Sunday, February 15, 2009
Mr. and Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy: Two Shall Become One.
Lathan, Sharon. 2009. Mr. and Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy: Two Shall Become One. Sourcebooks. 309 pages.
(This post *could* be considered a bit PG-13...since it addresses an adult book. And really I can't discuss it without mentioning what it is about.)
I admit it. I'm skeptical of sequels. Of Jane Austen sequels. I know right off that it has the potential to be really, really good...or just plain awful. Literary Variations--prequels, sequels, and such--are books that take the characters of one author and seek to give them new life, new adventures. There are several things to consider--in general--when it comes to fiction of this kind. On the one hand, if the author (the original author) has wrapped up the book (the original book) neatly with a happily-ever-after ending, then the new author of this new book has a few choices...they can either go the route of introducing new conflict, new characters, and climb towards a new climax....or they can forget matters of plot and spend several hundred pages doing nothing in particular hoping that they can mimic the characters and/or literary style of the novel so closely that readers won't notice the lack of a plot. They'll just love being with these friends again. There is another option--one that is a frequent choice though it is a boggling one to me--use familiar characters written by famous (but-now-dead) authors and write erotica. After all, the original novels often lacked these bedroom (and not-so-bedroom) scenes. There is a market apparently for writers and readers to share together that explores these types of scenes and scenarios. On the other hand, there are books where the author (original author) hasn't wrapped everything neatly up. The author has chosen to be more ambiguous, to leave things hanging, to leave questions answered. In this case, new authors can write how they envision the characters to continue on and progress were the action to continue off the page.
Of what sort is Mr. and Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy? The seemingly plotless* semi-erotic variety. Oh, it goes there. Mostly. In an almost-classy, not coarse or vulgar way; at times awkward, at other times melodramatic**. (Overuse of exclamation points!) I say seemingly plotless...it does have a plot. But it takes around two-hundred pages to get there. And once you get there, it is the introduce a villain (and in a hurry) so there will be an excuse for a sword-fight or duel later on so Darcy can play hero variety. On the one hand, the presence of this plot keeps it from being plotless altogether. And it does add some variety. I've seen plots a hundred times weaker on soap operas every day of the week. And I'm sure it is about the same sort of plot you'd find in other romance novels. No better or worse than anything you'd find in others' works.***
Elizabeth and Darcy. The author admits finding inspiration from the 2005 Pride and Prejudice. And perhaps that explains it in a small way. I have nothing against the movie****--either that one or any other adaptation--but basing a book on a movie that is based on a book...doesn't make for the strongest characters overall. The dialogue. It is what makes Austen's work sparkle. (Perhaps sparkle isn't the best word to use since it tends to associate itself with Twilight now....but I digress...) What makes this relationship work in the book is intelligent, subtle dialogue with romantic undertones. There is tension in the original. There is attraction. There is chemistry. In this sequel, well, it's lacking.
Lots of "oh's" and "my's"....My beautiful. My darling. My love. My soul. My everything. My world. My precious. Oh, darling. I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you. This couple exists primarily to reassure each other 24/7 that they are madly, deeply, truly in love with each other...andt a good 80% of their conversations revolve around stating just how much in love they are. How they complete each other. How lucky they are to be together. How perfect their lives are now. How happy they are. How content they are to be in each other's arms. All day. All night. They exist to gaze in each other's eyes. And, for other purposes as well, as you can imagine. I got to the point where every time Darcy would talk about how beautiful, how flawless, how perfect, how amazing, how glorious, how wonderful, how tremendous Elizabeth was....I just wanted to throw the book across the room. While the doting could prove repetitively harmless, there were a few scenes that were just awkward: scenes where Darcy and Elizabeth were talking dirty to one another (trying to at least). These scenes weren't dirty enough to be completely or outrageously filthy or vulgar. But much too much to be classy. To me, they were just awkward, embarrassing. Not every scene. Some were more classy than others. None were out-and-out explicitly graphic in the what-goes-where sense. (Well, compared to other smutty books out there where not one iota is left to the reader's imagination. And this is no Fanny Hill. It is more tasteful than most.) But plenty to squirm about if you prefer to read clean books and not introduce such stuff to your imagination.*****
In a way, this relationship reminded me of how Bella and Edward are portrayed: so sickeningly happy as long as they're together and there to talk about how wonderful the other really is. Actually, the more I think about it, the more this one reminds me of Breaking Dawn. Not that it has super-vampire-sperm or imprinting...but the weak climax and the hundreds of pages dedicated to sex where nothing much else happens. (Plenty of people out there love Breaking Dawn and think it's great. So I wouldn't be surprised if there are people who think this one is good too.)
