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Readingomnivore Reviews

Discussion in 'Book Reviews' started by readingomnivore, Mar 25, 2014.

  1. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    DARCY VS LADY CATHERINE is the second in Gianna Thomas's Darcy Versus series of novellas based on Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. It was published in digital format in 2018.

    When at the Meryton assembly Elizabeth Bennet overhears his insult and confronts Fitzwilliam Darcy for his poor manners, she sets in motion machinations that lead to murder. Elizabeth's fiery spirit and beauty attract Darcy as has no other woman. Soon both Darcy and Charles Bingley are calling on the two oldest Bennet sisters, despite Caroline Bingley's assumed superiority to Jane and her hatred of Elizabeth. She hires George Wickham to ruin Elizabeth's chance to marry Darcy. William Collins advises Lady Cnatherine de Bourgh of Darcy's interest in Elizabeth, leading her to plan that Collins marry his cousin by force following Mr. Bennet's sudden death. In addition, Darcy and the colonel must assist their cousin Anne to take control of Rosings from her mother.

    Darcy's viewpoint is the focus, with only occasional cuts to show Elizabeth's feelings. Most of the major characters are reasonable outgrowths from Austen's originals. Bingley is more assertive in dealing with Caroline, Mrs. Bennet is a bit more sympathetic in her mourning and concern for Elizabeth, while Caroline, Lady Catherine are appropriately malevolent, though quickly foiled. The major change is in William Collins, most definitely not what he seems. No more lest I do a spoiler.

    The amount of action DARCY VS LADY CATHERINE exceeds full development in novella length. Caroline's plot with Wickham, Lady Catherine's scheme, Mr. Bennet's death, Collins's past as revealed in his journal, Anne's displacing Lady Catherine--each deserves to center a focused story, not to be rushed through as part of a conglomerated plot. Collins's backstory is distinctly contemporary, totally out of Austen's oeuvre. The epilogue is excessively detailed.

    A common sense problem with the plot involves distances, mode of transport, and travel time between places and events. For example, Collins at Longbourn writes Lady Catherine news of Darcy's involvement with Elizabeth, dispatching it express to her at Rosings. Before noon the next day, Lady Catherine descends to berate and threaten Elizabeth. Another problem is the mistaken formation of plurals and possessives of names.

    DARCY VS LADY CATHERINE has many intriguing plot possibilities that are more summaries than presentation of action. It's sad to see good ideas not well carried through. (C+)
     
  2. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    INSPIRED REFLECTIONS is a novella, the title piece in Cassandra B. Leigh's Kindle bundle with HUNSFORD REDUX and "Immovable Dislike." All are variants on Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. The collection was published in 2018.

    The most important change in INSPIRED REFLECTIONS is in the timing of events. Beginning while she is at Netherfield nursing Jane, Darcy dreams of Elizabeth Bennet's inviting his attentions and returning his feelings. After apologizing and explaining his behavior at the Meryton assembly and receiving Elizabeth's forgiveness, and walking with her two mornings after her return home to Longbourn, he declares himself. After a one-day contretemps caused by Collins and Lady Catherine de Bourgh's interference, he proposes at the Netherfield ball, Elizabeth accepts, and Mr. Bennet consents. HEA.

    I am not certain of the point in this variation. The only significant addition to the canonical story is Darcy's sequence of dreams. Angst is absent. Darcy soon overcomes any doubts about Elizabeth as a suitable wife; opposition from Collins, Caroline Bingley, and Lady Catherine is summarily dismissed. Darcy deals with George Wickham the day the scoundrel appears in Meryton. Mr. Collins does not get the chance to propose. Elizabeth's confusion about Darcy's attitude toward her and her own feelings for him provides most of the conflict.

    Pleasant, but why bother? (C)
     
    Last edited: May 30, 2018
  3. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    HUNSFORD REDUX is the second novella in Cassandra B. Leigh's Kindle bundle with INSPIRED REFLECTIONS and "Immovable Dislike," published in 2018. Variants on Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, all three center on Darcy's disastrous proposal to Elizabeth Bennet.

    The only important change in HUNSFORD REDUX is that Darcy gives his explanation and apologies for the actions Elizabeth condemns face to face, rather than in a letter. Shocked speechless by Darcy's revelation of George Wickham's history, Elizabeth gives Darcy no definite answer to his proposal. By the next morning, she has reconsidered her perception of Darcy and agrees to a courtship. Darcy sets about reuniting Bingley and Jane. There's a quickly resolved misunderstanding when the men ignore the sisters' plan for how and when to approach Mr. Bennet for his consent. HEA.

    Angst is intense but very brief. Elizabeth's change of heart toward Darcy is too quick to be believable, literally overnight. It's not clear that Darcy has learned his lesson about ignoring Elizabeth's advice.

    The neatest touch in HUNSFORD REDUX is Darcy's presenting Elizabeth a posy the morning after their confrontation, when he's still uncertain of her response. He gathers daffodils, in the language of flowers conveying regret, respect, unrequited love, and "you're the only one." Nice, but hardly sufficient to justify the story. (C)
     
  4. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    "Immovable Dislike" is a short story included with INSPIRED REFLECTIONS and HUNSFORD REDUX in Cassandra B. Leigh's Kindle bundle of novella variants on Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. It was published in 2018.

    Darcy is outraged when Elizabeth Bennet takes him to task over the behavior that produced her refusal of his proposal of marriage and only increases her fury by justifying his disrespect for her family. Colonel Fitzwilliam, responsible for Elizabeth's knowledge of Darcy's interference between Bingley and Jane, enlists Charlotte Lucas Collin's aid to bring them together. The colonel explains Wickham's history to Charlotte, who imparts it to Elizabeth, while he persuades Darcy to apologize and rectify his mistakes to win Elizabeth's heart. Darcy's explanatory letter with a revised, appropriate proposal leads her to agree to courtship. HEA.

