Manga Classics: Emma by Jane Austen; Adapted by Crystal Silvermoon, Edited by Stacey King. Illustrated by SunNeko Lee. ISBN: 978-1927925355, Udon Entertainment (June 18, 2015). List Price $19.99 / Amazon $16.93.

Continuing their Austen classics in manga format, Udon Entertainment has released Emma by Jane Austen, adapted by Crystal Silvermoon. The story stays true to the original plot.

Emma’s governess turned companion, Miss Taylor, has just married a local gentleman, Mr. Weston. Emma feels that the marriage proves her ability as a matchmaker and she sets her sights on finding a marriage partner for her new friend, Harriet Smith. Emma believes the new cleric, Mr. Elton, would make a good match for Harriet. Unfortunately for Emma, Mr. Elton has a totally different idea for the role of his wife-to-be.

Emma, as it soon becomes obvious, isn’t as astute an observer of the people around her as she believes she is. Even with warnings from her brother-in-law and close friend, Mr. Knightley, she forges ahead with her plans. There’s a few other plot lines involved in the story as Mr. Westin’s son, Frank Churchill, visits the area about the time a local widow’s niece, Jane Fairfax, drops in for a visit.

Misunderstandings, confusion, embarrassment, and of course a few twists and turns as well as a surprising and a few not so surprising matches between various characters occur. Austen’s books often, or should I say always, end with a wedding or at least a proposed happily ever after to follow the last page.

The artwork is lovely, as you can tell from the cover image. As with most manga, you read from the back of the book to the front and there is a short tutorial explaining how to read the pages (top to bottom but right to left). For those who have never read manga before this is a nice touch so you get off to a good start.

For true fans of Austen’s works you will find some liberties with the social conventions that existed at the time of the story. Women could not write to unrelated men — but, this does take place in this book. There’s also several other social convention that would not have happened to the characters due to their positions in society so some scenes are a bit jarring.

This adaptation will give readers the storyline and the characters with much of the same delightful tone as the original work by Austen. This is a great series and a wonderful way to introduce readers to these classics.

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Cover of Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. Story Adaptation by Stacy King. Manga: Classsic Literature. Morpheus Studios (Illustrator), Shane Law (Illustrator), Po Tse (Artist). Udon Entertainment (August 19, 2014). Price: $19.99.

Stacy King has adapted Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice for a manga-reading audience with illustrations by Shane Law, Po Tse, and Morpheus Studios. Whenever a story is adapted for a different media format, choices must be made in order to use the strengths of the new media to tell the story. Overall this adaptation is beautifully done. The basic storyline is intact and the artwork is beautifully rendered as you can tell from the lovely cover image (though the interior artwork is all in grey scale).

The basic story is a love story that threads its way through horrible first impressions, misunderstandings, pride, and prejudice. Elizabeth Bennet, the second of five daughters of a country gentleman and his wife, is insulted when she overhears Mr. Darcy’s response to his friend, Mr. Bingley, urging Darcy to dance with her. Mr. Darcy is actually shy and uncomfortable in crowded social situations but she doesn’t know that at the time. Later Mr. Darcy realizes that she’s witty, educated, and not fawning over him; thus, he finds himself falling in love. Meanwhile, she is fed a lot of balderdash about Mr. Darcy from a man who has “all the appearance of goodness” and makes a grand impression on all he meets. There’s also a secondary love story involving Jane Bennet, Elizabeth’s older sister, and Mr. Bingley. As with most love stories things work out in the end but the journey is what makes the story a classic and loved by many no matter what format it takes — book, film, and now, manga.

Still, the problem with adaptations is that choices need to be made. This time the story is told and shown to be set close to the period in which Austen originally wrote it. However, the societal mores of the time depicted in this version do not match those that existed during this time period. For example, in the version of Longbourn shown in the artwork, no member of the Bennet family would be answering their own door let alone folding the linens; there would be servants to do such work.

