Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Road to Pemberley

The Road to Pemberley:

An Anthology of New Pride and Prejudice Stories

Edited by Marsha Altman


This anthology of short stories from well-known and up and coming fan fiction writers features stories about the Bennets and the Darcys. There are "what ifs", sequels and alternative points-of-view all in one volume. 

The Pemberley Ball by Regina Jeffers picks up where Pride and Prejudice left off and lets us see how two strong personalities can come together as one. I didn't like this story because there were far too many bizarre things that happened to Elizabeth that stretched my credibility. The relationship aspect seemed realistic. I think Darcy would probably kill me if we spent more than five minutes in each other's company and I can see how Darcy would have a hard time dealing with Elizabeth's spirited personality. However, I like happily ever after endings and I'm satisfied with what Jane Austen tells us at the end of the novel and feel no need to have these extra chapters.

But He Turned Out Very Wild by Sarah Hoyt is Wickham's story. At first it seems rather shocking to see Wickham claim to be a good guy and Darcy a bad guy, but by the end of the story, I actually really enjoyed this retelling! It's unusual and may not be to everyone's liking, but I enjoyed the twists and turns that made this story interesting and who doesn't love a happy ending? 

A Long Strange Trip by Ellen Gelerman is a what-if chapter set during Elizabeth's stay at Netherfield while nursing Jane. Elizabeth, Mr. Darcy, Mr. Bingley and the Hursts eat tainted mushrooms causing some serious breaches in impropriety and unruly behavior.Only Caroline Bingley is left to look on in a mixture of jealously and horror. I really didn't like this story. It stretched my credibility too much. Cook should have known which mushrooms were safe to eat. I didn't like what happened between Lizzie and Darcy. His solution to makes sense but not for him at that point in the story. This whole thing is just too bizarre for me. Warning: subtle sensuality.

An Ink-Stained Year by Valerie T. Jackson is a unique sequel of sorts. It focuses on Caroline Bingley and Colonel Fitzwilliam. Following her brother's marriage and the dashing of her hopes for landing Mr. Darcy, Caroline is sent to London to be a companion to an elderly relative. There she meets Colonel Fitzwilliam, who is in London on medical leave/business for his father. Caroline corresponds with her brother and Jane while Colonel Fitzwilliam writes to his cousin.The letters are well written and incorporate some sly nods to other fan fiction stories. The growing relationship and will they/won't they between the main characters is nicely drawn out and realistic given the etiquette of the period. This is my favorite story in the collection. It's different but it fits within the canon nicely. 

The Potential of Kitty Bennet by Jessica Keller is Kitty's story. In the year following Elizabeth and Jane's marriages, Kitty becomes the only child left at home. She chafes at being the unmarried daughter, yet she can't figure out an identity of her own. Upon a visit to Elizabeth, she declares her intentions of marrying a wealthy man who can keep her in style. Elizabeth of course, counsels her younger sister to marry for love. Kitty confides her growing pains to the handsome young clergyman, Mr. Denton. He's not rich, but he's kind and a good listener. Then Kitty's head is turned by an old schoolmate of Darcy's. She thinks she is on the verge of getting everything she's ever wanted, yet it doesn't feel right. It takes a near tragedy and a dashing rescue for her to realize what her heart wants. I liked this story a lot. The author did a nice job of capturing the growing pains of a teenage girl. The plot was painfully obvious as it was copied from Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility and every Regency from Georgette Heyer onwards. The obviousness of it all made this story a bit difficult to get through but I liked seeing Kitty grow and come to discover who she is. 

A Good Vintage Whine by Tess Quinn is a "what-if" scene set after Bingley's proposal to Jane and Darcy's return to Netherfield. Bingley is hosting a dinner party for his in-laws and gets locked in the wine cellar with Mr. Darcy. After consuming numerous bottles of wine, Darcy loses his reserve and confesses his love for Elizabeth to his dearest friend. This is a cute what if story. I can sort of see it happening. I liked watching Mr. Darcy unbend a bit and confide and confess to Bingley. This story is a bit of frivolous fun.

Georgiana's Voice by J.H. Thompson is Georgiana's story and her version of the events of Pride and Prejudice. This story never really gets off the ground. It's largely a retelling of events from Georgiana's point-of-view. I liked the relationship between the siblings and Georgiana's sly meddling. I don't get the impression from the original novel that she would dare to do that though, so I don't really think her characterization is consistent. This story is largely unmemorable. Those interested in Darcy's backstory and how he came to be the man he is will like this one because it fills in some of the blanks. 

Secrets in the Shade by Bill Friesema reintroduces Wickham after the events of Pride and Prejudice. Darcy and Lizzie are happily married with a young family when Wickham returns, supposedly to mend the relationship. Darcy has his suspicions, however, especially when Wickham claims he doesn't want money. Wickham has a shocking secret he reveals to Darcy that could threaten to scandalize the family and ruin them if the truth is not found out. Darcy travels to London to uncover the secrets of the past. Wickham is SO obvious, I knew exactly what he was going to claim before he said it. I think Darcy probably would have been wise to Wickham by that time and already figured it out. The mystery kept me reading too late into the night to find out the truth. The story is a bit short so it's long on the rehashing of events and introducing new characters and short on the relationship between Darcy and Lizzie. This is an interesting and plausible what-if that fans of traditional Regencies will enjoy.

A View from the Valet by Nacie Mackey is a retelling of Pride and Prejudice from the point of view of Darcy's valet. It's boring and slow. It's not even a real story, just observations on what is happening. I didn't like how Mr. Darcy loses control in this story and starts muttering to himself. He doesn't seem like that type of person. The valet never takes on a fleshed out personality but remains a ghost in the background telling us what's happening. If you want a great valet story, try the Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman chronicles by Pamela Aidan. I just adore Fletcher and he's a tough act to follow.

Beneath the Greenwood Trees by Marilou Martineau is both a prequel and sequel. A pregnant Elizabeth wanders up to the attic and finds a toy sword. She longs to know more about her beloved husband's youth, but he's reluctant to share. Finally, he reveals his happy summer days playing Robin Hood with his cousins under the Greenwood trees and how his childhood came to an abrupt end. The events of this story help shape the Mr. Darcy he is today and the father he will become at the end of the story. I rather liked this filling in of Mr. Darcy's story. My romantic side doesn't like the harsh bitterness of the end of Darcy's childhood, but I think it sounds accurate for the time period. The author has done lots of scholarly research which appeals to my nerdy side. I especially like the incorporation of old Robin Hood ballads into the story. Mr. Darcy lovers will really like reading about this period in his life and seeing how it shaped his own perceptions of what a good father should be like. 

Father of the Bride by Lewis Welchel is Mr. Bennet's observations and feelings on his own darling Lizzie's romance with Mr. Darcy. Mr. Bennet is unhappy over losing his favorite daughter, yet he'll do anything to make her happy. I found this story rather dull. It didn't seem to coincide with the timeline of events in the original story. I always thought Elizabeth and Jane had a double wedding. I also didn't like how Elizabeth felt insecure from her mother's neglect. This story is largely unmemorable and doesn't add anything interesting to the Darcy and Lizzie story.

Pride and Prejudice Abridged by Marsha Altman is a hilarious, shortened version of the story told in dialogue form (in modern lingo) between the characters. It reduces the story to about 4 pages. Those 4 pages will keep you laughing. However, it does point out that the original story doesn't make a lot of sense realistically and has a lot of flaws. It's so funny, I can forgive that. I only wish it were a bit longer.

The title of this book is misleading because it sounds like these stories are brand new when actually they were posted in some form on various fan fiction sites around the Internet over the years. If you're an avid fan fiction reader and haven't read these stories before, then this book is worth the money. I'm not a big fan of fan fiction and though I don't like reading stories online on my computer, I feel as if this book was not worth buying. The stories are mediocre and don't really add anything important to my life. This is not one for the keeper shelf.

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