Jane Austen Book Sleuth: New Books in the Queue for Summer 2013

Summer is here — and it time to head to the beach or take that well-earned holiday and read great books!

Summer reads are always fun—and little light-hearted and playful—and the Austenesque & Regency faire in the queue is so exciting that the Jane Austen Book Sleuth is thrilled to share what we will be reading and reviewing here on Austenprose in the coming months. Included are release dates and descriptions of the titles by the publisher to help you plan out your summer reading. Pre-order and enjoy! 

Austen-inspired Nonfiction 

Walking Jane Austen's London, by Louise Allen 2013Walking Jane Austen’s London, by Louise Allen (June 25) 

The London of Jane Austen’s world and imagination comes to life in this themed guidebook of nine walking tours from well-known landmarks to hidden treasures –each evoking the time and culture of Regency England which so influenced Austen’s wise perspective and astute insight in novels such as Pride and Prejudice. Extensively illustrated with full-color photographs and maps these walks will delight tourists and armchair travelers as they discover eighteenth-century chop houses, elegant squares, sinister prisons, bustling city streets and exclusive gentlemen’s clubs among innumerable other Austenesque delights.  

– During Jane Austen’s time, 1775 – 1817, London was a flourishing city with fine streets, fashionable squares and a thriving port which brought in good from around the globe. Much of this London still remains, the great buildings, elegant streets, parks, but much has changed. This tour allows the reader to take it all in, noting what Jane may have experienced while citing modern improvements such as street lighting and privies! 

ISBN: 978-0747812951
© 2013 Shire   Continue reading

Darcy’s Decision: Given Good Principles Volume 1, by Maria Grace

Darcy's Decision: Given Good Principles Volume 1, by Maria Grace (2011)From the desk of Jeffrey Ward

For 200 years, I suspect many enthralled readers of Pride and Prejudice have silently pondered the question “What would Darcy do?” Author Maria Grace endeavors to put her own spin on this with her debut prequel novella Darcy’s Decision, in her Given Good Principles trilogy.

Spanning a brief but significant moment in time, the main gist of the story deals with Darcy’s rival Mr. Wickham, his demands for a living, and his alleged compromising of Georgiana and how young Mr. Darcy finally deals with it.

It is six months following the death of his father and Fitzwilliam Darcy struggles with how to honorably and properly manage the vast holdings of Pemberley, care for his 15 year old rapidly-maturing teenage sister, and deal with the prickly problem of one Mr. Wickham –his boyhood friend who shows up to claim the curacy that was thought promised to him by Darcy’s father. A dinner at Pemberley with some cherished neighbors, the Bingleys, Georgiana, the newly-appointed curate John Bradley and Mr. Wickham reveals the complications Darcy is up against:  (Georgiana speaking of Wickham)

“You came to pay your respects?” Lackley dabbed his chin with his napkin. “No, he did not.” Everyone gasped, staring at Georgiana. “Stop it!” Rebecca hissed, reaching for Georgiana’s hand. “He was promised the living given to Mr. Bradley.” A hush fell over the table. Darcy’s pulse thudded in his temples as the blood drained from his face.

With admirable originality the author has created a morality drama with Biblical undertones stressing mercy, forgiveness, and what makes a man truly great. She showcases the familiar well-loved characters of Pride and Prejudice quite accurately: Darcy, Wickham, Richard Fitzwilliam, the Bingleys, Mrs. Reynolds, as well as introducing her own cast of loveable loyal neighbors and old family friends. Chief among these is John Bradley, the vital mentor to both Darcys – father and son. The wise old Clergyman counsels young Darcy and the dialogue is beautiful in its timeless truth:

“I am not like him.”Darcy grimaced and swallowed hard against the rising bile. “I lack his wisdom, his discernment.” But you were given good principles, the ones your father stood.” The wind whipped his coattails and scoured his face. “Are they enough?” “He found them so.” Bradley clapped his shoulder.

But as Darcy reads his father’s private journals, a shocking confession is uncovered which will test the young man’s mettle and may change forever his attitude towards his late father and young Darcy’s relationship with his immediate family.

No Elizabeth? Sorry, but I believe she makes her appearance in the author’s trilogy installment #2 – The Future Mrs. Darcy. Until then, the romantic interest in this tale features the obnoxious Caroline Bingley as she sets her cap at poor Fitzwilliam. The off-and-on banter between Darcy, Charles Bingley, and Richard Fitzwilliam regarding how and who they may find as wives is utterly charming and really sets the stage for #2 in the author’s trilogy.