It was a time when the distinctions of class were kept to and there were many rules of behavior that now-a-days we’d find archaic and maybe even silly. Upper class single women could not write to an unrelated male unless she was engaged to him. She’s have to write to his mother or sister and leave it to them to pass on the information. People could not simple talk to another person — they had to be formally introduced first. In fact, public venues such as assemblies usually had a designated person who was responsible for introducing people to one another if they were not yet acquainted and wished to meet. There are many instances where modern social customs are referenced that would, in the original work, be offensive to the characters of that time period. This may bother readers who are familiar with the original Austen work and time period — new readers reading Austen for the first time would most likely not even notice these issues.

However, if you read this version and enjoy it, you may want to read the original Austen novel on which it is based because the actual story is one that transcends the time in which Austen wrote. It’s universal appeal is why her works live on. Not only have her novels been adapted for film, manga, and classic comics, but they have, by other authors, been updated to modern times and still they resonate with readers.

Overall, this is a wonderful adaptation and a great way to interest new readers in classic literature.

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Cover of Mr. Darcy's Little SisterMr. Darcy’s Little Sister by C. Allyn Pierson. Sourcebooks Landmark. ISBN: 978-1-4022-4038-6. 448 pages. Trade Paperback. List $14.99 (Amazon: $10.19 / Kindle: $9.99) Previously published in 2008 as And This Our Life.

Darcy and Elizabeth are married and settling into their life together. Georgianna is elated to finally have a sister to talk to and confide in. However, Georgianna’s coming out this season and she’s nervous, terrified, and feeling very insecure. Like any seventeen-year-old, she acts out by snapping at people – in other words not being as polite as possible — which has everyone concerned as she’s normally so compliant.

C. Allyn Pierson’s Georgianna is complex and multifaceted. Told from Georgianna’s point of view, Mr. Darcy’s Little Sister gives us a chance to actually get to know Georgianna who had so small a part in Pride and Prejudice. She’s shy, unsure of her judgment after her misstep with Wickham, sick of being treated as a child, yet afraid to stand up for herself. On the other hand, Georgianna is intelligent and often underestimated by those around her which leaves a lot of room for an author to build a story.

It is expected that young girls will be engaged by the end of their first season and if not then certainly by the end of the second. That’s a lot of pressure to put on a teenage girl. Many of the young men in society are always short of money and Georgianna has 30,000 pounds to bring to a marriage. She knows that she’ll need to be very aware that many of the young men who will court her will be only interested in her dowry. To identify those who care more for her than her money will be a skill she’ll have to learn to develop and quickly.

What only Georgianna knows is that she’s already decided who she wants to marry, she just needs him to see her as an adult and realize that now is the time to act. In the process of helping Georgianna, Elizabeth also is trained to be presented at court. She and Darcy hope that Elizabeth sharing the training will help Georgianna, and being presented at court might help Elizabeth’s standing with the ton since Lady Catherine has not been reticent in her opinion of Elizabeth.

There are also several side plots that are set in motion and people go off to adventures that are not detailed in this book; hopefully they’ll be covered in later works by Pierson. For example, Mr. Darcy is sent to France by the King to retrieve some embarrassing items and Col. Fitzwilliam is helping uncover a group that is selling arms to France. Each of these tales would make interesting reading.

Eventually, all the various threads come together in a satisfying conclusion that leaves us believing that this is the Georgianna that Miss Austen meant us to get to know. Mr. Darcy’s Little Sister is an excellent addition to the growing list of Pride and Prejudice follow-ons.

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The Capclave Mascot -- A dodo for reading is not extinctAs those of you who read this blog regularly know, I’m the chairperson of Capclave 2010. Capclave is the Washington Science Fiction Association’s annual convention, held this year in Rockville, Maryland. Our guests of honor this year are Connie Willis, Ann VanderMeer, and Jeff VanderMeer. There will also be many other guests — writers, editors, publishers, and of course fans of speculative fiction in all its various designations.

One of the things that we’re very proud of this year is the number and quality of the workshops we’ll be offering to participants. If you are registered to attend Capclave, there is no extra charge for being in a workshop, but space is limited and some have requirements (homework that’s due at the time of the workshop or before you arrive in the case of the VanderMeer workshop).

If you are already a member of Capclave and wish to sign up for one or more of these workshops, send email to workshops at capclave dot org (you know how to parse that email address I’m sure). If you haven’t signed up for the convention yet, check out the website and sign up then send your email asking listing the workshop you wish to be in.

