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What made the experience of listening to Alone with Mr. Darcy: A Pride & Prejudice Variation the most enjoyable?
I do enjoy Elizabeth Klett's reading style.
What did you like best about this story?
I liked that the author of this book kept her ties to PRIDE AND PREJUDICE loose enough that she was free to write a true "alternative" tale. While being familiar, it is also new and fresh. I didn't like that some key elements that define Jane Austen works were missing in this story.
Have you listened to any of Elizabeth Klett’s other performances before? How does this one compare?
I am a longtime fan of Elizabeth Klett and find her reading style understandable, entertaining and always first rate. I mostly chose to listen to this story because I knew that this narrator is a wonderful reader who always delivers an enjoyable listening experience. ALONE WITH MR. DARCY is no exception and, once again, she lives up to the caliber of performance that I have come to expect. She is real pleasure to listen to! I am only sorry that this particular book wasn't the best use of her considerable talent.
Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?
I didn't quite make it through in ONE sitting but it took me about 48 hours to finish the book from start to finish.
Any additional comments?
I was offered this audio book for free in exchange for an honest review, and chose to listen to it because I am a fan of the narrator, and also because I love Jane Austin and am on a quest to find JA Fan Fictions that live up to the originals that inspired them. There are a plethora of "spin-off" books that take their inspiration from Jane, but seldom do they live up to the beloved classics that we cannot get enough of. This one is no exception.
This book is inspired by PRIDE AND PREJUDICE but doesn't try to recreate the classic story at all. I really liked that the author started the book at Charlotte Lucas's wedding and from that point on, she gives us an original story that deviates from PRIDE AND PREJUDICE so much that it plays out in a completely different way. While the roots of ALONE WITH MR. DARCY are anchored in Jane Austen, Abigail Reynolds takes the liberty of writing an original story that gives the reader a completely new and different ending to the book. I found this to be refreshing. However there were some mistakes in this story that ruined it for me.
The biggest issue with ALONE WITH MR. DARCY was that it lacked that certain something that defines Jane Austen's work. There was none of the underlying passion that builds up, so that the reader stays completely engaged without the narrative ever spelling out the more explicit sexual elements that are part of the story. I do realize that there are many people who WANT these things to be spelled out, but many JA fans prefer the understated, clever writing style that results in a balance between the romance and other elements of the story. Jane Austen is not essentially a romance novelist, but a writer whose books are romantic within a context of a well rounded story that develops a number of characters and situations. This is an important distinction for me. ALONE WITH MR. DARCY is a pure, crude, bodice ripping romance novel, and the feel it captures is more correctly defined as Barbara Cartland rather than Jane Austen. If you like that kind of thing, then this is a pretty readable romance, but I prefer Jane's humor, clever dialog, understated passion, insight, satire and well rounded commentary on all elements of society and human relations. Romance enthusiasts will love this book as it is a tidal wave of unrestrained kissing, cuddling, groping and more, so that the characters are in a perpetual state of swooning over each other. True Jane Austen fans will miss the subtle elements that make Jane unique. The characters are familiar only in their names, places and general situations, but they behave in ways that leave the reader wondering where our familiar old friends are!
PROCEED WITH CAUTION! SPOILERS AHEAD!
This story begins on Charlotte Lucas's Wedding day. Elizabeth Bennett takes a winter day's walk during the party and happens upon a barely conscious Mr. Darcy who has been in an accident just as a winter blizzard is beginning. In order to save their lives, the two of them take shelter in a nearby deserted cottage where they are snowed in for 3 days. This particular plot device felt contrived to me - a way to get them alone in a compromised situation and let the sparks fly without Elizabeth deliberately allowing this kind of intimacy. You can imagine what transpires during these 3 days and when it is over, Elizabeth's reputation is ruined in a way that ONLY marriage can repair. I found myself rolling my eyes during this portion of the book, as it is a very unlikely situation and felt pretty manipulative. But that was just the beginning of this book's shortcomings.
One particular thing that grated on me was that it is a lightweight read that tries to tackle some pretty heavyweight subject matter and fails miserably. Early in the book, one of the characters from the original PRIDE AND PREJUDICE is publicly gang raped in a tavern by a bunch of officers. This is pure GRATUITOUS sex and violence at it's worst. Darcy and Elizabeth accidentally walk into the tavern and witness this terrible scene and (even though the girl who is being destroyed is supposedly a friend of Elizabeth's), they do nothing to intervene. Instead, they avoid the situation and leave quietly because they fear that taking a stand would be dangerous to them. As they go on their merry way, they barely seem to be bothered by what they just saw and a few days later, when the terrible event is gossiped all over town, Elizabeth reacts with a vague "oh dear, poor Mariah Lucas, but ins't Darcy HOT!" In really good fiction, as in REAL LIFE, witnessing a close friend being gang raped would have devastated any normal woman. But Elizabeth doesn't seem to be too bothered, which made her come across as a kind of sociopath who I didn't really like at all.
