From the back jacket of Jennifer Becton's Caroline Bingley: "When Charles Bingley and Mr. Darcy made proposals of marriage to the Bennet sisters at the end of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, Caroline Bingley was both distressed by her brother's choice of bride and humiliated by Mr. Darcy's rejection of her... Now banished from her brother's household, Caroline must return to her mother's home in the north of England until she can make amends with both Bennet sisters... Instead, she seeks an alternative route back into society in the form of Mr. William Charlton, heir to a barony… However, she must also contend with her vexing emotions regarding Mr. Patrick Rushton... When all that Caroline has ever dreamed of attaining… is finally within her reach, will she grasp for it even if it means disregarding the workings of her own heart? Or will she cast off the trappings of society and give herself to true love?"
Maybe it’s the English teacher in me, but I love finding literary elements in literature. Caroline Bingley is flowing with imagery, similes, static and dynamic characters and much more. Without giving too much away, I loved how certain events and conversations at the beginning of the novel foreshadowed what was to come. I found this kept me in anticipation for these scenes to play out. For instance, Caroline’s paid companion, Mrs. Pickersgill, has all of the manners of a genteel lady, yet she is a mere employee. Is there more to Rosemary Pickersgill than she is letting on?
Upon arriving in Kendal, Caroline is soon faced with two suitors: Mr. Charlton, a future baron, and Mr. Rushton, confirmed fortune hunter.
There is one thing Becton does particularly well: She writes an amazing hero, and I’m not talking about some Fabio wannabe. While Mr. Charlton has a title and some well-chosen words to recommend him, Mr. Rushton’s wit, perception, and manners make me wish I would meet a real-life Rushton (if I weren’t happily married, that is). The banter between Rushton and Caroline is well-written, and at times, the heat between the two is palpable. Caroline’s father once told her that her piano playing will win her a gentleman of great worth. Not having succeeded in winning Mr. Darcy’s affection, will her accomplishments be enough to win either gentleman?
As much as I love when authors portray Caroline as the unrepentant, heartless and cold “bad girl,” Becton makes her readers actually like and empathize with Caro. (It is shocking, I know, to feel anything but the desire to strangle the chit!) I enjoyed reading all of the new and conflicting emotions Caroline experiences. Though she struggles with her feelings and her position in society, feeling caught somewhere between polite society and the middling class, Caroline manages to keep the impudent and independent spirit Austen created.
Throughout the novel, Caroline is not only trying to find herself and to attain a position in one of society’s finest circles, but she also faces another difficult decision: does she marry for title and money, forgetting happiness just like the majority of her peers, while at the same time securing her place in society, does she take the chance and marry for love and forsake her dream of becoming a titled lady, or does she resign to her fate as a spinster? You will have to read Caroline Bingley to find out which Caro chooses, but I will leave you with the knowledge that, “Caroline Bingley was finally her own mistress” (p. 248).
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