Jane Austen strikes again (CBR3 #37 and #38)

Like many others, I have a weakness for Jane Austen and Regency stuff that dates back to one of the best Austen retellings ever, Amy Heckerling’s brilliant reimagining of Emma: Clueless. Though somehow watching this movie 8 million times in high school didn’t get me to actually read any Austen until just a couple years ago. Ah well, so is life. Now like Austen stuff in its many forms, though I don’t understand why there’s quite so much of it. I’ll still pick stuff up when it crosses my path, like the two Pride and Prejudice retellings discussed here: Pemberley Ranch by Jack Caldwell and Fitzwilliam Darcy, Rock Star by Heather Lynn Rigaud.

In Pemberley Ranch, a book I just happened across at the library, the action is moved to post-Civil War Texas. The Bennets have just moved there from Ohio for new opportunities. Beth(/Lizzy/Elizabeth) is staunchly anti-Confederacy because her soldier older brother Samuel died during the war. Will Darcy is the owner of the titular Ranch who had fought on the war on the side of the Confederacy, and the other big game in town is the B&R, owned by Darcy’s aunt Cate Burroughs. The Reverend Collins is transformed into an unctuous town clerk, and Wickham becomes Whitehead, a B&R employee with some shady land deals up his sleeve who also was responsible for overseeing the Union prison Darcy and Dr. Charles Bingley were held in during the fighting. There’s also the charming addition of a brothel.

I thought the addition of the societal conflict between South and North added a nice extra layer. Caldwell adds a freed slave family in who buys some land from Burroughs, who has problems in town buying goods at the store and just generally being accepted. The author also puts in Mexicans and the conflict between Protestant and Catholic all of which just help to make the differences between Beth and Will seem even more insurmountable. The tale ends the way you’d expect, with a giant gunfight (and also love). Plus there are maps at the beginning of the book which is always a thumbs up for me. This is one of the best P&P-inspired books I’ve ever read.

On the other hand, I requested Fitzwilliam Darcy, Rock Star after seeing it come in as a hold for a patron at work. In this one, Darcy, Bingley and Fitzwilliam are the three members of Slurry, a mega-famous and troubled rock band. After their previous opening act leaves their tour, they find girl group Long Bourne Suffering, fronted by Jane Bennet with sister Lizzy and friend Charlotte Lucas to complete the group. Caroline Bingley is the Slurry’s tour manager. Anne De Bourgh and Billy Collins are record label folks. Wickham is the former frontman of Slurry, now a music video director. The story here also proceeds as expected, though with the addition of a romance between Charlotte and Fitzwilliam, both the drummers, how convenient.

While I did have a couple late night reading sessions to finish this book, it definitely wasn’t as well written as Pemberley Ranch. There’s a lot that could have been said more succinctly. There is also a lot of (fairly graphic) sex in this book, definitely not one for the kiddies. If you want your Austen more on the capital R romance side, it’s not a terrible way to go. (Still better than The Darcys and the Bingleys, wherein the newly married Bingley goes to Darcy for sex advice and is provided with a copy of the Kama Sutra. That book never really took advantage of the naturally brilliant plot device the author started out with.)

It was an interesting experience to read these two books more or less back to back. Knowing the story of the original so well, I don’t need to read these for what happens, but for how exactly the author alters the original or hews close to the classic storyline. Too bad for Rock Star that I started with the other, I think it suffered some in the comparison.

(Library books)


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