Here’s the full list of workshops:

Workshops at Capclave:
Capclave 2010 is pleased to once again host a number of interesting workshops. Space is still available. If you are interested, send an e-mail to our workshop coordinator.

Online Content Workshop
Putting your comics, music, video, and fiction online is easy. Making it pay is harder, but it can be done. Join webcomic creator and comedy musician Rob Balder as he talks about making a living with the free content model. Get practical advice (feel free to bring a laptop/tablet and samples of your stuff) and work out a specific strategy for growing and monetizing an audience around your work. Two hour workshop.

Plotting Workshop
What makes a story a story? How do you construct a viable plot from a bare (naked) idea? We’ll start at the beginning, and by the end, you should have everything you need to know to plot your story. Allen Wold will lead this 2 hour session.

Reviewer’s workshop
A good reviewer does more then read free books and say “I like that”. Peter Heck, a regular reviewer for Asimov’s Science Fiction will demonstrate the hallmarks of a good review and how to create one. Bring a at least 10 copies of a review you’ve written and are proud of.

Wordsmith’s Workshop
Danny Birt will guide you through looking at writing from the perspective of the single word, and then work up from there, making sure that every word counts. This 1.5 hour workshop is good for beginners to professionals and is limited to 16 participants.

Writer’s Workshop
Allen Wold will lead a panel of authors in a hands on workshop. Learn many skills as you work on a short story. Session will be for 2 hours on Sat. and for those interested, a 1 hour follow-up on Sunday. Number of Participants is limited to 12.

Writer’s Workshop
Jeff and Ann VanderMeer will critique short stories of 12 participants. Each participant must write and submit a story of no more than 7500 words at least 2 months before Capclave (by August 22nd) to the workshop email address (workshops at capclave dot org). The story will be shared with the VanderMeers and the other participants. This will be a 2 hour workshop.

Hope your as excited about these opportunities to learn as we are to be able to offer them to our convention attendees.

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cover of The Darcy Cousins by Monica FairviewThe Darcy Cousins: Scandal, Mischief, and Mayhem arrive at Pemberley… by Monica Fairview, Sourcebooks, ISBN: 978-1-4022-3700-3, pages 432.

The rift between Darcy and his aunt Lady Catherine de Bourgh has been somewhat mended since Elizabeth has given birth to an heir. Of course that doesn’t mean that Lady Catherine actually recognizes Elizabeth’s presence. But the entire family is gathering at Rosings once more for Easter. Joining the family are Robert Darcy (see The Other Mr. Darcy) and his wife and two relatives from America, Frederick Darcy and his sister Clarissa Darcy.

Georgiana is hoping that she and Clarissa will become close friends. Georgiana has been feeling that she’s in the way or not really wanted. Darcy marrying Elizabeth was definitely a good thing but where Georgiana always had her brother for company now he seems always involved with Elizabeth and their son — they don’t purposely exclude her they just don’t seem to notice.

Once Frederick and Clarissa arrive, they seem to get off on the wrong foot with Lady Catherine. While Frederick can be accepted, after all he is American, a business man, and rich. Clarissa must learn to become a lady — of course that’s the type of lady that Lady Catherine approves of, and that’s where all the trouble begins. Clarissa is neither tractable or docile.

Georgiana and Clarissa do become friends. Georgiana learns that one can be a lady and still have strong opinions and interests of her own. When Clarissa is appalled by the way everyone ignores Anne de Bourgh and has Georgiana join her in her campaign to become friends with Anne, Georgiana begins to realize that she’s always just accepted things and never looked at them from the outside. She’s also surprised by what they learn. Her eyes opened, she begins to look at other behaviors she’s always accepted.

As is usual, one things leads to another and before long Lady Catherine is convinced that Clarissa is practically the devil personified, and there to ruin the family. Once again the family finds itself rent by Lady Catherine’s insistence on her point of view. Everyone decamps for London and the season.

Georgiana struggles to find her own way in society with her new insights. She learns that Clarissa is in England for more than this visit and that there are depths to her American cousin. In fact, soon Clarissa and Georgiana find themselves interested in the same man. But is he the right man for either of them? Will their friendship last through the season?

