Mr. Darcy’s Obsession by Abigail Reynolds

Pride and Prejudice Bicentenary Challenge for 2013**

In celebration of two hundredth anniversary of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, I’m taking part in the Austenprose Bicentenary Challenge for 2013. Here is the original blog post if you are interested. The idea is to pick a challenge level (Ie: how many Pride and Prejudice inspired books, be they prequels, sequels, non-fiction, fan-fiction, etc., or movies or miniseries) then post our review on your blog. This month’s review is Mr. Darcy’s Obsession by Abigail Reynolds. Here is the link to Goodreads, and below is the blurb:

m darcy's obsession

The more he tries to stay away from her, the more his obsession grows…

What if … Elizabeth Bennet was more unsuitable for Mr. Darcy than ever.

Mr. Darcy is determined to find a more suitable bride. But then he learns that Elizabeth is living in London in reduced circumstances after her father’s death robs her of her family home.

What if … Mr. Darcy can’t stop himself from seeking her out.

He just wants to make sure she’s alright. But once he’s seen her, he feels compelled to talk to her, and from there he’s unable to fight the overwhelming desire to be near her, or the ever-growing mutual attraction that is between them.

In this re-telling, the unfolding of events hits a snag. Elizabeth’s visit to Rosings is cut short when Mr. Bennet falls ill and dies. Mrs. Bennet’s worst fears have come to pass and they are homeless. We pick up the story after this point – Elizabeth has had to go and live with her mother’s brother and wife, the Gardiner’s, in Cheapside. She is essentially the governess to their children. As lowering as this may be in the eyes of society, she knows she has the better deal of all the sisters. Jane has been married to a shopkeeper, just so that she may have a home, and Mrs. Bennnet, Lydia and Kitty are living in Aunt Philip’s crowded dwelling in Meryton. I think Mary went to go live with another relative. So Mr. Darcy never got to make his ill-fated proposal and never wrote his beautiful letter. Lizzy does not know the truth of Wickham’s lies.

When we join Darcy and Bingley two years later, Bingley is still smarting from missing his chance at marrying Jane. He has learned of his sister’s deception, of not telling him she was in London. He has never gotten over her. Bingley tells Darcy he has seen Elizabeth and learned of the family’s unfortunate circumstances. This puts a bug in Darcy’s ear and he just can’t ignore it. He goes to London, convincing himself he is not going to see her, just to make sure she is in comfortable surroundings. He pays an urchin to bring him intelligence of her… which includes that she takes walks in the park. And so begins our story.

Ms. Reynold’s does a wonderful job with setting and tone. She doesn’t bother trying to sound like Jane, she writes in a nice, straightforward style and has a good understanding of the regency period. She widens the character base to include Darcy’s really horrible family. Jane Austen never wrote a scene that was just a conversation between gentleman – she claims she had no idea what such a scene would entail, having never experienced it. I hate to think they were so crass and vulgar, but you know what, they probably were. There is a scene where Darcy’s Uncle, his cousin Fitzwilliam’s father, is talking about Georgiana getting married (bear in mind she is only seventeen and not even out yet) that left me fuming. The treatment of women of the lower classes by the aristocracy is accurate, just upsetting. I know it happened, but I don’t like to read about it. I found it a bit jarring, because most Regencies I read are soft, gentle things, and that is what I like about them. They are a kind of fantasy of their own, where we ignore the horrors of the lower classes (for the most part) and go to fancy parties and wear poofy dresses and visit manor homes. Judge me if you will. Don’t get me wrong – the plot is amazing, I just wasn’t quite ready or expecting these subjects in a Jane inspired story. It is still very excellent. Georgiana plays a much bigger part in the story this time. And I loved Aunt Augustine. She’s a treat.

There are, of course, misunderstandings, long separations, letters, visits… all the good stuff of a regency romance. The only misstep I feel was at the very end. I think I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention it. There was a very public scene where some very horrible family secrets were thrown around inside a church. It never would have happened. No one would so forget themselves, especially not a member of the aristocracy. However, the ending is more than fabulous and well deserved after many twists and turns. I would gladly read other books by this author.

Happy Birthday, Harper Lee!

