something the killer does not want to get out?
Wait a minute! This is a mystery?!!! I didn’t realize that. A mystery?!!! I got this!!!
So suspects, after looking into everyone it comes down to the murderer is someone in Darcy’s home. Darcy, Georgiana, Mrs. Annesley, and Mrs. Lanyon are all cleared as r wh have alibis and people to back up their whereabouts. After careful discussion Elizabeth and Darcy discover the only ones who could have murdered the lady’s maid would be either Mr. Balfour or Mr. Utterson.
To be honest, I could not care for either of these characters so I wasn’t upset with them being suspects and was okay with either of them being the villain. I found both to be annoying and odd that Darcy could consider either to be his friends; but as they say love is blind.
Suspect 1: Lewis Balfour
Mr. Darcy has been friends with Mr. Balfour for years and Balfour was there for him when his father passed. Mr. Balfour is biracial (Scottish and Indian) and when his father passes will inherit the family estate. Right now he has no real purpose and lounges about spending money for the fun of it, although he appears to live far outside the allowance given to him by his father (and complains about it).
Balfour is not known to be a maid chasing Lothario and has a pleasant nature. He doesn’t seem to have a reason to murder someone. Could it be him?
Suspect #2: Mr. Utterson
Mr. Utterson is a newer acquaintance to and. Darcy and not as well known to him. Utterson is a second son and is forever in the middle of getting his law degree and lives on an allowance granted by his father. He never seems to have enough money, constantly complaining about the lack of it, along with making very rude jealous remarks.
There are a few stories of Utterson ravishing Lord Poole’s daughter, but rumors aren’t fact and could be true or false. He also has a very mercurial and intense nature. Of course the motive most likely is that he killed for money, possibly stealing; but would Utterson have risked stealing from someone like Mr. Darcy, a man he considered a friend?
Our Regency Scooby-Doo crew is rounded out by the arrival of Colonel Fitzwilliam who journeyed to assist in the emergency services. Will these three be able to discover the murderer before he strikes again, or will this be there final case?
Thoughts After Reading:
I enjoyed this novel, especially the mystery aspect, as I love mysteries and try to solve them before the characters do. I was fairly certain I knew who the murderer was and why they did it, and was most pleased to discover that I figured it out. My only criticism on that mystery is that I wish the cover looked a little more mysterious as I didn’t realize it was a whodunit until I saw it on goodreads. Although what should be added I’m not quite sure. Maybe the candlestick that was the murder weapon or a question mark at the end of the title?
I felt that Moll did a great job with Austen’s characters as the Bingleys, Bennets, Georgiana, the Hursts, Colonel Fitzwilliam, etc; were all done well did Austen justice while still being Moll’s creation.
The only thing I felt was not quite right was with Darcy’s character. Bit of a spoiler (not too much) I didn’t like that Darcy and Elizabeth slept together before being married. I’m not saying that didn’t happen in 1813, but I personally feel like Mr. Darcy is too much of a gentleman and so proper that he would wait, especially as he strives to be the nothing like his nemesis, Mr. Wickham.
Moll introduced several new characters and I did enjoy most of them. Utterson and Balfour as I said before really annoyed me as they have money, just not as much as they want, and complain constantly about their lot. At first I was hoping they would just exit the story, but when they turned out to be murder suspects I didn’t mind. As I didn’t like either of them I was content to have either of them turn out to be the killer. By the end of the novel, one of the men is a bit more likable as we are given his story and brought understanding as to why he is so eager for money.
I really loved the character of Mrs. Lanyon a LOT. I myself am biracial and growing up there wasn’t a lot of representation in any type of media. With this novel I really enjoyed how Mrs. Lanyon discusses her interactions with people and the racism and ignorance she faces. Even thought he book is set in 1813, the experiences described are still issues people face today.
My only warning would be that while this book does contain comedy, romance, and mystery; parts of the book are very sad especially in regards to the flooding. Thus far I have only read two of Moll’s books and she seems to be one who enjoys combing multiple elements in a nice balance.
I do recommend for those who enjoy Austen adaptations.
For more by Heather Moll, go to An Affectionate Heart
For more Pride and Prejudice, go to Beside Two Rivers
For more Pride and Prejudice adaptions, go to The Clergyman’s Wife + The Question is Mr. Collins Really THAT Bad?
For more Jane Austen adaptations, go to The Emma Project