    The change from canon is Darcy's fury at Elizabeth's rejection. Both suffer doubt and confusion but little angst. His realization of error and Elizabeth's change of heart are both too quick to be realistic, both within a matter of hours. I assume the title is meant to be ironic. Again, why bother? (C)
     
  5. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    LONDON HOLIDAY is Nicole Clarkston's variant on Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. It was published in digital format in 2018.

    To force the marriage between her nephew and daughter Anne, having suborned his London servants, Lady Catherine de Bourgh drugs Fitzwilliam Darcy to set up a compromise that he will be compelled to honor. Fortunately, Darcy's valet Wilson overheard footmen discussing the scheme, but not before Darcy drinks the dosed brandy. To escape his aunt's plot, Darcy leaves his home in the uniform of a footman; he passes out in the street before reaching sanctuary with Colonel Fitzwilliam. Elizabeth and Kitty Bennet, refugees from scandal generated by Mary and Lydia, Mr. Collins's unwanted attentions to Elizabeth, and their mother's pressure to marry forthwith, are visiting the Gardiners. Returning from the theater, they see the stricken Darcy and, at Elizabeth's insistence, take him to Gracechurch Street where he sleeps the night in the servants' quarters. At Darcy House, Anne is discovered in his bed, and the manhunt begins to find Darcy and force him to marry Anne that every day. Lady Catherine has even bought a special license (fraudulently) and imported Mr. Collins to perform the ceremony. Thus begins a day in which Darcy, in the guise of a footman, spends the day with Elizabeth, visiting London sights as they try to catch up with Mr. Gardiner, who can alibi Darcy and foil Lady Catherine's cunning plan.

    LONDON HOLIDAY is a curious amalgam of modern attitudes toward feminism and Regency demands for rigid propriety. It's difficult to accept Austen's Elizabeth spending a day alone with Darcy, disguised as her footman, when she knows only his first name. She even tours Vauxhall Gardens with him and allows him to teach her (gasp!) the waltz. Darcy demonstrates the same smug superiority to Trade and to lower social orders as his aunt; his change in attitude is slow to come and not entirely convincing. For a man who professes to scorn the ton and its hypocrisy, he's surprisingly compliant with its strictures. Frequent cuts between individuals offer some characterization but can be distracting.

    The plot is picaresque, events in Elizabeth and Darcy's holiday from responsibility subject only to Clarkston's need to have them miss Mr. Gardiner. Sense of place is not well developed, especially considering the protagonists' tour. Clarkston has Mrs. Jennings. Charlotte and Mr. Palmer from Sense and Sensibility encounter Elizabeth, whom they'd met at the theater, with Darcy at Vauxhall Gardens. Their identities have nothing to do with their function in the story. Darcy's pointing out Scotland Yard to Elizabeth is an anachronism. The Metropolitan Police Service, generally called Scotland Yard because the rear entrance of its first headquarters at 4 Whitehall Place opened onto Great Scotland Yard Street, was not founded until 1829.

    LONDON HOLIDAY is an unusual variant as long as one is willing to suspend disbelief. (B)
     
  6. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    DEADLY GAMES is the fifth book in Rich Curtin's police procedural series featuring Deputy Sheriff Manny Rivera of Moab, Grand County, Utah. It was published digitally in 2015.

    To free funding for a Department of the Interior equipment contract, Wallace Lamont, chairman of Harkness and Lamont Industries. plans the defeat of Matthew Monroe, incumbent of Utah's Fifth Congressional District, which includes Moab. Monroe, a strong environmentalist and chairman of the sub-committee controlling appropriations for Interior projects, refuses to allow the omnibus bill to come to a vote because he opposes another project. With the primary only two weeks away and Monroe with a strong lead in the polls, Lamont sends a dirty-tricks specialist to orchestrate Monroe's downfall by resurrecting the Sagebrush Rebellion, a 1980s conflict over appropriate use of BLM lands. As vandalisms escalate, tension rises between ranchers leasing range land and environmentalists, while negative ads, posters, and talk-radio condemns Monroe as applauding the incidents against ranchers. Chasing the fence-cutter, BLM ranger Penny Daughtery is killed near the scene of the latest incident. As first responder, Manny is lead investigator until the FBI assumes jurisdiction because Daughtery was a federal law officer killed on public land. Manny's job becomes the missing person case on Jason Baron, an EPA scientist collecting water samples to monitor pollution. As Manny investigates, he realizes that the latest vandalism, Daugherty's death, and Baron's disappearance all occurred near the head of Beaver Canyon within a short time. Can they be related?

    Characterization is strong. Manny and the cast of continuing characters are realistic, even if some are not always admirable. I like that Curtin gives insight into the political operative engineering the dirty tricks, making him believable. Manny''s doubts about staying in Moab, given the current sheriff's lack of professionalism and girl friend Dr. Amy Rousseau's approaching relocation, continue. Sense of place and Manny's love for the high desert country are lyrically depicted.

    Curtin skillfully keeps the cases apparently unrelated, yet he manages a surprise ending that is logical and believable. Manny, abetted by BLM Agent Adam Dunne, again tempers the letter of the law with mercy. I do enjoy this series. (A-)
     
  7. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    THE COMPANION OF MY FUTURE LIFE, written by Jack Caldwell, is a variant on Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. It was published in digital format in 2013.

    Change from Austen's original is minimal. Over half the text appears lifted bodily from Austen, including most of the dialogue. The most important change is Mr. Collins, getting a glimpse of her lush figure, proposes to Mary Bennet instead of Elizabeth; he and Mary are soon married. At Easter both Elizabeth and Jane Bennet visit Hunsford, where Jane hears firsthand Darcy's explanation to Elizabeth of his behavior and history with Wickham. Jane also accompanies Elizabeth and the Gardiners on the tour of Derbyshire, where she and Elizabeth are reunited with Bingley and Darcy at Pemberley.

