Sons and Daughters: Darcy and Fitzwilliam Book Two, by Karen Wasylowski – A Review

Sons and Daughters: Darcy and Fitzwilliam Book Two, by Karen V. Wasylowki (2012)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
CreateSpace (2012)
Trade paperback (416) pages
ISBN: 978-1480002913

© 2012 Shelley DeWees, Austenprose

Darcy and Fitzwilliam: A Tale of a Gentleman and an Officer, by Karen V. Wasylowski – A Review

Darcy and Fitzwilliam: A Tale of a Gentleman and an Officer, by Karen V. Wasylowski (2011)The latest spin-off from Jane Austen’s masterpiece Pride and Prejudice is the debut novel Darcy and Fitzwilliam, A Tale of a Gentleman and an Officer, by author Karen V. Wasylowski.  Divided into two volumes, volume one, entitled Fitzwilliam Darcy, A Gentleman, 1815 begins shortly after the marriage of Mr. Darcy to Miss Elizabeth Bennet, and his cousin Colonel Richard Fitzwilliam’s return from the Peninsular War.  Cousins by birth and best friends by choice, we find unresolved deeds and unrequited loves threatening their brotherly bond, as well as test those of all involved. Volume two, entitled Colonel Richard Fitzwilliam, an Officer, 1817 begins with the now “famous Colonel of Waterloo” falling madly in-love with a pretty faced, American born widow of a baronet.  Mad cap scenarios abound amidst serious story-lines; even a putrid fever attacks England, eventually claiming Elizabeth’s mother, Mrs. Bennet, and nearly that of Darcy’s aunt, Lady Catherine de Bourgh, unnerving the Darcy’s so powerfully that it leads to the eventual truce between the two estranged families.

Although this might sound like pretty heavy reading, I assure you, there are more than a few fanciful, and often bawdy exchanges to lighten the load, i.e. upon the Colonel’s first night back with the Darcy’s, the three are musing how Mrs. Darcy has taken to calling her husband Fitzwilliam “William” to avoid any confusion with his cousin’s surname “Fitzwilliam” and the good Colonel rewards her disclosure with, “It could have been worse – much worse.  You see, the gossip in the family is that his father could have married Lady Diana de Carsie… and then of course, our boy here would have been the one and only DeCarsie Darcy.” p. 35

Like many Austen inspired-authors, Wasylowski has added several new characters and taken the liberty of tweaking much of Austen’s canon characters and particulars, to better fit with her campy vision.  But surely you will grin as you recognize the shrill voice of Mrs. Bennet, now enamored with her new son-in-law, as a cascade of admiration spills forth as she loudly observes Darcy’s aristocratic demeanor and even comments on the size of his large feet. “You know what that indicates, do you not?” only to reply to everyone’s relief, “The mark of a great mind.” p. 40

But all is not light and easy.  Soon Elizabeth discovers that Darcy has had past sexual congress with Caroline Bingley, who “had been much younger when she initiated her ultimately unsuccessful campaign to barter morals for an advantageous match.  Alas when push came to shove, she was only a tradesman’s daughter, and always would remain one.” p. 57 This leads to the newlywed’s first “contretemps”  –  a porcelain throwing, pillow ripping demonstration by a jealous, rage-fueled Elizabeth.

Fast-forward to volume two. London, a city mad with patriotic fever and Richard’s valor on the battlefield has elevated him to celebrity. Just as he seems to be fated to single gentleman status he comes upon Lady Amanda Sayles Penrod and it’s love at first sight. Despite their mutual attraction, Amanda knows she could never marry the Colonel, fearing she would lose access to her young son, who she has lost custody of through some bizarre lawsuit from her cruel mother-in-law. The Colonel later explains to Darcy that they were “passionately in-love for a few minutes anyway.” p. 252 However his acceptance of his loss is short lived, as the Colonel embarks on a mighty chase for her hand persuading her into a secret marriage.

With much madcap verve as author Marsha Altman’s Pride & Prejudice Continues series, Karen V. Wasylowski bravely undertakes this sequel and truly has flashes of brilliance. By all means I usually delight in reading of Darcy and Elizabeth’s supposed lives after Miss Jane Austen’s finis – and give much latitude to many debut authors wild imaginings – but I must confess, by the end of this 481 pager, I was quite undone! It might have been how Elizabeth was cast as the insecure yet “sweet, beloved elfin wife” of Mr. Darcy who often displays her anger most unbecomingly. Or it might have been how Darcy is described as, “shy to the point of seemingly indifference.”  (Personally, I really cannot abide a “shy” Darcy. Aloof to the point of offense?  Prideful? Yes. But never shy.) Or how Darcy and the Colonel both refer to their aunt, Lady Catherine de Bourgh, as the Grande Dame, Marble Countess, and even Queen of Hubris but is portrayed as an aging, demented and even confused busy body. Or, how their boyish nicknames of “Brat” and “Old Bastard” interchangeable with “Old Fart,” became tiresome and abrasive. Even the “throbbing agony” of passion filled love scenes became redundant and offensive to my sensibilities. But all this was nothing to reading the likes of Darcy and Fitzwilliam’s bandy, “You farted on my head.”  “You peed in my face.” p. 205; “No mouth farts, please.” p. 472; and even, dropping the “F” bomb! I am all astonishment.  Surely the master of the great estate Pemberley, and the respectable Colonel, son of a Peer, regardless of privacy would never engage in such banal, coarse exchanges! I hate to be critical of anyone’s efforts, especially a debut author, but there you have it. Despite its beautiful book cover, sometimes it’s best to say when the Emperor is wearing no clothes. Clearly, Karen V. Wasylowski’s Darcy and Fitzwilliam, is nekkid as a jaybird. Indeed.

2 out of 5 Regency Stars

Darcy and Fitzwilliam: A Tale of a Gentlemen and an Officer, by Karen Wasylowski
Sourcebooks (2011)
Trade paperback (481)
ISBN: 978-1402245947

© 2007 – 2011 Christine Boyd, Austenprose