To say any more would spoil the fun of learning all the secrets, intrigues, and adventures to be had in The Darcy Cousins. The book’s advanced press implies that the book is all about Clarissa and her problems but this is really Georgiana’s story. Clarissa is the spur that goads Georgiana to action and change. Georgiana is firmly front and center. She’s always been in the background and this time Monica Fairview gives the reader a chance to get to know her a bit better. Shy? Yes, but also she has the same strong Darcy stubbornness and loyalty. It’s a turbulent story as Georgiana becomes a person most of us would like to know better and have stand at our side in adversity.

Another excellent follow on to Pride and Prejudice that maintains the integrity of the original characters while moving the story of their lives forward.

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Cover of Recollections of Rosings by Rebecca Ann CollinsRecollections of Rosings by Rebecca Ann Collins is book 8 of The Pemberley Chronicles. (Published by Sourcebooks, ISBN: 978-1-4022-2450-8, 336 pages, $14.99 US/$17.99 CAN/£7.99 UK)

While this is book 8, I found it fairly easy to get into. This is only the second book in the series that I’ve read. I reviewed Postscripts from Pemberly back in December 2009. If you’ve read Pride and Prejudice, you’ve got an understanding of the major characters.  And while these characters have moved on, had children, had their children marry, lost loved ones — reading Collins’ work is like dropping in on a huge family reunion after being out of touch for a long while. The books, or at least the ones that I’ve read have an Appendix that lists the major characters and the relationships between them.

I’m starting by pointing this out because there’s a relaxed atmosphere about the stores in Postscripts… and now Recollections…. Collins has a way of presenting the stories partly through the type of narrative/interactive story you’d expect, but she also uses journal or diary entries and letters to help us get a deeper understanding of the characters that have a major part to play. This makes reading the books a lot like being asked to read someone’s personal journal when you know all the people involved (society pages without the cattiness).

Recollections of Rosings is, as you’ve probably guessed about Rosings, the major residence of Lady Catherine de Bourgh. Lady Catherine has been gone for sometime and the estate is run by a board of trustees on which Fitzwilliam Darcy serves. The story opens with the terrible news that there has been a fire at Rosings that has caused considerable damage. The current Vicar, Mr. Harrison, suffers a heart attack and his continuing illness causes some drastic changes to his situation for himself and his family. His wife Catherine, one of Charlotte and Mr. Collins’ daughters, is now caring for her husband and dealing with her grief over the damage done to Rosings where she lived when Lady Catherine took her in as a young child to be a companion for Anne.

The Rosings estate has recently hired a curator to deal with the historic artwork and others treasures of Rosings. Luckily he had done much of the work to catalog what was in the house and it will be useful to the board in determining their loss and what can and should be done to rebuild. That he is also someone who had worked at Rosings while Catherine lived with Lady Catherine helps to bring back many memories and releasing many emotions of her childhood and early adulthood before her marriage.

Meanwhile, Catherine’s daughter seems to be falling in love with a young man in the neighborhood that few people know anything about other than he’s a gentleman and very good at his job. Beck Tate, Catherine’s sister, is at loose ends as her husband has gone to America on business, leaving her behind. Unfortunately for Catherine, Becky feels it is her duty to watch out for her supposedly more naive and unsophisticated sister.

That sets out the parameters of the book, but the journey and the experience of reading it yourself is the frosting on the cake. Collins is not flamboyant — the writing is very reminiscent of sitting about with a best friend talking about family, friends, what is happening with the neighbors, what’s going on, what can be done to make life better for those around you — and yourself, of course.

That’s not to say that you won’t shed tears, laugh out loud, try to get characters to look before they leap, get angry about how some are treated, wonder why other won’t mind their own business, and smile because sometimes love does conquer all. And best of all, for some people there are second chances and, while they don’t come often, when they happen you should not stand and watch them pass you by but reach out for new dreams and a new life.

