Mr. Darcy, Vampyre, by Amanda Grange – A Review

Mr. Darcy, Vampyre, by Amanda Grange (2009)Among all the hype and circumstance, the highly anticipated Mr. Darcy, Vampyre will hit bookstores this week. Officially it has the honor of being the first vampire themed Jane Austen sequel in print by a major publisher. I can assure you it will not be the last.

This clever concept is not new by any means. Fan fiction writers have been having fun with Austen and vampires for years. However, this book would not have been published without riding on the coattails of two Austen inspired best sellers: Twilight and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Publishers are banking on the combination of two hot genres to be combustible. It will take a talented writer knowledgeable in both Austen and vampire lore to pull it off. Having already written five Austen inspired sequels, Amanda Grange is an excellent choice to open the Austen-vampire Ball. Let’s hope she knows more than a little about vampires as well. She is treading over unconsecrated ground and could offend either camp, or both! The only thing worse than an angry Twilight fan, is a Janeite who has gotten her bonnet blown off by a foul wind of desecration. 

Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy of Pride and Prejudice may be one of the most famous love stories in literature. Their uneasy courtship was wrought with misconceptions skillfully played out by Austen’s acerbic wit and romantic tension. When they finally realize they are in love and destined to be together, their wedding seems to insure a happily-ever-after that Austen is famous for. What Elizabeth had envisioned as their carefree wedding tour in the Lake District is altered by her new husbands dour mood and abrupt change of destination. They will now travel to the Continent and visit Darcy relations in Paris, Switzerland and Italy, making the Grand Tour. 

As they travel in the style and comfort afforded the master and mistress of Pemberley, Elizabeth sees a dark change come over her husband. He is preoccupied and incommunicative; not at all the man that she grew to love during their courtship in England. In fact, the farther they travel, the more distant he becomes. She pours out her troubles and concerns by writing letters to her dear sister Jane. Foremost in any young brides mind is the consummation of their marriage which Darcy is avoiding. Moreover, Darcy’s formidable relations are more than just a bit odd and events along the way are unsettling. While in Paris Darcy’s cousin Colonel Fitzwilliam privately admonishes him for marrying her. On the road to Switzerland his aunt Lady Catherine de Bourgh surprisingly appears expressing her displeasure at his disgraceful alliance, begging him to end it. As their carriage climbs the mountain road, the local people jump away and cross themselves as they pass. When they arrive in the Alps at his uncle Count Polidori’s castle, an axe displayed above a doorway mysteriously falls missing Darcy by inches. The servants say it is a sign that Elizabeth will cause his death. Later, a fortune teller warns her to beware. “There are dangers all around you …not all who walk on two legs are men…not all who fly are beasts.” When the castle is stormed by angry villagers, Darcy and Elizabeth flee into the mountains where they are attacked by the mob. In the confusion of the fight they are separated. Against all odds the crowd is subdued. Darcy is disheveled and unharmed except for the blood on his mouth. Elizabeth is horrified, thinking he is hurt. We, suspect otherwise. 

Their journey continues to Venice, and on to Rome. More seeing the sights, more friends and more subtle comments and minor events as the plot moseys along. The descriptions of the countryside and cities are similar to a vintage travelogue. Not only are the Darcy’s taking the Grand Tour, so are we. The scenes of the castle in the Alps, the fortune teller and the angry mob pay gentle homage to the Gothic novels so popular in Jane Austen’s time and parodied in her own novel Northanger Abbey. The difference here is this novel is not a burlesque or a spoof. It is dead serious, and that is one of its foibles. Lack of humor. No Catherine Morland in her nightgown peering into a ponderous chest. Only poor Lizzy unhappily dragged about Europe, neglected by her husband, and totally unaware that his indifference is a front to his dark secret. When did our spirited and clever Lizzy become willing to put up with such treatment? She used to taunt and tease him into submission. Now she can’t seem to find him to put him in his place. Yes, he is a vampyre and he is tormented over not being able to tell his wife about his terrible curse, but there still needs to be some conversation to develop their relationship. Over three quarters of the way into the book and I was still impatiently waiting for the big reveal. Is this really a vampyre novel? Where’s Darcy’s coffin with a bit of Pemberley terra firma thrown in? 

