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The Marriage Bargain  By  cover art

The Marriage Bargain

By: Lucy Marin
Narrated by: Alexandra Lee Smith
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Publisher's Summary

“You can sell Pemberley and settle as many debts as possible. Or you could marry a wealthy woman and use her fortune to restore it.”

Fitzwilliam Darcy, heir to a mountain of debt, a tarnished family name, and a crumbling estate, finds himself confronted by an unthinkable choice. Knowing it is a last chance to save his birthright, he agrees to an arranged marriage with Miss Elizabeth Bennet, ward of her wealthy but vulgar uncle, Mr. Gardiner. Despite entering into the marriage understanding what he is giving up, he soon finds himself resenting the actions of his forebears and the choices he feels he was forced to make.

Elizabeth Bennet knows that marrying a gentleman of high birth would allow her to reclaim the social status she lost when her father died. Having been approached by men falsely proclaiming their affection for her, she embraces the opportunity to set the terms of her marriage openly and honestly. After meeting Mr. Darcy and his sister, Elizabeth is determined to give them the home and care they deserve. Believing she and Mr. Darcy have a common understanding of what their union will be like, she has high hopes for a happy future. 

A friendship between them soon promises to bloom into something more romantic, but Darcy has unresolved issues in his past that will not remain hidden. Dismayed, Darcy at last confronts his errors…but is it too late for he and Elizabeth to find happiness together?

The Marriage Bargain is a forced or contracted marriage variation of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice and will be enjoyed by fans of Georgette Heyer's A Civil Contract and other regency romances. 

©2022 Lucy Sportza (P)2022 Quills & Quartos Publishing
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: Romance

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Once again, another winner from Marin

The narrator does a decent job. I think a male voice -- Harry Frost, in particular -- would have been a much better choice though. I wasn't overly fond of her choice of voice for Caroline. It is full of whiney petulance and while I get why she chose to do that I think it doesn't work because that isn't how Darcy sees her. The recording has some static at times, which is also annoying.

I have developed a real love for Lucy Marin's books. She takes an in depth look into various problems of the Regency time period and gives us a fascinating "what if?" story in the P&P universe.

The description of the book is good. Here are a few other things, Charles Bingley and his sister Caroline, live on an estate in Derbyshire and have been long time friends with Darcy, in spite of the objections of his family. Bingley's father was a tradesman so they are looked down upon by most of Darcy's class. There is no Wickham, though Caroline Bingley shows many of his mannerisms. That was well done.

Side note: thank you, Marin, for not naming the Colonel, Richard. Jane Austen never gave him a first name so I prefer it if other JAFF authors don't use the same one as everyone else.

Now, here is what Marin does best. She shows all of the hypocrisy of the haute ton in their treatment of Elizabeth. But she also shows it in Darcy himself. And yes, Darcy is a hypocritical jerk through much of this. But I also felt extremely sorry for him because he was raised in this atmosphere. He is fighting an engrained belief that is supported by the society he grew up in. Elizabeth is a gentleman's daughter but all anyone cares about is that she is a tradesman's niece. Marriages at the time were mostly business arrangements in the ton and gentlemen would marry for a woman's dowry all the time because the dowry was usually needed on the estate. That was normal. Marrying for love was not. And yet, the society itself would still look down on the man for doing so by marrying a woman connected to trade. Darcy does everything he can to honorably save Pemberley and to help his sister and instead of being praised for it, he is criticized and made fun of because he did it by marrying a tradesman's niece. They show more respect for a member of the gentry who is deep in debt and gambles too much than they do one who is trying to climb out of a deep hole of debt caused by his family. He used honorable means to do it and the society, as well as Darcy himself, looked down on him for it. HIs contempt for himself drives much of his actions.

The hypocrisy is really seen by Darcy's treatment of Caroline vs Elizabeth. It was fascinating watching him look at his world with a beam in his own eye. Elizabeth is above her in birth and behavior but he, like most of the ton, refuses to see it. And why he won't see it is an integral part of the climax and denouement so I won't spoil it. The big showdown that takes the scales off of his eyes is really good.

Marin also shows why the phrase that so many JAFF authors love -- "Think only of the past as its remembrance gives you pleasure" -- is not an admirable nor useful philosophy. And it causes much more damage than it heals. (Of course Jane Austen herself wrote it as a satirical moment because Elizabeth shows all throughout the book that she doesn't actually believe or even try to enact that philosophy but that's beside the point here.)

But mainly, I appreciated the deep look into one of the awful parts of Regency society because we, with our 21st century eyes, tend to see it as something beautiful when in reality, it wasn't. There was much in that society that was wrong. Marin is excellent at removing our rose colored glasses.

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Skip it

I barely recognized these characters as JAFF. A very petulant Darcy is hard to overcome. Lizzie is rich and very patient with Darcy’s disregard.

