Posts Tagged ‘abigail reynolds’

I’m delighted to welcome Abigail Reynolds back to Diary of an Eccentric today to celebrate her latest variation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Please give her a warm welcome as she introduces Conceit & Concealment, and then enjoy the guest post:

Conceit & Concealment is a new kind of Pride & Prejudice variation with an unusual plot twist. In essentials it’s much like any other P&P variation – an Elizabeth and Darcy happily-ever-after with all the usual characters, set in the usual locations with the usual cast of characters. Instead of changing events or characters, I’ve changed history by having Napoleon invade England six years before the book begins. Living in occupied England changes everything. Elizabeth detests the French invaders, while Wickham is working for them. Darcy’s situation is the most complicated of all – and therein lies the tale.


Here’s an excerpt of Darcy’s enchanting first meeting with Elizabeth, courtesy of Abigail Reynolds:

Darcy could find no particular fault with Netherfield Park. The house was spacious and pleasant. The grounds were well kept. The rolling hills surrounding it kept the landscape interesting. Bingley was a gracious host. His cook produced tasty meals. And after two days, it was slowly driving Darcy mad.

He had spent hours calming Georgiana’s anxieties about being in a new place. He had walked with her around the gardens and listened to her practice her music. The previous night he had stayed up late drinking brandy with Bingley, something he had been looking forward to. But instead of finally being able to talk freely to his friend as he had hoped, he had hidden everything.

Today Bingley had gone to visit a neighbor, and Darcy was too restless to keep his attention on a book. The only distraction he could find was to work on his billiard game. At least it was quiet in the billiard room apart from the clicking of balls striking and the satisfying thump when one dropped into a pocket.

Bingley appeared in the doorway, apparently done with his visits. “Practicing again? As if you need it to thrash me thoroughly!”

Leaning over the table, Darcy sighted along his cue stick. “It passes the time.”

“If it is time you wish to pass, I have volunteered you to join me in a charitable duty.”

Without raising his head, Darcy flicked his eyes up at Bingley. “Why do I suppose I will not like this?”

Bingley chuckled. “It is true; you will not like it. The local regiment is having an assembly and has commanded the presence of all the young ladies. I agreed we would escort two of them who would both be unprotected otherwise.”

Darcy dropped the cue stick and straightened. “Bingley, the last thing I want is to be giving some local girl expectations I will never be able to meet.”

“There will be no expectations. Their fathers arranged it purely as a matter of their safety. So many of the local men have been conscripted that there are few left to provide escorts, leaving the ladies to the mercies of the French officers.”

“I suppose we must, then,” Darcy said grudgingly. Had he not already given up enough for his fellow countrymen? But the same answer always resounded in his head. Many had been forced to give their lives for their country, and he had not. Yet.

He would only go to this damned dance because if he refused and anything happened to those poor girls, he would bear that burden forever – along with so many others. Sometimes he wondered if a clean death in battle would not have been preferable. But Georgiana needed him, so that was not an option.

Bingley clapped him on the shoulder. “No need to be so glum, old fellow! You might even enjoy yourself a bit. From what I gather, you are getting the young and pretty one. Mine, according to her loving father, is all but on the shelf and ‘not what I would call pretty, but a good girl, a good girl.’” His voice had deepened into an imitation of an older man’s.

“Most likely yours will at least manage some interesting conversation. What is the name of my insipid miss?”

“Miss Elizabeth Bennet. Her father already dislikes you, so you should be safe from expectations.”

“Dislikes me? I have not even met the man.”

Bingley grinned. “Oh, you are in a mood today! It is the usual complaint. I did not hesitate to point out his own failings in that regard. But look – the sun is finally showing its face. You should go for a ride and clear your head.”

He had been longing all day to do exactly that. “You will stay here if I do? I do not like to leave Georgiana alone in a new place.”

“Of course. Now go. Get out of here!”

A quarter of an hour later, the stable master regarded Darcy as if he were a being from another planet. The Netherfield staff had not yet accustomed themselves to their guest’s eccentricities, such as saddling and bridling Hurricane himself. But Hurricane was the one luxury he had insisted on keeping at a time when he had given up so much else. He had raised and broken the horse himself, and Hurricane always understood him. Darcy hated allowing anyone else to handle him. Even the process of saddling him and the feeling of Hurricane’s warm flanks under his hands brought him some much-needed peace.

They set off at a trot down the lane and jumped a fence before cantering across a pasture. The sun had not yet burned off the dampness in the spring air.

Darcy had loved springtime when his mother was alive. She had taught him the names of each spring flower in the Pemberley gardens, encouraged him to watch each stage of leaves unfolding, made wishes with him over the star-shaped wood anemones, and taken him on adventures in Pemberley’s magical bluebell wood. She had died in the springtime, too, just as the bluebells were fading away to nothing. And then there had been the terrible spring of 1805 which had cost him his father and more relatives and friends than he could count, as well as his freedom and his country.