At scarcely 120 pages, the author still manages to lavish her debut work with historical accuracy, helpful footnotes, and scintillating dialogues. The author’s unique voice is most apparent in her descriptions of facial expressions, posturing, gestures, and mannerisms. A scene where Wickham is bound up and is being interrogated by Darcy and his buddies is so vivid and comical that I was in raptures mentally visualizing the entire episode.

About the only minor criticism I can level against this work is the character of Georgiana who Jane Austen describes in chapters 44 and 45 of Pride and Prejudice as exceedingly shy and quiet. This author’s Georgiana, on the other hand, is quite the feisty outspoken teenage girl, but I suppose that can be excused off as the emotional frustration of no longer being a girl, but not quite a woman yet.

I found Darcy’s Decision richly entertaining with a very plausible variation on “what if?” If Darcy doesn’t wear the mantle of hero yet with you, dear readers, I predict he will once you finish this read. Next stop? The Future Mrs. Darcy, or course!

4 out of 5 Regency Stars

Darcy’s Decision: Given Good Principles Volume 1, by Maria Grace
Good Principles Publishing (2011)
Trade paperback (154) pages
ISBN: 978-0615582771

© 2013 Jeffrey Ward, Austenprose

Young Master Darcy: A Lesson in Honour, by Pamela Aidan – A Review

Young Master Darcy: A Lesson in Honor, by Pamela Aidan (2010)Guest review by Kimberly Denny-Ryder of Reflections of a Book Addict

Have you ever finished reading Pride and Prejudice and wondered how Darcy became so filled with pride and conceit?  Now, you might find your answer. Pamela Aidan, author of the Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman trilogy is back with Young Master Darcy, a novella focusing on Fitzwilliam Darcy’s youth.

Young Master Darcy introduces us to a thirteen year old Darcy returning to Pemberley for the holidays after his first semester at Eton.  Upon his return, his father calls him into his study to share with him the bad news that his mother’s health is failing and that in all probability she will not recover.  Mr. Darcy tells Fitzwilliam that he expects him to take the news as a gentleman of his stature should, and not let it affect his duties as “Master Darcy.”

Now, I must trust you with some distressing news-a blow, really-but you are a young man now, Fitzwilliam, and know what is expected of a gentleman in regard to misfortune.”

Darcy, distraught with grief, decides to take a morning ride out into the village of Lambton.  It is there that he meets a group of children his age practicing for a play they will be putting on in the town square the night before Christmas.  Darcy, anxious to escape the high expectations of his privileged life, decides to join them while lying about his true identity.  He finds great comfort in his new role as a commoner.  He begins leading a double life as common village boy by day and privileged gentleman by night.  With his cousin Richard (later known as Colonel Fitzwilliam) and family coming for the holidays he knows it’s not long until this double life is revealed.  Will he be able to perform in the Christmas play with no one knowing, or he will his parents discover where he’s been spending all of his time and punish him?

Aidan has possibly created a new Jane Austen fan fiction trend in starting to delve into who these characters where in their youth.  Just the idea of reading about Darcy, before his pride and arrogance took hold, was appealing to me. However, despite my original excitement, the novella did fall a little short.

The most confusing part was the weaving of Darcy’s two lives.  On one side you have Darcy just wanting to act like a typical thirteen year old boy.  He wants playmates and friends that are his age and accept him not for his money, but for his personality.  On the other side you have “Master Darcy” living a lavish life with much expected of him.  It was this side that was a bit hard to believe.  It’s difficult to imagine that a boy who has been living such a privileged life for thirteen years does not know how to request a bath to be drawn, or the proper way to announce his plans for the day, as well as acting shy in front of the servants.  I found all of these things to require a bit too much of a stretch of my imagination.

We know from Pride and Prejudice that Darcy learns the ways of being a gentleman from his parents.  In this novella however, it’s the staff that are teaching him.  They coach him on the proper way to request things, and at one point tell him that he should send his compliments to his mother.  The character of “gentleman” Darcy was just too bizarre for me to accept.

On a more positive note, the storyline of the book is its best attribute.  There is a quote in Pride and Prejudice that seems to be where certain aspects of the storyline are drawn from:

I was spoilt by my parents, who, though good themselves (my father, particularly, all that was benevolent and amiable), allowed, encouraged, almost taught me to be selfish and overbearing; to care for none beyond my own family circle; to think meanly of all the rest of the world; to wish at least to think meanly of their sense and worth compared with my own.