    Elizabeth, Darcy, and most other characters are logical continuation of Austen's originals. Both Bingley and Jane are less compliant, stronger at standing up for themselves. Several canonical figures are developed from their usual marginal roles. Mary Bennet Collins quickly learns to guide (manipulate) Mr. Collins toward more appropriate behavior, and she becomes Anne de Bourgh's friend and supporter. Anne herself is healthier, more active, and determined to choose her own husband, who will not be Mr. Darcy. Kitty Bennet matures under Jane's guidance and develops responsibility through caring for the Gardiner children during their parents' holiday. Caldwell imports Captain Frederick Tilney (Northanger Abbey), setting up a sequel.

    There's little external conflict in THE COMPANION OF MY FUTURE LIFE. Opposition from Lady Catherine de Bourgh and Caroline Bingley is quashed quickly; George Wickham, found and married to Lydia forthwith, presents no real problem. Editing is generally good, though Gardiner is on occasion rendered as "Gardner."

    I am most seriously displeased by the amount of text cut-and-paste from Pride and Prejudice. How much of an original work, even if it is in public domain, can a modern writer incorporate before the variant becomes plagiarized? No grade.
     
  8. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    "The Chocolate War" is a Bruno, Chief of Police, short story published digitally in 2018 by Martin Walker,.

    Léopold, a Sengalese stall holder for years in St. Denis's Tuesday market, and Cali, his nephew from Paris, introduce quality coffees and chocolate imported from Africa. Not are these items delicious, the pair's prices undercut those of local café owner Fauquet. Fauquet complains to Bruno and the mayor that their competition is unfair because Léopold does not pay minimum wage or benefits to Cali, keep tax records, or deal with health regulations. A complaint to tax or health authorities could endanger the St. Denis market, an important part of the local economy since 1319. It's up to Bruno Courrèges to resolve the problem.

    Sense of place is outstanding, especially within the short story length. "Bruno always enjoyed watching as the stalls ws that oncere loaded with cheeses, sausages, fruits, vegetables, ducks, geese, fish, oysters, mushrooms, chickens, and so much more. The items on display measured the change in French and tourist tastes. Only a single stall continued to offer te traditional aprons and housecoats that once clad almost all the farmers' wives. Several offered comic T-shirts, miniskirts,and the kind of metal-studded high-heeled shoes that once were associated with unusual sexual tastes. Organic soaps, exotic spices, and obscurely named teas that Bruno had never heard of were increasingly on display, along with hand-carved wooden toys, used books, and garish covers for mobile phones." (7)

    With nothing new in characterization except Fauquet and Léopold's histories with the mayor, Bruno demonstrates his usual skill in producing a win-win situation for both competitors. (B+)
     
  9. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    PRIDE AND PROPOSALS, by Victoria Kincaid, is one of the more interesting variants on Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. It was published in digital format in 2015.

    Colonel Richard Fitzwilliam unexpectedly inherits Hargrave Manor and a small fortune from a maternal aunt; he immediately proposes marriage to Elizabeth Bennet, who accepts. Thus when Fitzwilliam Darcy arrives at the Hunsford parsonage to propose to Elzabeth, he's greeted by the newly-engaged couple, from whom he conceals his despair. He deals with George Wickham and Lydia Bennet, insisting that the colonel take credit, then shortly thereafter, leaves England with Georgiana, to visit their uncle Clive Darcy in Philadelphia. They return after a year, to discover that the Matlocks' opposition, then illnesses and death in the Bennet family with subsequent mourning, had postponed the wedding. Shortly before it was finally scheduled, the colonel was injured in a riding accident and died from infection of his wound. To provide for Elizabeth, he willed her the townhouse in London and monies for her support. Still in mourning for her fiancé, she now lives alone in London. Darcy must deal with his role in Georgiana's Society debut, his continuing love and desire for Elizabeth, his Fitzwilliam family's pressure to marry, his jealousy and distrust of all Elizabeth's potential suitors, his conviction that Elizabeth thinks poorly of him, and his obsessive guilt at loving his cousin's betrothed. Then Wickham comes back.

    I like that Elizabeth and the colonel are marrying for love. I like that he makes financial provision for Elizabeth when he realizes he is dying. I like that Darcy honors the promise made Richard Fitzwilliam at his and Elizabeth's engagement to support their relationship.

    I have some problems. One is dating the story. The only indicator is a comment on escalating naval tension between the United States and Great Britain that might prevent a future visit. However, incidents between the U. S. and British Navies and merchant marine vessels had increased throughout the British war with Revolutionary France and the Napoleonic Wars, with major engagements as early as June 1807 when HMS Leopard fired on, boarded, and impressed into the British Navy four sailors off the frigate USS Chesapeake. By 1811 or 1812, the dates traditionally given for events in Pride and Prejudice, it's unlikely that Darcy would risk Georgiana at sea. A second is Darcy's assurance that letters from England will reach him in Philadelphia in two weeks. I don't think so. Another is the "told rather than shown" quality of the external conflict. Reducing Darcy's internal conflict and developing the external problems would make a stronger read.

    Much of Darcy's angst in PRIDE AND PROPOSALS is self-inflicted. His pride and determination to conceal his emotions, even from those he loves, creates most of his problems with Elizabeth. For a man who professes to find disguise abhorrent, he does it well. Since his is the dominant point of view, his misery gets tedious. I do not like that Darcy deals with his pain by running way to America, then back and forth between Pemberley and London, and by excessive drinking, Confused by Darcy's actions and intentions, doubtful that she can love again and especially a man so different from Richard Fitzwilliam, Elizabeth is believable. However, she's TSTL. After Wickham grabs and threatens her in Hyde Park, vandalism of her garden, attempted blackmail, more threats of violence, stones thrown through the windows of her house, and gossip planted to destroy her reputation, with Wickham at large, Elizabeth heads off to Matlock to visit Richard's grave, to which she goes alone, to be physically assaulted. Then, after shooting him in the leg to free herself, she goes close enough to the wounded Wickham to be grabbed and subdued. She should have better sense.