I will attempt to forestall any reproof and readily admit that I admire Amanda Grange’s courage and creativity. The novel was a bold move that unfortunately did not fulfill my expectations. The final denouement did tie together all the loose bits, adding the requisite Austen happy ending. I will not reveal any spoilers but will allude to it being reminiscent of the opening of The Ark of the Covenant scene in the movie Raiders of the Lost Ark. Here the Vampyre and his lady are on a quest to break the curse through an ancient ceremony when we were treated to an unearthly spectacle of the classical four elements: earth, wind, fire and water, but lacking any flying angels morphing into deadly avenging demons. I was however, at that moment, reminded of Indiana Jones’ plea to his companion, “Marion, don’t look at it. Shut your eyes Marion.” in an attempt to save her life from the wrath of God. In a knee jerk reaction, I found myself yelling the same warning to Jane Austen in heaven. 

3 out of 5 Regency Stars 

Mr. Darcy, Vampyre, by Amanda Grange
Sourcebooks, Landmark, Naperville, Ill (2009)
Trade paperback (308) pages
ISBN: 978-1402236976 

Additional Reviews

Austen Book Sleuth: New Books in the Queue for August

Mr. Darcy, Vampyre, by Amanda Grange (2009)The Jane Austen book sleuth is happy to inform Janeites that many Austen inspired books are heading our way in August, so keep your eyes open for these new titles. 

Fiction (prequels, sequels, retellings, variations, or Regency inspired) 

Mr. Darcy, Vampyre, by Amanda Grange 

Amanda Grange, the best selling author of Mr. Darcy’s Diary continues the story of Pride and Prejudice after the wedding revealing a truly dark secret. Yes, gentle readers, that noble mien and brooding demeanor was all a front to disguise the truth during their courtship, and now on their honeymoon through Europe his new bride Elizabeth will shortly discover that her husband is much more than the proud man she married. Yep, you guessed it! Mr. Darcy is indeed a vampyre. Shocking you say? Quite. (Publisher’s description) Mr. Darcy, Vampyre starts where Pride and Prejudice ends and introduces a dark family curse so perfectly that the result is a delightfully thrilling, spine-chilling, breathtaking read. After reading this dark tale, readers will re-imagine the original Pride and Prejudice and Darcy’s brooding nature and prideful demeanor with new reason – he’s not shy or reserved: he’s a vampire! A dark, poignant and visionary continuation of Austen’s beloved story, this tale is full of danger, darkness and immortal love. Sourcebooks, ISBN: 978-1402236976 

The Plight of the Darcys Brothers, by Marsha Altman (2009)The Plight of the Darcy Brothers: A tale of the Darcys & the Bingleys, by Marsha Altman 

For those who enjoyed the gentle rancor and lively pleasantry of Marsha Altman’s humorous first novel The Darcys & the Bingleys, you will be glad to know the story continues with the second installment in the series. Elizabeth and Darcy travel to the Continent in pursuit of family honor and the seducer who deflowered Elizabeth’s sister Mary leaving her in a family way. In addition to Altman’s imaginative and swashbuckling style, readers will be introduced to new foreign Darcy relations, and treated to her signature a duel at dawn. (Publisher’s description) In this lively second installment, the Darcys and Bingleys are plunged into married life and its many accompanying challenges presented by family and friends. With Jane and Elizabeth away, Darcy and Bingley take on the daunting task of managing their two-year- old children. Mary Bennet returns from the Continent pregnant by an Italian student promised to the church; Darcy and Elizabeth travel to find the father, and discover previously unknown—and shocking—Darcy relations. By the time Darcy discovers that there’s more than one sibling of questionable birth in the family, the ever-dastardly Wickham arrives on the scene to try to seize the Darcy fortune once and for all. Sourcebooks Landmark, ISBN: 978-1402224294 

