Review by Allison T.
OK, call me a prude, call me a persnickety pedant, call me a Dried Up Old Prune—but I can give only the weakest of recommendations to Sharon Lathan’s Two Shall Become One—Mr. and Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy, published in 2006 through Lulu. It’s not because Lathan doesn’t write well: she actually has a nice flow of words and a good use of color (though she should learn the difference between “lie” and “lay” and why it is that most books have A Plot). But it is a shame that she does not wield her pen for the forces of Good instead of Evil.
What’s so Evil? Well, this ardent Janeite first shuddered when she discovered (in the foreword), that Lathan had never read any JA until she’d seen the 2005 P&P (that’s the Keira one) and walked out of the movie theater transfixed. (This is always A Bad Sign.) Her novel is based on the movie conception of the characters and carries Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy through their first five months of marriage. I gave up around page 160 because all the farther we had progressed was the first month of the honeymoon, described in far too loving detail. We heard Mrs. Bennet’s pre-wedding night advice to her daughters (fake a headache) and Mrs. Gardiner’s (an earthy woman, “forthright and blunt,” she gives all the “clinical” details). (Did you know they had clinics in 1810 or whenever? I didn’t.) Then the big event itself, which goes on for pages. I didn’t keep count, but I believe that the Darcys made love about 10 times in the first 24 hours—surely trying even for the gentleman, who had kept himself a virgin for his future wife. (Huh? Really? Doesn’t seem very Regency-like.)
So, yeah, there’s a lot of sex. Literally every chapter is about where they have sex in different parts of Pemberley. Also different positions. And, while I like a good sex scene as much as any red-blooded American Janeite, I found these scenes oddly un-titillating. (It must be my prunishness.) Other than the lovemaking, NOTHING HAPPENS. Wait, that’s a little unfair—I did skip to the end to discover Darcy duelling a Wicked Marquis who attempted to rape the pregnant Elizabeth, but I don’t believe that weak plotline began until long after I quit reading.
So, what else besides the lack of plot and the excessive bedroom details? Well, there are some anachronisms that really jar (this is part of why authors inspired by movies are suspect). You’ll be happy to know that the inn that Darcy rents to spent the first two nights of his honeymoon contains a…wait for it…GIFT SALON. And he & Lizzie make love (the third time) on a BEARSKIN RUG COVERED WITH PILLOWS in front of the blazing fire. And they eat a late BRUNCH—didn’t think that was invented until the 1930s. And later, when they are canoodling in December out-of-doors at Pemberley, the air is “rich with the fragrance of WINTER BLOOMS.” (Huh?) And Darcy gives Elizabeth a MUSICAL SNUFF BOX as a wedding gift. (Our Lizzie? A secret dipper?) And I just cannot, I simply cannot cope with a novel set ca. 1800 that uses the words “nirvana” and “groins” in close juxtaposition.
Sixteen-year old readers will doubtless find Two Shall Become One—Mr. and Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy page-turning reading, in part because they, too, will learn the clinical details. But I hope that Ms. Lathan turns her talents to her own characters (and plots) in the future.