Spring had once been a time of beginnings for him. Now it made him think of all he had lost.

These thoughts were not helping to clear his head. He laid a hand on Hurricane’s neck, feeling the tautness of his muscles beneath his shiny coat. Hurricane was still with him – loyal, steady Hurricane.

At Pemberley he could gallop for miles over the empty moors, but Hertfordshire was more settled. He spotted a copse in the distance and made for that, hoping to find some semblance of untamed nature there. He skirted the edge until he found a path leading into it, but before he even entered the copse, a familiar floral scent transported him into the past. It was a bluebell wood.

On impulse, he dismounted and tied Hurricane’s reins to a tree. Ahead of him bluebells swayed in the dappled sunlight. He strode towards them as their almost otherworldly scent enveloped him, raising goose bumps on his skin. The spring green of the wood was the perfect frame for the sapphire flowers. Magic, his mother had called the bluebells.

His pace slowed. How long had it been since his last visit to a bluebell wood? He could not even recall. The bluebells seemed to dance around him with a ripple of laughter. But no – that was human laughter, and it was followed by a squeal of pain.

“That hurt, young man! Or young woman, if that is what you are.” A woman’s musical voice seemed part of the magic, drawing him towards it with a seductive enchantment of its own. Where was she, the woman of the rippling laughter? He searched for a side path through the flowers. His mother had taught him never to trample bluebells.

There it was, so faint it could barely be called a path, just grass dividing a sea of bluebells. Carefully he stepped along it.

He could see her now. Tendrils of dark chestnut hair escaped their binding to riot across her long neck in exuberant curls. She sat on the ground, her legs curled up beside her, and she was surrounded by… puppies? Yes, puppies, crawling over her lap, nipping at her skirts, and rolling over for petting. She picked one up and kissed its head. Fortunate puppy!

His lips curved. A poet would call her Titania, queen of the fairies, in the flesh. More woodland magic.

She must have heard his footsteps, or perhaps the yapping of a puppy alerted her, because she looked back over her shoulder. At the sight of him, she twisted around and scrambled backwards.

In the dappled sunlight, his Titania’s face was alive with energy, full of fine sparkling eyes and kissable lips.

And she was pointing a fully cocked pistol at him.

He took a step back and opened his hands to show they were empty. “I mean you no harm.” The sound of his own voice startled him.

“English?” Her voice was sterner now.

“Yes. I am visiting from Derbyshire. Or, if you prefer, I will say it – Theophilus Thistle, the thistle sifter, sifted a sieve full of unsifted thistles, thrusting three thousand thistles through the thick of his thumb.” It was the tongue twister no Frenchman could pronounce, no matter how accentless his English might be.

Her lips quirked, but she kept the pistol leveled at him. “Well, Theophilus Thistle from Derbyshire, why are you following me?”

“Because I was walking through an enchanted bluebell wood when I heard the dulcet tones of Titania, queen of the fairies, which enspells any mortal man.” He swept her a full court bow.

She chuckled. “Lovely words, but perhaps you should avoid sudden movements when I have a pistol trained on you.”

“Do you know how to use it?”

“Of course. You could have been a French soldier out hunting for game.” The distaste in her voice made it clear what kind of game the soldiers hunted here.

“Good. I trained my sister to shoot for the same reason.” One of the puppies began to crawl in his direction.

“Ah.” She lowered the pistol but did not put it aside. “If I am Titania, perhaps I will cast a spell on you instead. It would be much less bloody.”

“Since I would prefer not to have the head of an ass, perhaps I should leave you in peace. Or at least as much peace as you can find with all these puppies.” He could see the mother dog now, a springer spaniel lying in a hollow between two trees and nursing two more puppies. “Which was the one that nipped you?”

She pointed to the brown puppy squirming his way toward Darcy. “That little wild thing.”

He took a slow step forward and held out his hand to the puppy, who sniffed it eagerly. “May I?”

At her nod, he picked up the puppy. The mother dog raised her head and growled.

“You need not worry,” his Titania said to the dog. “He is wearing brown, not blue.” She looked up at him again. “I am training her to attack soldiers who come too close to me.”

“I will keep that in mind.” He turned the puppy over in his hands and examined him. “If you were still wondering, he is a young man. Definitely a young man.” He held the puppy up to his shoulder and scratched its ears. Pushing back against his hand, the puppy licked his chin. Repeatedly.

Her eyes sparkled when she laughed. “I should have known as much since he is a troublemaker already!”

Darcy cuddled the puppy for another minute, taking pleasure in his warmth and the softness of his fur, then reluctantly set him down. “Back to your mistress, young Puck,” he told the puppy firmly. “And now I will leave you in peace. Farewell, proud Titania.”

