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on 12 May 2008
'Without Reserve' is a variation on Pride and Prejudice which explores what might have happened if Elizabeth had accepted another man's proposal before seeing Darcy again after he proposed to her. It is another interesting variation on P&P, well written and often a convincing imitation of Austen's style.

Where the plot falls down, and this for me is a failing of all of Reynolds' P&P variations (with the possible exception of 'Impulse and Initiative'), is the continual resort to sexual content. After a while it becomes irritating that such a talented writer feels the need to embellish every story with graphic adult scenes when in my opinion the stories would stand up well without them- indeed, I believe this story would have been improved without such scenes. After all P&P has stood the test of time without anything like that!

That said, I would still recommend this book and all Reynolds' others- I read them one after another and enjoyed all of them. I just wish she would do herself justice and write one where the chemistry between Darcy and Elizabeth is implied rather than made explicit.
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on 14 December 2013
I have read a number of books by this author and found them all very enjoyable. However, I found I struggled a little to get started with this one. Elizabeth agrees to marry another before meeting again with Mr Darcy after his initial proposal. I quite enjoyed the first part if the story and was keen to see how the two would end up together. Elizabeth goes through some difficult times and feels quite sorry for herself, keeping her feelings to herself. This went on for so long that it started to be a little annoying! The second half on the book is all about Darcy trying to convince Elizabeth to accept him and there is a lot of physical affection between them. I don't mind this to a degree as I feel it's likely their relationship would have been very passionate, but for me in this book there was just too much and I found myself skipping over parts of it.

In this book we see little of the other characters and so at times it felt there were missed opportunities to make this book into something more. The little we do see of Mr and Mrs Bennett is quite good fun though.

I gave this book 3 stars as I liked many aspects about it but at times felt the story was lacking and filled with sex or discussions about sex.
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on 29 January 2009
Taken as just a romantic tale, Without Reserve is a very satisfying read.
But, readers of Pride and Prejudice will find this to be a very original and satisfying variation. The idea of Darcy faced with another suitor for Elizabeth's hand makes an excellent story, and provides a look at some of the social customs of the time. It also provides some heart-wrenching moments as well as some beautifully romantic scenes. The interactions between the main characters, Darcy and Elizabeth are beautifully evocative. The use of Blake's poetry serves to complement the story and helps to frame the relationship between Darcy and Elizabeth.

I love this story - I've read it over and over again. It keeps your interest throughout, and should appeal to a wide range of readers.
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on 20 March 2013
I bought this book at the Jane Austen festival in Bath this year and the author signed it for me so I was certainly hoping for a great read.

The beginning seemed very promising. The book is well-written and at times funny. But I could not get over this version of Darcy who seems obsessed with Lizzy and does not care for her reputation.

He was either imagining doing wicked things to her or actually doing them. This is not the Mr. Darcy that Jane Austen wrote about! I do not much care for smutty romances and this is what P&P has been turned into here.

SPOILER. The book also includes premarital sex and I can't imagine Lizzy being as reckless as Lydia yet that is how she is portrayed in this book. Darcy just seduces her so how is he any better than Wickham? Oh right. He does marry her. But it this really the way to go about it? I doubt it.

Don't think I'll be reading another book by this author. I want romance, not smut.
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on 28 October 2008
My initial reaction to this novel and the entire Pemberley Variation series was two-fold: first, strong recoil from Reynolds' microcosm, a place very far removed in certain significant aspects from Regency England's "clearly delineated world" of rules which "Men and women flaunt...at their peril" (cf. Laudermilk and Hamlin's "Regency Companion")and of which Jane Austen wrote, and second, fascination by the author's depiction of Austen's Elizabeth and Darcy. Once I bought in to Reynold's "what if" principle and concentrated on her characterizations, I enjoyed "Without Reserve" and its companion novels and have re-read each several times. Reflecting on this novel as well as the others in the series returned me right back to Austen's P & P and to discovery of bases therein for the thoughts and actions Reynolds expresses so explicitly. I do not refer to Reynolds' graphically passionate sex scenes, but to what Reynolds has transpire inside her Darcy and Elizabeth's heads and hearts.
Though Jane Austen herself frequently reveals exactly what Elizabeth is thinking and feeling, she much more subtly conveys what is going on in Darcy's mind. To wit: Jane Austen's reference to Darcy's reaction after their first dance, which has left both "on each side dissatisfied, though not to an equal degree, for in Darcy's breast there was a tolerable powerful feeling toward her, which soon procured her pardon, and directed all his anger against another [Wickham]."(JA's P&P, Vol.1, Chapter XVIII)