Maycomb was an old town, but it was a tired old town when I first knew it. In rainy weather the streets turned to red slop; grass grew on the sidewalks, the courthouse sagged in the square. Somehow, it was hotter then: a black dog suffered on a summer’s day; bony mules hitched to Hoover carts flicked flies in the sweltering shade of the live oaks on the square. Men’s stiff collars wilted by nine in the morning. Ladies bathed before noon, after their three-o’clock naps, and by nightfall were like soft teacakes with frostings of sweat and sweet talcum.

to kill a mockingbir

Above is one of my favorite passages from my favorite book. Sunday is Harper Lee’s birthday. In case you live under an illiterate rock, Ms. Lee is the author of one of the finest novels ever written in the English language, To Kill a Mockingbird. I am no journalist, I do not have to be impartial. I am only a writer, and I have to tell the truth. Sometimes, critics and professor’s claim a book is a “must-read” or a “pivotal point in literature,” and after picking up that book I want to hunt down that critic and punch that professor in the face. This time, however, I have made my own conclusion, after having read many books written in English, and I stand by what I said. I loved this the first time I read it, in high school, and I love it even more as an adult. Here is the link and below is the blurb:

“Shoot all the bluejays you want, if you can hit ’em, but remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.”

A lawyer’s advice to his children as he defends the real mockingbird of Harper Lee’s classic novel–a black man charged with the rape of a white girl. Through the young eyes of Scout and Jem Finch, Harper Lee explores with rich humor and unswerving honesty the irrationality of adult attitudes toward race and class in the Deep South of the 1930s. The conscience of a town steeped in prejudice, violence, and hypocrisy is pricked by the stamina and quiet heroism of one man’s struggle for justice–but the weight of history will only tolerate so much.

One of the best-loved classics of all time, To Kill a Mockingbird has earned many distinctions since its original publication in 1960. It has won the Pulitzer Prize, been translated into more than forty languages, sold more than forty million copies worldwide, and been made into an enormously popular movie. It was also named the best novel of the twentieth century by librarians across the country (Library Journal).

I find the story behind the writing of the book as fascinating as the book itself. Harper Lee moved to New York in 1949 at the age of 23. She worked as a ticket agent for an airline and wrote stories. She managed to find an agent for her short stories (you could still do that back then) and reunited with her childhood friend, Truman Capote, who had begun his rise to fame. He was the inspiration for the character Charles Baker Harris, or Dill, the child from a broken home that was shuttled from relative to relative and who famously said “I’m little, but I’m old.”  She also made friends with a broadway composer Michael Brown and his wife, Joy. Having just come into some money, the Brown’s wanted to help her and gave her a year’s salary with the note that said “You have one year off from your job to write what you please. Merry Christmas.” And so it began. It took her a year to write the first draft.

another to kill a mockingbird

The book started off as a series of short stories, but with a further two years of editing, along with guidance from Tay Hohoff, an editor, she sculpted it into the creature it is now. Something of the short story remains within the pages, especially at the beginning. We meet up with Scout, the main character, and her brother, Jem, being raised by their widowed father. Scout is a precocious tomboy, who seems to have learned to read through osmosis. We join this brother and sister just before their age difference (at 6 and 11) really becomes apparent. Enter Dill, who proposes to Scout almost right away, then runs off with her brother to do boy things, and you’ve got an interesting triangle. Despite their differences, and Jem’s dignity, they manage to have plenty of adventures. And of course, much of that has to do with Boo Radley.

The Radley place fascinated Dill. In spite of our warnings and explanations it drew him as the moon draws water, but drew him no nearer than the light pole on the corner, a safe distance from the Radley gate.

Reading this is almost like two stories. I once made an aunt angry because I was reading it out loud to some young kids. However, the beginning is far more child friendly than the middle and end – and there was no way we would come to anything of an adult nature in a single afternoon. The really meaty plot deals with the deep seated racism of the old south. Tom Robinson, a black man, is accused of raping a white girl. This nearly tears the town of Maycomb in two. Decent folks are glad to see the Atticus Finch, Scout’s father, is trying to do right by him. Others are angry that he is doing his job, rather than just brushing the whole thing under the carpet and simply making him plead guilty. It doesn’t matter much that the accuser’s family lives in filth at the edge of the dump and lives off the county. In normal circumstances, everyone thinks less of them than the dirt between their toes. However, the decent people aren’t exactly standing up to be counted or shouting down the old guard who want to intimidate Atticus into dropping the case. When Scout confronts her father about this, he gives her an eloquent answer.

“Well, most folks seem to think they’re right and you’re wrong…” (Scout)

“They’re certainly entitled to think that, and they’re entitled to full respect for their opinions,” said Atticus, “but before I can live with other folks I’ve got to live with myself. The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience.” 

Boo Radley is the other plotline. In some ways, I think he is the spectre of white privilege: a boy who did some terrible things running wild with his friends, and yet rather than be held accountable, his father is allowed to decide what is to be done with him. He brings Boo home and according to Scout, he is never seen again. There, he descends into boogeyman status. If he wasn’t mad before he was shut up by his ultra-conservative, religious parents, he was driven there.

