Launch the Birthday Week


Today marks the start of Jane Austen’s birthday week. She was born on December 16th, which is this coming Saturday, but as I am a very big fan of her work- her books, their spin-off, and the movies dedicated to both her books and their spin-offs- I thought I would dedicate this week’s posts to her. 

If you have not read any Austen’s works, I highly encourage you to do so. If you’ve read one or more before and found them wanting, I’d implore you to give her another chance. But, if like me, you’ve read all her offerings- even Lady Susan, The Watsons, Sandition, and Juvenalia- and then re-read your favorites again and again, then I’ll offer you some of my favorite spin-offs. 


This book was a delight. I have never read an interactive novel before. It is chock full of choices. You start out as Elizabeth Bennett with the mission to marry for love, but with the stipulation to make a prudent match. After that, the rest of the novel is up to you. It follows the plot of Pride and Prejudice loosely, but you, dear reader, are allowed to make a bevy of choices that greatly alter you ending. For example, ever wonder what would have happened had Elizabeth simply accepted Darcy’s first proposal? Or, what if she accepted Mr. Collins? What if she had simply chosen the wrong direction to walk in that day in Derbyshire and never happened upon Mr. Darcy while touring his grounds at Pemberley? 

You can alter the plot by one choice, or lead yourself on a wending and humorous journey by making a host of different ones. You’ll encounter principals from other books- shout out to the ever humorous Henry Tilney and the massively dashing Captain Wentworth. You’ll even see some plot ideas from other Austen books, such as being attacked by gypsies on your way to Netherfield to tend poor, ailing Jane, echoes of Emma there. The writing is very much up to Jane Austen snuff. Thoroughly witty, very humorous, and, at times, a little caustic. BEWARE: Some of the choices you make, can and will lead to your death. But, have no fear, you can always go back to the beginning and make a host of new decisions and effect a throughly different, and hopefully more lively outcome. (And people wonder why I love reading fiction. Happy endings, dear readers. Happy endings.)


This trio of books (An Assembly Such As This, Duty and Desire, and These Three Remain) has seem both sides of the gamut when it comes to reviews. There are the ones, like mine, that praise. Then there are the ones that simply detest it. Rather than address such complaints as It’s boring or It’s too serious or It’s too repetitive, I’ll just tell you some of the things that I loved. 

This is a retelling of Pride and Prejudice from Darcy’s perspective, and while some of it can seem repetitive, especially in the parts where he’s with Elizabeth, there are whole blocks of time where Aidan is able to explore what could have happened to Darcy to help effect the change in his demeanor and character by the end of the series. She does not recreate the character, but, instead, adheres to the spirit Jane Austen first purveyed and runs with it. He goes to a house party- where events have a somewhat paranormal feel to them; it seemed to be a nod to Northanger Abbey, which I enjoy. You get the chance to meet the character of Dyfed Brougham, Darcy’s school chum, who somewhat outshines Darcy, as far as I’m concerned, although I think I may have a soft spot in my heart for spies (Sir Percival Blakeney {see more here}, Ethan Hunt {see post here}, Napoleon Solo, Illya Kuryakin {see post here}, just to name a few). I loved the gradual growth of his character, especially after Elizabeth refuses his first proposal. I also applaud the dimensionality Aidan gives to Georgiana in light of the struggles she’s going through in the wake of her near elopement; her introspection and pragmatic analysis of herself are very relatable. Be forewarned, these novels are not ‘light,’ but a true attempt at doing the same sort of literary justice to Darcy as Austen did to Elizabeth. In my opinion, Aidan succeeded and I would recommend them to anyone who loves Jane Austen as much as I do.


Why turn Darcy and Elizabeth into Nick and Nora of Thin Man fame? Because it’s hoots of fun, and you get to come up with fantastic titles, like Pride and Prescience; Or, A Truth Universally Acknowledged, Suspense and Sensibility; Or, First Impressions Revisited, or, my personal favorite, North by Northanger; Or, The Shades of Pemberley

As it’s been many, many years since I read any of these novels, I cannot recall much of the plot lines. However, whenever I think of them, or see them at the bookstore, I can’t help but smile in remembrance. So, while the ins and outs, the whodunnit and who didn’t do it might be a bit of a fog in my mind, the lingering happiness is enough for me to feel very confident in recommended them to you all. So, if you enjoy your Agatha Christie or Mary Stewart or Barbra Michaels, I have no doubt that you will enjoy these Darcy duo Carrie Bebris offerings, too. 


This book is the largest departure from the actual writings of Jane Austen, as it contains all new characters whose ancestry is within the Darcy household. Meet Cassandra Darcy- second cousin to Fitzwilliam Darcy. True to Austen form, Cassandra was taken in by a charming, handsome, and seemingly amiable man who convinces her to elope with him. However, after she runs off with him, he abandons her. Left with little option after being disgraced, Cassandra sets up as an artist in London, rather enterprising when you consider that her alternative was prostitution. Besides, she’s always wanted to pursue her art. Her family should have learned from Mr. Darcy’s example and realized that thwarted dreams and impossible goals are nothing to one’s strength of will and convictions. Cassandra makes a somewhat decent go of her uncommon life. But, something is rotten in England, and there’s written proof of it- proof that Cassandra is in possession of; proof that the powers that be would do anything to get their hands on. 

Enter Horatio Darcy- Cassandra’s cousins and a lawyer enlisted to ferret out the information that she has. Of course, in true Darcy spirit, Horatio (one of my all time favorite names, by the by) is quick to judge Cassandra for her lifestyle, but as they embark on trying to solve the mysteries that surround the information Cassandra has, he begins to see her in a new light. Many of the themes of this book echo themes seen in Austen. This is the only Elizabeth Aston that I have read, but she has an entire series of books dedicated to Mr. Darcy’s daughters, and I hear very good things about them. 


Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith                              


What’s not to love about a book that juxtaposes the wit and charm of Jane Austen with the gratuitous and largely absurd renderings of zombies descending on the Netherfield kitchen staff in the midst of the ball, forcing Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennett- both trained ninjas, though from totally different schools (I hear the Japanese style is paramount, but that’s taking only Lady Catherine’s word and we all know she’s a snob) to exit the ballroom and quickly dispatch the undead before they can wreak havoc on Bingley’s guests? I laughed a good deal while reading this book. Honestly. Seth Grahame-Smith does an excellent job of working his own writing into Austen's original prose. On the whole, this novel had just the right mix of Austen and absurdity. I’ll also add that I am not a fan of zombies in any way, shape, or form. So, when I recommend this, it’s as an Austen lover, not a zombie enthusiast. 

Have I missed any? Is there a particular Jane Austen inspired novel out there that you love? Please, recommend it and tell us all why you love it. (And stay tuned for Friday’s blog post where I’ll discuss my favorite Jane Austen novel in depth. Can you guess which one it will be?)