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I am absolutely thrilled that Jack Caldwell, author of Pemberley Ranch, took time out of his busy schedule to answer my many questions about his interest in Jane Austen.  I personally don’t know any men who like Austen’s work; in fact, my husband leaves the room every time I watch Persuasion, and his eyes glaze over when I gush about Austen’s humor and how much I love her books and all the retellings.  Pemberley Ranch takes Pride and Prejudice out of Regency England and out to the Texas plains just after the Civil War.  Read my review for all the details and my thoughts, but just know that it ranks among my most favorite Austen retellings.  Please give a warm welcome to Jack Caldwell:

Do you find that people are surprised that a man writes Jane Austen sequels/retellings?

Yes, I do. It’s true that men aren’t the devoted followers of all things Austen like the ladies, but as was pointed out in The Jane Austen Book Club, men should pick up Dear Jane’s work. Not only is it great writing, but you might get lucky.

My wife just kicked me in the shin.

When did you first read Jane Austen, and what do you find most interesting about her novels and characters?

I started reading Jane Austen in 1981, after watching the BBC mini-series on PBS. First, I loved her humor. Austen is a very funny writer. I also feel I know her characters. Hasn’t everyone met a Rev. Collins or Lady Catherine? Lastly, her plots are timeless. I found it just as hard to find true love in 1980’s discos as Darcy did in Regency ballrooms.

What is your favorite Austen novel and character? Have you read all of Austen’s novels?

I have read all of Austen’s major novels, including Lady Susan (a particular favorite). My all-time favorite would have to be Persuasion and Captain Frederick Wentworth.

[I recently read Persuasion, fell in love with Captain Wentworth, and put the book at the top of my all-time favorites list.  I finished Lady Susan and The Watsons not too long ago and will be reviewing them soon.]

What prompted you to take Elizabeth and Darcy to the Texas plains and the Civil War era?

I considered that if Elizabeth and Darcy found the walls of class and connections hard scaling in Regency England, how much more challenging would it be dealing with the animosities existing after a conflict like the US Civil War? I then realized that America did overcome the difficulties created by the war. I decided to use Austen’s characters to tell that tale. As for Texas, that decision can be summed up in four words: Darcy as a cowboy.

[Darcy makes a great cowboy.  Seriously.]

Are you working on another novel? Any hints?

My next novel, out in the spring of 2012, is a Pride and Prejudice/Sense and Sensibility sequel entitled The Three Colonels. It’s set in 1815 during the Waterloo crisis and features some of Austen’s fighting men, such as Colonels Fitzwilliam and Brandon, and the women they love. Of course, Mr. and Mrs. Darcy are in there, as well as cameos from all of Austen’s works as well as my own original creations.

[People who know me well know that I'm always reading war novels and all things Austen.  Put the two of them together, and I'm a happy reader.  Well, "happy" probably isn't the right word to use when discussing war novels, but you all know what I mean.]

What do you do when you’re not writing?

I’m a Cajun, so I do most of the cooking at home. When not working, I enjoy golf and travel with my wife.

What was the best book you read recently?

Since I can’t choose between my fantastic Austen Authors comrades, I’ll say I really enjoyed the first three volumes of Dean Koontz’s Frankenstein series. I discovered them recently and they’re set in New Orleans—what’s not to like?

Thank you so much, Jack, for stopping by Diary of an Eccentric today.  I wish you much success and definitely will be reading more of your work in the future.

Courtesy of Sourcebooks, I have 2 copies of Pemberley Ranch to offer my readers.  Because the publisher is shipping the books, the giveaway is open to U.S. and Canada addresses only.  To enter, simply leave a comment related to my interview with Jack Caldwell, along with your e-mail address, by 11:59 pm EST on Sunday, Dec. 12, 2010.  The winners will be chosen randomly.

**Please note that this giveaway is now closed**

Disclosure: I am an Amazon associate.

© 2010 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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Darcy relaxed a bit.  “The old Thompson place?”  She answered with a nod.  “You’re one of Tom Bennet’s daughters?  I was told he had a herd of them.”  Almost immediately he recognized how his choice of words could be considered an insult, but it was too late.

The girl’s voice was ice cold.  “Tom Bennet is indeed my father, sir, and I thank you for your kind observations about my family.  Now, if you’ll pardon me.”  She pulled her reins to return from whence she came, only to be halted by Darcy’s words.

“I’ll escort you back to the ford, miss, if you don’t mind.”

She looked over her shoulder at him.  “I do mind.  You’ve made it clear that I’m not welcomed here, and I can see myself home.  Good day.”

(from Pemberley Ranch, pages 23-24 in the ARC)

Now that I’ve read so many retellings of and sequels to Jane Austen’s novels, particularly Pride and Prejudice, I’m worried that I’m going to tire of the books that have become my guilty pleasure.  I just love revisiting Austen’s characters — although these books will never outshine the originals — and the more unique, the better.

Pemberley Ranch is the first Austen retelling I’ve encountered that is written by a man, and that alone grabbed my attention.  Jack Caldwell takes the basics of Pride and Prejudice — the misunderstandings of a stubborn young woman and an arrogant young man from two different worlds who find themselves unexpectedly attracted to one another — and makes the story his own.

Set just after the Civil War, Will Darcy is a Confederate officer who returns to Texas to run the family cattle ranch and care for his younger sister, Gaby.  Beth Bennet’s family — father Tom, mother Fanny, and sisters Jane, Mary, Kathy, and Lily — leave Meryton, Ohio, for a farm in Rosings, Texas.  Beth and Will’s first meeting is less than pleasant, with Beth caught riding her horse on Pemberley land, and it doesn’t help that carpetbagger and scoundrel George Whitehead, a friend of the Bennet family, has nothing but rotten things to say about Will.

Stories about the Wild West aren’t usually my thing, but Pemberley Ranch was a book I just could not put down.  Using only the barest skeleton of Pride and Prejudice, Caldwell builds a story with romance, murder, unscrupulous business dealings, post-war Union vs. Confederate tension, segregation, and the lingering horrors and loss of war.  I found Caldwell’s rewriting of Austen’s characters to be especially interesting, with Mr. Collins turned into banker Billy Collins, Bingley into a doctor, George Wickham into deed recorder George Whitehead, Col. Fitzwilliam into Pemberley ranch hand Fitz, Lady Catherine into the ruthless ranch owner Cate Burroughs, and Charlotte Lucas into the daughter of the sheriff.  Caldwell also pays homage to other Austen heroes, with characters named Henry Tilney, Edmund Bertram, and Mr. Knightly, which I thought was a nice touch.

Pemberley Ranch is an engaging read on its own, and I forgot early on that I was reading a retelling of Pride and Prejudice.  But I must admit it was fun to picture Mr. Darcy as a handsome cowboy with a twang and to see all the shady characters in Austen’s novel portrayed as being truly evil.  Caldwell does an admirable job balancing the lightness of the romance with the darkness of dirty deeds in a small town.  You definitely don’t need to have read or even loved Pride and Prejudice to enjoy Pemberley Ranch, and while most people will read it because its an Austen reimagining, Caldwell should get some credit for being a talented storyteller in his own right.

Disclosure: I received a copy of Pemberley Ranch from Sourcebooks for review purposes. I am an Amazon associate.

© 2010 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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