Inside the house lived a malevolent phantom. People said he existed, but Jem and I had never seen him. People said he went out at night when the moon was down, and peeped in windows. When people’s azaleas froze in a cold snap, it was because he had breathed on them. Any stealthy, small crimes committed in Maycomb were his work. Once the town was terrorized by a series of morbid nocturnal events: people’s chickens and household pets were found mutilated; although the culprit was Crazy Addie, who eventually drowned himself in Barker’s Eddy, people still looked at the Radley place, unwilling  to discard their initial suspicions.

This book has it all. A study of morals. The painful steps between childhood and adolescence. A boogeyman. A hero. A villain. High, courtroom drama. Beautiful language, wrapped up in Southern Gothic twang as thick as honey and butter between two halves of a buttermilk biscuit. I can’t recommend it highly enough. I’d love to hear what you think of it in the comments.

Happy Birthday, Charlotte Bronte

I have been a bit remiss. I’ve tried to put up a new review every 3 or 4 days, but the combination of working really hard on editing one of my own manuscripts, doing a blogging challenge and reading a book that’s very slow has kept me from it this week. I’m not sure if the book I’m reading will make it on the blog or not. I’ve got several great library books I’m looking forward to.

jane eyre

As I said when I began this blog, I wanted to celebrate my favorite author’s birthdays. And today is the birthday of Charlotte Bronte. She was the eldest of the literary sisters, which also included Emily Bronte, author of Wuthering Heights and Anne Bronte, author of Agnes Grey and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. Charlotte is best known for her excellent novel, Jane Eyre. Critics argue that Anne’s Agnes Grey is much more representative of a governess’ life than Jane Eyre. Read it if you want to learn more about being a governess during the life of the Bronte’s, but I warn you – it is a trifle dull. If you want excitement, an almost modern heroine and gothic chills, pick up Eyre.

Here is the blurb from Goodreads:

Orphaned into the household of her Aunt Reed at Gateshead, subject to the cruel regime at Lowood charity school, Jane Eyre nonetheless emerges unbroken in spirit and integrity. 

She takes up the post of governess at Thornfield, falls in love with Mr. Rochester, and discovers the impediment to their lawful marriage in a story that transcends melodrama to portray a woman’s passionate search for a wider and richer life than Victorian society traditionally allowed. 

With a heroine full of yearning, the dangerous secrets she encounters, and the choices she finally makes, Charlotte Bronte’s innovative and enduring romantic novel continues to engage and provoke readers.

The Bronte’s all stirred up the narrow-minded, somewhat elitist critics over their respective novels. Anne’s Tenant of Wildfell Hall drew ire for its depiction of drunkenness and the audacity of a woman to live on her own when married. Emily’s Wuthering Heights was  condemned for it’s “amoral passion” and a female character who preferred to run wild on the moors rather than do needlework. And then there is Jane Eyre. The title character is an orphan left in the care of her aunt (by marriage), Mrs. Reed. Jane is willful, unconventional, with an artistic mind. Jane will not lay down under the tyranny of her Aunt and cousin, John, but curses Mrs. Reed when she accuses her of being a liar to a school administrator. After he goes away, Jane gives her aunt what-for.

“I am not deceitful: if I were, I should say I loved you; but I declare I do not love you: I dislike you the worst of anybody in the world except John Reed; and this book about the liar, you may to your girl, Georgiana, for it is she who tells lies, and not I.”

Every time I read that I fist-punch the air! But sadly, our heroine is sent off to this awful school, branded a liar, and made to stand on a stool with a placard proclaiming her such. Despite the cruelty, the horrible food provided and the unkind treatment, Jane stays long enough to get her education and see the school purged of its greedy administrators. She remains there as a teacher, until a desire to see more of the world inspires her to advertise for a position as a governess. And this is where our story really gets interesting.

She is hired at Thornfield Hall to teach a gentleman’s ward – allegedly a daughter from the other side of the blanket, as they said in those times. At first, she does not expect to meet the gentleman himself, as it is said he is rarely at home. She has her pupil, Adele, and Mrs. Fairfax the housekeeper for company. And though she is happy and has more freedom and lives in a gorgeous mansion, she feels the house and her position closing in around her. She wishes, that like a man, she could have action in her life. And of course, what sort of book would it be if the mysterious, haunted Mr. Rochester did not make an appearance? He is intrigued by the direct, no-nonsense governess he finds attending to Adele. A woman of intelligence, who answers his impertinent questions with impertinence and who doesn’t back down, either from his surly tone or aristocratic privilege, which he doesn’t even try to keep in check – but of course he doesn’t. He’s privileged. He doesn’t have to.