Darcy has multiple conversations with his mother where she stresses to him the importance of marrying someone of their own social class, as well as what will be expected of him and Georgiana as they mature.  This was very intriguing as we begin to see how Darcy became the man we are later introduced to in Pride and Prejudice.  Intriguingly, the ending of the novella seems to be the catalyst that cements Darcy’s ultimate future personality.

Pamela Aidan continues to excel at period details, characterization and language. Young Master Darcy is an interesting experiment in the exploration of our favorite Austen characters childhood. At 122 pages, it is short and sweet and I do encourage you to read it. It will be interesting to watch the world of Austen fan fiction to see if she has created a new trend in prequels.

3 out of 5 Regency Stars

Young Master Darcy: A Lesson in Honour, by Pamela Aidan
Wytherngate Press (2010)
Trade paperback (122) pages
ISBN: 978-0983103103

© 2007 – 2011 Kimberly Denny-Ryder, Austenprose

The Trials of the Honorable F. Darcy, by Sara Angelini – A Review

The Trials of the Honorable F. Darcy, by Sara Angelini (2009)Guest review by Christina B.

Many modern versions of Jane Austen’s works fail to hit the mark because the author forces a “rewrite” of the original, altogether forgetting that some scenarios and mores from the Regency era make no sense in the modern-day world. Or worse yet, the author fails to deliver any character development – depending almost wholly on the expectation that the reader will be familiar with Miss Austen’s originals. Fortunately, author Sara Angelini’s The Trials of the Honorable F. Darcy is invigorating, yet somewhat comforting, as we meet our old friends in an entirely new setting. Like Bridget Jones’ Diary, the popular 1996 novel by Helen Fielding, The Trials of the Honorable F. Darcy has flavorings of the original Pride and Prejudice: aloof, handsome, and rather stuffy Fitzwilliam Darcy from an ancient line of British aristocracy meets and goes toe to toe with fresh-faced, independent and spunky Elizabeth Bennet. And yes, there is still the great estate of Pemberley in England and a cast of familiar names. But beyond that, this story is refreshingly new and stands quite on its own.

As the title eludes, our Fitzwilliam Darcy is a judge and Elizabeth Bennet is the clever attorney who frequently appears before him in court. Following the usual P&P adaptation formula, an unintentional off-handed comment by Judge Darcy is overheard by Elizabeth that only adds to the manifest of other qualities she already detests about him. Do not expect all of the characters from the original novel in this modern re-imagining, nor are they used in the same capacity as in Austen’s work. Exhibit one: you will not find Darcy’s arch-nemesis Mr. Wickham running off with his younger sister Georgiana.  Exhibits two and three: there are none of Lady Catherine’s high-handed antics or even an unwelcome marriage proposal by Mr. Collins. However, there are fleeting “walk-on” roles by some of the aforementioned characters but none are a driving force to the plot. I particularly enjoyed how Angelini has also cleverly enhanced Caroline Bingley’s role as competition to Elizabeth and confidant to Darcy. My eyebrows did wrinkle concerning some of the refurbished characterizations of Elizabeth’s best friend Louis Hurst, because in all honestly, I did not believe Jane Austen’s Louisa Hurst was ever intended to be a gay male. But I soon got over myself and found this quirky reinterpretation to be a favorite;  a most-endearing character. I especially love how Angelini has given many of Austen’s famous lines to Lou, even channeling our beloved Mrs. & Mr. Bennet.

A real-life attorney, Angelini has a very realistic grasp on the legalese. In addition, her understanding and interpretations of dynamic relationships and dialogue are descriptive and believable – although the f-bomb is frequently dropped. I often found myself laughing out loud and shaking my head at the plucky dialogue between Darcy and Elizabeth as well as some amusing antics. Be forewarned, however, the extremely graphic and passionate love scenes will leave you breathless. So delicious, they will leave you craving for more!

I confess I have been a fan of this particular adaptation of Pride and Prejudice since Angelini first self-published it in 2007. When I heard that Sourcebooks had picked it up, I was somewhat apprehensive regarding what possible cuts and changes might entail. But my fears were for naught as the edits and stronger back-story only proved to make it a more cohesive and realistic tale. Thankfully, none of my original favorite scenes were deleted and some new scenes were added as well. Nice!

