Amidst all those many spin-offs and sequels to her books which nine times out of ten are very disappointing, this one is really very good. It's the first of a trilogy (under the heading 'Fitzwiliam Darcy, Gentleman'), and I am now rather frustrated that I did not order the second one (Duty and Desire) at the same time because now I have to wait a couple weeks before it arrives and I can continue the story.
This is Pride & Prejudice from Darcy's viewpoint. There are many of the scenes we're familiar with from the original, but also a few completely new ones, and others that were only referred to happening in Austen's,. e.g., 'and though they were at one time left by themselves for half-an-hour, he adhered most conscientiously to his book and would not even look at her'. That little scene is described in more detail in 'An Assembly'. It's not written in quite exactly the light, satirical style that Jane had, (this is Darcy's viewpoint after all, not Elizabeth's) but it also has its moments of ironical humour and Pamela Aidan gets the language and manners bang on the mark.
It's wonderful getting more insight into the nature of Darcy's friendship with Charles, his relationship with Georgiana and his priveliged position and life. I also loved seeing the character of Lizzie as we know her 'fleshed out' through the eyes of an outsider. Something that never really hit me as forcibly before was that, despite being a well-bred, intelligent gentleman's daughter, she really IS - especially compared to Darcy and the people he knows - a rather simple country miss. Aidan's made her a bit more 'sweet and dimpled' than I'd imagined Elizabeth to be, but she ended up being completely believable to me. Also, although we know that Darcy's pride is part of the problem and impasse between them, here the role her prejudice also plays in their ongoing misunderstanding is thrown into a bit sharper focus. You see how, at times, she really does enjoy bedevilling him just for devillment's sake.
Aidan rarely makes the mistake that so many other Austen wannabes do of going beyond the mode of decorum established in her books and describing or having things happen that Jane would never have put to paper. However, there is a tint, just a hint of the strong physical attraction Elizabeth ends up having for Darcy. In the book it refers to the fact that he is a man of 'strong feeling' which he keeps carefully in check and regulated. Here, you see just how strong his feelings can be *swoons slightly*
In short, highly recommended. It ends at the return to London after the disastrous Netherfield ball. I can't wait until the second arrives and am rather annoyed that I apparently have to wait until next year until the third is published. Pamela - write faster!
I hope it doesn't break any kind of copyright rules if I include a short excerpt:
"A more forward, opinionated little baggage I defy anyone to find! Such cheek and impertinence! So ready to do battle on the slightest pretense. He paused a moment, his conscience demanding that he examine his mental outburst for bias. Darcy heaved a reluctant sigh. Ready to battle with himself, to be sure. It was only he who seemed to call forth this rash barrage of penetrating wit. Perhaps, he even encouraged it in some way, for she was certainly most amiable and geniune in her tenderness with those she loved. Her face...when she looked on those others...such warm affection...
Why then, do you continue to attend to her? his inner voice interrupted in demand. Darcy left the window and threw himself down onto the bed. Suddenly, before thought could mitigate its power, the answer thrummed through his whole body. "Because she IS both and what you have always desired." For some time it was impossible to ignore the thrill and terror of his confession. But he had been well-prepared from birth for his station in life and what was due his family. As he turned onto his side and grasped a pillow firmly against his cheek, the resolution was already forming that, for both their sakes, no sign of admiration should escape him henceforth. The rapid thuddings of his heart finally quieted, but try as he might, sleep escaped him until the early watches of the morning."