Story: For the Sake Of A Child
Story URL: Story Link 1
Alternate URL: Story Link 2
Word Count: novel-length
Summary: Raised in America, Beth Gardiner travels back to England with her father to start a new life. Will their wealth be able to shelter them from the past?
There are several story elements which kept this story in my mind months after I first read it, necessitating a re-read. First, I liked the way that this story addressed some difficult issues between spouses and engaged couples. However, those issues (which I elaborate upon below) weren’t the sole focus of this dramatic, generally fluffy fic. There’s an intriguing mystery at the heart of this story which is gradually unfolded as the plot progresses. There is also a lot of fun historical info about early 19th century America included in the story. The coincidence of Jane Austen’s book being set during such a fascinating period of American history is capitalized upon beautifully here. That historic backdrop adds a richness to this story which goes beyond the fantastic characterizations and exciting plot. And while there were some possibly crack-ish elements, this remains a very fun, well-written story.
What little angst was present in this story was centered on a very interesting topic: the consequences of premarital sex in Regency England. Forgive me for ranting a bit, but this is a topic I’ve had an interest in ever since I discovered the world of Regency novels and fanfics. As I understand it, Regency-era gentlemen were allowed to live promiscuous lifestyles, assuming they were somewhat discrete, while ladies were barely allowed to set foot out of their homes without their every move being scrutinized. Aside from the moral implications, the utter hypocrisy of this expectation has long annoyed me.
I am therefore frustrated with stories in which it is presented as arousing and desirable for Darcy to be quite experienced while Elizabeth remains the virtuous maiden. For me, this goes beyond the commonly swooned-over depiction of a man being more dominant and passionate in the bedroom on that wedding night, guiding his shy but curious bride. That depiction I understand. What bothers me about the endorsement of male licentiousness is the idea that somehow there is a virtue in Darcy having engaged in a lascivious lifestyle before his engagement. It doesn’t make him more virile or sexually attractive to have exposed himself to diseases or risked fathering an illegitimate child. In addition, it hardly adds to his characterization as a moral, responsible man, to imagine him leaving Georgiana at home while he visits brothels at night. How are we to believe that Darcy is a man who cares about those in less advantageous situations, as Mrs. Reynolds depicted, if he is exploiting those poor women doomed to selling themselves on the streets? The equally repulsive alternative is that he is dallying with ladies in society whose reputations would be ruined by his amoral behavior if discovered.
Thus, I love the way that, through discussions between Darcy and Elizabeth in this story, as well as the examples of problems which his cousins are facing, we see the reality of what it can be like for women to deal with the corrupt “morals” of that society, as well as the ghosts of their husbands’ past lovers. It added a sense of realism to this story, which was a smart move, since the story is very AU in its deviation from P&P canon. (Though, for the record, it’s not as AU as you’d expect. I was surprised by house neatly it tied in to Jane Austen’s book.)
My only critique: There is a decision which the Viscount & Viscountess make which I found hard to imagine, though I understand it was not uncommon at the time. And I was a tad bothered by an essentially responsible and kind decision (hint: 3-months) which Darcy mentions making in his past. However those are personal preferences of mine and don’t detract from the story. Also as mentioned above, there are some elements to this story which could possibly be considered crack-ish, particularly regarding the specific situation which caused this plot to go AU from canon. However, for those who enjoy AU stories, I don’t think you’ll have any trouble with this AU deviation. I found it fascinating and don’t mind sacrificing the canon characterization of a side character in order to take the story a different direction. After all, isn’t that the point of AU takes on canon? To say, “What if” this or that circumstance or characterization were different? 😉
Please note that, as with other AU fics, this story is tagged as containing an OOC characterization because it is a plot point; not because that is a negative aspect of the story. (I never put tags on critical elements; only deliberate story elements.)
The original November 22, 2010 post of this rec was updated and greatly expanded following a re-read in May 2011.