#89 A Review of Mr. Darcy’s Refuge by Abigail Reynolds

After reading a good number of Pride and Prejudice variations, I’ve seen everything from a zombie infested Pemberley to Lizzie and Darcy existing as modern rock stars.  So, although interesting, it was no surprise when I read the summary of Mr. Darcy’s Refuge by Abigail Reynolds.  This time, it’s a natural disaster that impedes on their lives, and knowing Reynolds’ work like I do, I knew I was in for a great read!

We begin with Darcy traveling to Rosings Park, his initial disastrous proposal to Elizabeth barely underway when someone bursts into the room, breathlessly telling them that the river has overflowed its banks!  Fortunately for the residents of Kent (and unfortunately for Elizabeth and Darcy), the Hunsford Parsonage of Rosings Park is high enough above the waters for everyone to escape to safety.  Now, Elizabeth and Darcy have multiple unintended witnesses to the aftermath of Darcy’s proposal, which he thinks is successful while Elizabeth thinks otherwise.  Additionally, with the flood forcing them to be together in the Parsonage for three whole days, Elizabeth’s reputation is at stake.  With tensions rising, Elizabeth and Darcy are forced to confront their feelings for each other, while they soon find that Mr. Bennet is furious with the goings on and clashes with his daughter.  What will happen to this powder keg of emotions and activity?  Will Darcy and Elizabeth even be able to look at each other after this is all over?

Reading Abigail Reynolds’ books is always pleasant because of the unique “what if” questions she often asks.  Putting Darcy and Elizabeth into a situation with no escape and a marriage that must be forced due to propriety has to be one of the harder “what if” plots to write.  The flood was an excellent plot device for two reasons: it got Elizabeth and Darcy into a situation that they could not escape, and it cut them off from all of the other essential characters that would have been able to act as chaperones between the two.  This was a great idea because it maximized the drama that was sure to unfold between Darcy and Elizabeth as it gave them literally no way out of the mess they were involved in.  The most intriguing element of this read was the introduction of Col. Fitzwilliam as yet another suitor for Elizabeth.  The conclusion to his story is one that completely shocked me and surprisingly made me happy.  One thing that did disappoint me was the speed at which Darcy’s transformation occurred, as it seemed a bit fast for my taste.  Other than this, however, I got to enjoy the superior writing style and tone that is always present in Ms. Reynolds writing.  As always, it was a wonderful effort that any fan of Reynolds (or newcomer to her books) should add to their to-read pile!

4 out of 5 Stars

This is my thirty-eighth completed review for the Historical Fiction Challenge

Mr. Darcy’s Refuge by Abigail Reynolds
White Soup Press (2012)
eBook: 238 pages
ISBN: 2940015170801

Special thanks to Ms. Reynolds for sending me my review copy!

#34 A Guest Review of A Pemberley Medley by Abigail Reynolds

My newest guest review for Austenprose was on Abigail Reynolds’ A Pemberley Medley, a compilation of 5 Pride and Prejudice what-if short stories.  I discuss my thoughts on my favorite of the medley, “Intermezzo”, and my thoughts on the book as a whole!

For Austen fans interested in dipping their toes into the fan fiction world this is a great place to start.  Reynolds was one of the first Austen fan fiction authors I read.  It’s obvious from the amount of JAFF that I read that it’s a genre I love.  I credit Reynolds for being a huge reason why I fell in love with the genre.

A direct link to my review is here

This is my sixteenth completed review for the Historical Fiction Challenge

#24 A Review of Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy: The Last Man in the World by Abigail Reynolds

As many of you know, “what if” variations of Pride and Prejudice are quite possibly my favorite type of Jane Austen fan fiction!  The amount of material that authors come up with to further our favorite story lines of Ms. Austen’s is both amazing and fascinating.  We are treated to new and unique plots that very well could have been what Jane wanted to write but never had the chance.  As expected, Abigail Reynolds has done just this in Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy: The Last Man in the World.  This new take on Elizabeth and Darcy’s life post-proposal is new and exciting, and I couldn’t wait to crack it open and see what she had in store!

