From the desk of Shelley DeWees
Care for a slice of dialogue? I promise that you’ll find it irresistibly juicy, bursting to the seams with wit and character. This is Karen Wasylowski’s work, after all, and you may still have the lingering juices from her first book Darcy and Fitzwilliam on your tongue. It tasted like Pride and Prejudice, but more tangy, more modern, more real (if you haven’t read it, you should, posthaste). This is totally worth the indulgence. Go ahead. Live a little.
Just then the door opened and in walked Fitzwilliam Darcy.
“Darcy! It’s about time you arrived!”
“Wonderful to see you as well, Fitz.” Darcy then turned to O’Malley. “Hello, Patrick. Good to see you, how is Mrs. O’Malley?”
“Grand, sir. Just grand, and, I thank you for askin’. She’s got a proper cap to wear now she does, enjoys bossin’ around her new maid.”
Fitzwilliam slammed a cup down to kill a roach.
“Excellent news, and well deserved I might add. And the boys? Getting quite tall I’ll warrant.”
“Growin’ like weeds, they are, another on the way and, again, so good of you to inquire.” Patrick swept away the dead bug with his hand then wiped his hand on his trousers.
“My, aren’t you two delightful? A regular Tristan and Isolde without all that lovely prose to distract the mind. Well, as much as I hate to break up this heartwarming tableau I’m famished and you’re nearly a quarter hour late, Darcy.”
“And you’re in a foul mood. Has he been like this all day, Patrick?”
“Naw. Most time, he’s worse.” Patrick then turned and left before he was sacked once again.
Brazen, boyish Fitzwilliam stands in stark contrast to his upstanding cousin, Darcy of Pemberley, of Pride and Prejudice, of the deepest wanderings of all your Colin-Firth-look-a-like fantasies of fiction male stardom. Next to a man like that, Fitzwilliam appears undignified, unmannered, even silly — totally real. Fitzwilliam isn’t like other male characters in Austen and Austenesque literature, because he isn’t a courtly, noble person yet remains on the side of good. He’s as unlikely to hurt someone as Georgiana Darcy, and far more apt to offer you a toast of health and good cheer. Sure, he’s doing it with a foul mouth and an attitude fit for a brothel, but who cares? Charming and enthusiastic, Fitzwilliam is a breath of fresh air. Darcy is…well, Darcy. All that you love of him, and more, but unsurprisingly nice. His stately, composed personality makes up for all of Fitzwilliam’s shortcomings, which is perhaps why the two make such a wondrous pair in Sons and Daughters, the second installment in the series from Karen Wasylowski.
The early portions of the story find Darcy doing his Darcy thing, wandering around his lovely homes and out into London to meet people and talk about stuff. He pays his bills, meets his solicitors, goes “on up to Parliament” and around to see his deliciously-styled Aunt Catherine who is fabulously, unapologetically drunk on “medicinal liquid” most of the time. I can’t help but see Judi Dench and a big pile of frosted grey hair, but what’s better than that? Nothing. Nothing is better than Lady Catherine de Bourgh, especially as seen through the brilliant character depiction that Karen Wasylowski employs. Fitzwilliam is another one of these creations, though he finds himself with much less time on his hands. As the Surveyor General, he is busy and overtaxed (hence the snarky attitude) but still manages to find time to hang out with his wife and family.
And believe me, that includes plenty of people. Darcy and lovely Elizabeth (who remains a back-burner voice in this interpretation — don’t be surprised) have a respectable number of offspring with a respectable, quiet life and a respectable, quiet group of helpers around them. Their kids are sweet, generous, and well-spoken. But of course, Fitzwilliam’s brood stands in contrast, both in numbers and in personalities. While Darcy’s children are playing the pianoforte and researching Chinese history, Fitz’s are monkeying around like hoodlums, dropping bags of flour from 3rd-story windows, sliding down banisters, and causing their parents untold amounts of torment. It goes so far that by the end of the book, I determined that Fitz and Amanda are bloody bad parents.
But remember, this is Karen Wasylowski’s work. She’s the master of modern Austen, unafraid to throw in little gems and goodies like these. The faults of the parents become the faults of the children in the real world, and such is the case here. You’ll find yourself stunned at the lack of discipline and responsibility from Amanda and Fitz’s crazy children, the end of the book exploding with the bad behavior and carelessness that only ungoverned children can enact (now that they’re grown, you see, the cracks in their foundations really begin to show).
It’s a refreshing ride through Austen territory, but not your typical trip at all. You’ll find bits of tradition, sure, but I found myself scratching my head at their placement, almost like they were included as a token gesture to those who search for them. Everyone seems to live the same life over and over, cooling in passions and slackening in pursuits as the years mount, forcing the narrative to focus on the offspring simply to find something interesting again! This tiresome path simply didn’t fit alongside the edgy, flashy prose. However, I was consistently kept afloat by Ms. Wasylowski’s excellent skill as a writer. She is a gifted storyteller with exceptional talent, especially with character development. Sons and Daughters won’t leave you wanting! Saddle up and don’t forget your boots!
4.5 out of 5 Regency Stars
Sons and Daughters: Darcy and Fitzwilliam Book Two, by Karen V. Wasylowski
Trade paperback (416) pages
© 2012 Shelley DeWees, Austenprose