Following on the heels of Mr. Darcy's Daughters and The Exploits & Adventures of Miss Alethea Darcy, Elizabeth Aston delivers an irresistible new novel set in the world of Jane Austen.
After being disowned by her family, Cassandra Darcy -- the artistic eldest daughter of Anne de Bourgh (and granddaughter of the infamous Lady Catherine de Bourgh and Mr. Darcy's cousin in Pride and Prejudice) -- strives to make a living by painting. But struggling to succeed in bohemian London turns out to be the least of her worries! To begin with, there are the unwelcome advances of a certain Lord Usborne, and then there are the letters bequeathed to her by a friend -- highly compromising letters written by Princess Caroline that her husband, the Prince Regent, would very much like to possess. In league with Lord Usborne, the prince enlists the services of Cassandra's cousin, Horatio Darcy, who is a lawyer, to track down the missives. When Horatio's investigation leads him straight to Cassandra, he initially disapproves of her lifestyle until he finds himself utterly charmed by it -- and particularly by her. Romance may prove elusive, however, as social obstacles and the efforts of a vengeful Lord Usborne conspire to divide the two would-be lovers.
Another delightful chapter in the adventures of Aston's spirited Darcy daughters, The True Darcy Spirit is a treat for Jane Austen fans everywhere.
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What does Cassandra's unfortunate elopement tell you about her? Do you think James was only interested in her fortune from the start?
Cassandra wonders "if there were a time or place she could pinpoint that marked the turning point; a day, an incident which had propelled her on the course that had so changed her life?" What would you say that turning point was?
"How odd it was that strict morality led to deception and less than openness," Cassandra observes. What examples of this can you find in the novel?
Cassandra values her honesty and "frankness," but she is surprised to see how easily she learns to lie when her survival depends on it. Describe some of the lies she invents and discuss how they work for her or against her.
What did you think of Mrs. Nettleton when she was introduced? When did you begin to suspect the truth about her occupation and what gave the secret away?
What parallels can you draw between the conscious and unconscious courtship of Horatio Darcy and Cassandra Darcy and Elizabeth Bennett and Fitzwilliam Darcy?
Given her own behavior with James Eyre, how do you feel about Cassandra's disapproval of Belle Darcy and Henry Lisser's relationship? What do you think her feelings are based on?
What does Aston reveal about Horatio Darcy's character by his always assuming the worst about Cassandra? How does the tenor of his negativity change after he realizes he loves her?
Aston artfully hints at Henry Lisser's mysterious past throughout the novel. What did you suppose his secret might be? Did you believe that Belle truly had feelings for him?
What do you think epitomizes the "true Darcy spirit?" What do you admire, and what do you dislike, about the Darcys?
If you've read Mr. Darcy's Daughters and The Adventures & Exploits of Miss Alethea Darcy, describe the commonalities between those novels and The True Darcy Spirit. In what ways has Aston departed from her usual style or themes in this book?
The True Darcy Spirit is the third novel in Aston's series. What characters and situations would you like to see Aston explore in the next novel?
Enhance Your Book Club Experience: To get into the "true Darcy spirit," don your best hats and dresses and discuss the novel over a proper English tea. Be sure to use your best china and serve an assortment of chocolates, pastries and finger sandwiches. Or, you can hold your meeting at a local tea room or café. Gain some insight into Cassandra's world by meeting at an art museum to view the paintings. See if you can find a guide, or guidebook, to help you compare the art of English masters to those from other countries. Discuss how the portrait artists capture their models' personalities. The Bluestockings were an informal women's literary "club" that flourished in the second half of eighteenth century London, during the time period in which The True Darcy Spirit takes place. The subject of the evening was often a learned woman from the past or the present. Eventually similar ladies' groups who patterned themselves after the Bluestockings sprung up all over London then all over England. In honor of these progressive forebears to the modern Book Club, have each member of your Club choose a prominent woman in history to research and present a short discussion on at your next meeting.
Elizabeth Aston is a passionate Jane Austen fan who studied with Austen biographer Lord David Cecil at Oxford. The author of several novels, including Mr. Darcy's Daughters, she lives in England and Italy.
Visit www.elizabeth-aston.com for more information.