Reviewed by Nigella (maritime historian)
Against the remit of RRM and expected due regard to anthologies, I am, as it were, obliged to read and review each story in turn and I haven’t. With two stories and a third of the next read I was Darcy fatigued.
However I did feel obliged to flip through the table of contents and at random selected stories for a quick browse. To my utter dismay different eras alternating from Regency to modern threw me and never again will I pick up another modern day Austen novel or anthology riding on Ms Austen’s pelisse hem. My reasons for abandonment of the Darcy Monologues can be viewed at the bottom of the page.
Death of a Bachelor by Caitlin Williams inducts the reader with Mrs Fitzwiliam Darcy, nee Elizabeth Bennet, and her beloved Darcy travelling to London post-wedding nuptials. There is little more can be said of this well written short story with Austenesque prose befitting the period in third person perspective. To reveal more would entail a plot spoiler.
From the Ashes by J Marie Croft is another Darcy in which the author narrates the story from the perspective of Darcy’s harrowing and humiliating self analysis of Elizabeth’s rejection of his marriage proposal. Effectively it’s a well written cameo utilising Ms Austen’s fully-formed character with literate flair.
If Only a Dream by Joana Starnes is befittingly yet another well written Darcy Monologue, and it is with regret I could read no further. After two Darcy stories, the third began to rankle and my thoughts strayed to how wonderful Jane Austen’s characters were, and how overused they are by modern day authors obsessed with Fitzwilliam Darcy.
When young I didn’t appreciate Jane Austen’s novel Pride & Prejudice foisted on me as obligatory reading at my school until the untitled toff Fitzwilliam Darcy and Miss Elizabeth Bennet the feisty and somewhat capricious female grabbed my attention. Both were superbly depicted by Austen, not least Darcy’s supercilious nature and contempt for the lower orders. Over the years I have read Pride & Prejudice several times and the chip that sat on Darcy’s shoulder has remained as plain as a pike staff and I believe he hailed as likely as not from Ms Austen’s observant eye of a gentleman of her time. On the scale of social mobility Darcy is a commoner regardless of family connections to a lordly base, for that reason Ms Austen portrayed him with sense of zeal as though she disliked him every bit as much as Elizabeth did. His deportment demands attention, his scornful nature thereby is his undoing in Elizabeth’s eyes until against all that he abhors he succumbs to physical desire for that feisty madam of the lower order. One wonders if in her own way Jane Austen derived great satisfaction from his comedown in marriage to Elizabeth. How ironic then Ms Austen left Darcy in a social set he had despised and ridiculed. For me Austen is Austen, and modern day Austenesque novels touch me not.
Reviewed by Nigella
Back Cover Blurb
A tale of love, manners, and the quest for perfect vowels.
From a new voice in historical romance comes this sparkling Regency tale, wherein the elegance of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and the wit of George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion collide. The results are clever, funny, and often quite unexpected….
Professor Fitzwilliam Darcy, expert in phonetics and linguistics, wishes for nothing more than to spend some time in peace at his friend’s country estate, far from the parade of young ladies wishing for his hand, and further still from his aunt’s schemes to have him marry his cousin. How annoying it is when a young lady from the neighbourhood, with her atrocious Hertfordshire accent and country manners, comes seeking his help to learn how to behave and speak as do the finest ladies of high society.
Elizabeth Bennet has disliked the professor since overhearing his flippant comments about her provincial accent, but recognizes in him her one opportunity to survive a prospective season in London. Despite her ill feelings for the man, she asks him to take her on as a student, but is unprepared for the price he demands in exchange.
Teaching Eliza is simply the re-telling of Pride & Prejudice and the incongruous amalgamation of Pygmalion, probably better known as My Fair Lady? Meticulously following through on Jane Austen’s readymade characters, the author awards Fitzwilliam Darcy with a professorship in sociolinguistics. For that reason, when Darcy morphed into Professor Higgins of My Fair Lady fame, it took some swallowing, but there ‘tis. In like to Professor Higgins who instructed Eliza Doolittle in the art of elegance and voice to assume a socially acceptable persona, from there on the author alleges Lizzie’s Hertfordshire accent is inferior to Darcy’s North Country seeding, and if that be the case, it can be said, plum to mouth training never justly disguises the orator’s original roots. Beyond any shadow of doubt the author impresses the reader with a literate rendition of Jane Austen’s much beloved P&P characters. Additionally excellence of a thesaurus redeems and lifts common realm words to elevated literary standards, while in itself the novel remains an appropriation of characters and plots from others former endeavours. How did I feel on reaching the end? Sadly Indifferent!
Review by Francine.
In Charlotte, the author takes us beyond Pride & Prejudice and Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy's trials and tribulations, to that of Mr. Collins, a thoroughly despicable creature, whom, as a character in Jane Austen's classic P&P was in all honesty her party piece. Mr. Collins appeared as a larger than life toadying and lecherous would-be suitor to Elizabeth Bennet, and one could almost hear his shuddering intakes of breath (sucked between teeth) and as a reader paid witness to drool at the side of his mouth.
