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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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