There’s a very comfortable feel to The Pemberly Chronicles. These are people most of us have spent a lot of time with. Austen created characters that still resonant with us so many years after she wrote her books. That Austen often left her characters just as the leave they church after their wedding, it’s no wonder that so many of us want to know what happened next. Rebecca Ann Collins gives us one possible future — it’s a comfortable one that we can relate too that differs only in degree from the future we see around us for our friends and family.

These are wonderful books for a rainy day — or any day — when you want to believe that people are good at heart and that families stand together in times of trouble. These are books that continue the story of some well loved characters but they are also books of hope and of dreams of communities that many of us would like to live in.

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Mr. Darcy's Great Escape book coverA Contest: The Sourcebooks, the publisher of Mr. Darcy’s Great Escape, is willing to support a giveaway for the US and Canadian readers of this interview. Leave a comment on the post and I will chose a random comment author on Sunday February 7th. I’ll contact the winner to get their snail mail address. Winner will receive one set of three books in the Darcys and Bingleys series).

Marsha Altman continues the story of The Darcys and the Bingleys in Mr. Darcy’s Great Escape, bringing us to 1812. This is book three of the series following The Darcys and the Bingleys and The Plight of the Darcy Brothers. The books are a delight, continuing the lives of some of literature favorite characters Elizabeth Bennet Darcy and Fitzwilliam Darcy. One reviewer said that “that [these books] would please even Jane Austen.” The more I read about Austen’s wit and humor, the more I do believe that she would appreciate Marsha Altman’s continuation of the story.

It may be Mr. Darcy’s Great Escape but you gave the women a very big role this time. Just how much fun was it to pair up the unlikely duo of Elizabeth and Caroline?

Marsha: A lot of fun, but also a little tricky. Even though nine years have passed since the events of Pride and Prejudice, these women still haven’t completely warmed to each other. Elizabeth is still witty and stubborn, and Caroline has to retain a certain edge to her for her to remain Caroline Bingley, even if she’s now Caroline Maddox. It’s not my attempt to make these characters unrecognizable, even if they do evolve significantly as they go through milestones in their lives, particularly marriage and children. Nor was it appropriate to have them constantly sniping at each other, because their journey was very serious. So I had to find a kind of balance there. Darcy and Dr. Maddox actually have more time to bicker, because they have few ways to pass the time while they’re waiting to be rescued.

So much of this resonated with Bram Stoker’s Dracula only without the vampires but with all the Gothic scariness. There’s even a ninja. Did you intend such a homage? Or am I just seeing a connection you didn’t intend?

Marsha: Just a straight-out correction here: There are two vampires in this story. The book just never says it outright, but the hints are hidden in the details. They reappear in other literature I’ve written that’s not Pride and Prejudice related and is either going to be published soon or I’m hoping will sell later this year. And there are no ninjas, only samurai (book 8 has ninjas).

The homage is entirely intentional, but more for the reader than the characters. To them, Transylvania is a place they’ve never heard of and can’t locate on a map before this story begins, except within the context of Brian Maddox having mentioned it was in Austria somewhere in the previous book. Let’s remember that Dracula by Bram Stoker wasn’t published until 1897, and that book was the formation of the modern vampire legend and its association with Transylvania, whereas previously the legends about vampires were less centralized to a place and more nebulous. Vlad the Impaler, on whom Dracula the character is supposedly based, was actually from Wallachia, not Transylvania, and his legend wasn’t widespread until the book was published. So the name “Transylvania” wouldn’t strike instant fear into the hearts of people in 1812. It would be intimidating for being so far east, beyond the known and safe world of the European Continent even if it was technically part of the Austrian Empire at the time, because of its remoteness. The fear comes from leaving familiar Regency England and traveling into a dangerous backwater area, where the “other” is the real scare, not the supernatural.
Nonetheless I chose Transylvania because it has an instant connotation for my audience, and it does have a wealthy historical tradition of folklore to draw from in the scenes that use it. When you’re in a mysterious place, it’s an easy step to be drawn into the foreboding local tales that might surround it, so it’s a simple jump from “scary count who kills people” to “vampires, witches, and warlocks.”

I should remark that this isn’t totally fair to Romanian history. Transylvania had plenty of European, cosmopolitan nobles who had encountered the Enlightenment and were beyond this nonsense (there’s one in the book), but the villains are particularly backwards to heighten the experience.