She set down the pistol at last, picked up the puppy, and waved a tiny paw at him. “Theophilus Thistle, I grant you safe passage through my domain.” She crinkled her nose at him.

He made his way back through the sea of bluebells, smiling for what felt like first time in years. His mother had been right; there was magic in a bluebell wood. He would not wait so long to revisit one.

Perhaps he would bring Georgiana here. She was even more in need of a dose of magic than he was.

Thanks, Abigail, for sharing! I can’t wait to find out what happens next, and hope you’ll visit again soon.


About Conceit & Concealment

Pride & Prejudice meets Alternate History

Six years after Napoleon’s invasion of England…

Fitzwilliam Darcy is a traitor. He even admits to collaborating with Napoleon’s troops. And Elizabeth Bennet despises all traitors.

But Elizabeth can’t make sense of Darcy. He doesn’t act like a traitor. He risks his own safety to save young women from the French. And how can she despise a man who loves puppies? Something about him doesn’t add up – and she finds him far too attractive.

Then Darcy’s carefully constructed world crumbles, and he must entrust his closest-held secret to Elizabeth. To protect that secret, Elizabeth must disappear entirely, leaving her family and Darcy behind, to plunge herself into the dizzying world of fashionable London and the dangers of the Loyalist Resistance. Nothing will ever be the same again.

Darcy is determined to find Elizabeth. Now that she knows the truth about him, there’s nothing to keep them apart – nothing, that is, until the day Darcy is forced to choose between his country and the life of the woman he loves…

Check out Conceit & Concealment on Goodreads | Amazon


About the Author

Abigail Reynolds

Abigail Reynolds may be a nationally bestselling author and a physician, but she can’t follow a straight line with a ruler. Originally from upstate New York, she studied Russian and theater at Bryn Mawr College and marine biology at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole. After a stint in performing arts administration, she decided to attend medical school, and took up writing as a hobby during her years as a physician in private practice.

A life-long lover of Jane Austen’s novels, Abigail began writing variations on Pride & Prejudice in 2001, then expanded her repertoire to include a series of novels set on her beloved Cape Cod. Her most recent releases are Conceit & Concealment, the national bestsellers Alone with Mr. Darcy and Mr. Darcy’s Noble Connections, and Mr. Darcy’s Journey. She is currently working on a new Pemberley Variation and the next novel in her Cape Cod series. Her books have been translated into five languages. A lifetime member of the Jane Austen Society of North America, she lives on Cape Cod with her husband, her son and a menagerie of animals. Her hobbies do not include sleeping or cleaning her house.



Abigail is generously offering 2 ebook copies of Conceit & Concealment to my readers. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address and let us know what intrigues you most about the book. This giveaway is open internationally and will close on Sunday, June 25, 2017. The winners will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

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the darcy brothers

Source: Review copy from authors
Rating: ★★★★☆

“They really are — I can see why they hold your attention…” his head lolled forward for a second and Darcy feared he had lapsed into unconsciousness and grabbed his good arm to steady him, but then Theo shook his head again and raised it to meet his brother’s confused gaze.

“Miss Elizabeth Bennet.  She has — do you not think, she has the finest pair of…”


Theo blinked; then, he fixed Darcy with a stern look.  “If you would only let me finish, Brother!  She has the finest pair of eyes I have ever seen on a woman.”

(from The Darcy Brothers)

Quick summary: The Darcy Brothers is a collaborative retelling of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice by Monica Fairview, Maria Grace, Cassandra Grafton, Susan Mason-Milks, and Abigail Reynolds.  Fitzwilliam and Theophilus Darcy barely tolerate one another but embark on a trip together to visit their Aunt Catherine at Rosings, at the same time that Elizabeth Bennet is visiting her friend, Mrs. Collins, at the parsonage.  It’s not long before Theo meets Elizabeth and is entranced, and Elizabeth is surprised that Theo is much more charming and amiable than his older brother.  But even as Elizabeth learns that William is not as proud and arrogant as she initially thought, she can’t help but notice the rift in the brothers’ relationship, and she wants nothing more but for them to reconcile.

Why I wanted to read it: I’ve enjoyed several books by Monica Fairview, Maria Grace, and Abigail Reynolds, so I couldn’t resist.  Plus, I’ve heard Theo is a charmer, and I wanted to meet him.

What I liked: Giving Darcy a younger brother who is everything he is not and who immediately captivates Elizabeth puts a wrench in his plans to win her over.  The authors’ portrayal of Anne de Bourgh is hilarious, from her outspokenness and her scheming to her ability to perfectly tie a cravat.  Theo is a fantastic character, and his complicated relationship with Darcy ensures the novel is not just another romantic retelling of Pride and Prejudice.  But what I loved the most is that the narrative is seamless and the voices are consistent, despite having multiple authors.

