Ooooo, Mr. Darcy

To get in the mood for Valentine's Day, I've been reading again about everyone's favorite heartthrob, Jane Austen's Mr. Darcy.

First, I read Amanda Grange's Mr. Darcy, Vampyre. On their wedding day, Jane and Elizabeth Bennet each thinks she is "the happiest woman alive". But, as Lizzy's beloved Darcy reads his mail in the carriage after the festivities (hey, at least he wasn't texting an old girlfriend), he abruptly changes their honeymoon plans. Off they go, to Paris. It sounds like a newlywed's dream, but Lizzy wonders why her new husband never comes to her room at night. As a proper English gentlewoman, Liz has no idea how to change this state of affairs. Maybe he’s distracted by seeing all those lithe, gorgeously dressed Parisian friends again - and they are taking an interest in Darcy, while acting downright hostile to Lizzy.

Eventually they leave Paris, and head across France toward the alps and the castle of Darcy’s uncle, Count Polidori. And werewolves. And mysterious fortune-tellers. And more hostile relatives. And suspicious villagers. And more lonely nights in her solitary room. Darcy still doesn’t come to her, even when Lizzy works up the courage to visit his empty room. Maybe he’s afraid of that bat…
If you love innocent English maidens in love with brooding men who are tortured by secrets they cannot share, then this will be your cup of tea.

My second Valentine selection was Duty and Desire, the second in Pamela Aidan’s Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman trilogy. No zombies, no vampires, no steampunk. Just Darcy, trying to forget Elizabeth Bennet. The trilogy is organized as a parallel to Pride and Prejudice, from Mr. Darcy’s romantic point of view, and this book covers the time after he and Bingley have left Netherfield, but before he bumps into Elizabeth again at Rosling.

Darcy has decided that the only way to drive away his unpleasantly pleasant memories of Elizabeth, is to look for a more appropriate wife among his old Cambridge friends and acquaintances. So, it’s off to the old country estate of Lord Sayre, with his man’s man Fletcher wading through the below-stairs dirt on the group of gambling, drinking, flirting houseguests. I found the gentlemen's conversations on news and politics the most interesting part. They discuss their fears of General Lud's followers, and Lord Byron's shocking address to Parliament. Jane Austen never hinted at what was happening in the world outside the balls and shops of her country towns and London townhouses! This is otherwise a classic Gothic tale: mysterious figures in the dark, macabre surprises, fainting ladies (and lusty ones, too), saber duels… Is there a prospective bride in the house?

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