Besides the strange attraction of Mr. Rochester, there is the giggling in the night. The mysterious fire set in Mr. Rochester’s rooms. Jane saves him from that one – and this part is very genteelly played. She wakes, having heard a sound in the hall. She opens her door and finds a burning candle, and Mr. Rochester’s door is open. She smells smoke, and runs inside to find his bed hangings on fire.  She wakes him and they put out the fire, but instead of rousing the house and finding out what has happened, he asks her to stay in his room and waits for him to return. He goes upstairs and is gone awhile. When he returns, she wishes to go. She’s tired, she’s had a fright, of course she wants to go. He tells her she may, and then stops her. He asks how she can leave him after saving his life. He wants to shake hands, to thank her, and she insists there is no need. His voice is strange, he doesn’t speak with his usual surety. He asks her, a couple of time, if she will go… to me it seems he is almost asking her to stay. In his room. At night. You get what I’m saying? Though Jane doesn’t acknowledge this, she has just been propositioned. But being young and chaste, Jane has no intention of being seduced. It’s the sexiest part of of the whole book. Well. One of them. They have many intellectual wrangles and heartfelt interchanges that bristle with all sorts of things unsaid.

Jane Eyre has everything I love. Romance. A strong heroine who is also an orphan. I seem to like classic tales of orphans. An old, gothic house with a mystery. A brooding Englishman. It just gets better every time I read it. The Bronte’s had their own share of tragedy and gothic horrors in their lives. They all died too young, but they left behind treasures that are well worth reading.

The Reapers Are The Angels by Alden Bell

reapers are the angels

She was in Orlando once, when she was little, and she remembers standing at the bottom of this terrific tall building and thinking that civilization’s got some crackerjack people working for its furtherance, and kicking at the base of the building with her foot to see if the whole thing could topple over, and seeing that it didn’t and never ever would. The Reapers Are The Angels, Alden Bell

Sometimes, dead is better. Pet Cemetary, Stephen King

I’ve always believed actions speak louder than words. People will defend someone, call them a great guy… despite their criminal record and penchant for getting in fights and stealing from friends. If your actions, ie: your choices, wreak pain and devastation on people, you are not a nice guy, I don’t care how great your sense of humor is, or how much fun you are at a party. As the Oracle in The Matrix told us, it’s all about choices. The same can be said for a character. Readers are like voyeurs, sitting back and watching what characters do and learning about them by their actions. You see a little girl kick the base of an enormous structure to see if she could topple it. You wonder what sort of person would do that. And her name being Temple makes you wonder about how sturdy and immovable her own base is. Here is the link to Goodreads and the blurb.

Zombies have infested a fallen America. A young girl named Temple is on the run. Haunted by her past and pursued by a killer, Temple is surrounded by death and danger, hoping to be set free.

For twenty-five years, civilization has survived in meager enclaves, guarded against a plague of the dead. Temple wanders this blighted landscape, keeping to herself and keeping her demons inside her heart. She can’t remember a time before the zombies, but she does remember an old man who took her in and the younger brother she cared for until the tragedy that set her on a personal journey toward redemption. Moving back and forth between the insulated remnants of society and the brutal frontier beyond, Temple must decide where ultimately to make a home and find the salvation she seeks.

When we meet Temple, she’s living on a small spit of land with a lighthouse on it, off the coast of Florida. She’s clearly self-sufficient, feeding and caring for herself, a bit world weary. She seems young, with an eye for beauty, despite a lack of education and all her worldly smarts. Then a “slug” washes up on the beach. She knows her time on the island wouldn’t be forever, and with the swing of the tide, the distance between the mainland and her respite is becoming traversable by the shambling remains. She’ll have to move on, but first, she goes to inspect the visitor. It’s stuck in the sand and motionless, but when it becomes clear it’s alive, she has a sort of one sided discussion with it. It’s lower jaw has been torn off, so it’s harmless. It’s odd. We’re used to people running like hell from zombies, but in this world, though numerous, the numbers of zombies don’t seem overwhelming.

Sadly, Temple was born after the plague, or whatever it was that set the dead to rise – and much of what we take for granted, like reading, cotton candy, and living in one place with a house and friends and family, are beyond her experience. Temple is not a simple creature that just fights for life – she stops to wonder at beauty and what has been lost, and what would have continued if humanity’s discoveries and wonders hadn’t been brought to a stop. At one point, I wrote in my notes that she wasn’t very sophisticated…and then laughed at myself for looking for sophistication in a zombie book. Her thoughts tell us she is haunted by her past, and she thinks of herself as some sort of monster, an inhuman machine. Her choices tell us she isn’t. She finds a big galoot of a man running down the road of a suburban area, followed by zombies and carrying the body of an old woman. The man appears mentally challenged, and instead of just rolling on by, she goes back and helps him. She drives past a weird creature along a forested road, and out of curiosity, she stops to check it out. Both of these things have drastic consequences, of course, or we wouldn’t be in a zombie book.

