Mr. Darcy’s Undoing by Abigail Reynolds

Mr. Darcy’s Undoing by Abigail Reynolds is the latest in her “What If?” series of Pride & Prejudice variations that seeks to uncover how far Darcy will go to woo Lizzy if after his disastrous proposal she accepts one from another man.  Darcy has made his arrogant speech about loving Lizzy against his better judgment and has proposed they get married, and she has refused by the time this book opens.

Lizzy has a dilemma before her; she had hoped to marry for love, but with her sister Jane’s hopes of marrying Mr. Bingley dashed and her continued depression about losing him, Lizzy realizes that she no longer has the luxury to marry for love and must find a suitable man with means to save her family from ruin upon the death of her father.  She takes the responsibility on when a family friend Mr. Covington begins to show interest in her.  After accepting his proposal and resigning herself to a marriage based on necessity and fondness, which she hopes will grow into love, Mr. Darcy arrives on the scene with Mr. Bingley and things get more complicated as she realizes her true feelings for Darcy.

“He inquired after her family as Darcy looked on sardonically, wondering what Elizabeth could possibly see in this dull fellow.  It grated on his nerves every time Covington called her by her name or allowed an admiring look to rest upon her.  Nevertheless, he gave no thought to leaving; as vividly unpleasant as this might be, nothing would induce him to leave Elizabeth alone with Covington while he had a choice in the matter.  There was a certain ironic humour, he reflected, in finding himself as her chaperone.” (page 68-9 ARC)

Told from both Lizzy and Darcy’s point of view, readers get a well-rounded glimpse at the feelings and frustrations they feel about their situation, especially after Lydia runs off with Wickham.  What’s new here is that Lizzy is deflated and more vulnerable, but she remains strong at her core in her convictions.  Scandal has hammered her family’s reputation and she realizes that she is at the center of it and believes that everyone would be best off without her.  Darcy must not only convince her of his love, but that she has not permanently injured her family’s reputation and that she is not a pariah who can destroy his reputation.

“The two men eyed one another for a moment, then Darcy said in a more normal voice, ‘Do you still object to Georgiana’s presence here? I would like her to have the opportunity to get to know Elizabeth.’

‘Good God, Darcy, are you actually asking my opinion? There is a first time for everything!'”  (page 176 ARC)

Reynolds introduces Mr. Covington, Mrs. Covington, and makes sure that fan favorites, like Mr. Bennet and Colonel Fitzwilliam, are as bright as Lizzy and Darcy.  Each character is vivid and dynamic.  However, Lady Catherine, Mr. Collins, and Charlotte Lucas do not make appearances, but are talked about in passing.  Reynolds is a master at throwing Lizzy and Darcy into new situations that threaten to keep them apart, but the overarching theme is always that love conquers all.  Austen would be proud that Reynolds has taken her characters, helped them evolve into better versions of themselves, and taken them on new journeys.

Mr. Darcy’s Undoing by Abigail Reynolds is infused with bawdy conversation, conflict, societal disapprobation, and classic characters with modern sensibilities.  Darcy and Lizzy are no longer pinned down by Regency norms, but are pioneers of modernity and unbridled love and passion.  Reynolds is masterful in her homage to Austen and her wit, while catering to readers’ desire for romance and strong protagonists.  Likely to be one of the first Austen spinoffs to make the end of year “Best of” list.

Dewey’s 24-Hour Read-a-Thon Wrap Up

This weekend was Dewey’s 24-hour read-a-thon. I read on and off yesterday in between traveling to Anna’s house to celebrate her husband’s birthday. It was a great time and Wiggles was a very happy camper most of the time, but with three teeth coming in at once, she did have her cranky moments.

Ok, so you really want to know how much I read and of what. I finished up Mr. Dary’s Undoing by Abigail Reynolds at 11 PM last night, reading about 250 pages since I started it earlier in the week. Then I read about 10 more pages of Simon Pegg’s memoir, Nerd Do Well, before falling asleep.

Overall, I didn’t get much reading done, but it was fun. How did you do?

Guest Post: Abigail Reynolds Ponders 200th Anniversaries of Jane Austen Novels

Abigail Reynolds is a master at answering the What If? question when it comes to Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet’s romance in her re-tellings.  Whether Mr. Darcy decides to hold his tongue at the Meryton Assembly or doesn’t botch his proposal to her in Kent, Reynolds finds new ways to keep this couple and readers guessing as to whether they will get together.  Mr. Darcy’s Undoing is the latest in her What If? series of books and seeks to uncover how far Darcy will go to woo Lizzy if after his disastrous proposal she accepts one from another man.