It seems with each book that Mr. Darcy has to face some of his inner devils or at least learn to broaden his view of the world and the people in it. Do you enjoy tormenting him? Have you got much more torment in store for him?

Marsha: This is as bad as it ever gets for Darcy. Seriously, I let him off easy from here on. He’s better equipped to deal with strife that involves his family lineage in future books after his experiences in this book. This book was my attempt to stretch as far as I could my interpretation of Darcy. In many circles, there are two schools of thought to explain Darcy’s actions in Pride and Prejudice – either he made his mistakes because he was “proud” and then genuinely learned from his actions and changed his characters, or he was “shy” and misinterpreted, causing multiple misinterpretations on both ends that needed to get cleared up before the right people could get married. Austen provides fodder for both explanations: Mrs. Reynolds, on Elizabeth’s visit to Pemberley, goes out of her way to proclaim that her master has always been good and kind to everyone, and Darcy admits at Rosings that he’s not good in making easy conversation with strangers, leading to the “shy” interpretation. Then you have Darcy at the end saying that he was spoiled as a child and expected only the best, leading to the “proud” interpretation. I’ve always sided with “shy” because it makes Darcy a better man – he’s not a jerk who reformed so much as someone who made bad decisions and then corrected them.

Today we have a larger understanding of people who are uncomfortable around other people, myself being one of them, and don’t have an easy time making new friendships or retaining old ones. For people like this, parties full of strangers can feel like living hell. In extreme examples, you have Social Anxiety Disorder, where people can actually develop shortness of breath in the presence of too many people, and you have medication for it. I don’t believe that these problems didn’t exist in the past, they just weren’t acknowledged or understood. I am not, for the record, diagnosing Darcy with SAD (his symptoms don’t match), but pushed to the edge as he is in this book, the darker side of whatever makes him an unsocial person comes out in full force, and coupled with a genetic predisposition you have a serious problem on your hands that tests not just him but everyone around him. It’s a pretty radical interpretation of Darcy, but I like doing new things.

It appears that Gregoire may be learning to relax a bit. You’ve taken all the characters in new directions that wouldn’t have been expected just one book ago. But, it all feels so consistent with their growth. Can you tell us in some very general terms what we might have to look forward to in future volumes?

Marsha: G-d willing, this series will keep being published by my benevolent publisher Sourcebooks, and the next book will be mostly concerned with Grégoire, and his spiritual evolution after some events force him to return to England. Grégoire is like his half-sister Georgiana in that he believes in the good in everyone, but he’s a Darcy, so that makes him stubborn as hell about the way he wants to live his life, even if it seems in direct conflict with the way a modern person (in Regency terms) should live their life. In the fourth book you also have the emerging characters of the children. George Wickham (the third), Darcy’s half-nephew, is old enough to be in University, and Geoffrey Darcy is about to leave for Eton, and Georgiana Bingley is getting ready to enter society, so the shape of their characters as adults is starting to emerge, and the parents have to take a greater hand in trying to guide them into adulthood, where potential fortune or disaster awaits depending on their behavior. When they’re little kids, you can kind of let them run around and occasionally give them instruction, but the stakes become much higher much faster in their teenage years.

The fifth book, which a lot of my readers on the internet feel is the best book so far (nobody’s had a chance to weigh in on the last book and the Velociraptor-related ending), is the one where most of the children have entered society or are about to do so, and they become instrumental to the conflict and resolution in the story. There are still a lot of young kids running around, but the main cast of the next generation has emerged as players, sometimes to their parents’ disapproval. I didn’t want to write a series where BOOM! the kids are all adults trying to get married and the adults haven’t changed except that they have more gray hair and wear glasses. Books skip ahead a few years to key events, but the evolution is steady and somewhat mapped. Nobody ever stops evolving, because people are always growing, even in their later years.

What’s been the biggest surprise about response to your series?

Marsha: That people who have not read Pride and Prejudice have read it and enjoyed it. My parents re-watched the movie and that helped them out. I really should have included a summary of Pride and Prejudice in an introduction to the first book.

