I have confessed before that when my life gets busy and stressed, my reading gets suuuuper fluffy, and, in most cases, takes on the form of terrible Pride & Prejudice variations. I hate to admit it, but I find them endlessly entertaining, mostly because I love the concept of one thing being different, and suddenly the whole story changes. While many of them are, admittedly, dreadful, some are still enjoyable. I’m embarrassed to tell you all how many I’ve read lately, but here are a few, just as a sample…
The Houseguest by Elizabeth Adams
This one was pretty low key, but still pleasant. In this story, Darcy and Elizabeth meet at Netherfield per canon, but, after the assembly where Elizabeth becomes quite prejudiced against Darcy, Georgiana comes from London to stay at Netherfield as well, and she and Elizabeth become friends. A few months later, when Darcy is away visiting a relative (and Jane is staying in London with the Gardiners), Georgiana invites Elizabeth to come and stay with her. However, Darcy returns home early, so he and Elizabeth have an opportunity to know each other better.
Things I liked: This was just a nice variation. There weren’t all these crazy evil people trying to drive Darcy and Elizabeth apart, there weren’t loads of steamy sex scenes, and there was no violence or rape. In short, it was a variation that I don’t think would have made Jane Austen twitch too much. I liked the slowly developing friendship between Darcy and Elizabeth, and I liked how not all of Darcy’s relatives immediately disliked Elizabeth. It was also nice to have Georgiana be nice, because some variations like to turn her into a selfish shrew.
Things I didn’t like: There was this kind of random love triangle that was never a really serious love triangle, and I don’t even understand why authors bother with it in these stories because DUH the whole point is Darcy and Elizabeth end up together, so it doesn’t really seem fair to the other fellow, does it?? Also, this book had a ridiculously long epilogue that was so involved it felt like Adams should have just written a sequel. Instead, we just got like a couple of paragraphs throwing everyone’s lives into disarray.
Conclusion: 3/5 for a pleasant story. Nice for relaxing but not terribly thrilling.
Fate & Consequences by Linda Wells
In this version, Darcy arrives at Ramsgate too late to stop Georgiana. He pursues her (and Wickham, obviously), and manages to catch up with them at an inn in a small town called Meryton. While Georgiana hasn’t actually stayed a night with Wickham, she is still ruined when word gets out of her attempted elopement. While in Meryton, Darcy and his sister happened to run into Elizabeth, and a series of events leads to Elizabeth and Georgiana beginning a correspondence. Darcy and Elizabeth also begin a clandestine correspondence, and fall in love through their letters. Because Georgiana is ruined when Darcy and Elizabeth meet, Darcy has already been humbled in many ways, and is much more open to falling in love with Elizabeth in consequence.
Things I liked: Again, I like stories where people are friends and then fall in love, and this version did that well. Elizabeth and Darcy are just so good for each other in this story, always supporting and helping each other through difficult times. There was a good secondary story about Elizabeth having an aunt that she never knew about because her aunt was also ruined as a young woman and sent off to Scotland in disgrace. I also liked the way that Mr. Bennet and his wife began to work through their relationship and ended as a stronger couple in the end.
Things I didn’t like: Mostly the ridiculous drama, like seriously Wickham is a bit over-the-top, and Lady Catherine definitely is. Also, one of Elizabeth’s letters go missing and even though she and Darcy hardly know each other at this point, Darcy goes into this deep, dark depression and refuses to eat or sleep for days and it all just seemed a *tad* melodramatic for the situation. Also, definitely too much sex. Just please. No.
Conclusion: Still, 3/5 because there were a lot of good characterizations, and when Wells wasn’t going crazy with emotional turmoil, the story moved along well.
1932 by Karen M. Cox
I really love versions where the actual setting is different. In some ways, I think that illustrates how universal this love story really has become. Here, Cox decided to set the story during the Great Depression. Elizabeth’s family has lost most of their money and has to move to the small town where her mother grew up. The Darcys of course were much better planners and have suffered minimal financial distress, and Darcy is one of the largest landowners around.
Things I liked: I loved the concept and the setting, and I liked that Darcy and Elizabeth got married towards the middle of the story (in this version, it would be sort of the equivalent of Elizabeth accepting Darcy during the Hunsford proposal), and then grew towards love from there. I also liked that Georgiana was likable and kind.
Things I didn’t like: Overall, this story just felt rushed, like the author had this great idea and felt like she had to publish it before someone else beat her to the punch. Consequently, the story felt choppy in bits. The love story between Georgiana and the sheriff could have been much more interesting. Darcy’s refusal to tell Elizabeth the truth of Georgiana’s past, even after Darcy and Elizabeth married, felt very unnatural, so I didn’t really buy their entire disagreement which was central the story – it seemed like Darcy would have told Elizabeth at least the basic gist. Later, Darcy and Elizabeth have an argument and it felt like that dragged way too long – Elizabeth leaves her husband and returns home for weeks?!
Conclusion: 3/5. I wanted to like this story more than I did. The author has written at least one more version with a unique setting, so I’ll probably give that one a try as well.