Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Summer Reading: Pride & Prejudice and beyond

I could easily spend my entire summer sitting on the patio reading.  And it would make me totally happy. 

One of my new year's resolutions was to read more books.  I'm happy to say I'm doing a great job sticking with this resolution! (Note: this year I was clever enough to set resolutions I would enjoy and have no problem following through with.  This makes me feel very proud of myself because I will be able to say I reached my goals.) 

I've read a good variety of books:  a few biographies of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, Jennifer Weiner's Best Friends Forever, several of Philippa Gregory's historical novels (love!), the Fifty Shades trilogy (aka the "Mommy Porn;" yes, I admit it!) and a lot of John Jakes: I re-read the North and South trilogy and then read the 8-volume Kent Family Chronicles (loved this series).  But my favorite reads this year have to be the sequels and variations of Pride & Prejudice. 

At first, I was a bit dubious about reading any attempt to imitate and/or continue what I consider to be the best book ever.  As an English major, I am a diehard Jane Austen fan.  My favorite college course a Jane Austen seminar, in which we read all six of her novels and then I got to write a nice long paper about her work.  Yes, that's my idea of fun.  I read P & P on a yearly basis.  I knew there were some sequels and variations out there, but I'd never bothered to check any of them out because I thought they probably weren't worth reading.  During one of my trips to my local Half Price Books, I came upon a few and decided to take a look. 

The first one I picked up was not for me.  It was a variation involving a love affair between Mr. Darcy and Mr. Bingley.  I knew I couldn't muster up the suspension of disbelief necessary to read that story.  But the next one I found was more to my liking: Linda Berdoll's Mr. Darcy Takes a Wife.  It's a little bit naughty, shall we say--but don't we all want to know what happens after Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy say "I do"?  And don't we all envision their marriage as a passionate one?  I think we do.  I think the fact that this book dares to delve into the passion between Elizabeth and Darcy that Ms. Austen hints at but never  reveals is what makes it so fun.  For those of us who have dreamed of finding our own Mr. Darcy, these sequels are a bit like seeing our own fantasies in print.

One thing that all of the sequels and variations have in common is that Mr. Darcy is the man of our dreams.  He is the ultimate romantic hero: his love for Elizabeth is unfailing.  He is strong, smart, and brave, and of course, he's a handsome devil too: a fine figure of a man.  He is everything we have always dreamed of.  None of the books I've read so far have attempted to deviate from the Darcy of our dreams, that is, the Darcy that Miss Austen created over 200 years ago who has so captured the imagination of many generations that writers are still writing about him.  Darcy and Elizabeth are the ideal couple, are they not?  She is pretty and smart, independent and spunky.  He is handsome, rich, and passionate. 

So, if you're like me, and you enjoy living in Miss Austen's world, here are some titles you might enjoy (in no particular order):

Mr. Darcy Takes a Wife
Darcy & Elizabeth
The Darcys: The Ruling Passion
This trilogy is by Linda Berdoll. 

Mr. Darcy Presents His Bride by Helen Halstead

The Darcys of Pemberley by Shannon Winslow

Charlotte: Pride & Prejudice Continues  by Karen Aminadra.  This is a sequel, but focuses on the character of Charlotte Lucas following her marriage to the unforgettable and ridiculous Mr. Collins.

Caroline Bingley: A Continuation of Jane Austen's Pride & Prejudice  by Jennifer Becton (this author has written another title that is on my list to read, entitled Charlotte Collins, not to be confused with the above title).

His Good Opinion: A Mr. Darcy Novel by Nancy Kelley.  This is a re-telling or variation rather than a sequel and I loved it.  Absolutely loved it. 

The Pemberley Chronicles by Rebecca Ann Collins.  This is the first of a 10-volume series.  I have only read this title so far.  Not my favorite, but enjoyable. 

There are numerous sequels & variations available--and every time I finish one, my Kindle helpfully recommends several more titles for my enjoyment.  Or I find more at the library.  The list is seemingly endless, but that's okay with me.  I like living in my little fantasy world with Mr. Darcy. 

Happy reading. 

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