    PRIDE AND PROPOSALS is a unique (in my experience) variant, well worth the time. (A-)
     
  10. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    TO LOVE MR. DARCY is Martine J. Roberts's 2016 variant on Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. It was published in digital format in 2016.

    The morning after the Netherfield ball, Fitzwilliam Darcy visits to ask her father for Elizabeth Bennet in marriage. Mr. Bennet consents and, when Elizabeth objects, gives her the choice between Collins and Darcy. Elizabeth is thus engaged to wed Darcy in four weeks. Complications ensue when Collins informs Lady Catherine de Bourgh, who tries to force Darcy into marrying her daughter, and Caroline Bingley schemes with George Wickham to render Elizabeth forever ineligible. Meanwhile, Darcy suffers in his desire for Elizabeth's love as she sorts her confused emotions about her fiancé.

    One strong element in TO LOVE MR. DARCY is a story line that balances internal and external conflict. Moving most of the story from Netherfield and Longbourn to London opens possibilities for dramatic action. Wickham's gruesome end is ironically appropriate, though as common in Austen fan fiction, Caroline Bingley escapes unscathed.

    Another strength is that most characters are believble extrapolations of Austen's originals. However, Darcy is more taciturn about his feelings for Elizabeth and, aware that Wickham is on the loose in London, unaccountably negligent about security for Elizabeth and Georgiana. Mr. Bennet's decision that Elizabeth marry Darcy against her will is inconsistent with her being his favorite daughter. Neither would he allow Jane and Elizabeth to dine with Bingley and Darcy at Netherfield with no chaperone, nor permit Elizabeth to stay in Darcy's London home with only Georgiana in residence. This Edward Hurst is Roberts's creation. I refuse to believe Caroline Bingley capable of falling in love at first sight.

    A few problems--anachronistic words (i.e., fiasco), subject-verb agreement, and punctuation creating sentence fragments--eluded editing. Formatting changes produced eccentric spacing of quoted letters. Details of setting are inconsistent. Darcy and Elizabeth become engaged to be married in four weeks on Christmas Eve; winter is enough advanced that a few days later the Bennet sisters are snowbound overnight at Netherfield. Yet a week before the wedding, Longbourn's garden is lush with red and gold leaves, tasty berries, and fallen hazelnuts. When, then--autumn or winter?

    TO LOVE MR. DARCY is a pleasing variant. (A-)
     
  11. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    Keith Moray's THE GATHERING MURDERS is the first in his Inspector Torquil McKinnon police procedurals set on West Uist, one of Scotland's Outer Hebrides. It is available in free or inexpensive digital format.

    Before the opening of the West Uist Gathering and Literary Festival, an elderly woman had been murdered in Glasgow; her killer muses on his earlier murder of her husband, and plans revenge on others under the cover of the celebrations. Newly promoted Inspector Torquil "Piper" McKinnon, head of the West Uist Division of the Hebrides Constabulary, prepares professionally to cope with the influx of visitors and personally to compete for the Silver Quaich, awarded the Supreme Champion piper of the Outer Isles. Local poet Ranald Buchanan, aka the Gaelic Bard, dies at his croft on opening day, apparently an accident. McKinnon's former lover Fiona Cullen, Scottish Queen of Crime, hints in her festival speech that her roman-à-clef in progress, Dead Writers Tell No Tales, will focus on irregularities in the publishing business; at odds with her agent, her publisher, and Angus MacLeod, the laird and owner of a chain of cut-rate bookshops, she's murdered that afternoon. McKinnon is officer in charge of a serial killer case, but is it rooted some twenty years in past or in current events?

    I like several features of THE GATHERING MURDERS. Torquil McKinnon and his uncle Lachlan McKinnon, "the Padre" who reared him after his parents died in a boating accident, are attractive protagonists. Bits of back story and details of personality make them believable. Moray individualizes McKinnon's subordinates--DS Morag Driscoll, PC Ewan McPhee, and special constables the Drummond twins--to, form a realistic cadre that should be interesting to follow.

    Sense of place is good with an unusual setting. "The crescent-shaped harbour of Kyleshiffin thrummed with activity as a couple of hundred passengers in their cars, minibuses and bicycles rolled off the Laird o' the Isles ferry. The main street, a half-moon of multi-coloured shop fronts and businesses that had passed down through the generations, resembled an island kasbah. Flags and bunting hung from the lamp posts proclaiming a welcome in both English and Gaelic for the West Uist Gathering and Literary Festival. Locals and holiday makers ambled around market stalls clustered along the habourmouth, inspecting lobsters, crabs, local crafts and second-hand ephemera. Beyond the wall a flotilla of assorted fishing boats, yachts and launches bobbed up and down in the water, attesting to the fact that Kyleshiffin was still both a working and a pleasure harbour." (20)

    A few errors in commas with nouns of direct address and homophones slip through editing. Brand names are annoyingly overused. Too many tangential characters and frequent cuts between characters interrupt the flow of the action. McKinnon's failure to declare his prior relationship with Fiona Cullen is unlikely, a plot device to leave him in charge of the case. My major complaint is the over-elaboration of the plot. Moray skillfully keeps attention focused on current events, but resolution of the murders soars into fantasy. I can't say more without doing a spoiler.

    Since THE GATHERING MURDERS is first in a series and I like the character and setting, I will read the next, hoping for stronger plotting. (C)
     
  12. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    ELIZABETH'S CHOICE is Gianna Thomas's sequel to her 2016's Darcy Chooses, a variant on Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. It was published in free or inexpensive digital format in 2018. Unless to establish the connection between the two adaptations, I see no significance of the title.

