Book review: ‘Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy: The Last Man In The World’ by Abigail Reynolds

What if Elizabeth had accepted Mr. Darcy the first time he asked?

Those of us familiar with Jane Austen’s classic Pride & Prejudice — which, if you’re even reading this, is probably most of us — know that Fitzwilliam Darcy popped the question to a flabbergasted Elizabeth Bennet long before she actually accepted, forcing Elizabeth to launch into her famous diatribe about Darcy being “the last man in the world whom I could ever be prevailed on to marry.” (Yikes. What a shut-down.)

Because Darcy? He was proud. Arrogant. Disdainful of Elizabeth’s family and “low connections.” And yet there was something about her — something spirited — that got him to cast aside his reservations and actually drop to one knee.

Or, in this case, plant a giant kiss on her.

While reading a novel like Abigail Reynolds’ Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy: The Last Man In The World, a variation on Pride & Prejudice, we have to remember what life was like in Regency England — decidedly straight-laced. After Darcy offers for Elizabeth’s hand in marriage and assumes she’ll be overjoyed at the proposal, he leans forward to kiss her. But his belief that they’re alone while walking is quickly voided when Colonel Fitzwilliam stumbles across the pair. Shocked and horrified that she has now been “compromised” — and knowing there’s no way she can walk away from Darcy’s unbelievable offer of marriage now — Elizabeth stays mum as she is congratulated by her acquaintances and Darcy formally asks Mr. Bennet for permission to wed his second-eldest daughter.

Can you imagine? You’re caught in a man’s arms and suddenly you’re damaged goods — destined to bring shame and poverty upon your family because of one small, unexpected smooch. Let’s just say I’m glad it’s not 1815.

But I digress.

Reynolds’ Darcy is a familiar one: haughty and in control, but his unexpected tenderness and obvious infatuation with Elizabeth — though she most definitely did not return his sentiments — was very different. I enjoyed this novel from start to finish, absolutely loving the push-and-pull between our principle characters. Reynolds does an impeccable job of keeping us firmly rooted at the Pemberley we know and love while still allowing for some change. Familiar characters enter the landscape — like the devious George Wickham, a man for whom I must admit to have a certain soft spot (I know, I know) — and Austen’s plot points are honored, though Reynolds does take us in some new directions. And some of those steamy scenes would have brought a decided blush to Miss Austen’s cheeks.

The discourse between Elizabeth and Darcy was funny and tender — and, dare I say it, they bantered. Really bantered. So many recent spin-offs or variations of Pride & Prejudice I’ve read, like Mr. Darcy, Vampyre, feature our beloved characters as mere shells of who they used to be. Reynolds’ Elizabeth is still spirited and independent, afraid of Darcy though she can’t quite put her finger on why. The evolution of their relationship was believable and, though I knew that they would have to grow to love each other (right?), there was still a little shadow across my brow when I wondered how the couple would finally set aside their — ahem — pride and prejudice to accept one another . . . faults and all.

After reading a page or two here and there for a few days, when I finally sat down to devote my full attention to this novel? I whipped through it in a few hours. And what a diverting few hours they were! Fans of Austen and our beloved Darcy and Elizabeth won’t find much fault with this novel, though I have to admit to getting a little weary of the fact that they were so often at cross-hairs. But that’s just part of the fun, right? If you love Austen fiction, don’t hesitate to pick this one up.


4 out of 5!

ISBN: 140222947X ♥ Purchase from AmazonAuthor Website
Review copy provided by publisher

Book review: ‘Darcy And Anne’ by Judith Brocklehurst

darcy_and_anneAfter Fitzwilliam Darcy failed to offer for his cousin’s hand in marriage — and went ahead and fell in love with Elizabeth Bennet, that little nobody! — Lady Catherine de Bourgh is less than thrilled with her only daughter Anne’s prospects for betrothal. A strongly-worded letter is sent to Darcy from Rosings, where the de Bourgh women reside, demanding that he come up with some sort of alternate solution for Anne, whom he’s treated shamefully.

Lady Catherine and Anne set out for Pemberley determined to find a husband for the heiress, who has long lived in poor health under the thumb of her domineering, critical only parent. Still mourning for her beloved father, who died when she was a child, Anne holds no ill feelings for Darcy — but desperately does want to find a place in a world of her own creation.

