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on 21 February 2006
I normally steer well clear of derivative fiction having heartily disliked Letters From Pemberley by Jane Dawkins. However, I had been lured back to this subgenre of novels by Pamela Aidan’s excellent series “Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman”.
This book, however, was a disappointment. Although some aspects of it I enjoyed, particularly the descriptions of travel across the Alps in Regency times (did you know they fitted sleigh runners to carriage wheels when in thick snow?), there were so many other parts of the book that I found annoying that I was relieved the finish the book and certainly won’t bother reading any others by this author if they’re of a similar ilk.
I suppose the main problem with writing books that are semi-sequels to great literature is that your characters are fixed. Elizabeth Aston avoids some of the difficulties by dealing with the next generation of characters – Darcy and Elizabeth’s five daughters. I imagine there will be a novel per daughter, and this is the second of them, I believe. “Mr Fitzwilliam” is the Colonel Fitzwilliam of Austen’s novel, although his character seems rather different than in the original. Apart from that Austen’s characters don’t appear in person although they are mentioned. This was a wise move as it theoretically helped the book to stand on its own merits.
Except it didn’t, as it didn’t have enough. When reading a follow-on to a classic novel, even if the characters are different members of known families I expect the overall feel and tenor to be the same. But this is not like reading another Jane Austen or a Georgette Heyer novel. Here sexual morality is very different – our heroine lost her virginity to a gentleman just before he got engaged to someone else. What would have been a complete and utter social disaster is glossed over – partly because everyone else seems to be at it. I don’t know of the truth of behaviour in Regency times in England, although I suspect that upper class women were careful to retain their virginity for marriage, but as Austen’s characters never showed a whiff of bad behaviour except for Wickham and Lydia I felt this really didn’t work. Would honourable Mr Darcy’s daughter really have behaved like this? And then the rest of her behaviour carries on in the same vein. She marries an entirely unsuitable man (wouldn’t her father and mother have dissuaded her?), then runs away from him and ends up agreeing to ‘live in sin’ with another man once she is a widow. She also has a brief moment of glory masquerading as a castrato at the opera in Venice; somehow I think Austen might be turning in her grave at that one! The wildness in Alethea’s character would work well for a novel set with a different cast of characters but for me it was wrong in a Darcy family novel.
I was also, throughout the book, unsure of the accuracy of the historical detail. Obviously Jane Austen was writing in her own time, but Georgette Heyer was a master of this period and you knew you could trust her; I was less sure of what I was reading in Aston’s work. The comment about the sleigh runner on the wheels piqued my imagination but I have no idea if it is historically accurate or not; I hope so, but I don’t know, and that irritates me. It felt rather more like a modern story to me with all the ‘modern’ ideas such as homosexuality, problems within marriage, love connections without the institution of marriage. While there is certainly nothing wrong in considering these themes within books, I wasn’t sure that a book in the Austen tradition was the right vehicle for this.
The hero, Titus Manningtree, was portrayed interestingly and he was a reasonably well-rounded character, except for the fact that the quest that drives him for the first two thirds of the book (trying to discover a family heirloom Titian painting) completely disappears once he discovers his feelings for Alethea and we never hear about it again. This is a bit messy in terms of tying up loose ends as we don’t know what happened to the painting – unless it appears in another book. I for one can’t face the agony of finding out.
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on 13 September 2008
I normally steer well clear of derivative fiction having heartily disliked Letters From Pemberley by Jane Dawkins. However, I had been lured back to this subgenre of novels by Pamela Aidan's excellent series "Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman".

This book, however, was a disappointment. Although some aspects of it I enjoyed, particularly the descriptions of travel across the Alps in Regency times (did you know they fitted sleigh runners to carriage wheels when in thick snow?), there were so many other parts of the book that I found annoying that I was relieved the finish the book and certainly won't bother reading any others by this author if they're of a similar ilk.

I suppose the main problem with writing books that are semi-sequels to great literature is that your characters are fixed. Elizabeth Aston avoids some of the difficulties by dealing with the next generation of characters - Darcy and Elizabeth's five daughters. I imagine there will be a novel per daughter, and this is the second of them, I believe. "Mr Fitzwilliam" is the Colonel Fitzwilliam of Austen's novel, although his character seems rather different than in the original. Apart from that Austen's characters don't appear in person although they are mentioned. This was a wise move as it theoretically helped the book to stand on its own merits.

