Saturday, October 17, 2015

More Reviews of Pride and Prejudice Variations....

I'm currently (and very slowly) writing a couple of stories that are variations of Jane Austen's masterpiece, Pride and Prejudice. In fact, I've been sharing the first few chapters with our local writing group here in Pine Valley. As part of my preparation for writing in this genre--and for my own entertainment and amusement--I've read well over two hundred books and stories based on Austen's novels, the vast majority concerning the characters and plot of Pride and Prejudice.

The first review is of the most significant of the books here as it rises beyond mere character study and historical romance to an insightful work of the social strata of this time and place (rural England in the second decade of the nineteenth century) as we view the famous novel from the point of view of the servants of Longbourn. The rest of the reviews are for more light and enjoyable reading although I found the last one to be my favorite of this bunch of books.

To see a list of the books I've read this year, scroll down the right margin to find the books I've read in 2015; I shall post the entire booklist in the early days of the coming year as is my tradition.

Longbourn Longbourn by Jo Baker
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

An enlightening book with the events and characters of Pride and Prejudice in the periphery, Longbourn looks at life below-stairs in the Bennet household, focusing on Mr and Mrs Hill and young maids Sarah and Polly. Into this cozy but hardworking kitchen atmosphere comes young James Smith, a thin, shy man who carries the world's grief on his shoulders. James is employed as a footman at Longbourn and slowly weaves his way into the lives of the other servants. I won't tell more, for fear of spoilers....

A spare, beautiful, yet brutally truthful novel, Longbourn shows the thoughts of housemaids such as Sarah who wait on the gentry, dealing with the day-to-day facts of humanity without complaint yet very conscious that little separates the gentry from the servants; they are all human beings, worthy of respect and love, yet only those who employ, rather than those who serve, are usually treated as such.

And as we know, Longbourn is a place in which people fall in love....

Far more than an Austen fan fiction, Longbourn shows the underbelly of Pride and Prejudice, and doesn't mince words in doing so....

Remembrance Of The Past Remembrance Of The Past by Lory Lilian
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was one of the best Austen variations I've read; I could barely put it down, and it's a loooooong book (Happy sigh--I love long books!). There is an OC (original character) in this novel, Lady Cassandra, a childhood friend of Darcy and his cousin Colonel Fitzwilliam, who has led a difficult life and now returns to society.

This novel picks up several months after Darcy's failed proposal at Hunsford when Darcy, Georgiana, Colonel Fitzwilliam, and Lady Cassandra spot Elizabeth with her Aunt Gardiner in Hyde Park. Georgiana and Elizabeth quickly become fast friends, but Lady Cassandra is a little harder to warm up first. London gossip has invented a romance between Lady Cassandra and Mr. Darcy, so Elizabeth treads carefully as her relationship with Mr. Darcy is renewed. But soon the outspoken Lady Cassandra and Elizabeth also become friends, united against the cruelty of Caroline Bingley who is unhappy to see "Miss Eliza" again and does everything in her power to dissuade Darcy from considering the "upstart country miss."

The novel takes many twists and turns as Elizabeth and the Gardiners travel to Pemberley where Elizabeth and Darcy come to know each other better. Lord Markham shows considerable interest in Elizabeth, against her will, and his profligate ways and mysterious past with Lady Cassandra bring much turmoil to Elizabeth and the ones she loves.

This is one novel that I plan to go back and re-read; it's so rich and complex, exciting and wonderful. If I could give a 4 1/2, I would! (Note:I did go back and re-read all three of Lory Lilian's novels; they were that good!)

Now to go read more books by this amazing author....


Sketching Mr. Darcy: A Pride and Prejudice alternative journey Sketching Mr. Darcy: A Pride and Prejudice alternative journey by Lory Lilian
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A wonderful variation of Austen's Pride and Prejudice in which Elizabeth, Jane, and the Gardiners meet Lady Anne Darcy and Georgiana when Elizabeth is only ten. Lady Anne is taking the sea air at Brighton for her failing health, and Elizabeth quickly befriends Georgiana and Lady Anne. When Elizabeth and her puppy nearly drown, a mysterious young man rescues them both and resuscitates the puppy which Elizabeth later christens "Lucky." But the identity of the young man remained a mystery....