The foregoing reference to Darcy's thoughts recalls to my mind a Sicilian expression for the sudden onset of an intense, passionate attraction. Reynolds has Elizabeth experience such a feeling for Darcy commencing in Chapter 2 of "Without Reserve". She was "struck by the thunderbolt" at the Lucas Lodge ball as, after accepting Darcy's invitation to dance, "she put her hand in his, conscious of a small shock as she did so." Perhaps just a tiny thunderbolt it is at this point, but it quickly amplifies. Just five paragraphs later, as they dance down the set, "...she looked up at him...her hand in his, and the reality of it hit her with a shock as she was caught briefly in his dark eyes. A different memory came back to her then, of his saying, 'You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.' A shiver ran through her, and she glanced around the room as if to ground herself in the present." By the next paragraph, Elizabeth "could hardly keep her mind on the dance", much less converse with her new partner. The initial, little shocks and the shiver are grown into a much more intense and prolonged awareness of "...where Mr. Darcy was in the room, as if there were some kind of silent connection between them." Eleven paragraphs later, dancing with her fiance, Elizabeth sustains "a sudden wave of nausea" and turns pale while, from all the way across the ballroom, she observes Darcy's pained expression at her mother's evident announcement of her engagement to Covington. She muses that Darcy "...did not deserve to be treated" as she had done "with her arch looks and teasing during their dances." As for Reynold's Darcy whom she implies was struck by the thunderbolt long before her novel begins, he is perpetually barraged by thunderbolts, even in his dreams of his beloved, as the plot unfolds.

This novel, like the others in the series, can be read on several levels, whether one knows little or nothing of Jane Austen's P&P or is a member of the Jane Austen Society as I am. I suggest that the former read the original, even if he or she has seen television or film versions. "The Annotated Pride and Prejudice" is an excellent choice, providing Jane Austen's text on the left page and Professor David M. Shapard's annotations on the right page. For those who wish to learn more of the Regency period, I recommend Deirdre Le Faye's "Jane Austen: The World of Her Novels" and "The Regency Companion" by Sharon H. Laudermilk and Teresa L. Hamlin. I am glad that I bought this novel and its fellows, pricey as they are, for reading them has deepened my understanding of the original and added to my knowledge of its period.
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on 21 December 2012
A great little book. Could not put it down and read it all in one go. I really enjoy Abigail Reynold's variations and in this one the story was what if Elizabeth Bennett had another suitor!! There are lots of twists and turns in the tale and I enjoyed it immensely. Recommended.
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on 1 October 2009
I will keep this short and sweet. I whole heartedly agree with CAT10113. Indeed look at how ALL of Austens works have stood the test of time without needless descriptions of graphic sex scenes. The relationships and interractions have entertained us more than enough.

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on 9 August 2013
I gave this five stars as it see ed at the beginning that Darcy would lose Elizabeth to another. It was a pleasant story of an alternative tale of love and sorrow. It was well written and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and would have no problem in recommending it to all readers of Pride and Prejudice.
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on 6 September 2007
It's difficult to blame Elizabeth to accept the courtship of someone amiable, well linked, respected, kind and generous over Darcy. Didn't we, at some points in our lives, settle for less than pursue our grand passion? And Elizabeth accepted the man's courtship when she was not yet violently in love with Darcy. But Abigail Reynolds' story set up an extremely high tension "what if" situation for Darcy. He had a true rival who though had less fortune than him, was more aimable and civil than him. His pain and anger were so deep. But his stubborn attitude towards the love of his life was commendable. The road to true happiness and love was a difficult and yet exhilarating.
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on 17 March 2013
touching and entertaining. I wouldn't call any of her intimate scenes smutty or even very graphic. nicely done and well constructed i enjoy the way she wrjtes and her ideas
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