James Fairfax (2009)James Fairfax, by Jane Austen and Adam Campan 

If Pride and Prejudice and Zombies did not quell your curiosity of other writers lifting Jane Austen’s text and inserting their own kibbles and bits, then get ready for another literary mash-up. First, remove your tar headed Janeite purist bonnet. Second, imagine a gender bending alternate universe. Third, turn off your gaydar cuz Jane Austen’s characters from Emma are in same sex relationships. This will either be extremely clever, or the Post carriage ride from Highbury to hell. Enuff said. (Publisher’s description) It’s same-sex marriage in Jane Austen’s Regency England! In this stunning, gender-bending, stylish dance-of-manners version of Jane Austen’s beloved classic novel Emma — an alternate Regency where gay marriage is commonplace and love is gender-blind — matchmaking Emma Woodhouse tries to find a suitable spouse for her lover Harriet Smith, and is embroiled in the secrets of the relationship between the mysterious and accomplished James Fairfax and the handsome Frank Churchill. Norilana Books, ISBN: 978-1607620389. Read a review on AustenBlog 

Arabella, by Georgette Heyer (2009)Arabella, by Georgette Heyer 

Every month for over a year, Sourcebooks has presented us with a new re-issue of a Georgette Heyer Regency romance classic. After my introduction to Sophy Stanton-Lacy last month in Heyer’s novel The Grand Sophy, it’s hard to imagine that she could produce yet another engaging and unforgettable heroine like her, but Arabella Tallant will both surprise and charm away any doubt that Georgette Heyer is not the most incredibly gifted Regency romance writer ever be placed upon that august pedestal. (Publisher’s description) Daughter of a modest country clergyman, Arabella Tallant is on her way to London when her carriage breaks down outside the hunting lodge of the wealthy Mr. Robert Beaumaris. Her pride stung when she overhears a remark of her host’s, Arabella pretends to be an heiress, a pretense that deeply amuses the jaded Beau. To counter her white lie, Beaumaris launches her into high society and thereby subjects her to all kinds of fortune hunters and other embarrassments. When compassionate Arabella rescues such unfortunate creatures as a mistreated chimney sweep and a mixed-breed mongrel, she foists them upon Beaumaris, who finds he rather enjoys the role of rescuer and is soon given the opportunity to prove his worth in the person of Arabella’s impetuous young brother. Sourcebooks Casablanca, ISBN: 978-1402219467 

Biography 

Jane Austen, by Helen Lefroy (1997)Jane Austen, by Helen Lefroy 

A reprint of the 1997 biography of Jane Austen by Helen Lefroy, a cousin four times removed from Jane’s youthful flirtation Tom Lefroy, and vice-chairman of The Jane Austen Society of the United Kingdom. This short biography is a basic introduction and a quick read at 128 pages. The cover image is from the 1997 edition. (Publisher’s description) The perfect introduction to one of the most-loved novelists of all time. Jane Austen’s reputation rests on the six novels she wrote in her short life – enduringly popular novels which have become part of the fabric of English life, and which have reached new audiences through recent dramatisations on screen and stage. This book, which draws on her letters, describes Jane’s life in the vicarage at Steventon and later at Bath and Chawton, and her relationships with family and friends – especially her beloved sister, Cassandra, and the engaging Tom Lefroy (who it was rumoured was the love of her life). It also describes the parties and balls in country houses and assembly rooms which she attended and the detail of nineteenth-century life which she so sharply observed and which provided the background to her novels. This book is a pleasure for anyone wanting to understand the life of one of our great novelists. The History Press Ltd, ISBN: 978-0752453187 

Austen’s Oeuvre  

Pride and Prejudice (Pengiun Classics Deluxe Edition) 2009Pride and Prejudice: (Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition), by Jane Austen 

Do you judge a book by its cover? Penguin Books is hoping you do, doling out the big bucks and commissioning acclaimed fashion illustrator and sculptor Rueben Toledo to transform Lizzie, Darcy &C into “Couture Classics.” These striking silhouettes might look like stick insect runway models strutting to the black and white ball at Netherfield, but they are actually our favorite literary duo appropriately walking away from each other (Darcy stepping on her dress!). I just imagine that Darcy has just given Lizzy the “be not alarmed madame letter” and it all works for me. Get hip Janeites. We can now all be Austen fashionistas and exhibit our superior designer taste on our bedside tables. Now, (pray forgive) if our husbands, boyfriends, significant others or friends were ever in doubt of our obsession, this will certainly seal the deal. In defense, you can remind them that this new edition with the haute couture cover contains Penguin Classics definitive text and an excellent introduction by Tony Tanner that Paris Hilton won’t read, but she might deem useful as a door stop. Penguin Classics, ISBN: 978-0143105428 