I did have a problem with a few things. First of all, how are these vehicles she finds and gets going still working? Where is the gas coming from? The hordes have been shambling for about 25 years, and there is still gas and electricity in unpopulated places. One episode of “Life After People” teaches us this would not be the case. It would not take very long for the power grid to fold or even to cause massive fires. Even with the small population actually still alive and undead, before the zombies affected the numbers of the living, there would have been problems with supply. Mass exodus would have drained the food and fuel supplies in most areas as people tried to flee. And how is it the batteries in the cars aren’t dead? The state of the remaining cities and towns is also too tame. As Life After People teaches us, it will take no time at all for mother nature to undo what we have wrought. After 25 years, subdivisions won’t just be overgrown, they would revert to forest, jungle, barely recognizable. But those are quibbles.

This book tore me up. It’s not sweet and fluffy, but who reads dystopia or apocalypse tales to feel all cheery? Be prepared with the tissues. The writing in this is amazing. I am going to leave you with a spoiler free taste of what this has to offer. It was hard to not pepper this review with bits and snippets, so I’m indulging in a rather longish quote. I highly recommend this.

A slug dressed in black with a white preacher’s collar lifts his hands toward the sky as if calling upon the god of dead things, while a rotting woman in a wedding dress sits open-legged against a wall, rubbing the lace hem against her cheek. Here, the monstrous and the perverse, the like of which Temple has never seen before. A slug with no arms nestled up against he swollen belly of a corpse recently dead, chewing away at its exposed viscera like a piglet at the teat of its mother. These, the desperate and the plagued, driven to consume beyond their usual ken – a swarm of them pulling apart a dead horse with their hands, using their teeth to scrape the offal from the backside of the bristly skin. Some even so bubbling with abomination that they turn on one another, by instinct preying on the weak, pulling them down, the children and the old ones, digging their teeth first into the fleshiest parts to give their clawing fingers some purchase, a mob of them backing a pale-faced girl against the concrete base of a building. She opens her mouth to defend herself, sinks her teeth into the arm of one of her attackers, but there are more, a groaning howling brood like coyotes on the concrete plain. And, too, a carnival of death, a grassy park near the city center, a merry-go-round that turns unceasing hour by hour, its old-time calliope breathing out dented and rusty notes while the slugs pull their own arms out of the sockets trying to climb aboard the moving platform, some disembodied limbs dragging in the dirt around and around, hands still gripping the metal poles-and the ones who succeed and climb aboard, mounting to the top of the wooden horses, joining with the endless motion of the machine, dazed to imbecility by gut memories of speed and human ingenuity. And the horde, in the blackout of the city night, illumined only by the headlights of the car, everywhere descending and roiling against one another like maggots in the belly of a dead cat, the grimmest and most degenerate manifestation of this blighted humanity on this blighted earth – beasts of our lost pasts, spilling out of whatever hell we have made for them like the army of the damned, choked and gagging and rotted and crusty and eminently pathetic, yes, brutally, conspicuously, outrageously pathetic.

Wool (Omnibus Edition) by Hugh Howey

I knew the moment I finished this book it would take awhile for it to sink in. I didn’t want to write a review. I didn’t know how to do one without spoilers. Let me give you the Link to Goodreads and the blurb:

wool

This Omnibus Edition collects the five Wool books into a single volume. It is for those who arrived late to the party and who wish to save a dollar or two while picking up the same stories in a single package.

The first Wool story was released as a standalone short in July of 2011. Due to reviewer demand, the rest of the story was released over the next six months. My thanks go out to those reviewers who clamored for more. Without you, none of this would exist. Your demand created this as much as I did.

This is the story of mankind clawing for survival, of mankind on the edge. The world outside has grown unkind, the view of it limited, talk of it forbidden. But there are always those who hope, who dream. These are the dangerous people, the residents who infect others with their optimism. Their punishment is simple. They are given the very thing they profess to want: They are allowed outside.

I don’t know why I should feel bad about spoilers – the author spoils things at every turn. It keeps you flip-flopping around like you’ve been stung by an eel! He makes up for it with  his use of flashback and cliffhangers. He somehow manages to break all the “rules” and yet I kept on turning the pages!  The very first “story” is an enormous spoiler all by itself, and yet he takes several chapters to brings the story back around and we learn how the first chapter came about. Do you see where I’m heading, here? This is so hard. I’m trying to describe the color orange.

