Normally I review things that I enjoyed (something that I have fallen way behind on), but now and then I read something that makes feel compelled to warn (and, if possible, entertain) my friends who read.
This is one of those times. Allow me to present the review of Mr. and Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy - Two Shall Become One by Sharon Lathan.
Friday night, I decided to start reading what looked like it would be an interesting book – one I had picked up while at home on leave. I hadn’t read an Austen-inspired book in awhile, and Sourcebooks is the fine company giving us all the Georgette Heyer we can read (in a trade format that looks smashing on our bookshelves).
It turned out to be a train wreck.
Essentially, it’s Darcy and Elizabeth crackfic, that got published. It was such a train wreck that I had to finish it, just to see what would happen, so I could share it with you.
Had I actually read the foreword of the book, I could have saved myself the trouble, because I would have read something that probably would have stopped me cold. The author, you see, had never read Pride and Prejudice, until she saw the 2005 movie. In short, she thinks the 2005 movie adaptation is the best. I must, respectfully, disagree. One actually did a good job of translating the book, using the dialogue, bringing Miss Austen’s work to life – and one just looked pretty. (Also, one has dripping-wet Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy, and one does not. I leave to you to decide the effect on quality.)
It covers the first six months or so of Darcy and Elizabeth’s marriage in 306 pages.
Issues listed in general order of appearance:
1. -- Longbourn a working farm? I could be wrong about this one, but I’m pretty sure Elizabeth was not involved in the farm part of Longbourn (despite the pigs in the house in the 2005 movie). Bonus cliché points for using the idea of Longbourn-as-farm to springboard Elizabeth’s general knowledge of the marital act from watching animals mate.
2. -- She uses the proposal scene from the 2005 movie. I prefer the original in the book, and the BBC miniseries. To me, there is more emotion in that scene with the lack of words, and their looks, and very fitting for the two characters.
3. -- Darcy saved himself for marriage.
He saved himself for Elizabeth even before he knew her. I can see how being around George Wickham might turn someone off of casual sex (Darcy is not a rake or libertine), but I’m not buying him as a virgin. I’m picturing him as the discreet mistress type. Plus, I’m pretty sure the idea of men saving themselves for marriage is a relatively new one. Bonus cliché points for having him learn everything he knows about sex from “exotic books”, and being an expert on the subject as a virgin.
4. -- There are way too many technical body terms in the book. (The author is an RN, according to her bio, which may explain some of that.) She uses the term “mid-sternum” when discussing Darcy’s chest hair (more about that later), as well as pectorals, groin (as in, “his groin reacted”), pelvis, and most bizarrely, “birth sac” (referring to a pregnant woman’s water breaking, in a little flash-forward).
5. -- Quote from Darcy during their mutual deflowering – “I am frankly being undone by the bliss I am feeling in your arms…I must slow down.”
6. -- She is definitely a little fixated on Darcy and his chest hair. (I seem to remember Colin Firth as being moderately furry, but not overly much. I’d have to refresh myself, if my discs weren’t in storage.) He has lots.
7. -- “Raw manliness”. Used to describe Darcy’s masculine perfection. (Followed by references to chest hair.)
8. -- Another quote. “Not an inch of her skin was left unfazed by his devotion.” Somewhat later, Elizabeth “discovers the secrets of how to please him” – while she’s kneeling in front of him. Am I the only one thinking “euphemistically phrased oral sex” here?
9. -- The author seems to suffer from a case of using words that don’t exactly mean what she wants to say. She doesn’t really repeat any of them, so I can’t justify the Inigo Montoya line here.
Examples are: Elizabeth’s hair “scattered haphazardly about”, “snap her bones facilely”, and "unfazed by devotion" above. I could be wrong, but none of these seems to really read right, although I do understand what she’s trying to say.
10. -- Cliché alert! Sex on bearskin rug. There is a fireplace. But it’s not a ski lodge.
11. -- Bad dialogue during lovemaking scenes. Lots of ellipses, fragmented thoughts, etc – the effect on me was NOT what she was going for, I think.
12. -- I can’t remember if “teenager” was a word used during the Regency…but I’m thinking not. (It's 1920s or 1930s.) There are definitely places where the language is too modern. I’d also need to check the history on the word “cute”. ("Cute" seems to be not too far off, only about 20 years.)
13. -- Darcy has satiny soft skin. (At least he doesn’t sparkle.)
14. -- Quote: “He loved her ardently and refused to allow her to feel any pain if he could relieve it.”
15. -- The couple is described as being “so devoted and enslaved to each other that the separations would be agony”. They’re talking separations of hours.
16. -- Darcy, oh-so-protective of his wife, deliberately frightens her while she’s learning to drive because he thinks she’s trying too much too fast. How? Not by something simple, like slapping the horses on the rump, but by shooting a gun in the air.
17. -- Am I the only one who doesn’t find “moist kisses” a turn-on? That sounds more like the kiss you got in eighth-grade from your classmate who couldn’t keep his sweaty hands where they belonged. I mean, I get what she’s trying to say, but the word choices just seem off.
18. -- There’s a duel. With swords rather than pistols, making sense as Darcy is described (and shown) as a fencer. However, is the term “short swords” proper for fencing terminology during this period? It just seems off. (I googled and didn’t get a helpful answer.)
19. -- The overall problem with Darcy’s dialogue? It sounds like a woman putting the overly romantic words she wants to hear in a man’s mouth. The really scary thing is – they’re publishing another one by the author.