I read Mr. Darcy's Obsession in 1 sitting. And when I finished it at 4 a.m, I turned back to page one and started to read it a second time. Yes, it is that good.
Abigail Reynolds has, yet again, remixed Pride and Prejudice with both familiar and new plot twists that made me race through the pages to see if Darcy and Elizabeth would end up together. To add suspense, tension and romance to a story that has a well known ending is pretty remarkable. And remark on it here, I shall.
Blurb from the back of the book:
What if Elizabeth Bennet was more unsuitable for Mr. Darcy than ever...Mr. Darcy is determined to find a more suitable bride. But when 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 help himself from seeking her out....He just wants to make sure she's all right. But once he's seen her, he feels compelled to talk to her, and from there he's unable to fight the over-whelming desire to be near her, or the ever growing mutual attraction that is between them.
What if Mr. Darcy's intentions were shockingly dishonorable...As Darcy grapples with conflicting feelings, Elizabeth can surmise that like most men, he wants only one thing...
Rehash vs. Revisit: A+
Nit Picky Little Things: A+
Wonderful Moments: A
The Moment I was Hooked: A
Characterization: For me, the key to changing the plot of Pride and Prejudice without offending the fan is to maintain the characterization. The main characters are very much the same as Jane Austen left them, and for that, I thank Mrs. Reynolds. I find that I am protective of Darcy and Elizabeth and even Caroline Bingly. When I find an author who is protective of them as well, I feel as though I can follow her down whatever garden path she would like to lead.
Darcy and Elizabeth are brilliantly written. I didn't just read their conversations, I felt them. The strain, the anxiety, the passion...sometimes all at once. And I certainly think I will forever view a gloved hand differently.
The plot and some of the characters are "earthier" and less romantically painted. I was quite hard on The Private Life of Mr. Darcy for this. However, these additions to the plot work in this case because the characterizations were so well maintained. I found it much more acceptable.
There were quite a few new characters that fit in very well, both heroes and villains. Charlie and Simms...oh, and Aunt Augusta are a few of my favorites.
Plot: You learn in the first pages that just before Darcy could propose at Rosings, Elizabeth was called away due to her father's failing health. All of Mrs. Bennet's fears are realized as the Collins' take over the entailment of Longbourn. Time has passed and Lizzy is now in London. As I said before, this combination of familiar and completely new information was a wonderful way to begin the quick paced plot. There are tensions, pride, misunderstandings and relatives behaving horribly. I really did read this book straight through from 11 p.m. until 4 a.m. I just had to see how it would end. Isn't that crazy?
It reminded me of Sense and Sensibility (and Vanity Fair) a bit in loosing the home to a relative, requiring the generosity of relatives and living in genteel poverty. (Caroline's mercenary tactics and Charlotte's practicality seem prudent in this context.)
There is one plot twist that I think will make some fans cringe a bit...however, stick with it and see if you feel better about it at the end. I did and on the second reading, I was un-phased.
Rehash vs. Revisit: Revisited conversations - but in a different context. (Ex: "30 miles is an easy distance to travel", but the locations are different from the original book). I found the repeating of a few lines here and there made the characters feel even more authentic.
Nit Picky Little Things: None come to mind. I am that enamored with the book.
Wonderful Moments: Any scene with Charlie in it, the gloves, the parks, "I wish it," carrying water, the other Aunt, Simms, "It sounded like Brighton." And I love the cover art. This is my new image of what Elizabeth Bennet looks like.
Originality: Any author who can imagine these characters in modified plots is impressive to me. (Without making it feel ridiculous...as if they were all improv performers in a scene and we, the audience, just started yelling out themes: "Act it like you are all cowboys now. Now Shakespearean theater. Now in slow motion!" Entertaining - yes. Excellent literature - no.) The fact that Abigail Reynolds is among the few that have varied the plot numerous times, is impressive. It makes me not only a fan of the book but of hers as well.
The Moment I was Hooked: Page. 3. I started to figure out where in the story we were at this point.
If this book were a movie it would be rated R for references to particular behaviors. (Ok, I would rate it R, but I am sure the movie people would have it as PG 13). It would actually make a great movie with lush scenery and moments just ripe for romantic music to swell in the background.
Abigail Reynolds is a lifelong Jane Austen enthusiast and a physician. She began writing From Lambton to Longbourn in 2001 to spend more time with her favorite characters from Pride & Prejudice. Encouragement from fellow Austen fans convinced her to continue asking 'What if...?', which led to four other Pemberley Variations and her modern novel, Pemberley by the Sea. She lives with her husband and two teenage children in Madison, Wisconsin (condensed from the back of the book)
Her web site: www.pemberleyvariations.com/
Disclaimer: I was asked by to review this book by the Sourcebooks and received a free advance copy of it. However, a free book wouldn't cause me to loose sleep. A really well written story would. And it did.