We find ourselves following Elizabeth and Darcy immediately after his initial proposal of marriage to her at Rosings Park.  We all know of her famous rejection, perhaps the most stinging line in the entire novel, “”I had not known you a month before I felt that you were the last man in the world whom I could ever be prevailed on to marry.”  It carried all the bubbling resentment that Elizabeth held against Mr. Darcy once she learned of his involvement with Bingley’s abrupt separation from Jane.  However, what if she never got to utter those famous words?  What if mistaking Elizabeth’s silence for acceptance, Darcy kissed her? What if this kiss was witnessed by Colonel Fitzwilliam?  How would their marriage work with a complacent Elizabeth and a deeply in love Darcy?  Thanks to the imaginative prose of Ms. Reynolds, we can see just that.

I kid you not when I say that I read this book like four times a year.  It is one of, if not my favorite, Jane Austen fan fiction novels.  When we see Darcy at the Rosings proposal scene in Pride and Prejudice, we’ve only begun to scratch the surface of his character.  We know that he is haughty, prideful, and arrogant, but we don’t know that he has fallen desperately in love with Elizabeth.  What’s so great about Reynolds choosing this as the starting point for her novel is that we get front row seats for his emotional transformation.  This novel gives us the unique viewpoint of a still, haughty Darcy married to a complacent Elizabeth.  Because Elizabeth hasn’t yet professed her true feelings to Darcy, he has yet to have his nature and manners rebuked.  When Elizabeth’s real feelings are finally voiced, it becomes time for Reynolds’ writing to shine.  The despondency and despair that become the prevalent characteristics of the Darcy marriage are written so expressively that as a reader you develop your own well of sadness.  This is not to say that the entire book is depressing, because it most certainly is not, but Reynolds’ writing abilities are able to take you as a reader on a complex journey of finding one’s self and becoming worthy of life’s greatest gift: love.

Reynolds’ ability to continually create unique experiences into which our favorite characters are thrust continues to amaze me.  Fast paced, and a joy to read, Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy: The Last Man in the World will take you on an emotional rollercoaster that will delight JAFF fans aplenty!

5 out of 5 Stars

This is my thirteenth completed review for the Historical Fiction Challenge

Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy: Last Man in the World by Abigail Reynolds
Sourcebooks (2010)
Paperback: 248 pages
ISBN: 9781402229473

#95 A Review of Mr. Darcy’s Undoing by Abigail Reynolds

Mr. Darcy's UndoingI’ve been a fan of Abigail Reynolds for several years now, having read almost everything that she’s published so far.  I was giddy with anticipation when I heard that her novel With Reserve was being tweaked and re-published by Sourcebooks with the new title, Mr. Darcy’s Undoing.  As in her other novels, Reynolds re-tells Pride and Prejudice by changing a piece of the plot, to create a new outcome.

In her work, Reynolds explores what many die-hard Austenites would consider high treason: having Lizzy accept a proposal other than that of Mr. Darcy’s.  Realizing that none of her sisters have any marriage prospects, Elizabeth accepts a proposal to the bland Mr. Covington, after her disastrous meeting with  Darcy in Kent.  When they meet again Darcy is devastated by the news of her engagement, he must decide how far he is willing to go to win her affections back.  Yet it is a time where such thoughts and actions would be considered truly scandalous.  Would Darcy risk all in order to gain his true love?  Will Elizabeth feel the same way, even though she would be doing the unthinkable by breaking her engagement?

Reynolds’ books are always exciting to read, because I love what-if P&P variations.  It’s exciting to see how very many paths fan fiction writers can find to take Elizabeth and Darcy down.  This might be my favorite of Reynolds’ variations, because I really enjoyed the changes to Darcy and Elizabeth’s circumstances here.  Elizabeth winds up breaking off her engagement to Mr. Covington, knowing that social circumstances will not allow her to accept another man in the future without being ostracized from “good” society.  She realizes her true feelings for Darcy, and would rather be alone for the rest of her life as a spinster than marry a man she doesn’t love unconditionally.  I respect her decision so much when put in the context of that time period.  She took the road less traveled, facing the  judgement of her family, friends, and peers, knowing that they would turn against her after the broken engagement.  The Darcy we see is willing to go outside the boundaries of propriety for his heart’s true desire.  He is a man in love, willing to do anything to gain the love and trust of his soul mate.