I'm not sure how, but Ms Aminadra shines new light on Mr. Collins and one wonders if it was possible to have sorely misunderstood Jane Austen's previous characterisation of Collins in P&P as an obsequious and vile tongued manipulator. Charlotte, however, remains reasonably true to her original characterisation: seeking sense of direction and a house all her own, and views marriage with Mr. Collins a necessity at the outset. Likewise, as in P&P, Lady Catherine de Bourgh is true to character, and then comes the twist as Charlotte rallies strength to rebel and Mr. Collins ever the submissive to his patroness Lady de Bourgh suddenly becomes beholden to Mr. Darcy.
As a novel this is a fun read and highly amusing, though I'm not sure the Mr. Darcy of Austen's P&P would readily have paid court to Collins. Nevertheless, this is not an Austen novel, this is what amounts to a spin-off and "what might have been" had Jane Austen written a sequel to P&P. A fun read!
Also reviewed by David:
Those of us authors who write Regency Romances often also tackle the canon of Jane Austen and try to take her creations and add our own twist to them. This falls into a few groups, one that take the historical Jane and use her in their story, others who take her creations and are exceedingly true to them, as best they can, or take those characters beyond the short few paragraphs she left us at the end of her stories. I have done so and by so doing have put on paper my thoughts on how those characters would change. Ms. Aminadra has done so as well, using as her heroine, Charlotte Collins nee Lucas.
We are all familiar with the tale of Pride and Prejudice, and the farcical Mr. Collins whom Lizzy Bennet and Mr. Bennet both make fun of, though Lizzy for the sake of her friendship with Charlotte, when visiting and actually meeting the esteemed Patroness, understand more of what is in the nature of Mr. Collins. But that is the canon, and as Ms Aminadra weaves her tale, she has to embellish the few lines of what we guess will happen to the Collins'.
Charlotte of course is caught in the middle with what will occur post Pride and Prejudice as she will one day be the Lady of Longbourn and we know Mrs. Bennet the mother of her BFF is assured that she will be turned out right quick. Not that Mrs. Bennet should think that this is now as dire as it was before. From all the movies we have seen, Directors have chosen to show us that ten Longbourns could fit into any Pemberly and a room certainly could be found for her there, or at Netherfield. Yet back in Mertyn, one can be sure that Mrs. Bennet has something to say about Mrs Collins, the daughter of Lady Lucas who still is one of her closest friends, and rivals for attention in that neighborhood.
From this Ms. Aminadra is able to relate to us that Charlotte Collins has complexities, as well as from the Canon's reveal that Charlotte was never one to think she would wed for love. That clearly puts her on the quest to find love. And while Jane Austen left us with several ladies still in need of marrying at the end of Pride and Prejudice, of the men, their is but one, Colonel Fitzwilliam (discounting Denny and other men of the Militia Regiment we hardly met)
Close in approximation to reading one of Jane's works, we sometimes leave the POV of the women and see inside such men as Mr. Collins, or the Colonel. That is a depth Jane did not give us, but it adds to the brushed that Ms Aminadra paints this canvas with.
Here we are taken to a part of time, (though the idea that the Colonel and other officers could leave the theater of war easily is perhaps something that wasn't researched as well as it could have been) in the latest stages of the Peninsula Campaign years, (Wellington being referred to as Duke which came after that was over) that I believe the author means to be about 1812 to 1813. Shortly after Lizzy has accepted the marriage proposal of Darcy.
Charlotte, our hero is faced with trials that aid her to grow, and to have Mr. Collins see his life afresh, for now he is more than the client of Lady Catherine, but a husband, and as all married couples hope, to perhaps one day be a father as well. Yet there must be conflict and here Ms Aminadra adds lacquer to her painting, adding depth and dimension and perhaps a modern way of thinking of flirtation and dalliance that puts her on a part that causes change from the canon at a more accelerated pace, and even a different pace than those last few paragraphs in Pride and Prejudice might have allowed.
Some of these changes a reader will either enjoy very much. some elements that are added may cause the reader to feel that the characters have progressed much as they should. Other readers fearing that any change to the themes of characterization that Austen left us with is sacrosanct may have difficulty here. My favorite Lady Catherine, is the one of Edna May Oliver in the Olivier/Garson version of P&P where at the very end we see Lady Catherine telling Darcy to go offer for Lizzy is just the challenge he will need. Huxley changed Austen's intention in that 1940 screen classic, but I think it adds to the mystique.
Charlotte is a worthy read and should be explored by those who like all P&P sequels, and I am interested to see where Ms Aminadra is able to take us with her Austenesque work as well.
Available at Amazon US or Amazon UK
Reviewed by David