Austen’s Contemporaries & Regency era 

Old Morality (Oxford World's Classics) by Sir Walter Scott (2009)Old Mortality (Oxford World’s Classics), by Sir Walter Scott 

“Also read again, and for the third time at least, Miss Austen’s very finely written novel of Pride and Prejudice. That young lady had a talent for describing the involvements and feelings and characters of ordinary life, which is to me the most wonderful I ever met with. The Big Bow-wow strain I can do myself like any now going; but the exquisite touch, which renders ordinary commonplace things and characters interesting, from the truth of the description and the sentiment, is denied to me. What a pity such a gifted creature died so early!” 14 March 1826 

Sir Walter Scott (1771 – 1832) liked Jane Austen, more than a little. He was one of the first critics to praise her novel Emma when it was published in 1815. A prolific talent, he excelled at writing historical novels in on a grand scale. Old Morality is one of his earlier works in the Waverly series. Written in 1816, Jane Austen could actually have read it before she died the next year. This edition contains an introduction and notes by scholars Jane Stevenson and Peter Davidson. (Publisher’s description) Old Mortality, which many consider the finest of Scott’s Waverley novels, is a swift-moving historical romance that places an anachronistically liberal hero against the forces of fanaticism in seventeenth-century Scotland, in the period infamous as the ‘killing time’. Its central character, Henry Morton, joins the rebels in order to fight Scotland’s royalist oppressors, little as he shares the Covenanters’ extreme religious beliefs. He is torn between his love for a royalist’s granddaughter and his loyalty to his downtrodden countrymen. As well as being a tale of divided loyalties, the novel is a crucial document in the cultural history of modern Scotland. Scott, himself a supporter of the union between Scotland and England, was trying to exorcise the violent past of a country uncomfortably coming to terms with its status as part of a modern United Kingdom. This novel is in itself a significant political document, in which Scott can be seen to be attempting to create a new centralist Scottish historiography, which is not the political consensus of his own time, the seventeenth century, or today. Oxford University Press, USA, ISBN: 978-0199555307  

Until next month, happy reading!

Laurel Ann 

Mr. Darcy, Vampyre, by Amanda Grange – Preview

Mr. Darcy, Vampyre, by Amanda Grange (2009)More vampires. Sourcebooks Landmark announced a major new release by the popular author of Mr. Darcy’s Diary, Amanda Grange entitled Mr. Darcy, Vampyre, available August 11th. It is a continuation of Pride and Prejudice after the wedding, and may explain some of Mr. Darcy’s cold and distant noble mien in the original novel. We recieved the scoop from Amanda Grange herself who kindly sent an excerpt to set the mood along with this image of the lovely new cover art. Mr. Darcy, Vampyre has the distinction of being the first vampire themed novel inspired by Jane Austen’s works to hit the market. I assure you that it will not be the last. At least five more are now in the queue. Here is an preview of the prologue that Amanda kindly shared with us.

December 1802 

My dearest Jane,

My hand is trembling as I write this letter. My nerves are in tatters and I am so altered that I believe you would not recognise me. The past two months have been a nightmarish whirl of strange and disturbing circumstances, and the future…

Jane, I am afraid. If anything happens to me, remember that I love you and that my spirit will always be with you, though we may never see each other again. The world is a cold and frightening place where nothing is as it seems. It was all so different a few short months ago. When I awoke on my wedding morning, I thought myself the happiest woman alive… 

Amanda clarifys by telling me that “the book goes back to the idyllic wedding day in October and we gradually find out what has reduced Elizabeth to such a nervous state.”

You can preorder the book for August 11th delivery and visit Amanda Grange’s blog – Mr. Darcy, Vampyre – to read all the latest news on this exciting new novel. Can’t wait!

Update: Read my review of Mr. Darcy, Vampyre here