Sunday, January 31, 2016

Cassandra by Jann Rowland - Darcy's lost love prior to Elizabeth makes it hard for me to love this variation

CassandraCassandra by Jann Rowland
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Cassandra is a very lovely story, but what I most enjoy reading in JAFF is a story that varies from the original Pride and Prejudice, but still has the basic foundation of Darcy shunning Elizabeth because of her social status and lack of wealth, but eventually realizing his love for her overcomes his pride. And, I expect to see Elizabeth showing some sort of prejudice against him. I then struggle to determine what rating to give when the story is well-written and enjoyable, but these fundamental pieces are missing. This is particularly difficult when there are many aspects of the original in the story, such as Elizabeth turning down Mr. Collins and Lydia running off with Mr. Wickham. Such is my problem in reviewing Cassandra.

Cassandra strays far off the mark from canon with Darcy having first fallen in love with a woman and marrying her prior to even meeting Elizabeth. He believed this to be the love of his life, but she died in child-birth. Darcy is now widowed with a three-year-old daughter named Cassandra, after her mother, who also completely resembles her. This strong resemblance has prevented Darcy from being able to bear being in his daughter's presence and leaves her raising to her nurses, nanny and Georgiana. He makes an attempt to go to London to possibly meet a woman to be Cassandra's mother, but also believes in his heart that he will never remarry. Thus, Elizabeth meets this very broken and dejected Darcy.

In the meantime, Mr. Bingley did take up residence at Netherfield, but Darcy never joined him due to his mourning. Bingley married Jane Bennet and the couple is now staying at their house in London, purchased after their marriage. Due to a very severe reaction to Elizabeth's refusal of Mr. Collins, Mrs. Bennet cannot abide being in Elizabeth's presence. Mr. Bennet has therefore sent her to London to live with the Bingleys. Elizabeth is very hurt by this action, but cannot return to Longbourn. She is having a season in London, when she meets Mr. Darcy and his daughter.

Mr. Darcy finds he is almost immediately drawn to Elizabeth and particularly finds her friendship with his little daughter to be heart-warming. Elizabeth is also drawn to Darcy, but is concerned about his coldness toward the little girl who needs her father's love after losing her mother. Darcy's encounters with Elizabeth allow him to rediscover his life after the devastating loss of his wife, while Elizabeth sees him coming back, especially in his desire to establish a relationship with his little Cassandra.

So, you see my dilemma. Cassandra has a Darcy and Elizabeth similar in nature to canon, all the other players in place such as the Miss Bingley who is trying again to catch Darcy now his wife is out of the picture, Bingley and Jane, Colonel Fitzwilliam, etc. However, having Darcy experience such a strong love for a woman prior to Elizabeth just grates on my JAFF-loving heart.

Jann writes so well, and his stories are always intriguing, I just hate to rate them a bit lower, but in this case it just strays too much for me to say I loved it. Others might just not be as picky. Cassandra is a good romance and I recommend it for those who do not have my personal prejudice.

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Friday, January 29, 2016

An Unwavering Trust by L.L. Diamond - Very far from canon, but still an enjoyable read

An Unwavering Trust

An Unwavering Trust by L.L. Diamond

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I reread An Unwavering Trust this week and once again found it an enjoyable read. I continue to rate it as 4 stars simply because it is so far removed from the original P&P, though a very good read on its own.

How different is An Unwavering Trust from canon? First, Fitzwilliam Darcy is not the master of Pemberley, as his father is still alive. His father agrees with Lady Catherine that Darcy must marry his cousin Anne and obtain Rosings. Mr. Darcy senior coldly plans for Anne not to survive long in the marriage which will leave Fitzwilliam to marry whom he chooses afterward. He gives Darcy two weeks to propose to Anne or he will simply publish an engagement announcement in the papers. Darcy, and Georgiana, are not happy as they know this is not what Anne wishes. Georgiana encourages Darcy to quickly find someone else.

Secondly, Elizabeth Bennet is now the ward of her uncles Gardiner and Philips, and is living with her aunt and uncle Philips in Meryton. This is due to a very horrible accident which has killed all of the members of the Bennet family, except for Elizabeth. Mr. Collins senior, the one who had the falling out with Mr. Bennet, has inherited Longbourn, and kicked Elizabeth out with only her personal belongings. She has very little, but she does have the 5000 pounds from her mother.

The last, and most serious, difference from canon is the Uncle Gardiner character. Rather than marrying the wonderful woman we knew in the original, his betrothed died, leaving him a broken and bitter man. He is in serious debt, and wishes to sell Elizabeth and her dowry to his investor to be used in an infamous manner. Elizabeth's Uncle Philips is desperate for a way to protect her.

