The Matters at Mansfield (Or, The Crawford Affair)

The Matters at Mansfield (Or, The Crawford Affair) [Mr. & Mrs. Darcy Mystery #4) by Carrie Bebris

So this is the fourth book in this Jane Austen mystery series. I have an…interesting relationship with this series. You know I love mysteries, so when I first came across this I was so excited! Jane Austen mysteries?!!!!!

Mystery, you say?

So I read the first book Pride and Prescience (Or a Truth Universally Acknowledged) and loved it!

It was a fantastic mystery that left you wondering, was something supernatural going on? Or was Caroline Bingley’s new husband gaslighting her?

The next book, however, left me extremely disappointed.

Suspense and Sensibility (Or First Impressions Revisited) right away told you it was going to be the supernatural taking all the suspense out of it. Also the Dashwood sisters were hardly in the book, which strongly disappointed me.

I then decided to take a break, and went on reading and reviewing other things.

After a break I decided to read the third book North by Northanger (Or, the Shades of Pemberley) as I plan to review a mystery every month (to stay in theme for the year) and because it has Northanger Abbey in it. It was good, but it really didn’t have as much Northanger Abbey stuff in it as there should have been.

I want MORE Northanger Abbey!

I liked the book, but was disappointed that there was hardly any Mr. Tilney in it and zero Catherine Morland. Extremely disappointing, but the rest of the book was good.

Hmm…

So now on to this one. My excitement for this was also high as I was excited to see Mansfield Park in something as it literally gets no love.

So one thing that happened in this book that is very different from the others is that there is no supernatural elements in it at all. The first book had a woman possibly going crazy/being mind controlled, the second a mirror with the evil spirit of the Dashwood’s great-great grandfather who possesses his great-great-grandson. The third we had the benevolent spirit of Mr. Darcy’s mother aiding Elizabeth through her pregnancy. In this, there is nothing.

So we start the book off with a Elizabeth and Darcy staying with Roger Fitzwilliam, Colonel Fitzwilliam’s older brother and the earl (you know the one that inherited everything making it impossible to marry someone without money). Lady Catherine is there with Anne as well. So remember in the last book…maybe not…quick review. So Darcy and Elizabeth were in Bath to meet with this super special doctor, who was a total jerk.

This dude, ugh!

There they received a note to visit with Captain Tilney, Mr. Henry Tilney’s older brother to visit and got caught up in a robbery of a dead man. No, it really tuned out that the man they thought was Captain Tilney was actually pretending to b him as the real Captain Tilney died a day earlier. The only one who could help them was Lady Catherine, so she traveled with them to Pemberley leaving Anne in Bath, with her companion.

She’s free!

Back in present time, Elizabeth was feeding her daughter early one morning when she runs into Anne. Elizabeth’s surprised to see her up so early, but Anne tells her she wants time to herself and Elizabeth understands-its hard to go from the freedom of Bath to then be back with your controlling mother, Lady Catherine.

The next day at the ball Elizabeth manages to get Darcy to distract Lady Catherine so that Anne can dance. She dances with her cousin Col. Fitzwiliam, who has always liked her. OMG, what if they were to get together! That would be great! Look at me, matching up people like Emma.

They also meet a Mr. Crawford, one of the people who dances with Anne. We know Mr. Crawford.

Just in case you haven’t read or seen the film, in Mansfield Park Mr. Crawford is an immoral man raised by his uncle. His biggest hobby is to seduce women, he likes them falling in love with him.

He and his sister Mary go to visit their half-sister and intersect with the Bertram family at Mansfield Park. He starts to seduce Maria Bertram who is engaged, with no plan of follow through, but it hooks her. Later he starts to fall for Maria’s cousin Fanny, trying to woo her, but when he returns to London he runs off with her.

He’s a bad boy

Time has passed, so he is free from scandal-Just like the Count in Anna Karenina. It’s really not fair that he didn’t get something worse.

Mr. Crawford asks Anne to dance with him, but she refuses. Elizabeth tries to get her to take him up on his offer but she goes upstairs and to bed.

