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Friday, June 24, 2011

Beach Reads: What Would Mr Darcy Do?

Beach Reads is a summer meme, posted here every
weekend.  It consists of quick, light reviews about books that
make good beach or backyard reading.   Find out more here,
and feel free to post your own Beach Reads and enjoy the summer right!

What Would Mr Darcy Do?
Abigail Reynolds

What if Darcy hadn't immediately left the inn? What if Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy had chosen to speak their feelings rather than to assume the worst about the other? Jane Austen's beloved characters are given the opportunity to reach out one last time before they part. While their path forward is still filled with misadventures and misunderstandings it is rich with humor, romance, and sensuality as they learn about each other and the meaning of love. But there's still a scandal threatening to engulf the Bennet family, and Elizabeth can't be sure that Darcy's love for her could withstand such a blow. Determined to give Darcy up rather than drag his name through the mud, Elizabeth will have to choose for herself between what she believes is right, and what she wants more than anything...

Though I was familiar with Abigail Reynolds and her Pride and Prejudice/Pemberley "variations" series (and had even seen this book with a different title, From Lambton to Longbourn), I had never actually read anything by her.  I'm not sure why, maybe it was the covers or that there were just so many of them I was afraid they were churned out and passionless.  Whatever the reason, I didn't pick them up, and I see now that I need to rectify that.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book.  Did I enjoy it unreservedly on the level of Austen?  No, and I doubt I ever will of any Austen fanfic.  But did I enjoy it more than I generally do a fanfic?  Absolutely.  Reynolds captured the language and, more importantly, the feel and tone of Austen really well.  I actually felt like her Darcy and Lizzie were quite close to the Darcy and Lizzie I know and love, which is one of the tests for me: too many times, I barely recognize my Darcy and my Lizzie in fanfics, or their brightness shines through only sporadically.  This not only felt more authentic to who they are as Austen set them out, but it also expands on their characters rather nicely.  I was pleased with her treatment of Darcy, especially.  There were things revealed about him that made me actually reconsider Austen's Darcy in a new light, which is a rarity.  I felt that my knowledge and understanding of him was expanded, and I found myself rethinking some of the events of Pride and Prejudice and saying, You know, that kinda makes sense...  This was especially impressive to me because it was unexpected and doesn't really happen.  Reynolds showed great insight into the story and the chararacters, and human nature in general.

Another thing I really enjoyed was that it takes one teeny, tiny line from a pivotal moment and expands out down a path of "what-if?" in ways that seem realistic and make sense.  Reynolds stays true to the original story, working in key moments as if they are fixed, but also creates a new timeline and interactions and stays true to the path she sets out to explore.  With the fixed points, readers don't miss out on some of their favorite tension filled and/or swoonworthy moments; they just see them come about in a different way.  I especially liked that the path Reynolds took means that we see more of a struggle for Lizzie.  Knowing that Darcy spends months upon months in the original in the pain of love, it is nice to see some of that visited on Lizzie, and feel that they are on equal footing when it comes to overcoming obstacles and working and desiring each other on the same level.

For a more modern sensibility, Reynolds has given us some sexytime, which I have to say, I am always very hesitant about when it comes of Austen fanfic.  Not only does it bother me from the standpoint that a makeout sesh is wholly historically inappropriate for their stations, and would have been grounds for some duelage, but it also often just devolves into one smexy-but-meaningless encounter after another.  And though I don't mind that in other books (dotdotdot) I do mind it in my Austen.  Part of what I love about Austen is that things are kept so close to the vest, and that passion, no matter how strong and hard to restrain, is restrained (if only barely).  I love the struggle and the tension and the anticipation.  But many authors are writing from and to modern sensibilities, which often demand some sexytimes, and that can be disastrous.  Fortunately, Reynolds does a pretty good job with this.  There is good tension and the stirring up of butterflies, and some naughty but not too naughty make-out seshes that take it far enough without making the reader say "Really?"  There's also a sense of fun about it, too, that makes it work.

Needless to say, I will be reading more from Abigail Reynolds.

Don't forget, you can enter to win this here, or
see Abigail's responses in the Austen Authors interviews:

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  1. I loved this book, especially how Reynolds creates scenes that are both really steamy and fairly innocent.

  2. I have read most of her books, but my favorite by far is 'Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy: The Last Man in the World'... I can read that one over and over again. :)

  3. Really?!?! I have that one, but didn't have time for it this year! Ooh, I'm looking forward to it now.

  4. Abigail's Impulse&Initiative was the first P&P fanfic I ever read and I have been hooked ever since! I adore all of her books. Some have more intense sexytimes than others but even the innocent moments have been known to give me the tingles!

  5. This was my first Pemberley variations book by Abigail Reynolds that I read (when it was self-published). I want to read it under its new title since it has a few new scenes!! I have yet to read anything by Abigail that I did not like. Like erlynn, I have read several of her books more than once and could read them again and again!! :)

  6. What Would Mr Darcy Do sounds amazing!

  7. I read this years ago when it was posted online as From Lambton to Longbourn. It remains one of my favorite P&P variations, for the reasons you gave Misty. The characters remain recognizable, the point of departure from the original story is one that is believable, and Lizzy's path is extremely satisfying.

  8. Ah well I'm glad that the smexy scenes in this one are approved by you! As much as I love smexy scenes, I do have to agree with you... It wouldn't be right to see them in Austen.

  9. I'm not opposed to Austen smexy scenes per se (In fact, I got Pride and Prejudice: Hidden Lusts in the mail today), but it's all in what you set out to do. Something that claims to be a straight forward continuation or adaptation of a story in the vein of Austen should avoid them or make them rather subtle and chaste. Otherwise, it tends to read silly and uncharacteristic.

  10. Yay! I'm glad you enjoyed your first Abigail Reynolds! Now go and read all her other book, I'm sure you won't be disappointed!


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