The trials that Reynolds has them face are exhilarating to read, and had me exceedingly pleased with the outcome.  Reynolds must be patted on the back for yet another job well done.  (Be warned Austen purists, there are some romantic interludes present in the novel)

4 out of 5 Stars

Mr. Darcy’s Undoing by Abigail Reynolds
Sourcebooks (2011)
Paperback  336 pages
ISBN: 9781402240942

#44 A Review of What Would Mr. Darcy Do? by Abigail Reynolds

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I would like to hereby bestow the title of ‘Queen of the Austen Retelling’ to Abigail Reynolds.  Abigail is the author of six different variation novels and is in the process of writing a sequel to one of them, Mr. Darcy’s Obsession. She writes exquisite Pride and Prejudice variations that grip the reader from start to finish.  Her latest publication, What Would Mr. Darcy Do? was originally published with the title From Lambton to Longbourn. 

What Would Mr. Darcy Do brings us back to that fateful day in Lambton when Elizabeth Bennet is given the news that her sister, Lydia, has run away with Wickham.  The novel begins with Darcy going to the Inn at Lambton to see Elizabeth after their succesful reintroduction at Pemberley.  He walks in, sees her face, and realizes that she’s in distress.  Elizabeth confides in him that her sister has eloped with Wickham and that she must hurry back to Longbourn to help in the search for her.   Here is where the plot takes a different path from Pride and Prejudice: instead of the two separating  not knowing the other’s true feelings, they both express their growing feelings with a kiss.  Unfortunately, Elizabeth’s aunt and uncle chose the very moment of their kiss to return to the room.  The two quickly separate and are put in separate rooms while Uncle Gardiner discusses the situation with Darcy.  Darcy lays his heart out to Uncle Gardiner, telling him about his first proposal to Elizabeth and that his intentions towards her are absolutely honorable.  Uncle Gardiner says he won’t press Darcy to marry Elizabeth, as he believes Elizabeth would be close to accepting Darcy if he proposed again.  Darcy begins to have hope that Elizabeth could be his if he plays his cards right.  Will he figure out how to win Elizabeth’s heart, or will Elizabeth’s feelings be torn between their past and present?

I feel the need to begin my review by giving shout-outs to Georgiana, Kitty, and Mary.  The three of them became very different young ladies while in the presence of each other.  Georgiana has become less shy while Kitty has learned to not be so boisterous.  The two bring Mary out of her constantly somber mood and teach her to have a bit of fun.  The three became exactly the young ladies I always hoped they’d be.   In short, they kept me entertained, and I just wanted to give them credit where it was due.

At times I felt like the storyline got a bit repetitive.  Elizabeth is on the fence for a good portion of the book as to her true feelings for Darcy.  She reflects on their past together and what she knows of his personality.  Additionally, I had a question with what I viewed as the main conflict of the story: Elizabeth’s inability to discover whether Darcy’s transformation is truly that, a transformation.  She’s conflicted with the thought that if they were to marry he might return to his taciturn and prideful manner.  While I belive this to be a valid conflict, I wish it was resolved a bit sooner, because I LOVED the scenes of Darcy and Elizabeth in complete understanding of each other.  It is once their love for each other is voiced and realized that Reynolds’s writing truly shines.  She creates many memorable romantic scenes that will tickle the fancy of those in love with these characters.

For those who have never delved into variation may I highly suggest you do so soon?  Yes, the storyline strays from the original (it is a variation after all!), but it gives us the opportunity to meet our favorite characters once again in a new and creative way.  Definitely not a PG rated book, so keep that in mind when chosing this as your next read.  Thanks to Abigail for writing yet another excellent novel.