Meanwhile, Mr. Darcy has found out that Lady Catherine wants to have an engagement between Anne and Lord Sennex’s son, Neville (a horrible man with am extremely awful and abusive temper.)

That night they retire and Elizabeth finds a note from Anne, but decides to wait until morning to read it.

Oh no, that’s important-you should read it now!

The next day Lady Catherine starts an uproar when Anne is found missing. She doesn’t want Lord Sennex to know as she hopes that she can get her in time for Anne to marry his son. They search everywhere for her but cannot find her. Lady Catherine latches onto Anne’s letter to Elizabeth and in there it is revealed that she decided to follow Elizabeth’s advice and run off with Mr. Crawford.

Oops! She misconstrued Elizabeth encouraging her to dance with her encouraging her to run off and elope.

Colonel Fitzwilliam and Darcy run off to follow them hoping that they can reach them before they are wed at Gretna Greene. Oh, poor Darcy this is the third elopement he has tried to stop. Lady Catherine is furious beyond furious and blames Elizabeth 100%.

The two men follow and Colonel Fitzwilliam seems extra invested? OhMyGOONESS! Maybe he was in love with Anne but never did anything about it because he thought she was going to marry Darcy, and let’s face it Lady Catherin would never pick him even if he is a Fitzwilliam. Thinking back he did seem awfully eager to dance with her?! Hmmm…

Hmm…

They reach Gretna Greene and are too late, Anne is already Mrs. Crawford.

Darcy kind of starts to lecture her but she rips him a new one when she shares how she feels! Her whole life her mother has been telling everyone they would wed and chasing all suitors always and then he up and married some other girl and she is just growing older. Ouch, I feel bad. I had never thought about Anne’s predicament.

Darcy and the Colonel try to warn her that Mr. Crawford could be a gold digger but she tells him she has seen plenty of those and knows Crawford isn’t one. She is extremely upset that she has to marry the cruel Neville Sennex and saw this as the only way out. The men are resigned and start to take her home, but unfortunately the wheel of the carriage breaks Anne injures her leg, and their are stuck by Mansfield Park.

So will we see Fanny and Edmund and the whole gang?

No.

A few Mansfield Park characters have brief moments but they aren’t really even in the story. This was the problem I had with the other books. Why bother to bring in the other titles and stories if you aren’t going to use them?

I mean, you could set this anywhere else and just add new characters, like the Sennexs. But instead Bbris gets my hopes up making it sound like we will see all the gang and we don’t, and that really upsets me. Why do this? Just to get my hopes up?

So Lady Catherine is angry and wants to make sure that Anne’s inheritance will stay controlled by her and she sends for her lawyer and he, Lady Catherine, and Elizabeth all travel to Mansfield Park.

When all arrive they discover that Henry Crawford has a very bad reputation. They hear the whole story of how he ran off with Maria Bertram Rushworth and how he had proposed to Fanny Price Bertram.

Anne starts to regret her decision, especially after his other wife comes to town.

It turns out years ago he pretended he was just a sailor and got involved with this girl Meg and then left. He sent her money, but after a fire burned the farm and the death of her only family member she goes to find her husband, the only clue being a jewelry box that leads her right to Mansfield Park.

So now who is really married to Mr. Crawford? They call the magistrate who is of course Edmund Bertram speaking on behalf of his father and it is a real sticky wicket. Mr. Crawford married Meg first, but under a false name, but one he was well known so a good lawyer could say that it was legal. And then there is Anne who married him under his legal name. This sound like a Poldark or Mary Balogh novel.

To make things even worse Mr. Rushworth and his mother, along with Maria Bertram Rushworth and her Aunt Norris, all converge on Mansfield Park to speak to Henry and give him a piece of their minds-ALONG with Lord and Neville Sennex (who happens to be friends with Tom Bertram and stays over at Mansfield Park).

Elizabeth and Darcy remark that things would be a lot easier if he was dead…

So I’m sure you all saw what was coming next. He escaped on his horse and there is a search party out for him. They finally discover his dead body.