Darcy, on his way to London to find a wife other than Anne, overhears a conversation detailing the above despicable plan for Elizabeth. In short order, he and Elizabeth agree to an arranged marriage to get both of them out of their predicaments.

So, as you see, we have strayed very far from canon. We see the proud and disagreeable Mr. Darcy for only a very short time, as a new character, Darcy's grandmother Rebecca, the dowager of the deceased Earl of Matlock, brings him to his senses. Grandmama takes Elizabeth in hand and the two become fast friends as the wedding approaches and Elizabeth becomes Mrs. Darcy both at home and in the ton. Elizabeth is much more of a vulnerable character, obviously with the loss of her family, the new family she is thrown into, and the danger from her Uncle Gardiner. She finds herself in a situation where she has little say and no control, although she is still the bright, charming and impertinent Elizabeth.

The story is very well written and the characters very engaging, and we see some of the same angst as in other P&P variations with Wickham attempting to elope with Georgiana. But, we also have the characters of Darcy's Grandmama and Mr. Darcy senior, to add some new perspectives. Anne also plays a larger role.

A very enjoyable read. Recommended.

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To Forget: Darcy's London Christmas by Maria Grace - The Unvarnished Truth

To Forget: Darcy's London Christmas

To Forget: Darcy's London Christmas by Maria Grace

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Although I love Maria Grace, I held onto this title to read since I saw others had rated it fairly low for her work. It sounded a bit sad and I wasn't sure I was up for that. Well, I loved it.

Elizabeth and Darcy are sharing their first Christmas together, and being the curious person she is, she asks him about his prior Christmas; his last as a bachelor. Darcy tells Elizabeth the unvarnished truth.

Hopefully, those reading this story will recognize the time frame and remember who and what Darcy was at that point in the original P&P. Darcy is self-absorbed, arrogant, and making little to no effort to socialize or be agreeable to others in social settings. This certainly comes through in his story. He is obsessed with Elizabeth and hates that he cannot forget her. He has not yet had his setdown at Hunsford and can only see a relationship with her from his own standpoint - a degradation.

But, he is also very alone and lonely. His thoughts at Christmas return over and over to how it was to spend this time of year with his mother when he was a child. He compares Elizabeth to his mother favorably and believes his mother would have liked Elizabeth and would not have cared about her social background. He also finds himself comparing all of the society ladies he meets with Elizabeth and they do not match up. In his frustration he finds himself drinking too much, sleeping too little and doing strange things, liking seeking her out in Cheapside.

Interspersed with Darcy's tale, we have Elizabeth's reaction to the story he is telling her now that they are married and in love. These little vignettes soften the story, and help us to appreciate how loving Elizabeth has changed Darcy.

There is nothing particularly new in this short novelette, but anytime we get inside Darcy's head is time well spent for me. Darcy changed based on Elizabeth's scathing remarks at Hunsford, and in "To Forget" we certainly see why he needed to! He is not yet the lovable Darcy Elizabeth marries.

I think those who are looking for only the romantic Darcy may be disappointed in this story. But, I think this one would appeal more to the P&P purists, as I see this Darcy just as Jane described him through Elizabeth. I found it very well done and an interesting character study. I was not disappointed, and continue to be a big fan of Maria Grace.

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Saturday, January 23, 2016

Darcy Revealed: A Pride and Prejudice VariationDarcy Revealed: A Pride and Prejudice Variation by Penelope Swan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Darcy and Elizabeth meet up in London not too long after the Netherfield party has left Meryton after the Bingleys' ball. Georgiana Darcy orders a dress, as does Jane Bennet; from the same modiste. There is a mixup and the packages are sent to the wrong addresses. Darcy takes it upon himself to take the package Miss Darcy received to make the switch back at the Gardners' residence. Thus, our major players in the story are reunited much sooner.

The Bennets become friends with Miss Darcy and her friend Miss Amy St. John, and, of course, see the Bingleys as well as the Darcys at multiple events. Elizabeth begins to see Darcy in a new light when he is chivalrous to Miss St. John. In addition, the Bennets run into Miss Mary King, as her uncle has taken her to London to get her away from Mr. Wickham. But, Mr. Wickham is in London and enlists Elizabeth's aid in contacting Mary.

Although the story is sweet, it does have some follies and inconsistencies. Elizabeth does not seem true to herself, taking some actions that are inappropriate, and others that are almost illegal. Darcy runs hot and cold and improper at times. The butler acts in a very inhospitable manner.

I liked the story, but did not find it particularly noteworthy. The lessons learned in Pride and Prejudice do not seem particularly important in this story, and the resolution is a bit strange. The denouement is very short and not very realistic. All in all, not a story I would discourage anyone from reading, but not one I would especially recommend.

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