Friday, August 22, 2008
Impulse and Initiative
Reynolds, Abigail. 2008. Impulse and Initiative: A Pride and Prejudice Variation.
This book sets out to answer these questions, "What if...instead of disappearing from Elizabeth Bennet's life after she refused his offer of marriage, Mr. Darcy had stayed and tried to change her mind? What if...Lizzy as she gets to know Darcy, finds him undeniably attractive and her impulses win out over her sense of propriety? What if...madly in love and mutually on fire, their passion anticipates their wedding?"
I have mixed feelings on this one. I do. Pride and Prejudice is one of those books that is practically perfect in every way. One of those happy-making books that you enjoy reading with a big smile on your face. Mr. Darcy is just so perfect, just the way he is. So I've never thought about him needing improvement. Never imagined him courting Elizabeth any other way. Never thought their relationship lacked sizzle.
And this book sets out to re-imagine those beloved characters. It is a variation in tone, in character, and in plot. Mr. Darcy is madly in love with Elizabeth. But she's hesitant about his wooing. For Darcy, as Reynolds envisions him, this means that he needs to turn up the heat. If she won't respond to his true-heart-revelations, perhaps she'll respond to his touch, his kiss, his embrace. If he can make her melt, drive her wild with passion, then surely she'll consent to become Mrs. Darcy. Right?
The problem with this is that to win her that way, he has to resort to becoming everything he despises. Darcy is fundamentally a gentleman at heart. A Mr. Darcy without morals, without propriety, without thought or concern for a lady's reputation--his lady's reputation--is almost unimaginable until now. Darcy borrowing from Wickham? Really?! An Elizabeth whose reputation is in tatters, who has become the disappointment of her father, who has adopted Lydia's it-feels-so-good-it-can't-be-wrong philosophy?!
The writing. Reynolds' writing is not fundamentally bad. It's not that she doesn't know how to write, how to turn a phrase, how to write scenes that work. Stylistically, on the surface, everything about this one works. The characters. The scenes. All good--maybe not brilliantly, great (award-winning great) but not bad. Certainly entertaining. Certainly on the level of other romance novelists. But it's the fact that it's Mr. Darcy. It's Elizabeth. Their love isn't supposed to be smutty. Respect. Purity. Both qualities that they'd expect to find in the other, and hold themselves to as well.
There were enjoyable aspects of this novel. I must say that I smiled when it was Elizabeth who came home and announced that she'd married first. You know those smug scenes between Lydia and her mother and sisters. The ones where she's bragging that she got married first. That she got her man. That married life was so wonderful. Now it's Elizabeth's turn to boast.
And there are a few other enjoyable scenes as well. I like, in a way, the conversations between Darcy and Elizabeth trying to prove to themselves (reassure themselves) why it was right for them to have sex, but wrong for Wickham and Lydia. I suppose they rationalize it all by intentions. Wickham is a jerk, a lusty jerk that is selfish and only looking out for himself. And Darcy, well his intentions are honorable even if his actions aren't. And while one might think Elizabeth's own tainted (impure) experience might give her sympathy or understanding for her sister and her sister's giving into temptation...you'd be wrong. Elizabeth still feels a bit superior to her sister. Still judges her for the foolish idiot she is.
If you're looking for Pride and Prejudice with smut inserted, then this one is for you.
© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews