Guest review by Christina Boyd
A Darcy Christmas: A Holiday Tribute to Jane Austen is a collection of three holiday novellas by Sourcebooks’ best-selling authors Amanda Grange and Sharon Lathan, and debut author Carolyn Eberhart. Reading and reviewing a Christmas book when pumpkins, witches and goblins still abound seems out of synch. Alas, with a sigh, I have mustered all of my supercilious, Ebenezer Scrooge-like sympathies and yielded to pre-Christmas, pre-Halloween! undertaking.
In Sharon Lathan’s A Darcy Christmas (same as the title of this book) nine chapters chronicle the highlights of some twenty-nine years of Darcy family Christmas’ including the joyous first Christmas when Darcy gifts Elizabeth with a key to a locked cabinet holding a collection of sexually instructive books, to a grief stricken Christmas after the death of Elizabeth’s beloved father, Mr. Bennet. Lathan fans will readily recognize her vivid characters from her “Two Shall Become One” series and delight in their saccharine-sweet sentimentality. Albeit Lathan’s style is not Austenesque, and the dialogue lacks Regency aplomb (i.e. Darcy discussing pregnancy in mixed company) she should get points for her steadiness and commitment to her characters. What it lacks in actual plot, Lathan’s Darcy and Elizabeth, as in her previous novels, make up for in their undying love, unyielding libidos and excessive banter of the mundane. Bah humbug, indeed.
What does one get the man who has everything? In Amanda Grange’s Christmas Present, it becomes quite apparent that Mr. Darcy of Pemberley is in want of an heir, and his wife, Elizabeth is poised to oblige. This charming tale takes the Darcy’s to visit with Charles & Jane Bingley and their newborn son at their new estate, Lowlands Park in Nottinghamshire. However, through various contrivances of Mother Nature and Mother Bennet, the Bingley’s small family party has expanded to a house full of colorful characters, including Lady Catherine de Bourgh, Mr. Collins, Caroline Bingley and the Bennet family. Much like in Grange’s previous novels, her characters “are clever, well-informed people, with a great deal of conversation” and the story is delightful. But also as in many of her previous works, this novella ends entirely too quickly. Yes, as expected Elizabeth delivers Mr. Darcy a Christmas present, but surprisingly, the author decidedly wraps it up shortly after the naming of the child. Whether you prescribe to the expression, “less is more,” you will have to judge for yourself.
Carolyn Eberhart’s break-out contribution, Mr. Darcy’s Christmas Carol is the marrying of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol and Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. The story opens on Christmas Eve with a morose Mr. Darcy, stewing over his lot; consequences of his damnable pride that held him from renewing his addresses to Miss Elizabeth Bennet. Darcy is visited by a ghostly apparition in the image of his deceased father warning him of his impending future rife with bitter regrets and loneliness… if he fails to amend his life’s missed opportunities. He is warned that he will be visited “by Three Spirits all of whom will appear familiar” in hopes of helping him to escape such a gloomy fate. As in Dickens’ classic, after all the Past, Present and Future Spirits have all shown him poignant moments of his life and Darcy is shown the course he must take, Darcy declares “… all three have striven to show me what I already knew within me.” Determinedly, he then heads off to Hertfordshire to declare himself again to Elizabeth. Although Eberhart’s breakout novella is predictable by reasonable deduction to anyone familiar with the Dickens and Austen originals, Mr. Darcy’s Christmas Carol is a surprising gem in this collection.
Despite endeavours to conquer these erstwhile Scrooge-like sensations, no doubt can be lost regarding my disappointed hopes for this holiday tribute to Jane Austen. Overall I was frustrated that the stories were overly predictable and rather tiresome. To be frank, having read Sharon Lathan’s previous writing, I was not expecting much from A Darcy Christmas and was not wholly surprised by the overlong passages of inane details. But as I am a self-proclaimed, devoted fangirl of Amanda Grange’s previous works, I regret that Christmas Present left me indifferent after such a weak conclusion. However, the debut story from Carolyn Eberhart is a lighthearted and in the spirit of the season.
I am glad for the opportunity to have read this collection of short stories in A Darcy Christmas, but I am confident that once was plenty. Marketed and packaged perfectly for our unsuspecting loved ones, who will undoubtedly rejoice in their triumph of having found “the perfect” gift for us Jane Austen aficionados, I can only hope that should you discover A Darcy Christmas in your stocking, you will remember the timeless words of Tiny Tim, “God bless Us! Every One!” and add to that a bit from Miss Bingley, “It was kindly meant.”
2 out of 5 Regency Stars
A Darcy Christmas: A Holiday Tribute to Jane Austen, by Amanda Grange, Sharon Lathan and Carolyn Eberhart
Trade paperback (304) pages
© 2007 – 2010 Christina Boyd, Austenprose