4 out of 5 Stars

This is my nineteenth completed review for the Historical Fiction Challenge

What Would Mr. Darcy Do? by Abigail Reynolds
Sourcebooks (2011)
Paperback 240 pages

#17 A Review of To Conquer Mr. Darcy by Abigail Reynolds

Cover ImageTo Conquer Mr. Darcy is another of Abigail Reynolds’ famous Pride and Prejudice variations books.  Reynolds truly is THE master of the Austen variation novel.  In this particular novel she poses the following questions: What if Mr. Darcy did not give up after Elizabeth rejected him? What if he pursued her and she fell in love with him? What if their love and passion would not allow them to wait until their wedding night?

Colonel Fitzwilliam arrives at Darcy’s London townhouse a few short weeks following the disastrous “Rosings proposal.”  Fitzwilliam has no idea what’s been bothering Darcy, but after getting him drunk enough to admit he’s in love with Elizabeth Bennet, he convinces Darcy not to give up.  Colonel Fitzwilliam convinces him to insert himself back into her life and make her see the man he really is.  Accompanied by Georgiana, Darcy returns back to Netherfield and back into Elizabeth’s life.  Once back in Elizabeth’s presence he convinces her to come back to Netherfield to be introduced to his sister.  She readily agrees and after meeting Georgiana quickly establishes a friendship with promises for more afternoon visits together.  Seeing Elizabeth ready to leave, Darcy asks if he can drive her home.  Elizabeth’s visits to Georgiana continue thrusting her into Darcy’s company often.  She begins seeing a new side of Darcy and quickly realizes that he is not going to give up on his dreams of having her as his wife.  As they spend more time together Darcy begins taking more liberties with her.  He tells her how he feels about her in a subdued manner, holds her hand, takes private walks with her, and at one point the two make-out.  Elizabeth begins having feelings for Darcy on a passionate level but cannot forget both the things he said to her during his proposal and what he did to Jane and Bingley.  She struggles with her feelings knowing that Darcy is indeed a good man.  Will Elizabeth ever be able to reconcile her feelings and return the love that Darcy feels for her?  Where will their “passion” take them?

I had read this book for the first time last year and wasn’t the biggest fan of it.  As a huge fan of Abigail Reynolds I decided to give it a second chance; I’m really glad I did.  Upon my first reading of the book I was really disappointed in how Darcy’s character was changed.  I thought that he would NEVER sleep with Elizabeth prior to their wedding or be as forward as he was.  On the other hand I also didn’t think that Elizabeth would have slept with him prior to their wedding knowing how badly she reacted to Lydia’s situation with Wickham.  With my second reading I could see the gradual changes that each of the characters made, making the end result not wholly unexpected.  I thought it was hysterical that Lizzie and Darcy told Bingley and Jane that they slept together prior to their wedding.  To see the change that the news brought to Bingley and Jane’s relationship was really humorous. 

The most enjoyable part of the entire book was reading about the “new Darcy”. Darcy became a man who was bold and knew he had to risk everything if he wanted Elizabeth as his wife.  He held some of his feelings and thoughts back at first but realized there was no point.  If Elizabeth would have him he wanted her to know all of him.  I was also glad that Georgiana got bought out of the woodwork.  She plays a key role in bringing Elizabeth and Darcy together in the beginning of the book, as she is basically their “chaperone” on outings.  It was touching to see how much she came to care for Elizabeth once she knew she was the one Darcy loved.

This book is definitely for more mature readers.  There are many sexual scenes not meant for young eyes.  For those who wished they could read more about the sexual romps of Elizabeth and Darcy, then this is a must-read for you. 

4 out of 5 Stars

This is my eleventh completed review for the Historical Fiction Challenge

To Conquer Mr. Darcy by Abigail Reynolds
Sourcebooks (2010)
Paperback 416 pages
ISBN: 9781402237300

My Favorite Ten Books of the Year! (Part I)

With the year coming to a close I figured I’d post my favorite ten books that I read for the year. The books below haven’t necessarily been published in 2010, they’re just my favorite reads for 2010. 