What I can say about the book in a positive sense...while I prefer (more often than not) to stay outside the bedroom doors of my favorite literary couples, many readers get excited about the prospect of Jane Austen sequels. Many hope that such books are graphic, that they go above and beyond where the original was allowed to go. That they'll be able to be a-fly-on-the-wall to watch the hero and heroine be intimate with one another again and again and again. And for those readers looking for several hundred pages of Elizabeth and Darcy intimacy, then this will satisfy you. I'm sure for every reader that objects to such envisioning or re-envisioning, there are two more that are happy and pleased with it. I will say this much on its behalf...it is emphatically and unquestionably a thousand times better than the sequels by Linda Berdoll. (Chances are you'll agree with me. There are (at the time of this posting) 174 ratings that give that book only 1 star. 139 give it 5 stars. 37 give it two stars. 43 give it three stars. 83 give it four stars.)
I hope I've stated clearly enough that while this one may not appeal to me, it could very well appeal to you. To get a better idea of what it has to offer visit the author's blog. One other note, it is the first in at least a three-volume series (perhaps longer). So it could be that more plot will be coming. Other books in the series may prove more interesting and satisfying.
Other perspectives: Diary of An Eccentric; Armchair Interviews; Bookfoolery; Ex Libris; AustenBlog; Savvy Verse and Wit; AustenBlog (2nd review);
*some folks think a book of loosely connected sex scenes is a plot; who am I to judge them for thinking it is?
**Trust me, I'm glad it errs on this side of the line. I'd much rather have it be closer to classy and completely dignified than explicitly graphic. The two are obviously in love. And they're married. And there is nothing wrong with them taking pleasure with one another.
***In case you're curious--my romance tastes are this: I don't mind smut (and I don't mean smut in a derogatory way. Really. You'll just have to trust me on that.) occasionally. But I like a balanced approach: the hero and heroine fully developed, interesting dialogue that isn't of the drag and drop variety. (You know the kind where you could replace the names of any two characters and play switcheroo with scenes and insert them into other books without blinking an eye). The best kinds of love scenes are where the characters are so thoroughly themselves, so unique that it's all about them and not so much about what they're doing or how they're doing it. And the story. It should have a story. It doesn't have to be a serious story. Or a dramatic story. It could be lighthearted. It could be serious. It could be funny. It could be touching or tragic. It could be a parody. It could poke fun at itself or the genre. It could be silly. The story could revolve around anything--a ball, a dance, a party, a vacation or trip, whatever. But something needs to be going on outside the sex scenes. There are thousands and thousands of romance novels out there. And some I've enjoyed. Some I haven't. Some I thought were more tasteful than others. Some suited me. Some didn't. Some I thought were better written than others. But I've read at least a hundred or so (maybe more) through the years so it's not like I've no experience with the genre.
****I own the 2005 movie and the 1995 movie. I've seen both. Multiple times. I've probably watched P&P more than read it. I've only read it twice.
*****I believe in playing nice. Some of my readers do like fiction on the clean side. I have readers that like things smutty. I'm not playing favorites or picking sides. I try to let my readers know which is which so they can choose for themselves what they want to read. I would never criticize anyone for liking things on the smutty side. Everyone has a right to pick what they want to read.
© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews