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A Less Agreeable Man (The Queen of Rosings Park Book 3) Kindle Edition
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Book 1 told the story of Elizabeth and Darcy, and Book 2 related Lydia's tale. This one goes back and forth between Mary Bennet and Colonel Fitzwilliam.
If you choose to read this as a stand-alone, note that this is a somewhat altered Pride and Prejudice universe established in the two previous books in this series. Rosings is the center of this universe, and Lady Catherine is the Queen. By this time, though, she's lost her grip. Her daughter Anne has died, and Lady C. is suffering from Alzheimer's. Anne was, technically, the Mistress of Rosings (despite her mother's dictatorial rule), and she left the estate to Colonel Fitzwilliam in her Will. Lady C's deteriorating mental state doesn't comprehend this at all, making Fitzwilliam's attempts to get a grip on estate management that much more difficult because servants keep quitting. Fortunately, he has an excellent steward, Mr. Michaels, who also happens to be betrothed to Mary Bennet. She is staying at Hunsford with Mr. and Mrs. Collins until their wedding.
There are so many different topics woven ingeniously into this plot. There's the challenge that Lady Catherine presents. She's easily confused and agitated, requiring careful care that only Mary seems to know how to give. There are times when Colonel Fitzwilliam would love to just send the old lady to Bedlam, but the scandal this would bring to the Fitzwilliam family makes this impossible. Regency era's assumption that women are not as intelligent as men is examined. Mary is obviously smarter than most of the men around her, and she chafes at how blind they can be. She and the Colonel must deal with a situation involving domestic violence. Rosings servants, not yet certain how to approach the Colonel, quickly turn to Mary when household problems arise. And when there's a major crisis on the estate, Mary instinctively reacts in a way that leads to shocking gossip about her.
The two major characters are developed beautifully. Mary almost always appears calm, but her thoughts reveal a mind that is constantly churning despite the unflappable facade. She does have a temper that she usually keeps under control... but not always! Mr. Michaels is her prudent, practical choice for a husband and she is determined to be content with him. She is aware that she tends to be overlooked, as it has been so all her life, so she's grateful she was able to attract a like-minded man. She tries not to be jealous of her married sisters, though, and wishes she could experience the same passion they seem to inspire in their husbands.
We learn how completely over his head Colonel Fitzwilliam feels. His military-like approach to problems doesn't always serve him well in this environment, and Mary is the only one to call him on it. At first he underestimates her, but eventually he comes to rely on her as heavily as he does Mr. Michaels. The estate is deep in debt, and he feels he must marry a rich heiress in order to keep Rosings afloat. Naturally, his mother has a number of suggestions.
This is a fast-paced story that keeps moving while still painting a clear picture of these two major characters as well as the secondary ones. (Charlotte Collins is not particularly likable here.) The writing just flows, with smooth shifts from Mary's POV to the Colonel's. And yes, there's plenty of romance and yearning and miscommunication and all that good stuff, too! (No graphic sexual content, though.)
It's a great book to finish off this excellent series.
On the the negative side the post-fire death, destruction & mourning phases of the book were some what dreary. The Matlocks & Dr. Bennet continued with their despicable attitudes while Charlotte Collins' hopeless petulance & interference was exceedingly grating.
Those Pride and Prejudice fans who like an alternate universe that differs significantly from canon, and who like reading about P&P secondary characters will like this well-written story.