What I disliked: Nothing, except that I had to say goodbye to Theo before I was ready, and I wanted to know how things played out for Anne.

Final thoughts:  The Darcy Brothers is a novel full of misunderstandings and schemes, with the right balance of humor and heaviness.  It’s easy to fall in love with Theo, who has the easy charm of Mr. Wickham, the amiability of Mr. Bingley, the goodness and honor of the Darcys, and of course, a touch of mischief.  I hope it’s not the last we see of him!

Disclosure: I received The Darcy Brothers from the authors for review.

© 2015 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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a pemberley medley

Source: Personal library
Rating: ★★★☆☆

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.

Book 8 for the P&P Bicentenary Challenge

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.

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It’s always a pleasure to have Abigail Reynolds as a guest on Diary of an Eccentric.  Abigail is the author of several retellings of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, her most recent being Mr. Darcy’s Undoing (check out my review).  I love how she always manages to throw a new obstacle in Darcy and Elizabeth’s path to happily ever after; I never get tired of reading them!  Abigail is here to talk about why she thinks Jane Austen and her novels are so popular more than 200 years after her death and why so many authors devote their time to keeping Austen’s characters alive.

Please give a warm welcome to Abigail Reynolds:

For a writer who has been dead for nearly 200 years, Jane Austen is doing remarkably well these days. Her works are more popular than ever. New film and television adaptations come out on a regular basis, and there’s an entire subgenre of Austen-related novels that has blossomed in the last few years. Readers don’t seem to be able to get enough of Jane Austen’s characters or her world.

Admittedly, Jane Austen was a brilliant writer who produced books filled with wit, insight, and timeless characters, but we’re not seeing a deluge of adaptations of Tolstoy, Shakespeare, Dickens, Bronte, or any other brilliant writers. There’s something unique about Jane Austen’s appeal for modern readers.

Jane Austen was in the right place at the right time. The Regency period is far enough in the past that modern readers can project their own fantasies onto it, but not so distant that it’s hard to imagine living there ourselves. Poised in the time between the First and Second Industrial Revolutions, the people living in the Regency seem much more modern than those in medieval or Restoration times. There was a middle class in Jane Austen’s day. Manufacturing existed on a limited scale. Men used guns for hunting and war, and women bought fabric created in mills rather than spinning and weaving their own. The London ton operated along social rules which parallel modern society in many ways, with popularity and taste helping define social status in addition to birth. It’s a society we can recognize and to some extent picture ourselves in it.

Just as important is what’s missing in Regency times. Massive industrialization, individual laborers turned into factory drones working themselves to death, clouds of soot, and clattering railroads were only a few years in the future. The First Industrial Revolution had started in the late 18th century, but its full effects on society weren’t felt until the 1830s, a mere two decades after Pride & Prejudice takes place. Wages for the poorest workers fell dramatically starting in the 1830s and didn’t recover until the next century. The pastoral pleasures of Jane Austen’s world turned into the bleak and painful landscape of Charles Dickens. Of course, there was plenty of poverty and suffering in Jane Austen’s day as well, but she doesn’t portray it in her books, so we can pretend it isn’t there. A sort of genteel poverty is as bad as it gets.

Many readers are looking for an escape from the ills of the modern world. If we want to think about poverty and starvation, we can read the newspapers. When we want a simpler, seemingly gentler world, one that is both familiar and yet lacking so many of our modern issues, Jane Austen’s world is the perfect place to go. Jane Austen adds to that by giving us love stories and looking at characters with an amused rather than a jaundiced eye. What’s not to love?

Well said!  Thanks, Abigail!  I can’t wait to read more of your Pemberley Variations!

Courtesy of Sourcebooks, I have a copy of Mr. Darcy’s Undoing for one lucky reader.  To enter, leave a comment with your e-mail address and tell me why you think Jane Austen is so popular today.  Because the publisher is shipping the book, entrants must have addresses in the U.S. or Canada.  This giveaway will close at 11:59 pm EST on Sunday, October 23, 2011.

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

Disclosure: I am an IndieBound affiliate and an Amazon associate.

© 2011 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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Source: Review copy from Sourcebooks
Rating: ★★★★☆

Darcy was ready with a heated retort, then thought of Elizabeth.  “I am sorry if you have felt as if I do not value your opinion, because I certainly do,” he said, as close to humility as he could manage at the moment.  “It is not my intention to be arrogant.”

The colonel looked askance at him.  “Darcy, I did not say you were arrogant, though you are in the habit of doing whatever you please.”

“You may save your breath — I have had this lecture from Elizabeth already, and believe me, she did not mince her words,” said Darcy wearily.

