|Darcy and Elizabeth from the BBC Pride and Prejudice miniseries, 1995|
So imagine my pleasant realization several years ago that an entire sub-genre of literature exists devoted to sequels, variations, continuations, and the like of Austen's works! I quickly located such books through our library branch, ordering novels by Abigail Reynolds and Maria Grace, among others. Then I discovered Austen Variations where these two wonderful writers and several more Austenesque writers shared their love of all things Austen, along with excerpts from their works. I was hooked!
I have been drafting a couple of Austenesque stories myself, and I've been fortunate enough to do some proofreading for Abigail Reynolds and Maria Grace; in fact, I'm currently proofing the third novel in Maria Grace's Jane Austen's Dragons series. Yes, somehow dragons and Austen have become the perfect pairing!! I proofread the second book in the series, and now I can't wait to see what happens in the third volume. It's a brilliant combination, and I have to admit to reading these first two novels close to a dozen times each!!
So as I proofread Netherfield: Rogue Dragon, here are a few other variations of Pride and Prejudice that I've been reading:
Mr. Darcy's Present: A Pride and Prejudice Holiday Vagary by Regina Jeffers
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
In this "Pride and Prejudice Holiday Vagary" which takes place after Darcy and Bingley leave Netherfield after the ball, Mr. Darcy is seriously injured in a freak accident in town while shopping for Christmas presents. Somehow, the cards set with each gift, including ones he bought for Elizabeth but had no intention of actually giving to her, were mixed up, providing many tangles for Mr. Darcy to untie, including the gifts that were mistakenly sent to Elizabeth along with a card written to a former mistress. Yikes!
Darcy and Bingley return to Netherfield for Christmas to untangle the mess, and more hilarity ensues. It's quite the comedy of errors, but as we know to expect a happy-ever-after ending after so many twists and turns of fate, can we be surprised when Elizabeth and Darcy end up together at last?
A light and delightful read--truly enjoyable and very well-written. Ms. Jeffers triumphs again!
Mrs Darcy's Dilemma by Diana Birchall
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This was an intriguing book as it looks at Darcy and Elizabeth 25 years into the future. They are the parents of three children, but Fitzwilliam, the eldest, is not like either his father nor his mother. He's a bit of a dolt with a passion for one thing: horseflesh. He races. He bets on races. He is idle and rather dissipated. Their next eldest, Henry, is much like Elizabeth. As the second son, his heart and mind are set on the church. Their youngest, whose come-out is looming, is Jane who seems to combine the best of both parents.
The "dilemma" refers to whether Darcy and Elizabeth should invite two of the Wickhams' eight children for an extended visit. The elder of the two daughters is Lydia all over again, but with Wickhams' scheming ways. The younger is a sweet girl, preparing to enter service as a governess to help her financially-challenged family. But will these two girls, who are ready for their come-outs, become hindrances to their sons? There lies the dilemma.
We also get to see the Bingleys (and their only child, a son who has reached his majority and is more like his cousin Fitzwilliam than like either of his parents, except perhaps with Bingley's impetuous, somewhat thoughtless, manner) and Lydia...and far too much of Kitty who is married to the local rector.
I found this book difficult to put down; I spent far too much time reading this book in the tub until pruney. It's a compelling read--to see our beloved characters this far into the future and measure how much--and how little--each has changed over the years.
If I could give a book a 4 1/2, I would do so here. I try to save "5" for classics and such, so a 4 1/2 would be fairer than a plain old 4.
Ardently: A Pride and Prejudice Variation by Caitlin Williams
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
A lovely Pride and Prejudice variation taking place four years after Austen's novel...but with Darcy and Elizabeth not meeting again after his botched proposal at Hunsford; she goes to the Lake District with the Gardiners and never makes it to Pemberley. Mr. Bingley does not return to Netherfield, either.
But once Jane is engaged to a man in trade and after she reads the quiet announcements in the newspaper of Mr. Darcy's marriage to his cousin, Anne deBourgh, Elizabeth becomes restless and happily accepts the invitation of Mr. Bennet's widowed but wealthy sister, Mrs. Mountford, to visit her in Staffordshire. The visit becomes a long-term situation in which Mrs. Mountford takes Elizabeth to London for a couple of seasons and loves her as the daughter she never had. Now moving in more elevated circles, Elizabeth at age 24 has truly become the young gentlewoman she was born to be. On a visit to Bath, however, she meets Miss Bingley and Georgiana Darcy, and she soon comes face-to-face with Mr. Darcy.
The majority of the novel takes place in Bath as the recently-bereaved Darcy and Elizabeth are thrown together by Mrs. Mountford's new friendship with the Countess of Matlock, Darcy's aunt, as well as Elizabeth's friendship with Georgiana. Elizabeth is also pursued by a Mr. Yorke, an acquaintance of Darcy's, and while Mr. Yorke seems bent on marriage, Elizabeth is less certain because of her "odd" feelings for Mr. Darcy.
This variation was a delightful read!! I finished it (the first time) in fewer than 24 hours; it was truly non-put-downable (I know--it's not a real word, but it will have to do.) And I've read it twice more since then!
Very romantic, very different, with new characters introduced and old favorites (and non-favorites, i.e., Miss Caroline Bingley) returning, this is one of the most delightful Austen variations I've read.
NOTE on RE-READ:
Yes, I just re-read Ardently, and it was truly just as good the second time as the first. I did remember what happens with the young Mr. Yorke, a college friend of Darcy's, who pursues Elizabeth in Bath, but I also remembered the ending, so I wasn't too upset at Mr. Yorke and Miss Bingley as I might have been otherwise. But goodness! Miss Bingley can't help but rub salt into people's wounds when they're down, can she?
A wonderful read--very interesting, especially Darcy's reason for marrying; I had forgotten that part!!
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I shared the beginnings of one of my own Austen variations last week at our local writers' workshop, and I think I'll continue drafting it to see if it goes anywhere. But in the meantime, I'll keep reading books in this delightful sub-genre, especially as I proofread Netherfield: Rogue Dragon for Maria Grace!
Reading, always reading,