Except it didn't, as it didn't have enough. When reading a follow-on to a classic novel, even if the characters are different members of known families I expect the overall feel and tenor to be the same. But this is not like reading another Jane Austen or a Georgette Heyer novel. Here sexual morality is very different - our heroine lost her virginity to a gentleman just before he got engaged to someone else. What would have been a complete and utter social disaster is glossed over - partly because everyone else seems to be at it. I don't know of the truth of behaviour in Regency times in England, although I suspect that upper class women were careful to retain their virginity for marriage, but as Austen's characters never showed a whiff of bad behaviour except for Wickham and Lydia I felt this really didn't work. Would honourable Mr Darcy's daughter really have behaved like this? And then the rest of her behaviour carries on in the same vein. She marries an entirely unsuitable man (wouldn't her father and mother have dissuaded her?), then runs away from him and ends up agreeing to `live in sin' with another man once she is a widow. She also has a brief moment of glory masquerading as a castrato at the opera in Venice; somehow I think Austen might be turning in her grave at that one! The wildness in Alethea's character would work well for a novel set with a different cast of characters but for me it was wrong in a Darcy family novel.

I was also, throughout the book, unsure of the accuracy of the historical detail. Obviously Jane Austen was writing in her own time, but Georgette Heyer was a master of this period and you knew you could trust her; I was less sure of what I was reading in Aston's work. The comment about the sleigh runner on the wheels piqued my imagination but I have no idea if it is historically accurate or not; I hope so, but I don't know, and that irritates me. It felt rather more like a modern story to me with all the `modern' ideas such as homosexuality, problems within marriage, love connections without the institution of marriage. While there is certainly nothing wrong in considering these themes within books, I wasn't sure that a book in the Austen tradition was the right vehicle for this.

The hero, Titus Manningtree, was portrayed interestingly and he was a reasonably well-rounded character, except for the fact that the quest that drives him for the first two thirds of the book (trying to discover a family heirloom Titian painting) completely disappears once he discovers his feelings for Alethea and we never hear about it again. This is a bit messy in terms of tying up loose ends as we don't know what happened to the painting - unless it appears in another book. I for one can't face the agony of finding out.
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on 26 April 2005
Having thoroughly enjoyed Mr Darcy's daughters, I decided to give this sequel a try. I was not dissappointed. What makes Aston so unique is that she does not try to follow the story of Elizabeth Bennett and Fitzwilliam Darcy. Instead she creates an entirely new set of characters (albeit the Daughter's of Mr Darcy) and lets their particular stories unfold.
As a true Austen fan and a student of literature such an approach is truly satisfying, as two of literatures most vivid characters are not altered beyond their original romantic ideal. Instead we get a lively account of the life of Alethea, the youngest of the five daughters and her adventures around the continent. Written using a largely Austen esque style, this novel still exudes the same emotions as one of Austen's own. The character of Alethea is startlingly similar to that of an early Elizabeth Bennett, and this is what makes this story so sucessful. In this stubborn yet passionate character I found myself engrossed in the world that Aston (and Austen) created.
Although not as sophisticated in literary terms as Austen's own work, (could it ever be?) this book is still worth a look. Great for readers who want a novel that goes a little bit further than most contemporary fiction.
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HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 15 December 2008
I cannot agree with the previous two reviews except that if you're looking for Jane Austen you won't find her here. I really enjoyed the book and found it entertaining and exciting - especially the episodes in the Alps and Italy. If you read this author's website you will see she is not intending to imitate Austen but to carry on the stories with the next generation. I think the characters are well drawn and the writing fluent. Titus Manningtree is an interesting character as is Alethea Darcy. There must have been people like her who were impatient of the contraints of society otherwise we would never have had the women's suffrage movement later in the same century. I believe the freedom allowed to widows was far greater than that allowed to single women at the time and Alethea would have been able to set up her own establishment and virtually do what she wanted - especially if she lived in Europe. So for me these were not jarring notes in the book. This in my opinion is the sort of book either Jane Austen or Georgette Heyer might have written if they'd been writing today. I recommend it.
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on 24 August 2012
I loved this book. I found the characters totally believable, as was the situation that the heroine found herself in. I loved the twist, it was something that I didn't expect and it got the heroine out of what could have been a difficult social hole. The pace was good - there was no soggy middle. I read it over two days - I had to get on with doing other things - but was oh so tempted to leave everything and read it in one go. I'm so glad that Elizabeth Aston has written others - I'm in for a great treat.
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on 21 October 2016
Book to add to your must read list.

It is a really good read and the authoress gives a very good imitation of the style of Jane Austen, which adds to the flavour of the Regency Period. I have no hesitation in recommending this book as a very good buy.
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on 5 October 2013
It's always a pleasure to curl up and lose oneself in an Aston book. I am slowly working my way thru all she's written and having a wonderful read
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on 15 August 2006
I must agree with the previous writer. If you're looking for that Austen feeling (as I was), you'll be very disappointed. There's too much wrong with this book for it to qualify as an Austen sequel, that I will not even attempt to start a list.

If you're not an Austen fan and if you haven't read Pride and Prejudice and if you are just looking for a book that is slightly better romance novel, you may like this book. Otherwise: stay clear of it and save yourself the disappointment.
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on 11 August 2014
An exciting romp through Regency times and Europe.
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on 15 April 2016
Excellent product
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