    Darcy and Elizabeth, blissfully married, set out on a month-long wedding trip to Ireland. What ensues is a travelogue, from Pemberley to Liverpool to Dublin to Cork, back to Liverpool, home to Pemberley. Darcy and Elizabeth take in the sights of Dublin, including Trinity College Library and The Book of Kells, as well as Patrick O'Malley's pub for music, Irish dancing, and colcannon, before moving on to Cork. There they visit Darcy's friend Jonathan Jeffreys, owner of Blarney Castle, though they do not kiss the Blarney Stone. Darcy gives Elizabeth back stories on his parents' love match and family life, plus details of his business dealings, including his part ownership of the Chesapeake Bay Shipping Company and active role in the sale of its Baltimore clipper ships in England. Yes, Mr Darcy is (gasp of horror) in Trade!

    ELIZABETH'S CHOICE shows Elizabeth and Darcy's attitudes and behavior as modern rather than contemporary. They engage in public displays of affection; Darcy''s confides to his ship's captain and Jeffreys his belief that Elizabeth is already pregnant; Elizabeth and Abigail Jeffreys address each other as intimate friends, by given names, upon introduction. Elizabeth impresses all she meets with the depth of her knowledge and curiosity, neither of which she's reluctant to reveal, and wins the hearts of the sailors with her joy at seeing dolphins and a whale. Darcy, repulsed by the kill on his first fox hunt, no longer rides to hounds, hunting only to cull his estates' growing deer herds, the venison to feed needy tenants; he investigates potential owners of the clipper ships and refuses to sell to anyone associated with the growing trade in opium. Both are unrealistically democratic in their dealings--always gracious, grateful, generous, respectful to all.

    Several things irk me. One is Darcy's "waggling" his eyebrows at Elizabeth so often I wonder if he suffers from Tourette's. A second is excessive use of "pernickety" to characterize Darcy. A third is Elizabeth's pinching of Darcy so often the poor man must be black and blue. Both use anachronistic words: mesmerize, siblings, stodgy. The most troublesome anachronism is Elizabeth's offer to debate the Shakespeare authorship question, a controversy that did not emerge until the mid-nineteenth century in reaction to Bardology, the Romantics' worship of Shakespeare as the creator second only to God. Becoming important in the early twentieth century, the authorship question grew out of doubt that middle-class, non-University William Shakespeare of Stratford-on-Avon possessed the academic and social background needed to write the plays attributed to him. Wonder if Lizzy's a Stratfordian?

    ~~~POSSIBLE SPOILERS~~~

    There's little external conflict. George Wickham, previously thought permanently exiled to America, makes a brief reappearance in Cork with his friend Denny. Shot while attempting to kidnap Elizabeth, before he dies Wickham discloses that his karma finally came home--he'd been castrated by an Irish farmer he'd made a cuckold. During the return to Liverpool, Darcy's clipper, the Pride of Pemberley. is badly damaged in a vicious squall. Much of the action in ELIZABETH'S CHOICE occurs in the Darcys' various bedchambers and does not involve conflict; sexual content is not graphic. Events seem summarized with little sense of direct action. Thomas's research is evident, often obstructing the narrative flow.

    ELIZABETH'S CHOICE is okay if you don't expect much similarity to Austen except for a few characters' names. (C-)
     
  13. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    "How to Rescue a Lady" is Gisèlle Vézelay's short story variant of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. It was published in free or inexpensive digital format in 2018.

    Action is easily summarized. Darcy comes to Longbourn three days after the ball at Netherfield, determined to explain George Wickham's history to Elizabeth. Kept waiting in the hall, he overhears Mr. Collins's responsel to Elizabeth's refusal of his proposal. Darcy intervenes to send Collins on his way, but Elizabeth is irritated by his assumption that she needed rescue. The next day in Meryton, she learns that Darcy has intervened again, this time to compel Wickham's marriage to a young woman who'd borne his child. On the third day, when Elizabeth is stuck descending a tree after her own rescue of a stranded kitten, Darcy again comes to her aid, thus setting up her agreement to his courtship.

    "How to Rescue a Lady" is a comfortable read, offering nothing new in characterization or dramatic action. (B+)
     
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    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    "It's in His Kiss" is a short story by Lady Waller, a variant on Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. It was published in e-book format in 2017.

    Minutes after his disastrous Hunsford proposal to Elizabeth Bennet, Fitzwilliam Darcy returns to the parsonage to explain his relationship with George Wickham. Interrupted by the Collinses' return from Rosings, she and Darcy arrange to walk the next morning. Mr. Collins's insistence on acting as chaperone leads Darcy and Elizabeth to use code names and to out-walk him, lest he overhear and report Georgina's story to Lady Catherine. Elizabeth believes Darcy and, in response to his assurance of continuing regard, kisses him. Later Jane assures Elizabeth that the kiss guarantees she and Darcy will meet again. End of story.

    This precis is bare-bone but nearly as exciting as the story. Nothing is new--no character development, no drama, little angst on either part, the only change Darcy's decision to talk, not write, his explanation to Elizabeth. The most exciting action is Mr. Collins's swallowing a bug during the walk. Don't bother. (F)
     
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    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    MANSFIELD PARSONAGE is Kyra C. Kramer's variant on Jane Austen's Mansfield Park, retelling the story from Mary Crawford's point of view. It was published in digital format in 2016. Mansfield Park is my least favorite Austen novel, so I hoped to enjoy a version with a more appealing protagonist. I am disappointed.