Some works of fiction are very serious, and when sensitively rendered, a story can do a lot of good by including things that are difficult to read or watch. The riveting movie, TWO WOMEN is one such work, and the subject of gang rape is treated with the gravity it deserves. When an author chooses to include such a event in a book, play or movie, they are accepting a serious responsibility on how they do it. Such a writer really needs the chops to handle this kind of subject matter and that was sorely lacking here. This particular book is pure fluff and doesn't have the depth needed for this kind of event. It has no place in the central theme of the story and serves no purpose other than a lame attempt by the author to make this book "serious" when this is absolutely lightweight fodder for folks who don't want to think too hard. (There is nothing wrong with lightweight reading, or enjoying a fun read when you want to relax, but scenes such as a gang rape have no place in this kind of sheer storytelling.) I couldn't believe the careless way this was handled and I found myself not respecting this version of Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy for leaving this poor innocent virgin to her fate and not helping her. Later on, Darcy paid some "good sport" to marry Mariah, but I couldn't help thinking that this gesture was far too little and far too late when he could have tried to rescue her and did not. The original Elizabeth and Darcy were ethical and courageous and I cannot imagine them engaging in an act of cowardice like this. And between all her swooning and trembling over Darcy, Mariah Lucas's fate seemed to make very little impression on Elizabeth. She was slightly distressed but didn't shed a single tear, didn't lose a moment's sleep over this situation and barely managed a "tsk, tsk" when she thought of it. This alone was enough to put me off of this particular tale.
When an author chooses to write a book it is important for them to accurately assess what they are capable of, and from what I saw in this instance, I don't think Abigail Reynolds has the talent or depth to tackle something like this. Honestly, as much as I love Jane Austen, I don't think even she could have pulled off such an event in one of her books. P& P is expertly written, but is not constructed for heavyweight material, and when updates and alternate tales veer into such territory, they do a disservice to the type of story they are constructing. One of the things that made Jane so VERY GOOD at what she did was her understanding of what her type of stories could and couldn't handle. It is to her credit that she didn't go to into places that her stories couldn't support, and Fan Fiction writers would do themselves a favor if they refrained from charging into territory that the Original Author didn't dare to tread.
I also didn't think the story had the underlying feel of Jane Austen. As I said before, this might have worked as a Barbara Cartland fan fiction, but it simply didn't live up to PRIDE AND PREJUDICE. Nothing is included about Jane Bennett and Mr. Bingley, Elizabeth loses her wit and strength, and there is a very dumb back story of Mr. Bennett that was jarring. Mr. Darcy comes across as moral but wimpy. I think it would have been preferable for the author to remove all references to Jane Austen's story and written this book as an original romance novel. And I think it would have wise to drop the rape altogether because it really, REALLY didn't belong here. So if you are an enthusiast of the Romance genre, you might like this book. If you are a fan of Jane Austen, you will may or may not finish reading it, and you will feel unsatisfied, because all the things that make Jane Austen unique are gone from ALONE WITH MR. DARCY.
14 of 15 people found this review helpful
I know that this will sound harsh, but it must be said, this is a woefully poor example of a P&P variation! I have read several various authors' attempts at P&P variations/adaptations and continue to be disappointed with many authors, including, now, Ms Reynolds. There are a few exceptional standouts, but generally, those who attempt a variation or adaptation or continuations fail when they cannot keep the characters as Ms. Austen created them.
I thoroughly enjoyed the beginning third of the book during which Elizabeth aids Darcy who has fallen from his spooked horse and is found bleeding from the head in the snow. The two are able to find shelter in a meager house and manage to wait out a blizzard for two nights. From here, the two must manage the compromised situation that cannot be kept secret.
My issue with this story is that Ms Reynolds took vast liberties to alter Darcy's, Georgiana's and Colonel's Fitzwilliam's histories and to alter the character of Mr Bennett.
Ms Reynolds felt it appropriate to restate Darcy's and Georgiana's relationship as half siblings due to Darcy's mother's death, Darcy's father's subsequent second marriage to a child bride who gave him Georgiana and was then sequestered to Pemberley while the father Darcy remained in town at Darcy House with his mistress(es) until his death. Ms. Reynold's Colonel Fitzwilliam is not the gallant, gentleman military man Ms Austen designed, but a military man plagued by violent seasickness and who abhors traveling. To add insult to injury, Ms. Reynold's has also painted Mr. Bennett as a proficient liar. While she may or may not give him good reason, this is horribly inconsistent with the man Ms Austen created and is highly offensive to this particular fan of Pride and Prejudice.
I am fully aware that this is fan fiction and I presume that there are many P&P fans that are completely comfortable with contemporary authors recreating Miss Austen's characters in their "what if" scenarios. For me, successful P&P what if's do not alter the characters as they were created. This would be a better story if Ms Reynolds would give them their own names rather than exploit Ms Austen's creation.
As for the audio version, Elizabeth Klett performance was excellent and the production quality was seemingly flawless. I would happily listen to additional books with Ms Klett narrating.
6 of 7 people found this review helpful