At first the Bertrams want to declare it a suicide but after Darcy and Colonel Fitzwilliam look it over they discover he was murdered.

So who did it? Was Anne angry that she may not be legally wed, but also that she has lost all standing in society? Was it Lady Catherine upset that first this man upset her plans and then that he embarrassed the de Bourg line? Could it be Mr. Bertram, Tom, or Edmund…wait not Edmund as he is a minister, Sir Bertram or Tom avenging the humiliation of their sister? Mr. Rushworth out to get revenge for Mr. Crawford sleeping with his wife!? His mother for embarrassing the Rushworths? Maria, angry that he remarried and is in society while she is doomed to be an outcast forever? Aunt Norris, furious that someone hurt her favorite girl? Meg, the first Crawford wife, furious that he lied and abandoned her? Colonel Fitzwilliam maybe trying to get rid of the competition? Lord Sennex or Neville for the embarrassment? Mr. Darcy…haha yeah right it isn’t him or Elizabeth.

We’ll never know.

Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy are on the case to figure out who and why and get themselves and their family out of this entanglement in order to return home.

But then it is discovered that Henry Crawford isn’t really dead. Well then, who was murdered? And if Mr. Crawford didn’t die was he the intended victim or the murderer?

Hmm…

To further complicate things it turns out that Mr. Crawford has some sort of amnesia and thinks he is a sailer named John married to Meg (the first wife and first wife connection).

It turns out that the person is after Henry Crawford as he is murdered, then Neville is killed, and Colonel Fitzwilliam declare his love for Anne- the Darcys need to find the truth before whoever it is is planning on striking again.

So the mystery was really good, and the double identity and then Crawford turning out not to be dead really threw me for a loop. I had to read to the end.

Tell ME!!!!!

The mystery and the characters were really enjoyable, my only compliant was that I wish it involved more of the Mansfield Park characters. I want to see Fanny, Tom, and William Price.

From Mansfield Park Opera

For more by Carrie Bebris, go to North by Northanger (Or, the Shades of Pemberley)

For more on Pride & Prejudice, go to Hart of Dixie’s Jane Austen Scene

For more on Mansfield Park, go to The Jane Austen Book Club (2007)

For more Pride & Prejudice variations, go to Unmarriageable: Pride and Prejudice in Pakistan

For more Mansfield Park variations, go to Modesto Jane Con: Opera Modesto Presents Mansfield Park

For more mysteries, go to Catherine Morland’s Reading List: Cat Burglar Black

For more books based on Jane Austen, go to Interference: Friday Night Lights Meets Emma

Modesto Jane Con: Opera Modesto Presents Mansfield Park

So I had to take a break from finishing my review of Modesto Jane Con, as we had Valentine’s Day posts and some other things, but now I am ready to finish reviewing Modesto Jane Con.

So if you have been following me on social media, you know I have been super excited about Modesto Jane Con. The past eight years I have seen pictures from different Jane Cons and festivals and wished I could go-but they were not possible for me to attend as it always came down to a problem of time, money, work, etc. Instead I had to be content with seeing pictures on social media.

I’m sad…

But then Modesto Jane Con was created!

From January 10th-12th there were all kinds of workshops, activities, movies, an opera, and even a fashion show!

Your $30 ticket allowed you to attend the workshops (BOTH DAYS) and see one showing of Mansfield Park Opera (your choice of Saturday or Sunday).

That was it, I was going! And I convinced my book club + my sister to join me. I scrounged around for a costume (I’ll post on that later) and made sure to bring a notebook to take copious notes on the workshop and opera to-of course post on them later (as I am now).

So the first workshop of the day was Gowns & GroansAfter that you had your choice of The Definitive Darcy and Lizzie or Start You Own Book Club. The third workshop was your choice of Dressing the Regency Lady or Are You a Long-Lost Austen? Searching Your Family Tree.

So after Dressing the Regency Lady, we had about an hour and fifteen mins before the Mansfield Park Opera pre-show talk by Hillari DeSchane. We checked out a few things and had lunch, and then headed to the Opera.