    Kramer makes Mary Crawford into a thoroughly modern woman in almost every respect. She is well-educated, with clear-insight to everyone except her brother Henry and Fanny Price; she's actively interested in politics, supporting liberal reforms including universal male suffrage and the abolition of slavery. The only faintly Regency characteristic is her insistence that women obey the rules of propriety in sexual relations; even in that, her main concern is the probability of scandal and social ostracism, not morality. The sin is not so much in adultery as in being found out. Mary is quick to mock covertly anything and anyone who fails to meet her exacting standards, except for brother Henry, a serial seducer whose narcissistic behavior she excuses as the women's fault; her emotional involvement with him is obsessive, if not borderline incestuous. She is blithely unaware of her own selfishness; everything she does or says or wants is calculated to maintain herself as a leader of the Ton and/or to make herself feel superior.

    I don't much like Fanny Price. She's a dweeb though, as the Bertrams' poor relation (i.e., unpaid go-fer) under constant verbal abuse from Mrs. Norris, she had no chance to be anything else. However, she does not deserve the hatchet job Kramer performs on her, up to and including Mary calling her a "whited sculpture [sepulcher] that stank of a charnel house on the inside." (478) Fanny's offense is to resent Mary's monopolization of Edmund Bertram, whom Fanny loves.

    Part of my irritation comes from MANSFIELD PARSONAGE's length, 479 pages. Not only does Kramer detail practically every episode that occurs in Mary's presence in the original story and add scenes at the parsonage and with friends in London, she inserts long discussions and ruminations. Topics include the activities of the Royal family, Whig and Tory politics, current scandals in the Ton, drawers versus step-ins for women, writers including Byron and literary works ranging from poetry to horrid novels to the Epic of Gilgamesh, contraceptive devices, Brighton's attractions, conditions in India, Napoleon's invasion of Russia, Britain's role in Egypt, the joys of London, and the Luddite movement. Both the depth of Kramer's research and its products are obvious, too much so.

    Editing as MANSFIELD PARSONAGE opens is good, but it quickly deteriorates. Anachronistic words abound, including slang (e.g., "scuzzy" from the 1960s, "squirrelly" from 1928, "snit" from the 1930s, "uber-modesty", "stuffed his gob"), homophones, and misspelled words. Henry and Mary use a scale of one to ten to rate the Prices' home in Portsmouth--Henry gives it a four. Grammar mistakes include verb forms ("lie"-"lay", "has ate"), parts of speech (verb "loathe" for adjective "loath"), and a possessive pronoun ("her's"). Kramer uses words for which neither the New Oxford American Dictionary nor the Unabridged Merriam-Webster on-line shows definitions; nigmenog, xylomancy, etourderie, epicaricacy. Sometimes a set of quotation marks does not both open and close. Henry refers to plans to improve Everingham made at Winchester and Cambridge, but later refers to a friend known since their time at Eton.

    I do appreciate some Regency literary references. The Prices' neighbors in Portsmouth in 1813 are the Dickens family, who celebrate the first birthday of their son Charles, who'd not been expected to live, with a dinner to which the Mr. and Mrs. Price are not invited. Mary reads but does not comment on both Sense and Sensibility and the author's new novel, Pride and Prejudice. At a dinner in London, Mary meets a Mr. Knightley, who bores her about his father-in-law, and his wife, who talks too much (Emma). Still, the best one-word description I find for MANSFIELD PARSONAGE is a good Austen one--pretentious. (C)
     
  16. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    DEATHLY WIND is the second book in Keith Moray's police procedural series featuring Inspector Torquil McKinnon of the West Uist Division, Hebrides Constabulary. Originally published in 2007, it was reissued in digital format in 2018.

    After compassionate leave following the death of a former lover (The Gathering Murders), Torquil "Piper" McKinnon returns to West Uist to find that his friend and subordinate Constable Ewan McPhee has been missing for three days and is presumed drowned at sea. The people of the Wee Kingdom, grieving the death of fellow crofter Gordon MacDonald, are divided by controversy over the nearby golden eagles, regarded by some as vermin to be exterminated despite laws for their protection. Also causing agitation is the arrival from Glasgow of the new laird Jack McArdle, owner of Dunshiffen Castle; he plans to displace them with a wind farm. His callous tactics and his minions' bullying attitude win him no friends. As McArdle forwards his plan, disappearances (McPhee and the Morrison family), arson, and suspicious deaths ensue.
    Setting is fundamental in DEATHLY WIND. "The Wee Kingdom was almost another island of the archipelago that formed West Uist. It was roughly star-shaped peninsula with steep sea cliffs, home to thousands of fulmars and gannets, facing the Atlantic Ocean on its north-west coastline. Gradually the terrain descended to sea level at its most westerly point, where three successive basalt stacks jutted out of the sea. On the top of the last one was the ruins of the old West Uist lighthouse and the derelict shell of the keeper's cottage. Moving inland, the machair gave way to lush undulating hills and gullies surrounding the small central freshwater Loch Linne. To its inhabitants, this oft-time wind- and sandstorm-swept islet was heaven on earth. The name, the Wee Kingdom, had been coined back in 1746 by the families that farmed the islet after the Jacobite laird, Donal MacLeod had granted the land in perpetuity to them and their descendants and heirs in gratitude for the sanctuary they had given the fugitive Bonnie Prince Charlie..." (21) The threat to this unique community underpins both plot and characters.

    Moray is good at eccentric yet believable characters like Megan Munro, obsessed with protecting hedgehogs in her "Mistress Prickleback Sanctuary" from both eagle and human predators. The West Uist police form a realistic community, professional yet close friends. I like that the calm center of the unit is Sergeant Morag Driscoll, widowed mother of three bairns, skilled, perceptive, and well-respected, not the more volatile Piper. Details of daily activities and personal life lend verisimilitude. Moray uses other continuing Kyleshillin characters economically. One editing glitch--Vincent Gilfilllan is called Vincent Fitzpatrick at one point.

