Review by Christina Boyd
Debut author Cynthia Ingram Hensley presents Echoes of Pemberley, a contemporary Pride and Prejudice spin-off for young adults.
The modern day residents of Pemberley estate are the descendants of Jane Austen’s very own Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy. A fatal plane crash eight years previous orphaned Catherine Elizabeth Darcy and left her in the guardianship of her older brother, Bennet. Returning home from boarding school for summer vacation, sixteen year old Catie, having lived a sheltered life since the death of her parents, is ripe for a melodrama of her own. Although she expects her break to be occupied with nothing more than riding her bicycle about her ancestral home and daydreaming in her romance novels, she finds her brother has employed a young, handsome Irish riding instructor to improve her equestrian skills. And – her summer soon turns anything but dull.
Catie grudgingly accepts such high-handed management from Bennet but is irked by “Mister” Sean Kelley’s intolerable, no nonsense manners towards his spoiled student. “…she had resolved to be only as civil as necessary, and under no bloody circumstances was she going to stare at him like a moon-eyed, immature, fourth former again. God, being sixteen must be purgatory.” p.53. While brooding at her bedroom window seat, Catie discovers a WWI-era diary and is swept away by the mystery and real life romance of her great Aunt. “2 August, 1918. He was waiting by the river again today. He smiled when he saw me. My heart is Arthur’s. Taking my hand, he led me into the woods and kissed me tenderly, then harder… I would have run all the way to Scotland had he asked me. ‘All the way to Scotland… how romantic.’ p.57. But what she has unwittingly discovered may be the missing piece to save her brother and their inheritance from a modern day conspiracy of their own.
Buying into the fact that her fictional characters, Darcy and Elizabeth, were real, was not a difficult reach for this unabashed Austenesque fan. Hensley cleverly mimics Austen’s original Darcy’s with her own new characters by assuming some of their essence without making them a parody. As Catie is but an immature sixteen year old, she often bashes heads with her older, rather over protective sibling – sending both to retreat to their own corners and not communicating for the greater good. And we all must remember those vexatious teenage years, when we are no longer a child but not quite an adult? Hence much of their trouble. “’Damn it, Catie, enough with the drama!’ slapping his hand hard against the door frame. “I can’t protect you if you don’t do as I say. Now for once in your life behave prudently!’ ‘You’re not my father!’ She squared her shoulders, intending to strike a nerve. It appeared she succeeded, for Ben stared hard at her a moment, his mouth pressed into a thin line. He replied evenly, ‘No. No I’m not, but I’m all the father you’ve got.’” p.113.
Echoes of Pemberley, a 2011 IPPY (Independent Publisher Book Awards) nominee, is an entirely original offshoot of Austen’s masterpiece. Progressing at a leisurely pace until about page 200, it is peppered with the right amount of youthful angst, family drama and teenage romance. Pitch-perfect for young Austen enthusiasts, one need not have read Pride and Prejudice to relish this tale, but for those who have, they will discover an even greater enjoyment finding our beloved Darcys and Pemberley cleverly woven throughout this modern spin-off.
4 out of 5 Stars
Echoes of Pemberley, by Cynthia Ingram Hensley
Meryton Press (2011)
Trade paperback (286) pages
Christina Boyd lives in the wilds of the Pacific Northwest with her dear Mr. B, two youngish children and a Chesapeake Bay Retriever named Bibi. She studied Fine Art at Temple University’s Tyler School of Art and received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications from Salisbury University in Maryland. For the last nine years she has created and sold her own pottery line from her working studio. Albeit she read Jane Austen as a moody teenager, it wasn’t until Joe Wright’s 2005 movie of Pride & Prejudice that sparked her interest in all things Austen. A life member of the Jane Austen Society of North America, visiting Jane Austen’s England remains on her bucket list.
© 2007 – 2012 Christina Boyd, Austenprose