This is actually a review of Pamela Aidan's Trilogy:
An Assembly Such as This (on sale at Amazon for $4.63 right now!)
These are all part of the Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman series. This is my second favorite retelling of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. My first favorite retelling is Mr. Darcy's Diary (my review of it is here) which feels like getting to see the original work through an additional camera in each scene. This series is like watching the deleted scenes of the original. Most of what happens in these three books takes place when Darcy and Elizabeth are apart.
Summary from the back of the book: "Setting the story vividly against the colorful historical and political background of the Regency, Aidan writes in a style comfortably at home with Austen but with a wit and humor very much her own. [book 2] When Darcy pays a visit to an old classmate in Oxford in an attempt to shake Elizabeth from his mind, he is set upon by husband hunting society ladies and ne'er-do-well friends from his university days, all with designs on him - some for good and some for ill. He and his sartorial genius of a valet, Fletcher, must match wits with them all..."
Revisit vs. Rehash: A+
Nit Picky Things: A+
Wonderful Moments: A
The moment I was hooked: A+
Language: Nicely written and I didn't need a dictionary.
Characterization: The characterization is wonderful. The addition of several characters such as Fletcher the valet, Lord Brougham the chum from school and Mrs. Ansley as Georgiana's chaperon seem to fit in perfectly with the characters I had come know from the original. Georgiana and Bingly have a more symbiotic relationship in these books with Darcy.
The second book introduces a lot of new characters at once. Both times I have read this series I have considered writing them down to keep them all straight. I never did and regretted it later. But maybe you can hold more in your brain than I can. If you can, you really don't need to tell me. Just know that before I had Max, I could remember stuff. At least I think I could...
The character of Darcy is so wonderfully guarded and calculated and yet unhinged all at the same time. He is humbled at times without being humiliated. I am always disappointed when an author tries to manipulate Darcy into a big mushy Hallmark card blurb who has an all out personality change vs. the aloof gentleman who grows to become the kind of man Elizabeth Bennet can love. Aidan defiantly does the latter of the two. And she gives Darcy plenty of reasons for his haughtiness.
(Aside: When Colin Firth was playing Mark Darcy in Bridget Jone's Diary the director kept telling him to play the roll "more haughty!" When he asked about why, she said something to the effect of, "women love it." I am mildly offended and yet totally see the director's point. There is something lost that is very appealing if Darcy's aloofness disappears. And if you are totally confused - Bridget Jones is an updated and looooose version of P&P. Firth was cast as Mark Darcy because of his role as Fitzwilliam Darcy in the 1995 BBC/A&E mini series version of Pride and Prejudice. What? I watch the director's cut of movies on the DVD's. THIS is the stuff readily available in my brain. Not my kids' birthdays.)
Plot: This book compared to the original Pride and Prejudice is like watching a swimming race. One person is swimming freestyle and one person is swimming butterfly. Their destination is the same...but the process of getting there sure looks different. This trilogy has just enough of the basic story of Elizabeth and Darcy to make the plot feel comfortable. And you know how it will end. But the getting there is very different in book 2. Book 2 would be almost unbelievable on its own. (As would The Empire Strikes Back or Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince for perspective's sake).
At the end of each book: there are some discussion points, ideas to enhance a book club experience and a Q&A with Pamela Aidan. There were a few moments in book 2 where I thought certain plot choices were weird. However, each time I read the Q&A at the end of the book, I totally appreciated what Aidan was doing. She really thought out her plot and characters well.
Rehash or Revisit: No rehashing. Brilliant.
Nit Picky Things: None that stand out. That is pretty good because loads of stuff bug me.
Wonderful Little Moments: I really enjoyed the letters back and forth between Darcy and Georgiana (especially when they were lightly poking fun at Caroline Bingly). The not so subtle reference to a book about a widow and her 3 daughters and their Sensibilities. And Darcy holding on to those threads. You'll have to read the book to know what that is about, but really, it is lovely. Romantic without being sticky sweet.
Originality: I have read several re-tellings and quite a few follow ups to Pride and Prejudice (about 10 versions) and this series has some political and historical references that I have never read in any other novel. Whether they were accurate or not, I care little about, because I enjoyed them a great deal.
The moment I was hooked: The first page. Aiden starts the action as Darcy descends from the carriage at the Assembly in Meryton. I liked that she started with action verses explanation.
If this were a movie, I think it would be rated PG13 due to some mystical stuff in book 2.
I am sending my copies to my friend Stacey Kingman. I am super excited to see what she thinks of them. She is the one who recommended Mr. Darcy's Diary to me.
If you have read these books - I'd love to hear what you thought of them in the comments!