    DEATHLY WIND is reminiscent of a Golden Age plot in which nothing and no one are what they seem, with multiple crimes committed by multiple villains with multiple motives. Frequent shifts of focus between characters sometimes impede the flow of the action, but Moray manages one neat surprise ending that is both logical and satisfying. (B+)
     
  17. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    NTRIGUE AT THE BALL is the second book in Penelope Swan's Dark Darcy mystery series based on Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. It was published in digital format in 2015. Each book consists of a mystery (both to date involving highwayman "Wicked George," here identified as Wickham) tied to the developing relationship between Elizabeth Bennet and Fiitzwilliam Darcy.

    ~~~DEFINITE SPOILERS~~~

    I am whimsy impaired, finding it difficult to suspend disbelief when a story line offends my common sense. INTRIGUE AT THE BALL offends it greatly. My first doubts involve the chinoiserie music box given Mary Bennet by Uncle Gardiner. By the very name, chinoiserie refers to Chinese products and influence, but the box comes with a Japanese Sakura curse. Japan did not open to Western trade until the mid-nineteenth century. So, is the music box Japanese or Chinese? How likely is it that Mr. Bennet would have in his library Legends, Folklore, and Superstitions of the Far East, so comprehensive that it details the curse and includes the symptoms of the disease and death it produces if opened by someone not its proper owner?

    Other problems involve Wicked George. He takes Mr. Collins's purse at gunpoint, then steals Charles Bingley's horse to escape. It's not clear if he's masked, but Darcy sees and recognizes him. Not only does Darcy not identify Wickham, but Collins and Bingley apparently do not report the robberies to the local magistrate. Hiding out near Lucas Lodge where he finds Elizabeth Bennet injured, Wickham wears a red coat, just what one chooses for concealment in the woods. On that occasion, he reveals his identity, conides his version of history with Darcy, and promises to dance with Elizabeth at Bingley's masquerade ball. There Darcy closely observes Elizabeth dancing with the masked Wickham. Knowing that Wickham is in the area, how believable is it that Darcy fails to recognize him from his movements and gestures? Seeing a face is not necessary to identify someone known since childhood. Wickham has no apparent connection with the militia, which raises additional practical questions. Where does he get an officer's uniform for his costume, and how does he join the officers' party without arousing suspicion of a stranger in their midst? Masks would be donned on arrival at Netherfield, not before.

    More objections arise from events at the masquerade ball. It's possible that Wickham could steal Mrs. Rochdale's diamond tiara without anyone noticing. How does he, without being observed, stuff it into the body cavity of a roast chicken on a banquet table in a room crowded with guests? What happens if the chicken is carved for serving, and how does he plan to retrieve the tiara later? A young lady dancing near Wickham and his partner reports overhearing him call her "Miss Bennet" in a context that implies she is his accomplice, but the woman doesn't see which Miss Bennet. She'd observed the pair closely, yet she fails to describe the attire of Wickham's partner. Though masked, the Bennet girls wear distinctly different costumes, making them easy to distinguish.

    Darcy's explanation of the illness produced, supposedly, by opening Mary's cursed music box (which Bingley expressly asked her to bring to the ball and share with his guests, its being a novelty) is fantastic. He attributes the outbreak to guests' eating cheese imported from America, toxic from being made from milk contaminated by white snakeroot consumed by the cows. "Milk sickness," endemic in the American Midwest and on the frontier, killed Mary Hanks Lincoln, mother of President Abraham Lincoln. In Hertfordshire? I don't think so.

    What insults my common sense most is the change in Elizabeth Bennet. She met Wicked George twice at Netherfield (The Netherfield Affair), she is present and recognizes him when he robs Collins and Bingley, yet she accepts as gospel his story of mistreatment by Darcy. She pledges, "...Mr. Wickham, you can always be assured of a warm welcome in my society. I hope it will please you to know that you have at least one friend in this world who sympathises with your situation most heartily." (60) Even after the tiara theft, Elizabeth harbors kind thoughts: "...[Wickham] looked longingly at the food on the table. Elizabeth wondered if he suffered from hunger and had been hoping to partake of the banquet on display. She felt wave of shame and discomfort. The uncertain life o a highwayman could offer little in the way of physical comforts--perhaps she should have shown pity for him instead of jumping to accuse him." (153-4) I refuse to believe Austen's Elizabeth Bennet is so stupid.

    No grade because I'm too repulsed by the nonsense.
     
  18. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    DARCY VS. BENNET is Victoria Kincaid's 2016 variant on Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. It is available in digital format.

    Think Pride and Prejudice rewritten with Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet as Romeo and Juliet. They meet at a masquerade ball that Elizabeth crashed, dance, and fall in love, knowing each other only as "William" and "Elizabeth." Elizabeth rescues Georgiana from compromise by George Wickham and, through Wickham's remarks, identifies "William" as Fitzwilliam Darcy of Pemberley, son of her father's avowed enemy George Darcy. "William" does not learn her last name or whence she comes. Separated for two years, they meet again when Darcy visits Charles Bingley at Netherfield. Unmarried, still in love, their relationship grows, though both know their fathers will never consent to their marriage. George Darcy, who's hated Thomas Bennet since they were competitors at Cambridge and as suitors for Anna Fitzwilliam, keeps close watch on his son and pays Wickham to ruin Elizabeth by any necessary means. Thomas Bennet refuses consent for Elizabeth to marry into the Darcy family. After much soul-searching, aware that his father will stop his allowance, Darcy and Elizabeth plan to marry by special license in three months, when Elizabeth will come of age and no longer require her father's approval. But can they? What other stratagems may George Darcy employ to prevent the marriage?