Today, Reynolds will share with you what inspires her to write her re-imaginings and what the significance of this year’s 200th anniversary of Sense & Sensibility by Jane Austen means to her.  Without further ado, please welcome Abigail.

This year’s Annual General Meeting of the Jane Austen Society of North America (JASNA) was dedicated to the 200th anniversary of the publication of Sense & Sensibility. It’s a major event in the Janeite world. Although Pride & Prejudice was the first novel Austen wrote, Sense & Sensibility was the first one published, so it’s our first bicentennial publication event. Pride & Prejudice, Austen’s best known and most popular book, won’t have its 200th anniversary of publication until 2013.

I write variations on Pride & Prejudice, novels in which I’ve taken the original and changed one key event. In my latest release, Mr. Darcy’s Undoing, the change is a whopper. Elizabeth Bennet, rather than remaining single until she encounters Darcy at Pemberley, becomes engaged to another man, a childhood friend whom she cares for and trusts, but doesn’t love. This changes the plot quite decisively, creating dramatic tension about how Darcy and Elizabeth will reach their happy ending. That’s the trick of a variation: to find something that changes the events of the novel but doesn’t interfere with the ending. Most changes I could make to the plot don’t produce dramatic effects. If Darcy doesn’t attend the Meryton Assembly, he’d have the same reaction to Elizabeth at a later date. If Elizabeth didn’t travel to Kent where she re-encounters Darcy, the events there would just take place whenever they next met, or they would never meet again and the ending would be different. I couldn’t make a book out of those.

When I’m asked which Austen heroine I resemble most, it’s an easy call. I’m definitely an Elinor, and as a result, Sense & Sensibility will always be very dear to my heart. It’s tied with Persuasion for my 2nd favorite Jane Austen novel. I’ve often considered doing a variation on it, but it’s hard to find an appropriate turning point to change. Part of that is because the novel follows three romances rather one – Marianne/Willoughby, Marianne/Colonel Brandon, and Elinor/Edward Ferrars. To create a balanced variation, something would have to occur to interfere with all three of those romantic possibilities, but without causing a change in the ending. That’s very tricky, given the complexity of relationships between many of the characters. Another issue for me is that, being an Elinor, it would be hard for me to portray Elinor fairly or Marianne as effectively as I’d like. Persuasion is a more promising candidate for a variation simply because of the possible turning points in it.

Truth be told, aside from attending the JASNA celebration, the 200th anniversary of Sense & Sensibility hasn’t affected me much simply because it’s been overwhelmed by another anniversary for me as an author of Pride & Prejudice variations. It’s also the 200th anniversary of the events of Pride & Prejudice. The Meryton Assembly took place on October 15, 1811. November 12 will be the 200th anniversary of the day Jane Bennet rode through the rain to dine at Netherfield park with the Bingley sisters. I’m involved in a project with many of my fellow authors of Austen-inspired novels at the Austen Authors website wherein we’re tracking the events of Pride & Prejudice in real time. Dubbed the P&P200 project, we take turns portraying missing scenes from Pride & Prejudice and existing scenes from different points of view, and we post them on the 200th anniversary of the given event. It’s turned out to be a fascinating project, not only in making me consider the time frames involved in the book in a different way, but in making me look more closely at secondary characters, and discovering they have backstories of their own that I’ve never considered. It’s a different kind of anniversary celebration, but it’s been enriching my understanding of Jane Austen, and that’s what all my writing is about.

Thanks for hosting me today!

Abigail, thank you for sharing your thoughts with us today on Sense & Sensibility and Jane Austen.  Stay tuned for my review of Mr. Darcy’s Undoing at the end of the week.

Mailbox Monday #136 and Library Loot #6

Mailbox Mondays (click the icon to check out the new blog) has gone on tour since Marcia at A Girl and Her Books, formerly The Printed Page passed the torch.  This month our host is A Sea of Books.  Kristi of The Story Siren continues to sponsor her In My Mailboxmeme.  Both of these memes allow bloggers to share what books they receive in the mail or through other means over the past week.

Just be warned that these posts can increase your TBR piles and wish lists.

Here’s what I received this week:

1.  To the Moon and Back by Jill Mansell for review in September from Sourcebooks.

2.  Out of Breath by Blair Richmond for review in October.

3.  Mr. Darcy's Undoing by Abigail Reynolds from Sourcebooks for review in October.

4.  Mr. Darcy's Bite by Mary Lydon Simonsen from Sourcebooks for review in October.

5. Becoming Marie Antoinette by Juliet Grey from Random House for review in the fall.

Library Loot:

Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire and Marg that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries!

1.  Now You See Her by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge

2.  Sugar in My Bowl by Erica Jong

What did you receive this week?