I rarely review JAFF novels but I’m making an exception for A Lady’s Reputation because it’s just such an interesting premise with such sparkling, wonderful writing. Darcy deciding to consult with his uncle to eliminate any potential resistance to his choice of a wife before he offers for Elizabeth is entirely plausible, but such a juicy bit of gossip cannot be contained and before he knows it, events have spiralled out of control and half London is discussing his engagement - before he’s actually got around to proposing.
Elizabeth’s reaction is about what you might expect, considering how poorly she thinks of Darcy at the time, but due to the fragile nature of a lady’s reputation, dismissing him out of hand isn’t a possibility, much though she would like to. What follows is a fantastic exploration of not only both characters (who read very much in character as according to canon) but also the strictures respectable young ladies of the day were bound by. There are some wonderful moments in it, many of them down to the scene-stealing Viscount Saye, Colonel Fitzwilliam’s older brother, who I admit I have a very soft spot for. Here’s hoping Amy D’Orazio does eventually decide to write that story where he recognizes what a jewel Jane Bennet is and steals her right out from under Bingley’s nose.
Talking of Bingley, I have to admit I do love Bingley as the ‘adorable labrador puppy’ character he’s often seen as in Austen variations, so I didn’t particularly care from the Bingley of this story who suffers from serious character flaws played up to the max. It isn’t implausible at all, just not the version of this character I personally prefer, and honestly I think his storyline didn’t really add to the principal Darcy/Lizzy one and could probably have been dispensed with altogether. Wickham, who’s one of my preferred protagonists in these stories, is basically dispensed with altogether by circumstances, which is rather a shame.
These things notwithstanding, this is a genuinely wonderful example of an Austen variation, with a uniquely plausible premise I haven’t seen played out in any form before. It would be a sparkling addition to a library of variations or a fantastic introduction to the genre. Five stars.