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 1.) Persuasion by Jane Austen – This is one of my all time favorite novels! I re-read it again this year for a group discussion that was going on in the Jane Austen group on goodreads. A quick synopsis is that Anne Elliot and Captain Frederick Wentworth fall in love once upon a time and become engaged.  Anne breaks their engagement after being persuaded by her family that it is not a suitable match, due to Frederick’s lack of wealth and lower social status.  Broken hearted Frederick throws himself into his duties as an officer in the navy, quickly gaining wealth and title.  Several years later the Elliot’s, now having financial difficulties, rent out their family estate to Wentworth’s sister and brother-in-law; the Crofts.  When Wentworth goes to visit the Crofts he’s thrust into Anne’s company again.  The two must figure out if the love they once shared still exists within each other, or if it is lost forever.  I am so glad that I re-read Persuasion again this year.  I had read it a long time ago and completely forgot how much I truly loved it.  If you have never read it, then I highly suggest you do.  It’s a love story that you will truly never forget.

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2.) A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick – WOW.  My mind is STILL blown from this book.  Just wow wow wow wow wow.  Goolrick’s way of writing is incredibly captivating.  His characters are vivid, his settings are descriptive, and his story is unique and imaginative.  Ralph Truitt, missing female companionship, puts an ad into the newspaper for a wife.  Catherine Land, a woman with a sordid past, answers the ad and begins the long trek to Wisconsin to be Ralph’s wife.  The reader soon learns that there is more to Catherine then originally thought.  I highly suggest reading this book.  You can read my full review here

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3.) Killing Yourself to Live by Chuck Klosterman – My book club selected it as the group read for September and boy am I glad.  Klosterman is definitely the foremost expert on current pop culture.  His books are filled with references to music, movies, celebrities, major events, ect.  I wanted to have an intellectual conversation with everyone as soon as I finished the book. In Killing Yourself to Live, Klosterman takes the reader on his journey cross-country to figure out why it is that a musician needs to die in order to become a legend.  He visits the sites where musicians have died, hoping it will shed light on their immortality.  While he doesn’t necessarily come up with an answer to that question, he does come up with answers to some of the questions he has about his own life.  If you’re a fan of music this is a great book to read.

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4.) Fitzwilliam Darcy: Last Man in the World – Abigail Reynolds – I’m a huge fan of Pride and Prejudice sequels, which is unsurprising considering that P&P is my favorite book ever.  I read a lot of Jane Austen fan fiction over the course of this year, with this being my favorite of all of them.  Abigail Reynolds specializes in writing Pride and Prejudice variations.  She essentially writes Pride and Prejudice while changing a major detail.  In this particular instance Reynolds makes Darcy’s first proposal to Elizabeth the one that sticks.  Darcy, thinking that Elizabeth has said yes to marrying him, kisses her, and is then caught.  Since propriety was such a major think back in the day, Elizabeth says that yes they are engaged and begins her facade into being a dutiful but unhappy bride for Darcy.  Darcy is none the wiser, he sincerely thinks that Elizabeth is happy to be married to him.  When he does find out the unhappy truth he is devastated and crushed.  They must figure out a way to make their marriage work or be unhappy for all their lives to a partner they despise.  The reason I think this was my favorite of all of the P&P sequels/variations/retellings I read was the characterizations.  Reynolds writes the characters just as rich and full of life as Austen did, which in-turn makes her books an absolute joy to read.

Cover Image5.) Walking Dead Volume I by Robert Kirkman and Tony Moore – Todd and I started watching AMC’s The Walking Dead when it premiered a few months ago and were in love with the idea of it.  We went out to Barnes and Noble soon after and decided to pick up the first volume of the graphic novels.  The story, art-work, writing, just everything about it blew me away.  It’s a spectacular view of life and how the most dire of situations not only changes us as people, but society as a whole.  There is a lot more to this series than meets the eye.  If you’re unafraid to delve into the deeper meaning of the words and actions of the characters you can find it a very fulfilling read.  You can read my full review here.

So that concludes my top 5 favorite books I’ve read for the year.  Please check in within the next day or so for numbers 6-10!

Happy Reading!