Moving forward ten years, we find Elizabeth leaving Longbourn to go on a walk without a cloak despite the cold November weather on the day following the Netherfield Ball. Mr. Collins had just proposed (badly), and Elizabeth has borne her mother's displeasure at her refusal. Taking Lucky with her, Elizabeth walks to the edge of the pond on the border of Longbourn and Netherfield and manages to fall in. She drags herself out, half-frozen, and Lucky runs ahead, barking, to find help in the form of Mr. Darcy who, while waiting for Mr. Bingley to be ready to travel to London, goes on a final ride across the countryside. He brings Elizabeth home to Longbourn. When he discovers that the exposure to the cold has made Elizabeth ill, he sends his London doctor to care for her which starts a great deal of gossip, so much so that Darcy returns to offer for Elizabeth. He cares for her, but she does not care for him, and thus the development of their relationship begins....

This is another wonderful variation by Lory Lilian of the classic tale, and I have enjoyed all of her works equally. She writes the characters in a compelling and revealing manner that brings the reader into the minds of the two main characters seamlessly. Reading her adaptations of Pride and Prejudice is a delightful way to spend a summer afternoon. I am looking forward to starting my third P&P variation by Ms. Lilian, Rainy Days, this afternoon, and, based on the quality of the first two books of hers, I am looking forward to this third book with great anticipation.

Becoming Elizabeth Darcy Becoming Elizabeth Darcy by Mary Lydon Simonsen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What happens when 21st century massage therapist Elizabeth Hannigan falls into a coma due to the H1N1 virus? She is escorted through a tunnel by a young boy and wakes in Regency England in the bed of Elizabeth Darcy at Pemberley?

With Mr. Darcy away on a business trip, Beth Hannigan, a tried-and-true fan of Austen's Pride and Prejudice, attempts to adjust to Regency life. But as a practitioner of alternative medicine, she is astounded by the threat of being bled (again!) by Elizabeth Darcy's doctor and demands that everyone wash their hands and brush their teeth...including her maidservant.

Beth also discovers that Fitzwilliam and Elizabeth Darcy have struggled with tragedy in their lives since their marriage: several miscarriages and finally the death of their ten-year-old son, David, who fell from his horse. Soon Beth realizes that David Darcy is the one who escorted Beth to Pemberley. Beth struggles with Becoming Elizabeth Darcy while retaining her independent spirit which includes tracking down the ingredients for Italian food and trying to mend the rift between Darcy and his wife.

But can Beth put aside her growing regard for Mr. Darcy? Or, if she returns to 2010, will she ever find her own Mr. Darcy?

This brilliant time-travel story (not a favorite genre of mine, BTW) was non-put-down-able; I read it in fewer than 24 hours. Incredible well-written and with a tragic poignancy not often seen in historical romance, Becoming Mrs. Darcy is a heart-warming and delightful read.

If I were not so very stingy with giving a "5" ratings on book reviews (which are saved for classics such as Pride and Prejudice, Jane Eyre, etc.), this book would have received a "5." But I'll give it a steady "4.5" and highly recommend it; it's a wonderful, thought-provoking, tender story of love restored despite tragedy and loss and two women who would not allow Mr. Darcy to live a life without the love of a truly good woman.

Rainy Days - An Alternative Journey from Pride and Prejudice to Passion and Love. Rainy Days - An Alternative Journey from Pride and Prejudice to Passion and Love. by Lory Lilian
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Another lovely Austen variation by Lory Lilian--I have thoroughly enjoyed all of her "alternative journeys" through the events of Pride and Prejudice.

A few days before the Netherfield Ball, Elizabeth, hoping to escape the unwanted attentions of Mr. Collins, takes a long walk. An unexpected rainstorm causes her to seek shelter in a modest fishing cabin built and used by Mr. Bennet and Mr. Gardiner. On her way there, a galloping horse and its rider are heading directly for a dangerous stream, and Elizabeth yells to stop him. The horse unseats its rider and runs off, leaving an angry Mr. Darcy behind. They seek the cabin together, and during this time, Mr. Darcy reveals his admiration for Miss Elizabeth while she learns far more about Mr. Darcy--the man behind the hauteur.

After the rain stops, they are able to return to Longbourn with an excuse of finding each other on the trail on the way home, with only Mr. Bennet (to whom Mr. Darcy confesses) knowing the truth of their unchaperoned hours in the cabin. Mr. Bennet is satisfied with Darcy's promise to marry Elizabeth should the story get out. And from thence goes our story of Elizabeth and Darcy's romance....

A wonderful and memorable variation of Austen's Pride and Prejudice, Rainy Days is the third P&P variation by Lory Lilian that I've read this month. I don't think that I can pick a favorite, but all three are excellent, and I heartily recommend all three.

