Her distraction was such that Mr. Collins bestirred himself to ask if she were quite well, and to caution her on the dangers of bringing contagious illness into the presence of Lady Catherine de Bourgh. Elizabeth could not help thinking that Lady Catherine would likely prefer a grave illness to the knowledge that she harboured a competitor for Mr. Darcy’s affections!
(from A Pemberley Medley, “Such Differing Reports”)
Abigail Reynolds has written several variations of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice that I’ve enjoyed. Every time I think all the “what ifs” have been exhausted, Reynolds manages to surprise me. So I couldn’t wait to make time for A Pemberley Medley, a collection of five short stories that are basically all about Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy falling in love.
“Intermezzo” — Georgiana Darcy attends the wedding of Mr. Bingley and Jane Bennet determined to find the mysterious “Elizabeth” who broke her brother’s heart.
“Such Differing Reports” — While visiting Charlotte Collins at Hunsford, Elizabeth realizes Darcy likes her, averting his disastrous proposal. She hears different things about Darcy from different people and must piece these together to get a handle on the whole Darcy.
“Reason’s Rule” — An alternative ending to Reynold’s novel To Conquer Mr. Darcy. Elizabeth is already engaged to Darcy when the Lydia/Wickham scandal occurs, and she tries to break off the engagement to preserve Darcy’s reputation. Instead, Darcy, Mr. Bennet, and Mr. Gardiner put their heads together and come up with a solution to the Wickham problem — but it requires Elizabeth to make a huge sacrifice.
“The Most Natural Thing” — A dark story in which Elizabeth, having rejected Darcy’s proposal, is at his mercy when her father dies, Mr. Collins moves into Longbourn, and Lydia runs away with Wickham. Will throwing herself at Darcy save her family from complete ruin?
“A Succession of Rain” — A story without angst or misunderstandings. Only the rain keeps Darcy and Elizabeth apart.
Because they were short stories with more telling than showing, there were missed opportunities for some meaty description and dialogue. It really felt like I was reading undeveloped novel fragments, and I was left wanting more. The collection’s weakness is its focus on the romance and not what makes Darcy and Elizabeth such great characters, i.e. their strength, their fiery personalities, their witty bantering. It seemed that in every story, the two of them couldn’t stand in the same room together without nearly ripping their clothes off. That can work in a full-length novel where there are other things going on to further the plot, but there wasn’t much going on in these stories besides the romance and sex. Maybe I should have read the stories piecemeal and not one after the other.
Even so, I enjoyed the collection overall. A Pemberley Medley gave me a few hours of much-needed light, mindless reading with some of my favorite characters, and I liked that I could count on a happily-ever-after every time. Moreover, I admire Reynolds’ creativity in retelling Pride and Prejudice in so many ways. I was never bored, and watching Elizabeth and Darcy fall in love never gets old. I think I just prefer novels to short stories, so I hope Reynolds considers fleshing some of these out into full-length novels.
Disclosure: A Pemberley Medley is from my personal library.
© 2013 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.