Review by Christina Boyd
The latest re-imagining of Jane Austen’s classic Pride and Prejudice is Jack Caldwell’s debut novel, Pemberley Ranch, a tale of fancy in a style entirely new. Set in the post-Civil War Era on the plains of Texas, ardent Union supporter Beth Bennet and family must retrench from Meryton, Ohio to the wilds of Rosings, Texas. When Beth encounters the handsome, rich yet unfortunately arrogant owner of Pemberley Ranch, Will Darcy, an attraction ensues. Rich or not, however, Beth cannot overlook his Confederate past and coupled with the town gossip and tales shared by carpetbagger George Whitehead, Darcy doesn’t stand a chance when he presses his suit. But as bullets start to fly, Darcy is the only one who can settle the dust and save the Bennet’s from ruin.
In this Wild West incarnation of Pride & Prejudice, Caldwell uses many familiar (or similar rather) names from Jane Austen’s canon in entirely original plot devices – as well as many newcomers, like the former slave family, the Washington’s. Like the Bennet’s, they too have come to Rosings for a fresh start. They buy land from Cate Burroughs, Darcy’s cousin, but encounter deadly prejudices along the way that prove all is not what it may seem. The railroad is coming to town and if the greedy, dangerous faction of Kid Denny, George Whitehead and Billy Collins have any say, nothing will stand in their way of becoming the new masters of the west.
This sure-fire page-turner with Jack Caldwell’s heart pounding standoffs and heart racing romantic moments is bested only by his real gift in the clever nuances and subtle references, ie. Lizzy’s horse, a “paint,” named Turner (more than a nod to the famous Regency Era painter, J.M.W. Turner.) As an unabashed reader of this Louisiana native since his early Cajun ramblings at various fan-fiction sites, I must humbly admit to being “a partial, prejudiced, & ignorant historian.” His masterful handling of the historical action and colloquialisms authenticates this fictitious musing and the footnotes are quite helpful to one such as myself, who is rather uniformed regarding the particulars of this Reconstruction Period. To pinch a line or two from Daniel Decatur Emmett’s rallying song, Dixie, Caldwell takes his stand and triumphs in his debut novel retelling “old times there are not forgotten… Hooray! Hooray!” The slated Spring 2012 release of his next offering, The Three Colonels, really is too long a wait. *sigh*
5 out of 5 Regency Stars
Review by Laurel Ann
I have been patiently awaiting a Wild West rendition of Pride and Prejudice for some time, so when Pemberley Ranch rode into town, I was all anticipation. The blending of the two genres seemed like a natural to me; especially concerning two romantic archetypes – the Regency gentleman and the American cowboy. *swoon*
It’s really not surprising that so many elements from the Regency-era have transitioned neatly into Caldwell’s new adaption of Jane Austen classic story set in post-Civil War Texas. Lizzy and Darcy are as spirited and arrogant as ever in any century, transformed into Beth Bennet, a poor Yankee farmer’s daughter from Ohio relocated to Rosings, Texas where rich Johnny Reb William Darcy has a large cattle spread, Pemberley Ranch, and the local Darcy Bank. Caldwell does a great job of melding the plot to fit a western theme, changing enough of the story to make it original, yet harkening to all of the plot points that readers will recollect from the original narrative. There are some important exceptions. Given that this is a tall tale from the Wild, Wild West, Cate Burroughs (Lady Catherine de Bourgh), George Whitehead (George Wickham) and Lily Bennet (Lydia Bennet) can be “really” officious, dastardly and loose! Well maybe they were already, but in this setting the writer does not have to be as proprietous as Austen was obliged to be in the early nineteenth-century.
Pemberley Ranch had some surprises. The Team Tilney fan-girls will be happy to know that Henry himself makes an appearance as a very “likable” high plains rector in a supporting role. Even pedantic Mary Bennet is under his charms. The dialogue is lacking Austen’s wit and snappy retorts, but shucks, this is the Wild West where outlaws and lawmen talk with their guns. The story builds beautifully in the western theme of shoot-outs over the land as opposed to Austen’s conflict of social decorum with witty words. However, some things never change as both plots have money struggles in common, and, the eventual humbling of Darcy’s pride and dissolution of Beth’s prejudice – culminating in a great romance as they ride off into the sunset. Yippy ki-aye.
4 out of 5 Regency Stars
Pemberley Ranch, by Jack Caldwell
Sourcebooks, Landmark (2010)
Trade paperback (363) pages
Glorious Pemberley Ranch Giveaway
Want to enter a chance to win one of five copies of Pemberley Ranch? Follow this link to Jack Caldwell’s whistle-stop blog tour and leave a comment there before December 13, 2010. Good luck!
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