1 person found this helpful

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Memorable Twists

Very good narration by Alexandra Lee Smith. I did have to adjust the speed up just a notch.

In this reversal of fortunes trope, Darcy has just inherited a Pemberley deep in debt due to his grandfather’s and father’s incompetent estate management and, an indulgent mother who overspent beyond her means. When his father refused Darcy’s plea to help manage the estate, he sought employment elsewhere and spent time abroad working as an agent for the government. Elizabeth is an orphan and the sole heir of her very rich tradesman Uncle Edward Gardiner, a widower.

To save Pemberley and help resolve his debt, Darcy’s godfather, Lord Halsley (not to be confused with Lord Matlock) encourages him to marry for convenience, arranging to meet Mr. Gardiner and Elizabeth. Gardiner wants her re-established as a lady in society. She is intelligent and well educated and, in Darcy’s opinion too bold and unrefined. He is determined to put her out of his mind, yet he is drawn to her, repeatedly returning to Gracechurch Street to visit with her. Darcy is ashamed and embarrassed by his present circumstances. He resents not being able to make his own choice in a marriage. They finally agree to a “marriage bargain”after Darcy sees how well she treats Georgiana with kindness.

Many primary canon characters do not exist in this story, exceptions being Georgiana, Charles and Caroline Bingley, and Colonel Fitzwilliam. Darcy was a childhood friend of the Bingleys, who lived with their father in Derbyshire, and who had already purchased an estate. As a young man, Darcy had developed a tendre for the beautiful Caroline (gulp!), but knew he could never marry her due to her roots in trade and small dowry. He does not deny his attraction to her, and she is the character who will supply the angst in this story.

Lots of contradiction exists on Darcy’s part. He resents having had to marry for money, but he likes Elizabeth and everything about her except her connection to Gardiner. He is petulant and a bit resentful when she makes independent decisions, especially concerning Georgiana, who has become a dear sister to her. Yet, he “cannot fault her arrangements”. He also resents what he views as Gardiner’s interference. Feeling himself a bought man?

“ and she is not Caro— He stopped himself from completing the name, even in the privacy of his thoughts. His situation would not be improved by comparing the two ladies.” — quote from book

“A part of him felt devoted to their life together, but another part of him could not let go of the fact that he had only married her because she was wealthy, and he was poor.”—quote from book

At Pemberley, they embark upon restoring the estate and getting to know one another better, and for the most part, things progress well. A return to Town for the season, however, will severely challenge them.

Darcy’s rude and constantly peevish attitude had Elizabeth continually tamping down her ire, afraid to speak out when in fact he deserved a good set down. Despite warnings from his cousins and, his own conscience, in social situations he pays more attention to Caroline than Elizabeth. Marriage bargain indeed. Insufferable! Don’t worry, he will redeem himself and a happy ending is guaranteed.

The beginning of this book provides a welcome and very different beginning for our dear couple. I really liked this reversal of fortunes trope. Also, the singular Caroline-and-Darcy relationship-from-youth twist kind of blew my mind and made this a medium-angst, nail biter in my view.

As always, Lucy Marin’s keen writing skill makes this memorable book a necessary addition to any JAFF library. I highly recommend it.

1 person found this helpful

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Dary Who?

Elizabeth shines in this tale. She is the sole heir of a vast fortune and is willing to marry a suitable man who shares her desire for a happy home and family.

Darcy is overwhelmed by his circumstances and faces the loss of Pemberley and all wealth with a sense of desperation. His desire to give his sister a happy home at Pemberley leads him to the altar with Elizabeth.

Darcy whines internally at his circumstances from the story's beginning about his admiration for Caroline Bingley. However, his inability to see the shrew's character flaws leads him to behave in a reprehensible manner that eventually forces Elizabeth to leave him for several weeks.

The story is a good read. Listen if you want to hear Darcy at his worst and Elizabeth at her best.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 11-06-22

Very long and drawn out

A reasonable storyline but very long and drawn out. When you have listened to Stevie Zimmerman, very difficult to like any other narrators. Characters very stiff and soulless, definitely down to the narration.

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  • katoblue
  • 10-03-22

A little disappointing

I downloaded this because I absolutely loved Being Mrs. Darcy by the same author, but this is not as good. It's OK but Darcy is a pretty horrible husband for most of the book whereas Elizabeth is perfect and never puts a foot wrong.

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  • Kindle Customer
  • 10-02-22

Was a difficult book to finish

Not a lot happens and the iconic characters are reimagined in ways that show the opposite of their iconic traits.
It is by no means a modern retelling, evident in the plot and character arcs and for a modern audience, it is lacking in substance, especially in comparison to the original P&P.
The romance feels very forced, definitely towards the end of the novel and I was not invested in their journey that seemed to go around in circles.