Let me try this again. We’ve got a nest of humanity living in a dwelling described as a silo. The first thing I think when I hear silo is “missile” silo. Those things are big, but nowhere near large enough to fit the description of this place. Thousands live and work and maintain the society, with the necessities of the silo arranged on different levels. Some are devoted to growing food, raising animals, the nursery for newborns, there are even levels for the sole purpose of maintaining the silo itself. It’s a micro-city. Well, rather too big to be micro, especially if you imagine that all of humanity lives within this dwelling… or does it? You know humanity is inside because of the toxic environment, but when and why was this silo built? Is everybody inside? Where is this silo, geographically? No one knows. And what if you want to go outside? Better not to mention it where anyone can hear you!

Criminals, some who just dream of living in another place or who rock the boat, are sent out “to clean.” This entails being stuffed in a “cleaning” suit, going outside and wiping down the external sensors that beam the bleak view of outside to screens inside the silo. This is a big deal. People come to the viewing level to see the screens that display the outside. Over time, dust clogs the viewers and dims the picture. You’d think they would want it to go dim… because part of the view are the bodies of those who have gone out to clean. The environment is so toxic that even inside a suit, the cleaners don’t have long to live. So once you go out, you aren’t coming back in. This makes everyone wonder: why do they do it? Why don’t they just give the silo the middle finger and go die? No one does. Everyone that goes out follows the careful series of instructions they are given before being sent out. They all clean.

The silo itself is more than setting, it’s a character. It seems ancient and eternal, but there is a finite serviceability to everything. The steps that hug the edges of the silo are described in minute detail. The paint is wearing, there is a dip in the middle of each fret, where countless feet have taken countless steps. The diamond cut for traction has worn down. It gives slightly as people walk up and down. Traveling in either direction, you jostle people coming the other way. It made me wonder: if the only way to move through the silo is up this rather thin staircase, what would they do in case of evacuation… and then it hit me. This was the evacuation.  This was the saving grace of those who left the outside world behind. The silo wasn’t made to be evacuated.

That the sensors need cleaning at all is one of the first clues the silo has limitations. What if no one is sent to clean? Will the view be completely obliterated? One character notices square white dots within the frame of the viewscreen. He knows it’s a projection, that the image is made up of things called pixels and he wonders what will happen when more of them begin to go white. Do they have the knowledge or parts to fix them? If they do, why haven’t they? One character loses a sibling to a faulty incubator and makes the life changing decision to go down below and train in maintenance, to try and fix the technology that keeps the silo running. What you get from this is that the threat is piled up in layers: the outside desolation, the interior mechanics and of course, the political and social stress of humans trapped in a metal building dug in the ground.

I can’t remember reading a book that had me gasping out loud as often as this one did. Most of this emotion came from caring about what was happening to the characters. Every one felt well rounded and had clear motivations. I never wondered “Why on Earth would so-n-so do that?” Add a villain that makes you grind your teeth, and you have a page turner.

Despite having been released in parts, this doesn’t feel like a series of short stories, other than perhaps the first. It’s a prologue that works like a proper prologue should – a necessary bit of background that sets up the rest of the story. It’s a hell of a read. There are secrets upon secrets, going as deep as the silo itself. And what is out there beyond the ridge? Beyond the bodies moldering in the distance? You have to read it to find out.

Georgiana Darcy’s Diary by Anna Elliott

Pride and Prejudice Bicentenary Challenge for 2013**

In celebration of two hundredth anniversary of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, I’m taking part in the Austenprose Bicentenary Challenge for 2013.Here is the original blog post if you are interested. The idea is to pick a challenge level (Ie: how many Pride and Prejudice inspired books, be they prequels, sequels, non-fiction, fan-fiction, etc., or movies or miniseries) then post our review on your blog.

This month I am reviewing Georgiana Darcy’s Diary by Anna Elliott

georgiana darcys diary

My first foray into Jane-ite fiction (not this book, a previous attempt) didn’t go so well. As a matter of fact, it was so bad I wiped it off my list of books for this challenge and replaced it with something else. I wasn’t sure what to expect of this one, but I’d heard it was a fan favorite. Well, consider me one of those fans. I want you to know, I am going to try really hard not to gush about this.

Here is the blurb:

Mr. Darcy’s younger sister searches for her own happily-ever-after.

The year is 1814, and it’s springtime at Pemberley. Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy have married. But now a new romance is in the air, along with high fashion, elegant manners, scandal, deception, and the wonderful hope of a true and lasting love.