    ~~~SPOILERS~~~

    For those who want angst in their Austen fan fiction, DARCY VS. BENNET is the variant to choose. The bulk of the story is Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth emoting over the seeming impossibility of their ever marrying. It gets tedious after a while, especially since Fitzwilliam Darcy floats along in a "everything will work out fine" dream, making no realistic preparations for life after losing his allowance. He consistently ignores his father's spying and underestimates the extremes to which George Darcy will go to control him.

    The Darcy family dynamic in DARCY VS. BENNET is much different from most other variants. Not only is he very much alive, George Darcy is manipulative, overbearing, and given to quarrels and feuds, a veritable ogre who beat his son until Fitzwilliam grew big enough to stop him. He dislikes Lady Catherine de Bourgh while, for the greater glory of the Darcy family, he pushes for the unification of Rosings and Pemberley by marriage as much as she. Though he's turned over Pemberley's management to his son, George Darcy remains its owner, so intent on obedience that he threatens to deed the estate to a distant cousin rather than allow a Darcy-Bennet marriage. Kincaid makes George so implacable that only his death can give Fitzwilliam and Elizabeth their happy ending.

    Kincaid negates the scandalous nature of Lydia and Wickham's wedding by giving it the accoutrements of a long-planned, joyous event. Lydia has a new white (gasp) silk dress, the church is decorated with flowers, and the Gardiners provide a wedding breakfast. Elizabeth stands up with her (as Fitzwilliam Darcy does with Wickham, though his purpose is to prevent the groom from fleeing before finishing his vows). I dislike any depiction that smooths over Lydia's infamous behavior. (B-/C+)
     
  19. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    ELIZABETH BENNET'S IMPERTINENT LETTER is J. P. Christy's variant on Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. It was published in digital format in 2018.

    What if after his proposal at Hunsord, instead of Darcy's writing Elizabeth a letter of explanation, she wrote him of her conclusions about his character based on her observations? That's the basic premise in ELIZABETH BENNET'S IMPERTINENT LETTER. However, the evolving relationship between Darcy and Elizabeth quickly bogs down from four other major subplots, each worthy to be the central focus of its own novel: Colonel Christopher Fitzwilliam's rescue of Lady Penelope Trelawney Velez y Garcia from the war in Spain; freeing Anne de Bourgh from her mother's control; Charlotte and William Collins's marriage; and Mary Bennet's maturation and courtship.

    ~~~POSSIBLE SPOILERS~~~

    Unfortunately, having so many interesting possibilities overwhelms their best 'treatment. Christy introduces a plethora of marginal characters; in Bath, Lady Catherine and Anne socialize with Lady Russell and the Dowager Viscountess Dalrymple (Persuasion) and Miss Morland (Northanger Abbey), presumably ito add verisimilitude. Jane and Bingley are more self-assured and outspoken; Lydia, Mrs. Bennet, Lady Catherine, and Caroline all receive frank assessments of their attitudes and behavior. Other personalities she revises far beyond the originals. Anne de Bourgh's sexual preference, Charlotte Collins's action to guarantee an heir to the Longbourn entail, Lady Catherine as a pot smoker--the underground rumble is Miss Austen turning over in her grave.

    Christy switches between characters and locales so often that it seriously impedes the action; she conveys much of the early action through flashbacks, not always well-handled, and ruminations on past events. Action is reported, not seen. Besides the main story lines, she throws in various picaresque episodes, including Mary, Kitty, and Georgiana being threatened by a band of vagrants, Collins's involvement with a toxic horse tonic sold to the army, and Caroline and Collins's plan to compromise the colonel and Elizabeth. The plan involving George Wickham devised by Anne and Mrs. Jenkinson is absurd.

    Editorial problems included anachronistic words and phrases (sense of entitlement, flummoxed, dogsbody, hazing). Collins quotes Scripture not from the King James Version of the Bible in use in the Anglican Church in Austen's time. Homophones "discrete-discreet" slipped through. The major problem editing should address is the lack of focus caused by the multiple story lines. More is not always better. Often it is too much.

    Two grades for ELIZABETH BENNET'S IMPERTINENT LETTER, for intriguing ideas (solid A), for execution (C)
     
  20. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    A TRIP TO BRIGHTON is fourteenth in Jennifer Lang's Darcy and Elizabeth What If? series of novellas based on Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. It was published in digital format in 2018.

    Both Darcy and Elizabeth are depressed following their encounter at Hunsford. Lydia, however, is elated at spending the summer in Brighton with Colonel and Mrs. Forster and the regiment. Business forces the Gardiners to shorten their holiday so that, instead of the Lake District or Derbyshire, they go to Brighton for the sea air and incidentally to keep an eye on Lydia. Elizabeth accompanies them. Colonel Fitzwilliam has friends in Brighton and convinces Darcy and Georgiana to join him for a brief holiday. Caroline Bingley, learning of Darcy's whereabouts, manipulates Bingley to take the sea at Brighton. At the race track, the Prince Regent spots his old acquaintance Darcy and his party, including the Gardiners, Elizabeth, and Lydia; impressed by Lydia's flirtation, the Prince "invites" (commands) they attend an upcoming party at the Pavilion. Disgust at the Prince's manners and attitude leads Darcy to an epiphany--he understands for the first time Elizabeth's objections to his own character. His determination to show Elizabeth he's changing sets in motion Caroline's schemes to ruin the Bennets' reputation.

    Most of the canonical characters are reasonably faithful to the originals. Lang weakens Bingley, who recognizes but submits to manipulation by both his sister and Mrs. Bennet. When Caroline's plotting is revealed, he does nothing. Mrs. Gardiner, so perceptive in Austen, is overconfident of Lydia's appropriate behavior and oblivious to Caroline's stratagems. Lang minimizes both s the Prince Regent's womanizing, gambling, spendthrift reputation and the outrage it aroused in many of his subjects.

    A TRIP TO BRIGHTON is pleasant enough but adds little new. Rereading the original is time better spent. (C)
     

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