Although this novel was inspired by Jane Austen’s original and Angelini’s own admission of “Colin Firth’s smoldering haughtiness,” one need not have read Pride and Prejudice (or seen the BBC mini-series for that matter) to enjoy it. But if you are already a fan, then this telling will be an excessively diverting entertainment you won’t want to miss. In conclusion, my factual assertion as witness merits, The Trials of the Honorable F. Darcy is 5 stars.

5 out of 5 Regency Stars

The Trials of the Honorable F. Darcy, by Sara Angelini
Sourcebooks Landmark (2009)
Trade paperback (338) pages
ISBN: 978-1402221101

Additional Reviews

The Confession of Fitzwilliam Darcy, by Mary Street – A Review

The Confession of Fitzwilliam Darcy, by Mary Street (2008)In Pride and Prejudice, we enter a distinctly feminine world as the story unfolds from the perspective of heroine Elizabeth Bennet and other female characters. Jane Austen does not presume to know the private thoughts of Mr. Darcy or any of her male characters, nor does she share them with us. This leaves the sequel writer open to the possibility of another take on one of the most popular stories in English literature. In The Confession of Fitzwilliam Darcy, author Mary Street explores an entirely male point of view by telling Darcy’s story with a strong first person voice. Even though this approach has been attempted by many other authors since Austen sequels began to multiply exponentially after the 1995 BBC/A&E mini-series Pride and Prejudice, (some successfully and others not so much), Street’s viewpoint, as seen through the eyes of Mr. Darcy favorably hits the mark. 

Being all curious about anything Darcy, I am always searching for the answers that have plagued me since girlhood. When did Mr. Darcy first find himself in-love with Miss Elizabeth? What was he doing when he left Hertfordshire and Rosings? What was he thinking after he was so soundly rejected? How did he find Lydia and Wickham? All compelling questions addressed and answered as we are privileged to enter Darcy’s innermost thoughts and meanderings, as well as his intimate relationships with his sister Georgiana, Colonel Fitzwilliam and the Bingley’s through this parallel story to Pride and Prejudice. Revealed too, are encounters we have only previously speculated upon from second hand accounts in Austen’s original novel, such as the rescue of Lydia in London, his skirmish with Lady Catherine de Bourgh following her visit to Elizabeth at Longbourn, as well as his final confession to Charles Bingley of his interference in his relationship with Jane Bennet. 

On second reading of this novel, I decided to read it alongside the original for comparison and contrast. In Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth’s accounting is repeatedly prejudiced against Darcy, therefore when he lays his heart out to the reader in Confession, it is quite remarkable. Darcy is a thinking man and here we see how his mind ticks; how he frequently dissects every conversation. I confess, often times I felt as if I was eavesdropping on the man’s very own private thoughts, foibles and all! Even though Darcy publicly admonishes others, “A lady’s imagination is very rapid; it jumps from admiration to love, from love to matrimony, in a moment.” I was in turn surprised to find how rapidly his imagination jumped. For example, upon receipt of a letter from his aunt Catherine relaying the news of a new Mrs. Collin’s, he automatically assumes Elizabeth is the new Mrs. Collins before even finishing the letter, throwing himself and his entire household into quite a stir. Still, Darcy came off very likable and more than once, I found myself smiling or laughing aloud at his inner musings. I like that Street reveals how Mr. Darcy learns to own his failings and shortfalls. It strenuously supports Austen in that it took Elizabeth’s ultimate set down to show him what he was – and how he needed to change to become a better man – a man worthy of Elizabeth. I was appreciative of this author’s use of briefly quoting Austen’s own words, especially when Darcy was recollecting particular exchanges; this seemed to successfully authenticate his own memories. 

Coming off the heels of the disappointing Darcy’s Passions, I was somewhat apprehensive about yet another re-telling of Darcy’s perspective. Surprisingly, The Confession of Fitzwilliam Darcy is quite good, bearing up well in comparison to other Darcy books such as Amanda Grange’s Mr. Darcy’s Diary. Originally published in 1999 in the UK, this re-issue by Berkley Books (Penguin) is a welcome addition to my growing collection of Darcy paraliterature. Thankfully, Mary Street believably answers some of my niggling questions about Mr. Darcy, leaving a charming impression. I liked it very much. 

Christina 

4 out of 5 Regency Stars 

The Confession of Fitzwilliam Darcy, by Mary Street
Berkley Books, New York (2008)
Trade paperback (272) pages
ISBN: 978-0425219904

Additional reviews

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