Mr. Darcy’s Great Escape—in stores February 2010

    Hilarious and action-packed, this installment brings the Darcy and Bingley families to the year 1812 and the intrigues of the Napoleonic Wars. Darcy and Dr. Maddox go in search of Darcy’s missing half-brother and land in a medieval prison cell.

    Much to his dismay, Charles Bingley is left to hold the fort at Pemberley while his sister Caroline, Elizabeth, and Col. Fitzwilliam traverse Europe on a daring rescue. Meanwhile, Lady Catherine de Bourgh kicks up a truly shocking scandal. One never knows what might happen next between the estates of Rosings and Pemberley.


    Marsha Altman is a historian specializing in Rabbinic literature in late antiquity, and an author. She is also an expert on Jane Austen sequels, having read nearly every single one that’s been written, whether published or unpublished. She has worked in the publishing industry with a literary agency and is writing a series continuing the story of the Darcys and the Bingleys. She lives in New York.

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Mr. Darcy's Great EscapeMarsha Altman continues the story of The Darcys and the Bingleys in Mr. Darcy’s Great Escape, bringing us to 1812. This is book three of the series following The Darcys and the Bingleys and The Plight of the Darcy Brothers. While the lives of the major characters have continued since Pride and Prejudice, Altman has remained true to the character of each person and yet allowed them to grow and change, not to mention beginning a new generation of Darcys and Bingleys.

The book opens as the entire clan gathers at Netherfield, which Mr. Bennet has had to rent, for Kitty’s wedding. It’s an occasion that allows the reader to catch up on the growth that has taken place and refresh their memories of the previous books. It also sets up the relationships between the characters and their families, so what happens later in the story fits into these new and expanding friendships and family connections.

Once past the confused chaos and joy of the wedding, we’re hit with incident after incident with little quiet time to relax until the end of the book. That’s not to say the book is episodic or has gaps that make the story jerky — it’s just much more of an action adventure thriller than the sedately paced story most readers would expect from a Pride and Prejudice follow on. In fact, I don’t think any of Altman’s books are quite what you’d expect, but they are nevertheless some of the best follow on stories to Pride and Prejudice that I’ve read to date. Each volume is filled with humor, quirky happenings, incidents that will have you laughing right out loud, as well as scenes that will catch at your heart and put a tear in your eye.

You probably wonder why I’m not getting to what the book is about, well, it’s a book that brings a lot of characters together in way that you would not expect, doing things you probably would never have thought possible. Lady Catherine de Bourgh finally invites the Darcys to Rosings and of course she has ulterior motives that in themselves bring on some especially trying and unexpected consequences. Dr. Maddox’s brother Brian has invited him to visit with him and his wife in Transylvania. It’s a strange letter and Dr. Maddox feels he must not just respond but take the journey to find out for himself what is going on. Darcy has lost contact with his brother, Gregoire. The war is heating up in Europe and many of the monasteries are being disbanded. Concerned that traveling alone could be dangerous, Darcy and Dr. Maddox decide to travel together. When their wives receive notes that make them suspect that something is going on, Elizabeth and Caroline put aside their differences and set out on a mission to discover what has happened to their husbands.   Bingley and Jane, of course, need to stay behind and watch over all the children, related businesses and establishments. I’ll leave it up to the reader to determine who had the worse part of this adventure.

There are plenty of incidents that occur in England and in Europe and Altman manages to keep us informed on what is happening to each of these various groups: Darcy and Maddox; Elizabeth and Caroline; Gregoire; the Bingleys, and the Fitzwilliams. Just as in life, it’s complicated, but once you begin you just can’t put the book down. I ended up reading it through four times preparing for this review because if I opened it to look up something, I ended up rereading it. In fact, I’m about one third of the way through again.

So don’t waste any time, Mr. Darcy’s Great Escape should be available from Amazon and from wherever you usually buy your books. But don’t start reading until Friday night because you’ll want to finish it in one go and start over again to savor the humor, the adventure, and the pleasure of spending time with the Darcys and the Bingleys.

NOTE: Tomorrow’s post will be an interview with Marsha Altman about Mr. Darcy’s Great Escape and other books planned for the series. Please check back for the interview and to enter a contest to win a set of all three of the books that have been published in this series so far.

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