(from Mr. Darcy’s Undoing, page 176 in the ARC; finished version may be different)

Mr. Darcy’s Undoing (previously published as Without Reserve) is another retelling of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice in which Abigail Reynolds asks readers to imagine “what if?” — in this case, what if Mr. Darcy had a rival for Elizabeth Bennet’s affections?  Reynolds opens the novel after Darcy’s disastrous proposal at Kent.  By the time Darcy convinces Bingley to return to Netherfield and rekindle his romance with Elizabeth’s sister, Jane, Elizabeth has already accepted a marriage proposal from James Covington.

Darcy had followed Bingley in the hopes of winning Elizabeth’s love, and he is shocked and dismayed upon learning of her engagement.  That doesn’t stop him from hanging around, though he tells himself that if he knows for sure that Elizabeth is in love with Covington, then he must let her go.  Meanwhile, Elizabeth feels an attraction to Darcy and must force herself to consider all the reasons why her marriage to Covington makes sense for her and her family.  Besides, there’s nothing she can do about the situation now — not without ruining her reputation and her family’s standing in the community, especially considering the damage already caused by Lydia after she runs away with Wickham.

In Mr. Darcy’s Undoing, Reynolds gives readers what they have come to expect from her Pride and Prejudice variations — different twists and turns as Elizabeth and Darcy navigate the same misunderstandings and plenty of heat as they skirt the bounds of propriety and often cross the line as they find they cannot keep their hands off each other.  Although Reynolds briefly brings in the wit and playfulness of Mr. Bennet, most of Austen’s secondary characters sit on the sidelines in Mr. Darcy’s Undoing.  Elizabeth and Darcy, their bantering, and their serious discussions about their relationship are the focus of the novel, and while I missed the tension typically supplied by Wickham, Caroline Bingley, and Lady Catherine, I enjoyed Reynolds’ take on a scandalized Elizabeth and a more emotional and seductive Darcy.  There also was some amusement to be had with Darcy’s jealousy and pain, as he goes so far as to chaperone Elizabeth and her betrothed.

I am always amazed at how many ways Reynolds can re-tell the same story.  She manages to keep the story fresh, throwing new obstacles in Elizabeth and Darcy’s path to happiness and making it so that readers almost wonder whether the two will live happily ever after.  While Mr. Darcy’s Undoing isn’t my favorite of Reynolds’ variations, it was a page-turner that I would recommend to readers who want a spicier Pride and Prejudice retelling.

Check out my reviews of other Abigail Reynolds books:

Pemberley By the Sea
Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy: The Last Man in the World
To Conquer Mr. Darcy
Mr. Darcy’s Obsession
What Would Mr. Darcy Do?

Disclosure: I received Mr. Darcy’s Undoing from Sourcebooks for review.

© 2011 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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Source: Review copy from Sourcebooks
Rating: ★★★★☆

“Miss Bennet, I urge you to take care,” he said intently, teasing put aside.  “The only thing that separates me from this” — here he touched her letters — “is that self-control you mock.  There is otherwise no difference between Mr. Wickham and me.”

“Do not,” she cried,” do not ever let me hear you comparing yourself in any way to that … that scoundrel!  There is a world of difference between you!”

He smiled slightly.  “Perhaps I should learn to criticize myself more often, for the pleasure of hearing you defend me.”

(from What Would Mr. Darcy Do?, pages 14-15 in the ARC)

What Would Mr. Darcy Do? is a re-release of one of Abigail Reynolds’ Pemberley Variations, From Lambton to Longbourn.  It retells Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice from the moment that Elizabeth Bennet receives the letter from her sister, Jane, informing her that their flirty and flighty sister, Lydia, has run away with George Wickham.  Wickham is the womanizing, gambling scoundrel son of Mr. Darcy’s father’s steward, who tried running off with his sister, Georgiana, and whose lies caused a lot of the misunderstandings between Elizabeth and him.  Four months have passed since Elizabeth first rejected Darcy, and the two recently were reunited when Elizabeth toured the grounds of Pemberley with her aunt and uncle.  Unlike Austen’s original novel, Reynolds has Elizabeth and Darcy recognizing the changes in one another earlier on, and the pair are caught in a heated embrace when Darcy attempts to comfort Elizabeth upon hearing the news that her family may be ruined.

Rather than force the pair to marry, Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner recognize Darcy’s fierce love for Elizabeth and have a feeling that Elizabeth will come around soon enough.  Thus begins a sweet novel of Darcy and Elizabeth’s short courtship, complete with her worries about whether Darcy would be willing to marry her now that she’s related to Wickham and Darcy’s realization that he doesn’t express himself clearly all the time.  Reynolds creates many amusing scenes of the couple crossing the boundaries of propriety time and again, with Jane and Mr. Bingley serving as unsuccessful chaperones and Mrs. Bennet finding a love letter in Elizabeth’s room from a mysterious “FD.”  Although passionate kisses and embraces abound, the novel is innocent and charming.