Shy Georgiana Darcy has been content to remain unmarried, living with her brother and his new bride. But Elizabeth and Darcy’s fairy-tale love reminds Georgiana daily that she has found no true love of her own. And perhaps never will, for she is convinced the one man she secretly cares for will never love her in return. Georgiana’s domineering aunt, Lady Catherine de Bourgh, has determined that Georgiana shall marry, and has a list of eligible bachelors in mind. But which of the suitors are sincere, and which are merely interested in Georgiana’s fortune? Georgiana must learn to trust her heart and rely on her courage, for she also faces the return of the man who could ruin her reputation and spoil a happy ending, just when it finally lies within her grasp.

When we meet Georgiana Darcy in Pride and Prejudice, she is a bit of a mouse. If memory serves, I don’t think she says a word of actual dialog. Elizabeth recognizes her alleged “pride” as shyness. Here she a few years older and under her sister-in-law’s gentle guidance and good example, she has seasoned a little. She is still a shy girl, but she isn’t satisfied to stay that way.

“I said before that I hate being shy, sometimes. But it is more than that. If I could change one quality in myself, I would wish that I could stand and fight more easily, rather than wanting to run away and hide every time I am shocked or afraid.”

I like that. It’s something I totally relate to. Miss Darcy might be shy, but she has pluck. When a gypsy woman starts to read her fortune, Georgiana stops her, mid-gush. “Hadn’t you better stop while you’re ahead?” I asked. “There aren’t all that many more nice, promising-sounding adjectives you can use to describe this mysterious gentleman.” Well, instead of getting a gypsy curse dumped on her head, the old woman laughs and tells her a true fortune. She says that a former love is going to come back and everything is going to change. Considering she is surrounded by possible suitors brought in my Lady Catherine, here known as Aunt de Bourgh, she is glad to hear it.

This is more than a romance – this has a wonderfully layered plot. There is Aunt de Bourgh, bound and determined to see Georgiana engaged. There is cousin Anne, who Georgiana wants to draw out of a shroud of imagined frailty. A mysterious Frenchman who fled the revolution has his eye on Caroline Bingley… or does he? And what is Caroline up to, sneaking out of the house and disappearing at odd hours? And then there is cousin Edward Fitzwilliam, the man Georgiana has been in love with since she was six years old. He has returned from the war suffering from a wound, and not entirely himself. Something stirs between them, but Georgiana fears he still sees her as a child. And of course, there is romance. It shows up in unexpected quarters, it runs away, it gambols in the meadows. I don’t want to ruin the pairings!

This was such an enjoyable, well balanced read. Great voice, wonderful main character, who is likable but not perfect. Mystery. Romance. Foolishness. Delight. Ok. that’s enough. I guess I better stop before Georgiana chides me for my excessive use of adjectives.

There is a sequel that I haven’t gotten yet.

Vanity and Verity by Jeanne Waters

Well, my friends, the next two reviews are going to be a delight or a disaster, depending on your feelings about Jane Austen and the sequels, prequels and spinoffs that surround her canonical novels. This is not part of my Jane Austen reading challenge for 2013 – I will be posting my next review for the challenge on April 1st. This is just something that came up in my Amazon recommendations. I was intrigued by a prequel about Darcy’s parents and the indefatigable Lady Catherine De Bourgh. I got the sample, found the writing to be very good, and then bought the book. I think the blurb is overlong – but here is the link to Goodreads, and part of the blurb:

vanity and verity

A prequel to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Vanity and Verity explores the London debuts of Lady Anne and Lady Catherine Fitzwilliam. Upon arrival in London, Lady Catherine is immediately taken with the striking Mr. George Darcy (father of Austen’s iconic Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy). But the circumspect Lady Anne questions the character and connections of the yet unknown Mr. Darcy. Anxious to please her proud and domineering mother and concerned about protecting the imprudent Catherine from herself, Anne hopes to forge the right friendships and alliances to steer the sisters safely through a season in 1780s London. However, the cautious Anne is in danger of giving Mr. Darcy entirely the wrong idea of her character, even as Anne herself begins to reevaluate her first impressions of the gentleman. Meanwhile Catherine, intoxicated by the London scene, pursues flirtations with Mr. Darcy, his friend Mr. Tyndall, her cousin, and even the tedious Sir Lewis DeBourgh while Anne struggles to remind her sister – and herself – of the importance of empathy and consideration for others.

I immediately liked the tone and writing style. It starts off reminiscent of Jane Austen, which is easy to do for a few pages, when one’s tongue is gently placed in one’s cheek to mock one’s supercilious characters. That won’t work for a whole novel, as we are none of us Jane, are we? Ms. Waters is aware of this and moves on to a light regency touch. It’s a comfortable, familiar voice, which always adds to a historical when done well. The focus of the book is Anne, the elder daughter, and future mother of Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy. Her sister, Catherine, the future Lady Catherine de Bourgh, is unrecognizable as a spoiled, willful child who flirts with any handsome man who will pay her attention. Anne is far more contained. She is a sociable young woman, with the 19th century failing of most female characters: the inability to tell a pushy man to bug off! But let me back up.