The building was really cool as it was a classic theater showing old, foreign, & independent films that also hosts concerts & events. It has a snack bar that serves popcorn, wine, soft drinks, and espresso. I really wanted tea, but it didn’t serve any. Oh, well…

So quick review of the book, for those of you who might not have read it. Mansfield Park is the story of Fanny Price, a sweet kind girl-niece to the Bertram family, who was sent to stay with the Bertrams. Instead of being treated as family, she is seen as “lesser” because of the “bad blood” inherited from her father who her mother “married down” to.

She is particularly mistreated by her evil aunt, Mrs. Norris, and two cousins; all of which take pride in bossing her around and being as cruel as can be. Fanny is the essence of sweetness, taking this injustice in stride and trying to remain optimistic in a bad situation.

The life of the Bertrams are interrupted when a Mr. Henry Crawford and Miss Mary Crawford come to visit their half-sister Mrs. Grant. Mary is set on winning the eldest Bertram, but finds her interest captured by the younger brother, Edmund,-even though he is intent on being a minister and Mary finds religion hypocritical. Fanny has loved Edmund since she was young, but he has never thought of her in such a way and he is now completely captivated by Mary. Henry Crawford’s sole interest is to upset the apple cart by going after the Bertram sisters for sport, having no intent of being serious or facing any consequences. Will the Bertrams and Fanny survive this?

That is not good,

The Mansfield Park Opera was a part of the Story into Song Literacy Initiative and worked with a lot of literacy advocacy organizations, (such as the Becoming Jane Austen Book Club, Modesto Library, Modesto Friends of the Library, and more) and half of the cast are making their solo professional debuts. Pretty amazing!

So like when I did my Psycho (1960) review, I brought my notebook and took notes in the dark of my thoughts of the performance. Hopefully I can still read them.

So we attended the preshow with Hillari DeSchane:

Hillari DeSchane is a JASNA life member and a board member of Opera Modesto. Her pre-show opera talks have become audience favorites. DeSchane’s first Regency pet cozy: A Christmas Tail: A Regency Holiday Mystery received a Certificate of Merit from the Cat Writers Association hillarideschane.com

So the program gave a copy of the full talk, but I’m not going to write it word for word. I’ll just write my notes and paraphrase a bit.

So taking a book as long and complex as Mansfield Park and cutting it down to a two-hour opera is no easy feat. Mansfield Park is a “tapestry of human emotion and psychology.” (Deschane).

In the opera they strip the book down to the central theme and a small number of characters. The story is told as a chamber opera, more intimate-like a theater in the round. The opera itself is group centered, with no arias or being solo based.

The opera also focus on the theme of “The Fall of Man” and the “Expulsion from Eden.” Mansfield Park is Eden, a paradise, and each character is tempted by their own personal snakes, with many falling victim to their pleasures and “biting the apple”.

As seen with the recent TV show Sandition, there are many who think Austen needs to be sexier and steamier but truth is-they just need to remake Mansfield Park as it has it all: gambling, drinking, seduction, adultery-just full of thse vices without modern additions.

We really see the focus of this motiff in Scene 5: Chapter Five. In the Wilderness. Here they explore Mr. Rushworth’s home in Sotherton, where they walk a “serpentine path”. Henry offers to explore with Maria Bertram while her fiance is gone, tempting her with the two being alone together, even singing “how tempting those pathways that lie hidden-how much sweeter are the joys we are forbidden.” Edmund is given the choice to wait with Fanny while she rests from the walk, or to go off with Mary alone-and he walks off with Mary forgetting all about Fanny on her own.

The ending was changed to be more happily ever after for all, (in the novel people have to face the consequences of their actions), but I didn’t mind too much.

