Please help me welcome author Monica Fairview today in celebration of the release of her new novel, Steampunk Darcy. This story cleverly combines Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice with the Victorian steampunk genre. Get ready, dear readers, to have your bonnets blown off in this creative new twist.
When Seraphene Grant is offered a job by Longbourn Laboratories’ William Darcy, she is both intrigued and suspicious. Seraphene is trying to stay on the right side of legal, and she can’t think of a single legitimate reason he would want to hire her. She’s determined to put her checkered past behind her and she won’t compromise that for an arrogant descendant of the Darcy family who wants to reproduce his ancestral home.But Darcy has something more risky in mind, and he knows Seraphene is the perfect match for the job. The problem is, he can’t tell her what the job involves. The only way he can gain her trust is to lie about what he is doing! Meanwhile, all Seraphene’s instincts are telling her to run. But in a post-apocalyptic world where well-paid jobs are scarce and charming, wealthy gentlemen in cravats are even scarcer, how can she resist?
Perhaps she should have, because being around William Darcy soon becomes more and more dangerous –– in more ways than one.
Buckle your seats and get ready for a romantic adventure involving swashbuckling pirates, automatons and parasols in this Pride and Prejudice spin-off.
Darcy the hero. As Pride and Prejudice inspired spin-offs have proliferated, we have seen Darcy in many shapes and forms. Darcy werewolves, Darcy with fangs, Darcy fighting zombies, Darcy playing detective. While this may seem surprising, it is in fact perfectly logical. Darcy is our epitome of a romantic hero, and if that’s the case, then each one of us in turn, writers or readers, has to interpret in our unique way who and what our ideal hero is. Every setting, every generation needs its Darcy. As does the future.
In Steampunk Darcy, William Darcy doesn’t have actual monsters to fight. Instead, Darcy, as a Victorian-style scientist, is out to save the world against – climate change. In the retro-Victorian society of Bostontown, the biggest threat against humans isn’t monsters; it’s the slime rain.
Imagine a world in which roads have been washed away, fossil fuel can no longer be used, and we have reverted to the world of our ancestors – the Victorians. This is the Age of Steam, a word of invention and science, of ladies in pretty dresses and parasols and dapper gentlemen in top hats and frock coats, of barouches and corsets and goggles. It’s the Victorian Era with a difference. A world in which women are aviators and gentlemen like Fitzwilliam Darcy’s descendent can conduct experiments that may (or may not) enable him to take retro-images of his ancestors, Darcy and Lizzy.
The perfect setting for a hero. Allow me to introduce you to: William Darcy, the ultimate gentleman, and Seraphene, the definitely-not-malleable young lady who, like Lizzy Bennet, doesn’t seem to understand what’s good for her. Or at least, she doesn’t seem to understand that money is what matters, nothing else. She is far more interested in asserting herself than in being sensible, and this is both her flaw and what creates her appeal to both reader and hero. Not that Lizzy would recognize Seraphene in her mirror. Seraphene is the product of a post-apocalyptic context. She’s tough, she’s determined, and she’s suspicious to a fault.
In addition to the hero and the heroine, several of the characters from Pride and Prejudice also appear in Steampunk Darcy, though admittedly with a twist. Mr. Wickham is there to encourage Seraphene in her rejection of Darcy’s arrogance. Gianna is the teenage rebel who trusts too easily. Caro as Miss Bingley will resort to any means to capture Darcy, and Lady Catherine appears on the scene as Darcy’s stepmother who wants to preserve the Darcy family’s good name. Other characters are there, too, but they take on different forms. Seraphene is embarrassed to have Darcy meet her mother, but for entirely different reasons. Her sister Bree, like Lydia, is a clueless teenager, but Steampunk Darcy doesn’t follow the Jane/Bingley plotline, and the Wickham/Lydia story gets transposed onto other characters.
As well as the characters from Pride and Prejudice, many of the themes of Pride and Prejudice come up: Is Seraphene’s prejudice towards Darcy justified? Does Darcy’s preoccupation with Pemberley and pride in his Darcy family heritage affect his relationships with others? Is it possible to transcend class boundaries? And perhaps, most importantly, what constitutes a gentleman? Because that’s what we love most about Darcy, isn’t it? He is able, most unexpectedly, to introduce romance into a social context that judges a man by how large his fortune is, and to show that nobility isn’t about “noble” connections, but about behaving honorably.
After all, isn’t that what’s at the center of Pride and Prejudice? Where can we find a more satirical indictment of that problem than in the first sentence that we all know so well? “A man who is in possession of a fortune…” Notice how Austen says “a man”. This isn’t about anyone specific, it isn’t about Darcy. It isn’t about Bingley. The point is, no one cares who that man is. What is important is how much money he possesses. The conflict is set up on the very first page – between relationships based on material benefit on the one hand and relationships based on something more noble, more meaningful on the other. Marriage, the patronage system typified by the relationship between Mr. Collins and Lady Catherine, the power of money to define a relationship as in Wickham and Lydia’s case are all contrasted with Darcy’s willingness to change, to become more humble, to stand by the heroine at her hour of need.
In Steampunk Darcy, William Darcy is the hero in more ways than one. As the bigger-than-life Boss of the Charles River, he dominates over Bostontown almost literally, since it is he who is responsible for building the biodome that protects the township from the effects of slime rain. Seraphene sees him as a powerful figure whose determination implies a blatant disregard of others. Such power, such control over people’s lives and livelihood (as Darcy would have had over his tenants at Pemberley) can corrupt. We see this in the figure of Darcy’s half-brother Richard. But Darcy, like his ancestor, has a strong gentlemanly code that he consciously follows, and Seraphene comes to learn, like Lizzy Bennet, that he is willing to put that code at her service.
Because at the heart of Steampunk Darcy, as in Pride and Prejudice, is the romance. In Pride and Prejudice, Darcy puts the power of his influence and wealth at the service of the Bennet family, who are staring helplessly into the face of social ruin. In Steampunk Darcy, Wickham is yet again is the means by which William Darcy proves that he is a hero, willing to sacrifice himself for others. And, like his ancestor, he is willing to change, to make himself worthy of the heroine’s love.
But enough said. Any more and I’ll be giving away spoilers. Which won’t do at all.
Monica Fairview is an ex-literature professor who abandoned teaching criticism about long gone authors who can’t defend themselves in order to write novels of her own. Monica’s first novel was An Improper Suitor, a humorous Regency. Since then, she has written two traditional Jane Austen sequels: The Other Mr. Darcy and The Darcy Cousins (both published by Sourcebooks) and contributed a sequel to Emma in Laurel Ann Nattress’s anthology Jane Austen Made Me Do It (Ballantine). Steampunk Darcy is her latest novel.
Originally a lover of everything Regency, Monica has since discovered that the Victorian period can be jolly good fun, too, if seen with retro-vision and rose-colored goggles. She adores Jane Austen, Steampunk, cats, her husband and her impossible child. Visit Monica at her at Monica Fairview Author; Austen Authors; Facebook and Twitter.
Steampunk Darcy, by Monica Fairview
White Soup Press (2013)
Trade paperback (328) pages
Cover image courtesy of White Soup Press © 2013; text Monica Fairview © 2013, Austenprose.com