Reynolds does a wonderful job with the dialogue, from the teasing banter of Elizabeth and Darcy to the hilarious comments by Mr. Bennet, one of my favorite Austen characters.  Here’s a passage from a scene in which he gives Mr. Darcy a hard time:

“I understand from my friend Bingley that he found asking your permission to marry Miss Bennet a simple and straightforward procedure.  This seems rather different from my experience.  Perhaps you might explain this to me.”

“You are not reticent, sir!  Very well, if you wish to know, when Jane brings home a puppy dog, I pat its head.  When Lizzy brings me a full-grown wolf, I handle it differently.”  (pages 125-126)

What Would Mr. Darcy Do? is another fun variation of Pride and Prejudice, and lovers of Austen fan fiction will love seeing a more demonstrative side to Mr. Darcy, along with a different side of Georgiana and Colonel Fitzwilliam.  A few of the more outrageous characters are absent from the novel, but I was so caught up in the romance that I didn’t even notice until I’d finished.  I read this slim novel in a single day and was sad when I reached the end.  There’s just something about Austen’s characters, even in the hands of another author, that is so comforting.  I can’t wait to read the rest of the Pemberley Variations.

Check out my reviews of other Abigail Reynolds books:

Pemberley By the Sea
Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy: The Last Man in the World
To Conquer Mr. Darcy
Mr. Darcy’s Obsession

Disclosure: I received What Would Mr. Darcy Do? from Sourcebooks for review.

© 2011 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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Source: Review copy from Sourcebooks
Rating: ★★★★☆

Elizabeth’s lips trembled in holding back a smile.  “Why, thank you.  I believe he will do admirably, despite not being in his dotage.”

Aunt Augusta gave a hearty laugh.  “Well said, but still, old men make the best husbands, the older, the better.  My goal was to become a widow as soon as possible.  As a maiden I belonged to my father; as a wife I would belong to my husband.  Only as a widow can a woman belong to herself.  Lord Derby was a poor prospect in that regard.  I daresay I could have chased him into an early grave, but it seemed more trouble than it was worth, when there was an adequate supply of elderly gentlemen happy to marry a well-dowered young girl.”

Elizabeth gave Darcy an arch look and then said, “I do not doubt it, but as I am not well-dowered, perhaps it is fortunate that I am not averse to entering into a marriage with a younger gentleman.”

“If he gives you any trouble, tell me, and I will make him wish he were older.”  Aunt Augusta’s smile took any sting from the words.

(from Mr. Darcy’s Obsession, pages 272-273 in the ARC)

In Mr. Darcy’s Obsession, Abigail Reynolds really shakes up Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.  In Reynold’s retelling, Mr. Darcy doesn’t propose to Elizabeth Bennet at Rosings, as she is called back to Longbourn when her father falls ill.  When Mr. Darcy’s Obsession opens, Mr. Bennet has died, Elizabeth is living with her Aunt and Uncle Gardiner in London, and Jane is married to an old milliner.  Mr. Bingley is upset because Jane is out of his reach, and Darcy can’t stop thinking about Elizabeth even though she is even less suitable a match for him than she was before her father’s death.  Still, Darcy can’t let Elizabeth go.

Mr. Darcy’s Obsession is pretty predictable when it comes to Darcy and Elizabeth and Jane and Bingley, but that doesn’t matter.  Reynolds livens things up by changing Lydia Bennet’s and Georgiana Darcy’s stories, but Lydia is still foolish and Georgiana still charming.  She also adds a host of new and entertaining characters, from the street urchin, Charlie, and the innocent maid, Mary, to Darcy’s eccentric Aunt Augusta and horrible uncle, Lord Derby.  The way women are treated in the book — which isn’t a far cry from reality back then, I’m sure — will turn your stomach, but thankfully Mr. Darcy is a true gentleman.

Reynolds has another winner with Mr. Darcy’s Obsession, drawing me in from the start with a unique take on Pride and Prejudice.  Unlike her previous novels, there is passion but no sex, but of course there are misunderstandings and obstacles that threaten to keep Darcy and Elizabeth apart.  Reynolds’ new characters are just as entertaining as the characters we know and love.  I knew how things should turn out for Elizabeth and Jane, but I had no idea what would happen to Charlie, Mary, Aunt  Augusta, or Darcy’s cousin, Henry, which added a layer of excitement and anticipation.  Reynolds’ love for Pride and Prejudice is obvious in the care she takes to stay true to Austen’s characters, and I’m looking forward to seeing where she takes them next.

Disclosure: I received Mr. Darcy’s Obsession from Sourcebooks for review.