Anne and Catherine’s father is a peer, but one with more title than fortune. His lady wife finds it reprehensible he will not hire a house in town so she can bring her daughters out. She didn’t care so much about Anne, but her beloved Catherine must have a season in London! The Earl doesn’t mind them going, as long as it doesn’t cost him any money. His solution: that his wife and daughters stay with his widowed sister. Lady Charlotte is only too happy to host them, being generous of nature and spirit, but lacking in understanding and social graces. The girls are soon caught up in the whirl of dances and entertainments. Anne has the misfortune of attracting the eye of her cousin’s friend, Mr. Wilson. An obnoxious bore, he reminds me of John Thorpe from Northanger Abbey. He attaches himself to her and won’t let go, despite her attempts to politely rebuff him. It is through Mr. Wilson that she meets Mr. Darcy and the comedy of errors begins. Mr. Wilson boasts of his friendship with Mr. Darcy. Having no idea of Mr. Darcy’s position, reputation or wealth, she doesn’t know that Wilson is only trying to make himself look good by association. Having no desire to spend the evening with more than one Mr. Wilson, she refuses Mr. Darcy when he asks her to dance. He graciously accepts her claim of fatigue and goes to dance with Catherine instead. Mr.Wilson has no intention of taking no for an answer. He drags her bodily onto the dance floor, despite her protestations, and pushes her into the line. Having rudely pushed several people aside and finding herself the center of attention, she has no recourse but to comply. In front of Mr. Darcy and everyone, she is required to dance with Mr. Wilson.

By the time Anne learns she has mistaken Mr. Darcy’s character, she feels she owes him some sort of apology. Her mother, however, does not believe that an Earl’s daughter should apologize for anything. Explain, she may, but apologize, never. Anne is trying to do this as delicately as possible, when her mother pipes up to assure Mr. Darcy that if Anne had known of his birth, she would surely have danced with him.

To a snob like Anne’s mother, this is acceptable, but to a man like Darcy, it makes a bad impression. And so another dance begins, this one metaphorical. Just as Anne begins to regard him, he pulls away from her. Does he despise her? Does she simply like him or does she like him like him? And why does she like him when he has shown her he thinks so little of her? Or has she misunderstood his natural delicacy? Is she reading too much into his actions? Why does he not ask her to dance? In the mean time, her sister is bouncing between Mr. Darcy and his friend Mr. Tyndall, imagining she can use the one to get to the other. A Mrs. Scott and her daughter ingratiate themselves to the ladies, to Anne’s dismay, and Miss Scott begins to flatter her way into Catherine’s good graces. Then there is another young gentleman of fortune named Lord Barham on the scene. Catherine drops all pretense of affection for Mr. Tyndall, she must realize Darcy is beyond her reach, and sets her cap at getting a Lord. And poor Anne is in the middle, trying to keep her sister from making a complete fool of herself and breaking Mr. Tyndall’s heart.

Misunderstanding is heaped upon misapprehension, confusion, lies, backbiting, rumors that are completely off the mark – all against the mix of people striving for engagements, gossip, a place in society, fortune gathering and flattery. I really enjoyed the relationship between Anne and Darcy when it finally started to bloom, and also enjoyed shouting at the pages when obstacles would come between them. In a good romance, you know everything will come out all right, but the author should have you wondering How?! How on earth is this going to be made right?

I do have a few complaints. I loathed Catherine as a character and thought she was nothing like the Lady Catherine of Pride and Prejudice. How she came to be with her husband, Sir Lewis DeBourgh, was unbelievable. Then at the end, the two main characters led us through a line by line review of their relationship that went on and on and on. And finally, as so often happens in these books, I felt the author lifted characters from other Jane Austen books and gave them different names. Most of these seem to come from Sense and Sensibility. A friend, Miss Augusta Anderson may well have been Anne Steele, Lucy Steele’s less manipulative sister. Lady Charlotte was like Mrs. Jennings. Lord Barham (SPOILER ALERT highlight the white text if you want to see who I think he is like ) is sort of a mix of Henry Crawford from Mansfield Park and the future Mr. Wickham.

Those are minor complaints. I enjoyed this book and the main characters. I think it was self-published, but it wasn’t riddled with errors or bad grammar like so many of them. Since it was a prequel, and so many characters were brand new, there was more leeway for the author. Though you know what is coming in the future, you don’t know these character’s pasts, so you aren’t looking to see what all the author might have gotten wrong. And we all knew Mr. Darcy’s parents had to be likable folk. I would read another book by this author in a heartbeat.