I’ve been curious about this novel since I read a review of it on Austenprose, and since I had completed my Hercule Poirot Short Stories, and wasn’t going to go back to the library for a day or two before I could replenish my Agatha Christie stock at home, I bought this ebook on Kobo store and read it.
(Possibly containing spoilers!)
I’ll straight up say that I had no idea this was classified as a P&P variation work before I got started on it. Heck, I didn’t even know what P&P variation was. I typically don’t really like to read contemporarily-written novels set in the Regency era because I find that their language is too artificial compared to the real deal. However, I found Mr. Darcy’s Pledge to have a pleasant medium in that aspect. The language was not jarringly artificial. Author Monica Fairview is apparently an ex-literature professor, so I’m sure this was a deliberate decision to tone down on the Regency-esque language in her narrative, but not so much that it reads like a Young Adult novel disguised as Regency fiction.
Something I particularly dislike about most P&P sequels or works inspired by P&P is how much they like to quote from the original source. I already get that you are writing a sequel or fanfic based on P&P, and if I’m reading it, it’s most likely that I’m also a huge fan of P&P and have read it ten thousand times, you don’t need to try and inject fractions of the source novel into the prose here. I dislike it the most when these works try to insert or paraphrase from the original P&P narrative, e.g. “Lizzie sighed because it is a truth universally acknowledged that all single men of large fortune…” I don’t appreciate this at all. Don’t be lazy, write your own prose and stop copying from Austen’s.
Fortunately, however, in Mr. Darcy’s Pledge, any of this “copy-quoting” is kept to a bare minimum. There are quotes from the original P&P, but they are in large sized chunks of passages instead of being sewn into the sentences, and interestingly serves as flashbacks for the characters rather than incorporating it into the real-time narrative. This was a much less jarring way of using quotes from the source novel for me and it enabled me to enjoy the book more.
So, not knowing what P&P variation was, I was very surprised when I realised that Mr. Darcy had not handed Lizzie that lovely letter exonerating himself from his perceived crimes, and also surprised when there was a haycart accident involving the Gardiners and Lizzie just in front of Pemberley, resulting in her having to have a nice little stayover. Of course, there’s a lot of sexual tension going on, more than Jane Austen ever imagined, but it was all very entertaining. I enjoyed Mr. Darcy’s little meltdown in front of Bingley, I enjoyed Georgiana growing ever more daring and playful with her brother, I basically enjoyed a humanistic re-interpretation of Jane Austen’s characters. There were also some original characters introduced, though I am happy to say that they were not annoying or obtrusive enough to have stuck a splinter into the perfect Austen landscape that we are romping in.
Overall, I read this as P&P fanfiction but it was one of the more enjoyable ones I have read so far, even more because it is cognizant of its being a fanfiction and unabashed about it instead of trying to be more. I didn’t know that this was just Part 1 of 2, so I was surprised and slightly disappointed when it ended off on a cliffhanger. Will I be buying Mr. Darcy’s Challenge? Right now, I have so many books that I haven’t really thought about it, but it seems likely in the future that I will be.