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

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Source: Review copy from Sourcebooks
Rating: ★★★★☆

“I trust that we will argue regulary, I trust that he will be persistent in trying to have his own way, I trust that I will have to struggle for my autonomy … he is very predictable in some ways!”

“Hmmm, my dear, it sounds as if he has a will strong enough to stand up to you.  I would not be so certain that is unfortunate.  I think it would be far too easy for you to find a man who would let you have your way all too often!  You are not Jane, after all.  I believe that you may require a man of strong will if you are to be happy.”

(from To Conquer Mr. Darcy)

To Conquer Mr. Darcy is the latest release in Abigail Reynolds’ series of Pemberley Variations, which take a “what if?” approach to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.  This time, Reynolds aims to answer the question, “What if Mr. Darcy had set out to win Elizabeth’s heart?”  The novel opens with Mr. Darcy all moody and depressed about Elizabeth Bennet rejecting his rude and arrogant marriage proposal.  But rather than give up and move on, Darcy’s cousin, Colonel Fitzwilliam, convinces him to prove to Elizabeth that he is a man worthy of her affections.

And that’s exactly what Darcy does.  In fact, this book should have been titled To Conquer Elizabeth Bennet or something along those lines because upon Darcy’s return to Netherfield with Mr. Bingley, he spends much of his time sweet talking and putting the moves on Elizabeth — in the respectable Darcy fashion, of course.  But once Elizabeth realizes her feelings for Darcy, propriety is thrown out the window.  Their relationship moves faster than Elizabeth would like, but there’s a passion between her and Darcy that cannot be denied or cooled.  With their penchant for misunderstanding one another, there are a lot of obstacles for the two to overcome.

I really enjoy Reynolds’ variations of Pride and Prejudice (read my reviews of Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy: The Last Man in the World and Pemberley by the Sea) because it’s obvious she knows Austen’s work and characters inside and out and isn’t afraid to put her own spin on events.  Although I found that the beginning of To Conquer Mr. Darcy moved a bit slow, once the period of wooing was over, the book definitely warmed up — meaning that you best be prepared for some steamy sex scenes.  Reynolds does a good job integrating them into the story.

But what I most enjoyed about To Conquer Mr. Darcy was the way the events of Lydia’s elopement with the scoundrel Wickham unfolded and Elizabeth’s role in saving her sister and her family.  Reynolds stays true to Austen’s beloved novel, simply taking a different route to the same outcome.  She also includes more of the lesser characters in Pride and Prejudice, like Georgiana Darcy and Pemberley’s housekeeper, Mrs. Reynolds, which was a treat.

I’ve wondered whether I eventually will tire of these Austen sequels and re-tellings, but so far, they remain my guilty pleasure.  Reynolds does a wonderful job turning a story that could be considered by some to be mere fan fiction into an enjoyable novel.

Disclosure: I received To Conquer Mr. Darcy from Sourcebooks for review.

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

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Source: Review copy from Sourcebooks
Rating: ★★★★☆

Her eyes locked with her husband’s again.  “I intend to put this knowledge to good use by waiting until he is deep in a book to confess any sins I have committed.  Then I will have the pleasure of a clean conscience, and he will be none the wiser.”

Bingley said, “An excellent plan.  Upon my honour, when Darcy is reading, Bonaparte and all his army could come charging through with sabres drawn, and he would take no notice!”

(from Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy: The Last Man in the World, page 199 in the ARC)

The above quote about Mr. Darcy certainly applied to me when I was reading Abigail Reynolds’ latest Pemberley Variation, Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy: The Last Man in the World, in which she poses one answer to the question, “What if Elizabeth Bennet had accepted Mr. Darcy’s first marriage proposal?”  What follows is not merely a re-telling of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice but a different story about Austen’s beloved characters, one that is fresh and unique while staying true to the Darcy and Elizabeth I know and love.

Reynolds opens her novel shortly after Darcy and Elizabeth are married — occurring when her sister, Jane, is still sad about Mr. Bingley’s sudden departure from Netherfield and prior to the elopement of her boy-crazy and impulsive sister, Lydia — with Darcy taking Elizabeth to Pemberley for the first time and Elizabeth recalling how she came to be married to a man she loathes.  Mr. Darcy just assumed she’d accept his proposal, despite insulting Elizabeth with comments about her embarrassing family and low status, and the passionate kiss he forces upon her is observed by Colonel Fitzwilliam and Lady Catherine’s gatekeepers.  This leaves her with little choice but to marry the arrogant Darcy and put up with the fact that he doesn’t want her associating with her family; if she chooses otherwise, she feels her family will be ruined and any chance for her four other sisters to marry will be lost.

