Pemberley Ranch, the latest re-imagining of Jane Austen’s novel Pride and Prejudice officially hits books stores this week. Transporting Austen’s classic Regency-era romance to the American West of post-Civil War Texas is an intriguing notion that I could not pass up. My co-reviewer Christina Boyd and I were so inspired by the ole Wild West spirit we offered a double barrel review of Pemberley Ranch for your consideration. As you will read, it was a heart pounding, rip-roaring, sure-fire page-turner.
Joining us today on the first leg of his whistle-stop blog tour is author Jack Caldwell. I was curious about his take on Mr. Darcy as a romantic icon in any century. Did he see parallels between the Regency gentleman and the American cowboy icon? How do the traits and characteristics from the Regency apply to the American West? Welcome Jack!
FITZWILLIAM DARCY AS A COWBOY? REALLY?
Greetings, everyone. I’m Jack Caldwell, author of Pemberley Ranch, a western-themed re-imagining of Pride & Prejudice. I hope all of you in the United States had a wonderful Thanksgiving. I’d like to thank Laurel Ann and Austenprose for this opportunity to talk to you about that great paragon of masculinity, Fitzwilliam Darcy, Esq.
Man, what we guys have to live up to.
Darcy—Jane Austen’s perfect man. Rich, handsome, honorable, intelligent, generous, reasonable, modest, and romantic. Yet with just enough flaws—pride, lack of liveliness, and incivility—to make him “real” and “fixable.” Yes, fixable. Darcy’s far more interesting than Henry Tilney, isn’t he?
Let’s face it, ladies, you do like to civilize us animals. Whether it is our manners, our dress, or our language, we men are often a life-long “work in progress.” And you ladies don’t have to succeed. If your improvements stick, all the better, but if they don’t, it gives you something to talk about with your girlfriends.
Anyhow, for the reasons above, Austen’s Darcy is one of literature’s great romantic icons. He is made to see his flaws and he labors to improve himself, all in the name of his unrequited love for a woman. Of course, his object cannot resist him—his efforts prove his devotion, and she accepts him.
It helps that Darcy is placed in the English Regency era, a rather romanticized period. The international interest in all things Austen shows that this is not a mere British obsession. Readers world-wide love Darcy and Elizabeth and their Regency world.
There is another romanticized period of time that has caught the attention of the world, and that is the American West in the years between the end of the US Civil War and the turn of the century. The story of the great migrations of settlers into the wilderness of America has captured the imagination of millions for over a century. The tales are endless: the miners panning for gold in the mountains, cowboys riding the range, long wagon trains of farmers looking for new land, and soldiers in blue and natives in feathered headdresses conducting epic battles on horseback. They have become part of the soul of the United States. Americans are often considered “cowboys” by our foreign friends (and enemies), and while it is not always meant to be a compliment, we are proud of that heritage.
Consider the cowboy. Hard-working, honest, soft-spoken, independent, loyal, and competent. He loves quietly but intently. He respects others’ privacy and minds his own business until he, his friends, or his way of life is threatened. Then he is a man of action. He thirsts for justice, and if no one will protect him and his, he will do it, no matter the price.
Sounds like someone we know, doesn’t it?
There are some parallels between the Regency gentleman and the western cowboy, even though Austen’s Fitzwilliam Darcy would surely consider my William Darcy a brute, and Will would dismiss Fitzwilliam as a dandy. Both lived in a time of iron-clad rules of propriety and behavior. A man’s word was his bond. Ladies were to be protected and honored (tavern maids and dancehall girls were a different matter). There were rules of courtship. Strong language before ladies and children was condemned. The penalty for breaking those rules was to be labeled by society as “un-gentlemanly” or “a no-good scoundrel.”
Read the works of Zane Grey, Louis L’Amour, and Larry McMurtry. See the great movies, like Stagecoach, High Noon, Shane, The Outlaw Josie Wales, and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. This is the great American mythology. It is how we American see ourselves—independent, self-reliant, honorable, and courageous. We can overcome anything and everything.
It is also how lovers of Austen see Fitzwilliam Darcy. So it is not too far-fetched to see him in a cowboy hat and chaps, is it?
Okay, ladies, you can stop drooling now.
Thank you for taking the time to read this little entry. What do you think? Do you think there are parallels between the Regency and the American West? Who else from Austen’s canon would make a great cowboy?
I want to wish Laurel Ann and all of you the very best during this Christmas Season.
It takes a real man to write historical romance, so let me tell you a story.
Author Bio: Jack Caldwell is an author, amateur historian, professional economic developer, playwright, and like many Cajuns, a darn good cook. Born and raised in the Bayou County of Louisiana, Jack and his wife, Barbara, are Hurricane Katrina victims, and now make the upper Midwest their home. Always a history buff, Jack found and fell in love with Jane Austen in his twenties, struck by her innate understanding of the human condition.
Jack uses his work to share his knowledge of history. Through his characters, he hopes the reader gains a better understanding of what went on before, developing an appreciation for our ancestors’ trials and tribulations. A devout convert to Roman Catholicism, Jack is married with three grown sons.
Thanks for joining us today Jack. Happy trails.
Glorious Pemberley Ranch Giveaway
Enter a chance to win one of five copies of Pemberley Ranch by leaving a comment answering Jack’s question regarding cultural parallels between the Regency-era and the American West, or which bothersome character from Pride and Prejudice deserves to be thrown from their horse into a water trough, by midnight Pacific time, Monday, December 13, 2010. Winners announced on Tuesday, December 14, 2010. Shipment to US and Canadian addresses only. Good luck!
Jack Caldwell’s blog tour
- 11/29 Austenprose
- 12/1 Austenesque Reviews
- 12/3 Diary of an Eccentric
- 12/6 The Royal Reviews
- 12/8 Psychotic State
- 12/10 Library of Clean Reads
- 12/13 My Overstuffed Bookshelf
- 12/15 A Moment with Mystee
- 12/16 Laura’s Reviews
- 12/20 Romance Fiction on Suite 101
- 12/21 Thoughts In Progress
- 12/28 Debbie’s Book Bag
- 12/29 History Undressed