When Anne and Lady Catherine are separated on their way visit Mr. and Mrs. Darcy, Anne begins to see — perhaps for the first time — that her isolated, constricted world at Rosings has made her a true prisoner in her own life. And something must be done about it — especially when she meets Edmund Caldwell, the soft-spoken but charming man who shares her dreams and temperament. But has no title — or anything else — to offer an heiress.

Judith Brocklehurst’s take on what happens after Jane Austen’s beloved Pride & Prejudice has finished is a fun, truly fresh take on many of Austen’s beloved characters. For the first time, Anne is seen not as the dowdy, quiet and forgettable cousin to whom Darcy could never imagine getting engaged — Anne de Bourgh is dynamic, fun, and a writer with aspirations to have work read by the masses (like Austen herself?).

Brocklehurst’s tone seemed to line up perfectly with Austen’s — something I haven’t encountered quite so much in other novels based on her work. Darcy And Anne is both readable and likeable, and at just over 200 pages, I easily gobbled this one up. I loved reuniting with the Darcys — and seeing their family grow! — as Lady Catherine finally got some of her comeuppances. Anne was a warm and sympathetic character, and I loved getting to know her as she started out on her own path.

Austen fans will enjoy this “sequel” which stays true to Austen’s original characters, tone and intent — but adds an entertaining extra chapter to a timeless classic.


4 out of 5!

ISBN: 1402224389 ♥ Purchase from Amazon
Review copy provided by publisher

Oh, so easy to get ‘Lost In Austen’

Coming to you live from my favorite easy chair in suburban Maryland, it’s . . . Meg, the fantastic pneumonia-stricken blogger! Yes, folks, somehow I managed to catch a vicious cold in August that took about three seconds to settle into my chest. I’ve been home sick since Monday afternoon, and spent almost the entire weekend on the couch before that.

I know, I know — when you want free time and days off to do whatever you want, you never get them. And when you finally have an endless day spreading out before you — no responsibilities, no obligations — you’re way too sick and miserable to enjoy it.

Thus has been my predicament. I’ve napped, gone through two boxes of tissues, watched hours of mindless redecorating shows in between doubling over with coughing fits and generally hated life.

Until the mail came yesterday.

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Yes, Netflix has done it again — delivered into my feverish hands was the ultimate salvation: “Lost In Austen,” a three-hour British miniseries I put in my queue months ago and finally received. Suddenly those hours staring me angrily in the face evaporated as I got totally caught up in this thoroughly entertaining romp of a romance.

We open on modern-day Londoner Amanda Price, a young woman working a soul-sucking job and dulling the pain of a dreadfully boring relationship by reading her beloved Pride & Prejudice time and again. It was easy for me to relate to Amanda’s plight and sympathize with her — in fact, I loved Amanda’s character. I found myself rooting for her constantly, especially after one Elizabeth Bennet appears in her bathtub.

Now here’s where we set out of the realm of logic and just enjoy ourselves. A passageway opens up in Amanda’s flat, allowing Elizabeth to escape her life at Longbourn and Amanda to step into the Bennets’ home — 200 years in the past.

Before Amanda can begin to loudly question her own sanity, Elizabeth slams the door shut — keeping her twenty-first-century counterpart firmly in the past. Slowly, Amanda begins to realize that she actually has walked into Pride & Prejudice and, as she gleefully says to Mr. Bennet, “We really are at the beginning, aren’t we?” There is not yet any Mr. Bingley or, more alluringly, Mr. Darcy — Mrs. Bennet has just begun busting Mr. Bennet’s chops about how he won’t go over and scope things out on behalf of his five daughters and meddlesome wife.

Of course, Amanda has a panic attack. Nothing’s making any sense. The door in the Bennets’ attic is firmly shut, and Elizabeth responds to nothing Amanda shouts at her. And when Mr. Bingley does come ’round, the real trouble begins.

It doesn’t take Amanda long to realize that her presence, ignorance and lack of genteel manners have done more than just upset Mrs. Bennet’s delicate sensibilities — she’s actually changing the course of her beloved novel. Mr. Bingley only has eyes for her, not Jane Bennet, and Mr. Darcy never gets a chance to snub Elizabeth at a ball — because Elizabeth simply isn’t there. Only Amanda — with her lip gloss, blunt haircut and curious modern slang — stands in her place, drawing attention everywhere she goes — especially from snobbish Caroline Bingley.

