I wasn’t sure what to expect from The Bad Miss Bennet. I’ve read books where Lydia is redeemed to one degree or another but none where the author just doubled down on her behavior and attitudes.
In The Bad Miss Bennet by Jean Burnett, Lydia is a recent widow. Wickham was killed at Waterloo. She doesn’t really miss him as her love for him burned out years ago — but she hates wearing mourning colors, especially black. She resentful of having to live with Elizabeth and Darcy in the boring countryside. So, she makes arrangements to live in London with friends.
In London, her friends are deep in debt and help arrange card games in order to cheat and gain money to support their lifestyle. Lydia is very good at cheating at cards, having learned the fine art from Wickham. Eventually, there are repercussions and they need to find a new venue. Lydia eventually gets drawn in by a confidence trickster, finds a dead body in her quarters, and has many other other adventures — some quite upsetting (to the reader not necessarily to Lydia). Her life is one misfortune after another all blamed on others and nothing to do with her actions.
I had a difficult time reading this because I disliked the character of this instance of Lydia Bennet. She had no redeeming qualities. Even when she did something nice for someone it was in order to further her own plans. She’s given opportunities and chances to change her life but whether she couldn’t recognize the possibilities or chose to misinterpret them, she ignored them and continually reached for the new best thing. Mostly it all boiled down to being able to thumb her nose at her relatives (especially Darcy and his sister, boring Elizabth) and prove she’s better than they are — so there
I would have liked a Lydia with more depth — one who learns from her mistakes or at least has an inkling that she made mistakes. Time after time she makes the same ones hoping for a different outcome. While time has past for her, she’s basically the same as the Lydia we met in Pride and Prejudice. Her character fixed as Austen wrote her.
Burnett has managed to set Lydia into an interesting time period and because of her character flaws examined some of the politics and social changes at that time in history. She also left the ending open for a sequel. The Bad Miss Bennet is true to the original character of Lydia, extrapolating to a what she would be like after years of Wickham’s influence. The writing will draw the reader in but you may not enjoy the characters or care that much about what happens to them. Lydia is the viewpoint character and all impressions of other people are colored by Lydia’s thoughts and beliefs.