Impulse and Initiative Impulse and Initiative by Abigail Reynolds
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A wonderful variation on Austen's Pride and Prejudice, this novel has Darcy pursuing Elizabeth after their parting at Hunsford in which she refused his marriage proposal. Rather than running into Elizabeth at Pemberley, this variation has Darcy telling Bingley of his interference in his romance with Jane, and the two men plus Georgiana return to Netherfield within a few months of their meeting at Hunsford. While Bingley and Jane quickly pick up their romance where they left off and Bingley proposes to Jane in short order, Darcy pursues Elizabeth relentlessly. She starts with having no romantic feelings for him, but he slowly wins her over before Elizabeth leaves for her trip north with her Aunt and Uncle Gardiner. Meanwhile, Elizabeth and Georgiana become fast friends. Darcy and Georgiana invite Elizabeth and her aunt and uncle to stay at Pemberley as their guests, and I'll stop here to avoid more spoilers....

While I really enjoyed this Pride and Prejudice variation, it was *quite* racy; I mean, it's *really* detailed and descriptive. So this is NOT a book that I would recommend for readers under 21 or for anyone who doesn't want to read detailed sex scenes, and these scenes permeate the book so that it's not easy to merely skip over these scenes.

I wish the book had been more along the lines of Austen's original work in this area. Otherwise, I would have given this novel 4 stars. But that's the Austen purist in me. ;) But the overall plot and character development--really, everything else about this novel--is amazing. :D

Darcy and Elizabeth - Answered Prayers: A Pride and Prejudice Short Story Darcy and Elizabeth - Answered Prayers: A Pride and Prejudice Short Story by Mary Lydon Simonsen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As always, I very much enjoyed Mary Lydon Simonsen's short stories; this is the third one I've read in this series, and I only wish that all three were novel-length rather than short stories. I especially felt that this third story in the "Darcy and Elizabeth" series could have been greatly expanded; the ending seemed quite abrupt, and not just because I wanted more. I felt that expanding this story by another 10-20 pages and leaving us with a more solid resolution would have greatly improved the story and would have left me with a more satisfied feeling.

But the story is extremely well-written, and Darcy's revelations of his innermost feelings and hopes to Elizabeth were magnificently portrayed. One partial paragraph in particular will not leave me. Darcy tells Elizabeth,

"...When you came to Netherfield, you piqued my interest. During all those interminable card parties, you merited my regard. At the Netherfield ball, you earned my affection, and by the time I saw you in Kent, I was in love. Well done, Elizabeth,” Darcy said, raising his glass, “and you did not even notice.”

Powerful writing, indeed.

So I very much enjoyed this story...and I hope that perhaps it can be expanded and given a stronger sense of resolution.

Darcy's Voyage: A Tale of Uncharted Love on the Open Seas Darcy's Voyage: A Tale of Uncharted Love on the Open Seas by Kara Louise
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I rarely, if ever, give a "5" rating for non-classic books; I usually save a "5" for books by Austen, the Bronte sisters, Shakespeare, Dickens, etc. But this book was soooo amazing and so gently faith-full that I had to nudge it up past a mere "4."

In this variation of Austen's Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth finds herself traveling post on her way home from the Gardiners in London to Longbourn along with an obviously wealthy gentleman whose carriage was damaged. They strike up a conversation that reveals the intelligence and quality of each to the other, and although they never exchange names, it takes months to get the other person out of their constant thoughts.

Fast-forward two years: Elizabeth travels to America to help the Gardiners who are spending a year in New York City for business, but Mrs. Gardiner needs help with their four children, and Elizabeth can't turn down the opportunity to see the New World. The ship she boards is named "Pemberley's Promise" and is owned by Mr. Darcy who is traveling aboard his own ship to fetch Georgiana from New York where she has traveled with Mrs. Annesley who has become ill and will stay with her family in New York until she improves.

Darcy and Elizabeth both seem familiar to each other, and despite not liking each other at first because of Darcy's proud ways and Elizabeth's inferior position in steerage, they soon meet each other on early morning walks on deck and start talking. When Elizabeth falls ill, Darcy offers her the only other bed on the ship, the second bed in his stateroom, by offering a marriage that they plan to annul once they return to England. But their feelings for one another turn to love although neither will admit it. And on goes the romance....

Darcy's Voyage has quickly become one of my very favorite Austen variations out of the 200+ novels, stories, and fan fiction books I've read over the past year. I've found myself picking it back up to re-read passages, and the aura of faith in God is gentle yet uplifting without being heavy-handed or intrusive in the least. The writing is lovely, the character development strong, and the plot surprising and engaging in the best ways possible. I've enjoyed reading Kara Louise's works on the Austen Variations website, and I thoroughly enjoyed her novel--*thoroughly.* It is a delightful read, one that took me fewer than 24 hours because I literally could not put it down. Amazing book! :)

Happy Reading, Austen fans!

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