Source Books - Historical Fiction
It's very quotable, let me just say that up front. Let's call this Quotable Qtuesday.
On the other side of the room, Bingley was just as entrenched, fending off the attentions of Sir William Lucas and Mr. Collins, both very respectable men who seemed to be eager to remind him that he was getting married tomorrow, as if he could forget.
"Sir," said his servant, and handed him a paper. He apologised to his guests, unfolded it, and read in Darcy's precise (if a little wobbly) script, "I will give you my half of Derbyshire to get me out of this room right now. D."
When he looked up, Sir William Lucas had gone for more refreshment and he was left with Mr. Collins, who had literally cornered him against the wall. "Mr. Bingley, if I could have your ear but for a moment--"
"Yes, of course," he said, holding the note behind his back.
"You will excuse me, Mr. Bingley, if I do not sound like a proper churchman for what I am about to say, but I believe that marriage should be held in the highest regard and therefore is worthy of some low speech to make this particular sacrament more palatable. And I might say, with all humility, that I have some experience in this area."
"Oh, yes, of course -- of course, Reverend Collins. You have my full attention -- as soon as I handle this missive," he said, and quickly motioned to the servant for a pen. Once procured, he put the note against the bookcase and scribbled on the back, "And I will give you Netherfield to get me out. CB."
"The matter remains . . . unsettled, "Bingley said.
"Don't be ridiculous, Bingley," Darcy said. "Fitzwilliam, we've already decided to settle the matter in the most gentlemanly way possible."
"So, you mean, some sort of contest," he surmised.
"Precisely," said Darcy. "By duelling. Rapiers, shall it be?"
Bingley gave his friend and brother a horrified look. "I agreed to no such thing! You know I would lose horribly. You are not making the slightest attempt to be fair." Straightening his waistcoat, he added, "It shall be shooting."
Colonel Fitzwilliam raised his eyebrows. "Red eight in the side pocket. You know, Darcy is very good at shooting. It would be a close match."
"I have been practising," Darcy said confidently.
"Very well then -- Dancing!"
"Surely not!" Darcy replied. "Chess."
"First attempted proposal."
"Drinking contest," Bingley said keenly.
Darcy raised an eyebrow. "Height."
"I do believe Jane is taller than Elizabeth."
"Only if she stands on her toes!"
"Good God," Fitzwilliam said. "You're like children! Why don't you just flip a coin like decent men? Or better yet, let your wives decide?"
"Don't be ridiculous," Darcy replied. "We will decide as men and then return to our wives, who will promptly ignore us and announce their own decision, which was probably made months ago -- but still, propriety must be maintained."
What led you to pick up this book? I was contacted by Danielle of Sourcebooks, Inc. She was really enthusiastic about The Darcys and the Bingleys and, in fact, I've planned to eventually give one of those Austen off-shoots a go (I have one in the stacks . . . at the bottom, though), so when she asked if I'd like to review it I said, "Sure!" She also sent me a gorgeous, glossy catalog and another book (which I'm sure you'll hear about soon enough).
Summarize the plot without giving away the ending. There are several sections of this book, so it's a little complex but the gist . . . initially, you must bear with it, a bit . . . The Darcys and the Bingleys is worth sticking out. The first section of the book has a very weak premise. Darcy and Bingley are preparing for their dual wedding and Bingley expresses some concerns about the wedding night. Darcy responds by purchasing a copy of the Kama Sutra for Bingley. Despite that ridiculous premise, scenes like those quoted above were such fun that I honestly didn't care that there was a good bit of giggling, silliness and talk about the book (Elizabeth and Jane eventually discover that each of their husbands own a copy), rib-elbowing about marital relations, etc. It was not what I would call overly rude or obnoxious.
Onward . . . Bingley and Darcy marry the Bennet girls and there's a lot of everyday business, all entertainingly written -- again, with a great deal of levity. Eventually, a Lord from Scotland asks for Caroline Bingley's hand, but both Darcy and Bingley sense something is amiss. This is where the book starts to become really fun, if you ask me. To say much more would give too much away (the crowd groans; I hear ya), but there's plenty of witty interchange, love, lies, danger and even some exciting swordplay. I truly believe the last third of the book is the best.
What did you like most about the book? In spite of frequent implications (my father would have called many of the scenes "suggestive"), the book is good, clean fun. Lots of wit, humor and even a bit of adventure. It's a charming read.
What did you think of the characters? Well, of course I love the real Darcy and Bingley in Pride and Prejudice. Fair warning: If you're an Austen purist and totally unwilling to allow an author to mold and stretch the characters a bit, I suppose any offshoot would make you cringe a bit. I didn't particularly care for Darcy's past scenes because the young Darcy of this book was not as I'd like to imagine him. In fact, the explanation as to how Darcy and Bingley met makes little sense because we all know they're cousins who presumably knew each other from childhood, right?
However -- and it's a big "however" -- I enjoyed the bantering dialogue so much that it was easy enough to make a conscious decision to allow the author to take them where she desired and just enjoy the ride. Long story short . . . I still adored the characters. There were many, many scenes in which I could practically hear the voices of the actors from the Colin Firth version of P & P in my head. In many ways, I think the author remained faithful to Austen (not all ways, but she's named Marsha, not Jane, so let's give her a break).
Describe your favorite scene: See those quotes above? Those are just two of my favorite scenes. There are many, many more. In addition to quite a few zingy scenes between Darcy and Bingley, I loved the one truly intense action scene -- a scene involving locked doors and crossed swords, a man swinging from a rope . . . gosh, all sorts of excitement.
And, oh, poor Darcy. What happens to him when he goes to confront Caroline's intended . . . oh, oh! It's really good stuff, trust me.
Recommended? Enthusiastically. Honestly, the more I reflect upon this book, the more I love it. There is to be an entire series by Marsha Altman. I plan to read them all. There, that's all you need to know, right? Now, do remember that you have to be willing to accept the odd inclusion of modern language and some reshaping of the characters. Leave your preconceived notions at the door to enjoy this book.
In general: Such fun. I laughed. I gasped. I learned to love Caroline Bingley. I'm so glad Danielle suggest this title. Thank you, Danielle!
Cover thoughts: Probably a much-used painting, but it's very colorful and appears time-appropriate. I think it's lovely and suits the book well. In fact, I'm quite relieved that they didn't chop off any heads.
Almost finished with Mozart's Sister, so that'll be up next for review.
Tomorrow: The Return of the Wahoos. It may not be much, due to my recent illness and continuing recovery. But, shucks . . . there's always plenty to wahoo about if you look hard enough, right? Like, clean sheets. Oh, darn, should have saved that one.
Historical documents: I was perusing my father's old photo album and came across this photo
. . . which makes me realize that
a.) My grandfather and father were pretty dapper fellows and
b.) I really like the clean, tidy look better than the untucked, sloppy, unshaven look of today, which leads to the conclusion that
c.) I must be getting old.
I won't mention that in the wahoos, tomorrow. Speaking of clean sheets . . . must go make the bed and climb into it. I'm still recovering, you know.