April 30, 2010


by ‘Abigail Reynolds’ (pseudonym)
390 pages, Sourcebooks, Inc.

Review (plus a teaser for another book) by A. J. Barker

My wife has gone to Seattle this week, to supervise our grandchildren—a task she finds easier (and more rewarding) than supervising me. In her absence I have eaten bacon twice and ice cream three times (once for breakfast.) This is a geriatric form of infidelity. I have also read two more-or-less trashy, more-or-less Jane Austen-ish books.

As they used to say in New Orleans, ‘Let the good times roll!’

I will pass over Under Enemy Colors, a slightly Austen-ish (via Patrick O’Brian) sea saga by the ambiguously named ‘Sean’ or ‘Thomas’ Russell (S. Thomas Russell on the cover, but Sean Russell to our local librarians.) It has the usual tyrannical Captain, and the heroic First Lieutenant who saves the ship, saves the day and is (finally) rewarded with an independent command. There is also an acerbic surgeon who comes out of the ‘orlop’ from time to time to explain things. Russell does a nice job. O’Brian readers may find it a bit milk and watery. Never mind. They’re beating up Napoleon. That’s the main thing.

Impulse and Initiative, the ‘Abigail Reynolds’ book is a different kettle of Austen. It deliberately rings the changes upon Pride and Prejudice, wherein a sadder and wiser Mr. Darcy returns for a second, more successful, run at Miss Bennett. ‘Reynolds’ has written other versions as well, perhaps intending to explore each alternative universe wherein Miss Bennett encounters Mr. Darcy. This is an interesting experiment, and (here is the trashy part) I loved the comically repetitive ‘deep kissing’, manly bulging, button popping, nipple tingling, post-Harlequin, wetness of it.

It has been years since I read P & P. I do not quite remember what happened. Maybe I never reached the end—for I used to be so fastidious I’d abandon any book likely to end happily. I do not, however, recall much erotic imagery there, and (even if Jane had had the necessary experience to describe them) she surely wouldn’t have permitted Mr. Darcy so many pre-marital liberties, nor would Miss Bennett have ‘arched her body’ for them. One can almost hear Austen’s editor, “Jane, honey, you’re gonna have to ramp it up for the current market.”

Luckily, ‘Reynolds’ is a doctor. She understands hormones. It’s what Miss Bennett needed, and shows us the heights Austen might have scaled if she had read Nora Roberts.

On the downside, the book ends about eight months and three weeks into the realm of ‘happily ever after’—a gentle reminder (to YA readers, perhaps) that body-arching loss of impulse control has consequences whose happiness (or not) depends on whether Mr. D. goes through with the wedding, as promised, and actually has 10,000 Pounds a year.

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