A Review of Mr. Darcy’s Obsession by Abigail Reynolds

Mr. Darcy’s Obsession is author Abigail Reynolds’ sixth Pride and Prejudice variation, but the first of her novels not previously published independently.  Her five previous novels are To Conquer Mr. Darcy (Originally published as Impulse and Initiative), Fitzwilliam Darcy: Last Man in the World, Without Reserve, By Force of Instinct, and From Lambton to Longbourn.  (From Lambton to Longbourn is being re-released in the spring of 2011 under the title What Would Mr. Darcy Do?). Mr. Darcy’s Obsession poses the following what-if questions: what if Darcy had never proposed to Elizabeth at Rosings? What if Mr. Bennet died and Mr. Collins took over the entail at Longbourn?  What if Elizabeth’s situation was lower than ever? Would Mr. Darcy still love her in even lower standards?

 Mr. Darcy’s Obsession picks up two years after Darcy and Elizabeth part company at Rosings. (Darcy never proposed to Elizabeth, owing to her hasty departure to care for her ailing father.)  Bingley meets Darcy one day in London telling him that he happened upon Elizabeth and came to find out that Mr. Bennet had died, and that due to the entail on the estate her family was thrust out of Longbourn.  Elizabeth now lives with the Gardiners in London, Jane lives with her merchant husband, Mrs. Bennett, Lydia, and Kitty still live in Meryton at Mrs. Phillips house, and Mary is off taking care of an ailing cousin.  Darcy declares to himself that he must seek Elizabeth out to make sure she is being properly taken care of.  He decides to have an impromptu meeting with her during her morning walk about the park.  Their first meeting is all it takes for Darcy to become completely love struck again. Elizabeth begins seeing a new side of Darcy and decides that Wickham must have been wrong about him.  (Readers will understand that since Darcy never proposed, Elizabeth never received the letter explaining his actions against Wickham) She begins falling in love with him and Darcy realizes that it doesn’t matter what his family or society thinks of him, he can’t live without her. Darcy decides to propose to Elizabeth but regretfully miss-states his feelings, thus causing Elizabeth to think he proposed that she be his mistress.  She slaps him and runs away distraught that he would ever ask that of her.  Elizabeth comes to find out that she misinterpreted everything Darcy said and is deeply distraught over it, for she truly was beginning to fall in love with Darcy.  Darcy on the other hand is so depressed thinking that if she could think he would ask her to be his mistress that she could never look upon him with love.  The two ill-fated lovers try to engross themselves their lives but can’t and wind up missing the other company.  Darcy vows he can’t live like that anymore and needs Elizabeth.  He finds her out in the park one day and rekindles the repartee they had before his proposal.  Circumstances arise however that forces Elizabeth to leave London and head back to help her mother and Jane in Meryton. 

Unlike her other what-if variations Reynolds opted to make this one more about love overcoming all obstacles to tell Elizabeth and Darcy’s story, rather than make it a passion heavy story.  Some readers will be delighted that there are not heavy sexual sequences in this book as there are some in Reynolds’ prior works.  Everything in Mr. Darcy’s Obsession has a more sensual feel to it.

“She tipped her head to the side, and with a mischievous look, she touched her fingertips to his lips.  A shock of desire shook him at the unexpected, but more than welcome, touch. He could not resist catching her hand and pressing first one kiss, then another, into the curve of her palm.”

Mr. Darcy’s Obsesssion is a work of creative genius.  Reynolds has a way of truly being able to change one small piece of Austen’s original story and create an entirely new story, while still holding true to Austen’s conflicts, outcomes and  original characters. The new characters she creates are just as vivacious as Austen’s original creations.  If you have never read Pride and Prejudice I truly don’t think you would be able to figure out who is not an original Austen creation.  This book made me love Elizabeth and Darcy all over again.  Elizabeth for her strength and Darcy for his tenacity and unwillingness to let Elizabeth have anything less than she deserved.  He is truly a caring and thoughtful character.

4 out of 5 stars

You can read more reviews of Mr. Darcy’s Obsession at Austenprose or Diary of An Eccentric.

To read an interview with Abigail Reynolds and for a give-away of Mr. Darcy’s Obsession head on over to Austenesque Reviews