So the ten characters we have are:

  1. Fanny Price (Alexandra Jernic)
  2. Edmund Bertram (Andrew Pardini)
  3. Mary Crawford (Angela Yam)- Professional Opera debut
  4. Henry Crawford (Emmanuel Mercado)
  5. Maria Bertram (Darby Schmidt)-Professional Opera debut
  6. Julia Bertram (Brylan Finley)- Professional Opera debut
  7. Mr. Rushworth (Luca Mitchell)- Professional Opera debut
  8. Aunt Norris (Alison Collins)
  9. Lady Bertram (Anakira Gabriella-Graça)
  10. Sir Thomas Bertram (Brad Reed)- Professional Opera debut

From The Modesto Bee. Left to Right: Lady Bertram, Sir Thomas Bertram, Fanny Price, Henry Crawford, Mary Crawford, and Edmund Bertram.

There is no Tom, although he is mentioned, and sadly no William Price who I love. Oh, well.

Sad really.

So the opera was AMAZING! As I mentioned in an earlier post the group of us who came varied in our knowledge of Mansfield Park. One book club member had never read or seen a film version of Mansfield Park (or any Jane Austen beside The Darcy Monologues), one book club member had seen the 2007 film version, my sister had seen the 2007 version and the 1999 version years ago, and I had read the book and seen the 1999 film, 2007 film, & the 1983 miniseries. However, all were able to follow the storyline and completely comprehend and bcome fully involved in the story.

We all loved the music and found everyone to be entertaining, talented, amazing, and that they completely captured the characters they were portraying.

Fanny was perfect! She had an amazing voice; along with perfect facial expressions. I’m not a big opera fan (as in I don’t watch them all the time), and this was my first time attending one, but one thing I have noticed when I’ve seen the films or clips of Operas is that they don’t always focus on the acting-more on the singing. Alexandra Jernic was spot on. The way she looked at Edward when singing, as if they were the only ones in the room. The incredible sorrow when seeing Edward and Mary together and knowing his preference for Mary over Fanny. Or the ball scene when all are happy and excited for what the night will bring, but Fanny who all this is supposed to be for her, but she is sad and alone as her love is excited to dance with another.

Mrs. Norris was just as perfect. You hated her as immediately-every time she sang and the way she acted toward Fanny, I don’t know if there has been a better one.

Mr. Rushworth was wonderful. He was kind caring, goofy, hilarious. It amazed me that he was only 18 when he was so talented.

Another thing I really enjoyed about the performance is that  each character had their own distinctive music, tone, and speed. For instance Mr. Rushworth’s was fast and quick, just like how his character spoke in the book and sang-while Henry’s music was slower, softer, more seductive.

We also loved seeing the costumes and how they looked on the performers, as in an earlier workshop we saw the swatches. We also kept an eye out for Kristine Doiel’s favorite dress of the production, the gray number that Mary Crawford wears in Scene 5: Chapter Five. In the Wilderness. It was originally worn by Anne de Bourgh in the Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley. I tried to get a good picture, but this was all I got:

But the one who stole the show for me was Angela Yam, Mary Crawford.

Every time she entered the stage all my attention went to her. She had an amazing voice and was equally amazing in her acting. One of the best scenes was when she and Edward first see each other, the way she doesn’t sing anything other than hello, but her whole body language is changed. The rest of the scene continues in the way she acts and looks. It was fantastic. That continued throughout the whole Opera as she was able to convey sooo much in her tone, a look, a motion. I was surprised this was her debut as she just blew me away. I stopped taking notes as I just wanted to enjoy her performance.

We had to leave after the opera and head home, but we did all the way humming, singing, and talking about how much we enjoyed it.

It was a wonderful experience and I am so happy to have been able to watch it. If I could have, I would have stayed the next day and watched it again.

For more on Modesto Jane Con, go to Modesto Jane Con: Looking Around the Library, Lunch, and a Crazy Random Happenstance

For more Mansfield Park, go to Rational Creatures: Fanny Price & Mary Crawford

For more Mansfield Park adaptions, go to Little Literary Classics Mansfield Park Cloth Book

For more Hillari DeSchane, go to Modesto Jane Con: Gowns & Groans, A Costumer Looks at Regency Costumes on Film and Stage

For more Opera, go to Desire & Decorum: Chapter 8, Ill Repute