The Pursuit of Mary Bennet (A Pride and Prejudice Novel) by Pamela Mingle (William Morrow trade paperback, 26 November 2013).
As a middle sister myself, I've always thought that Jane Austen gave Mary short shrift.
Her two older sisters Jane and Elizabeth, favored by their father, are pretty, intelligent, and able to comport themselves well socially. Younger sisters Kitty and Lydia are favored by their mother, and are silly, flighty and boy-crazy.
Mary prefers books to people, and is shy and socially inept. Though studious and accomplished in certain pursuits, she's also pedantic and lacking in judgement. She's the sole sister whose age is not mentioned in Austen's novel, though she's probably 18 or 19 at the beginning of the book, given the ages of her sisters (22, 20, 17 and 15).
Written in the first person from Mary's point of view, this book begins when Lizzie and Jane and Lydia have been married for about three years.
Mary and Kitty are often invited to stay with either Lizzie or Jane, who live only a few miles apart. Away from Lydia's influence, Kitty has become somewhat more sensible, while Mary has blossomed into a poised and tactful young woman. But her mother still sees her as the plain bookworm, and when Henry Walsh begins to spend time with the Bingleys while the girls are visiting, Mrs. Bennet automatically assumes that Kitty is the one he's interested in.
Meanwhile, as always, there's drama surrounding Lydia. She returns to her parents home, heavily pregnant and saying she's left Wickham. Once again, Mr. Darcy is prevailed upon to rectify the situation.
Yes, there's a lot going on in this book. But Mary is a trustworthy and relatively unbiased narrator whose internal complaints about being neglected and ignored are mostly justified.
Even those who do not enjoy spin-offs or sequels to Austens oeuvre may enjoy this book. Those who do appreciate them will certainly devour it, maybe even in one sitting, as I did.
Pamela Mingle is the author of Kissing Shakespeare, a time-travel romance for young adults set in Elizabethan England. She is a member of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, Pikes Peak Writers, Romance Writers of America, and the Jane Austen Society of North America. The Pursuit of Mary Bennet is a finalist for the 2014 Colorado Book Award in Historical Fiction.
FTC Full Disclosure: Many thanks to the author for sending me a copy of the book to review.