These will be brief, spoiler-free, and will end with my overall recommendation.
Pride and Prejudice: Hidden Lusts by Mitzi Szereto
Amazon | Goodreads
I did a mini-review of this on the vlog, and I called it playful (like a Benny Hill sketch for porn...), and I think that's really what I got from it (and part of why I liked it). It sort of straddles the line between serious and silly, but it's done in a way that works. There are times when authors do parodies, spoofs, or just really random updates/adaptations of a classic, and you can tell that their main goal is to shock and amuse people who didn't like the classic to begin with - you get the feeling that they didn't like the classic to begin with, and that's why they felt the need to spice it up. But I don't get that impression at all from Szereto; as tawdry and bawdy and risque as this book can be, I think Szereto treated the original text with as much reverence as anyone can when turning the characters into sexual playthings. It's like a thinking-person's porn parody: the characters do things that are way out there, but still suited to who they are as a character; it's completely ridiculous and tongue-in-
This is not for the faint of heart, mind. It's thoroughly blush worthy. Or, fan-worthy, I guess. But when it comes to things like this, I think well-cone ones make you blush and laugh, poorly done ones make you cringe; this made me laugh over and over again. It can be too much at times, just due to the length of the book and pace of the...encounters, but I think those looking for either a really funny, silly, steamy time with their favorite characters won't be disappointed.
Verdict: Buy it if you like some serious smut, get it from the library if you're unsure (but not embarrassed to be seen checking it out...)
*straddles. tongue. length. everything sounds dirty...
Darcy & Fitzwilliam: a Tale of a Gentelman and Officer by Karen V. Wasylowski
Amazon | Goodreads
I was really eager for this one: I love the dynamic between Darcy and Col. Fitz, and I wanted to see that explored, as well as get some of the Col's story. Unfortunately, the characters I found in this were practically unrecognizable. Lizzie sometimes devolved into a shrieking harpy, Darcy was sort of neurotic, Lady Catherine was actually kind of awesome (which I liked, but you know...Lady C is not awesome, so again it just furthered the idea that they characters just weren't themselves. But it was Col. Fitzwilliam who was the biggest disappointment. He was boorish, crude, had what I'd almost call a violent temper, and is just all-around not what I wanted or expected. He was an aggressive control-freak who boozed and whored his way through the world on a scale to make Wickham blush, until suddenly he finds himself mad about some woman he doesn't actually know (but who does seem to be right for him, I will give the book that).
I think it honestly would have been better if it only followed Col. F and his life, and just kept the rest of them out of it. Then, maybe I could have believed that he had gone down this really dark path as a result of his war experiences, and I wouldn't have been distracted by the failings of the other characters. I actually did put it down for awhile and tried to school myself to treat it as general historical fiction rather than an Austen adaptation; I was unsuccessful - I just couldn't separate who the characters were from who they were supposed to be. And in the end, it wouldn't have really mattered: the book struggled in tone and atmosphere, too, so I think I still would have been disappointed with it. It was like Karen couldn't decide if she wanted the book to be serious or silly, and as a result it felt sort of schizophrenic. It did have its good moments, and I enjoyed the relationship between Fitz and Amanda (when it wasn't controlling), but the good moments weren't enough to leave a good overall impression. And if I had to hear Fitzwilliam call Darcy "brat" one more time, I would have thrown the damn thing against a wall.
Verdict: Borrow it from the library, if at all.
The Twelfth Enchantment by David Liss
Amazon | Goodreads
Now, this one is not strictly a Jane Austen retelling, I know. But it is set in Regency England, and it does use a certain Mary Crawford (of Mansfield Park) as a character, so I feel completely justified in including it here. I read a pretty early copy, which I think may have detracted from the book (it sometimes felt a little scattered and I wanted some editing and trimming), but I'm going to set that aside on the assumption that these things were improved (though I guess you never know). On the whole, I was pleasantly surprised by this. It was very inventive, combining real world events, Regency politics, and figures (like Byron), as well as fictional characters, mythology, and a gothic novel mentality to create an engagingly over-the-top read. Mary Crawford isn't the only thing to get it Austen points, as Liss style was at times decidedly Austenesque, even though his subject matter was not. Though sometimes over-written, much of the time Liss captured something really interesting, and the consistent tone had a great historical feel, even when intentionally historically inaccurate.
The plot was a bit too rambling for my tastes, which is part of what makes me hesitant to whole-heartedly recommend it, and until it really got going, I would put it down and not feel really compelled to pick it up again, which makes it harder for me to push a book. But it has a charm to it that does make me want to recommend it. It reminds me a bit of the Thursday Next books in that, if you are familiar with the literature and goings-on of the time, there are lots of little in-jokes and allusions to keep you amused. If you're not, this may end up really hard to follow. I mean, it's hard to love a book about the Luddite revolution (and how it's actually all related back to magic) if you don't know what a Luddite is. In the end, I think this will really come down to personal preference for people, and whether it will suit them as a reader; it's no the type of book to push on everyone, but for those suited to it, this will be a big hit.
Verdict: Read an excerpt of it at your bookstore/library/online, and if engages you, buy it. If it makes you only curious, borrow it. If it confuses you, skip it.