Darcy soon learns that Elizabeth doesn’t share his feelings of love, and when an accident occurs and Elizabeth realizes that she does in fact love Darcy, it might be too late.  Lonely, without family or friends, Elizabeth passes her days at Pemberley, feeling certain that she and Darcy will spend the rest of their lives simply co-existing.  Both are too proud and stubborn to talk about their feelings, and when her sister, Lydia, runs off with Mr. Wickham, Elizabeth is sure that Mr. Darcy will want her to permanently sever all ties to her family.

While reading Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy: The Last Man in the World, it became obvious to me that Reynolds has read Pride and Prejudice many, many times and knows these characters inside and out.  Though her writing style is part old-fashioned, part-contemporary, it was easy for me to lose myself in the story and actually forget I was reading an Austen sequel.  Sometimes it felt that Elizabeth’s abhorrence of Darcy was stated too many times, but it was easy to overlook because the path Reynolds paved for the two was interesting.  It was entertaining to watch Darcy come to the realization that he can be an arrogant ass and Elizabeth come into her own as the mistress of Pemberley.  The only disappointment for me was not getting to see much of Elizabeth’s family.  I can do without the annoying Mrs. Bennet, but I felt the absence of the witty Mr. Bennet.

Since the book opens in the middle of Austen’s story without any introductions of Darcy or Elizabeth or any backstory about their first meeting or the reasons why Elizabeth’s family (really, mother) is so embarrassing, I think it would be hard to truly understand if you haven’t already read Pride and Prejudice.  For those of us (me included) who have read Pride and Prejudice more than once, it’s nice to just start at the exact point where Reynolds’ story begins.

I highly recommend Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy:  The Last Man in the World if you love Darcy and Elizabeth and have every wondered “what if?”  You can be sure that I’ll read more of Reynolds’ Pemberley Variations in the future!

Disclosure: I received Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy: The Last Man in the World from Sourcebooks for review.

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

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I first discovered Abigail Reynolds when I read her modern-day retelling of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, titled Pemberley by the Sea.  I was thrilled to have the chance to interview her back in 2008 (click here to read my review of Pemberley by the Sea and my first interview with Abigail), and I’m excited to welcome Abigail back to Diary of an Eccentric for the release of her latest Pemberley Variation, Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy: The Last Man in the World, which answers the question “What if Elizabeth Bennet had accepted Mr. Darcy’s marriage proposal the first time he asked?”  I’ll be posting my review of the book tomorrow, but let me just tell you that I look forward to reading more of these Pemberley Variations!

In the meantime, I hope you enjoy my latest “chat” with Abigail, and I’d like to thank her for taking time out of her busy schedule to answer my questions.

How many times have you read Pride and Prejudice?

I don’t think I can count that high.  At least twenty times cover to cover, and far more when I read just a segment.  I know the story so well that I can jump in on any page.

Do you plan to add to your Pemberley Variations series?  What are you working on now?

I have so many ideas for Pemberley Variations that I’ll probably keep writing them as long as I can keep them fresh and different.  I just finished the first draft of a new variation where the twist is that Elizabeth refuses to read Darcy’s letter, and therefore remains in ignorance of Wickham’s perfidy and Darcy’s virtues.  It makes their meeting at Pemberley rather exciting!

How do you feel about the plethora of Pride and Prejudice sequels out there?  Any thoughts on the paranormal Austen sequels?

Personally, I’m delighted to see so many sequels out there, both published and self-published, and I’ve read a great many of them.  It’s evidence that we can’t get enough Jane Austen!  I enjoy seeing the different takes from different writers.  In addition, the Paranormals are an interesting twist. I think of it as Twilight meets Jane Austen.   Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is on my to-read list, and I’m curious to see what’s next.  We have P&P zombies, vampires, and werewolves so far – what’s next?

Besides Pride and Prejudice what other books do you find yourself re-reading?

My comfort-food reading is pretty varied, from YA to historicals to fantasy.  The pile I couldn’t live without includes The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth Speare, The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley, the highly underrated Beacon at Alexandria by Gillian Bradshaw, and Jaran by Kate Elliott.  Characters from all those books live in my head.

What do you enjoy doing when you’re not writing?

I love to read, of course, and I like to bead, despite having no talent whatsoever at making jewelry.  I enjoy spending time with my 18-year-old daughter who has a great sense of humor and is always introducing me to new experiences.  Although I haven’t been able to travel much since having kids, visiting new places is one of my favorite things in the world.

Thanks for inviting me!

Thanks, Abigail!  I wish you much success, and I look forward to reading more of your work in the future.

Would you like to read Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy: The Last Man in the World?  Well, you’re in luck!  Sourcebooks is offering 2 copies to my readers!  All you have to do is leave a comment with your e-mail address.

Because the publisher is shipping the books, this giveaway is open to U.S. and Canada readers only.  The giveaway will run through Sunday, Jan. 31, 2010, at 11:59 EST.

**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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