All of our favorite characters are here, and I found the actors portraying them to be refreshing. I loved seeing a truly disgusting and contemptible Mr. Collins and a handsome, rakish but charismatic George Wickham (I must admit that I found George alluring!). “Lost In Austen” takes the original plot we all love so well and expands on it, giving us some background information on many of the story’s major players that was fascinating to me. As Amanda is unable to return home, her presence in the country changes everything — and watching characters make very different choices was really fun, if heart-breaking at times.

Oh, yes — and then there’s Darcy. I can’t say I prefer this incarnation of him better than any of the others, but this Fitzwilliam was definitely stubborn, self-righteous and infuriating . . . and the blossoming romance felt authentic. I genuinely wasn’t sure how the story would end, and I was pleased with how it all turned out!

Jane Austen fans will be pleased at a chance to live out the fantasy of so many women — meeting “the real” Mr. Darcy. Spending time in Regency England and modern-day London was, for me, especially exciting. Seeing a woman from our time struggling to keep up with the myriad social customs of which she’d only read about in books was funny, and I can only imagine how an American woman landing there would have fared! Not well, I’m sure. Although if it were me, I could try and fake a mean British accent!

I loved the musical scores, too — why do films based on Jane Austen’s works or Austen herself all have such great soundtracks? “Becoming Jane” is easily one of my favorites, and the music from “Pride & Prejudice” (2005) was awesome, too.

Three hours went by in a feverish flash — and I can only sigh with happiness and say thank you to the Lords of Netflix for making sure this series landed in my lap at just the right time.

Etsy Find Fridays: Etsy and the Austen addict

It’s Friday again! I’ve had so much fun doing my Etsy collection posts, I’m going to make it a weekly (Friday!) tradition. (Catch my Navy collection and last week’s Anglophile pieces if you’re just tuning in.) If you also love Etsy and collections, feel free to blog about this, too — and leave a comment with your link on this post so we can check it out!

It is a truth universally acknowledged that, despite her untimely death nearly 200 years ago, Jane Austen’s legacy is as strong now as it ever was — if not stronger! Think of the countless films based on her six completed novels — all she was able to complete before passing away on July 18, 1817 (my birthday! Well, not in 1817, but you know what I mean). And of the countless merchandise. And the modern books — many of them excellent! — which pick up with her beloved characters where Austen left off, bringing us further stories of our beloved Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet.

Along that vein, I bring you my latest collection of Etsy things to lust over: what I’m affectionately calling The Best in Austen On Etsy! I’m all about the eye candy and I adore Austen . . . so I bring you my favorites!

Pride & Prejudice Bracelet -- Wide Bangle by TheLittleBirdie, $16

Pride & Prejudice Bracelet -- Wide Bangle by TheLittleBirdie, $16

Jane Austen original mixed media collage by LDphotography, $7.99

Jane Austen original mixed media collage card by LDphotography, $7.99

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"I Heart Mr. Darcy" button by unresigned, $1.50

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Jane Austen Heroine print by skyebluepink, $12

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Booking Through Thursday: Favorite literary couplings

booking_through_thurs Ah, another Booking Through Thursday! I love this week’s prompt:

“Name a favorite literary couple and tell me why they are a favorite. If you cannot choose just one, that is okay too. Name as many as you like — sometimes narrowing down a list can be extremely difficult and painful. Or maybe that’s just me.”

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At the top of my list would have to be Cornelia and Teo from Marisa de los Santos’ fabulous Belong To Me. While the circumstances of their marriage seem just a wee bit suspect to me initially, there’s no denying the fierce bond and unconditional love between them. I love that despite the many conflicts that reach them as they settle into their new life in the suburbs — and there are many — they remain steadfastly loyal and loving to one another.

Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger built up their romance the old-fashioned way in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series — by spending time together, followed by the inevitable annoyance and hatred and jealousy of the other’s relationships while still steadfastly denying any romantic feelings for them. Ultimately, the final declaration of their love after a million and one hardships (and near death, right?) came as a huge relief. My favorite romances are the ones that have time to simmer, build and grow stronger — anyone can fall quickly and intimately in love with someone only to have them disappear a month or two later. The earnest, time-consuming loves are the greatest!

And, of course, I could never broach this conversation without mentioning Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy. Going along with my aforementioned love of the annoyance, hatred, jealousy and burgeoning feelings expressed before the inevitable, passionate declaration of love, Jane Austen’s hero and heroine will always have a special place in the hearts of readers everywhere. She’s too proud to have him and he’s too prejudiced to be honest with her . . . or is it that she’s too prejudiced, and he’s too proud? (Thanks, “You’ve Got Mail”!)