Thursday, July 30, 2015

Thorsday Book Reviews

Our friend Hsin-Yi, whose long time companion was Honey the Great Dane, has been busy as an author since the passing of Honey.  She wrote a romantic mystery series set in Singapore, followed by a lighthearted romance series set in the fictional town of Summer Beach, Australia (5 books and counting!), both series under her own name.  Then, a few months back, she began releasing a Pride and Prejudice alternative series under the pen name Penelope Swan.  This was very interesting to me, because not too long before that, I"d read in the Wall Street Journal (of course) that P&P alternatives were a huge and booming business, both in books and films.  Naturally, I had to reread Pride and Prejudice, which caused my menfolk no end of amusement: "Wait, tell me the plot again? Girl meets rich man, likes him then hates him within 2 paragraphs and spends a couple hundred pages avoiding him while playing matchmaker for everyone else before agreeing to marry the rich man?"  Well, when you put it that way, guys, it doesn't sound that wonderful.

THE NETHERFIELD AFFAIR
Book 1 of the Dark Darcy Mysteries
by Penelope Swan

These books follow the basic plot of Pride and Prejudice; this one is set within the first quarter of the original book.  Elizabeth Bennet's sister Jane, having gone to visit the Bingley family, took ill and had to stay at their house, Netherfield, during her recovery. Their younger sisters had regaled the Bennet family with tales of the ghost at Netherfield, having heard such stories from their own servants, who had in turn learned them from Netherfield's servants; they also spoke of a highwayman, Handsome George. Elizabeth dismissed these stories as uneducated nonsense, and set off to walk the 3 miles to Netherfield to look in on her sister. Having undertaken this trip on a rainy day, Elizabeth ended up muddy, and ended up staying at Netherfield to keep her sister company, despite the disapproval of Mr. Bingham's sisters, one of whom had designs upon Bingley's best friend, Mr.Darcy. A couple of light mysteries involving a ghostly face at an attic window, bouquets of violets and missing jewelry make for entertaining fare. Written in the old style, mildly modernized for today's readers, but retaining all of the sensibilities of Jane Austen, this is a worthy endeavor.  5/5

INTRIGUE AT THE BALL
Book 2 of the Dark Darcy Mysteries
by Penelope Swan

 This is the second Pride and Prejudice spin-off written by Penelope Swan. This "alternate" takes place during the second quarter of P&P, when Mr. Bingley hosted a ball at Netherfield. In this version, it's a masquerade ball attended not only by the locals, but also by Gentleman George, a highwayman who is acquainted to Mr. Darcy since childhood, and claims to have been wronged by him (this character appeared in the original, but not as a highwayman). A theft occurs at the dinner portion of the ball, and it's all attributed to a "curse" on an item carried by one of Elizabeth Bennet's sisters. Elizabeth's behavior is a bit sillier than one would expect, and while that may be true, it's necessary in order to carry on the plot. Enough elements of the original story have been retained to make this a good read, although it did end abruptly.  4/5

THE POISONED PROPROSAL
Book 3 of the Dark Darcy Mysteries
by Penelope Swan

This book occurs in the third quarter of P&P, during the period in which Elizabeth has gone with her best friend Charlotte's father and sister to visit Charlotte and Charlotte's new husband, Mr. Collins, who live on Lady Catherine's estate, where Mr. Collins is the preacher. This book paints Lady Catherine as more overbearing and controlling than she was in the original, Mr. Collins as more cloying and kow-towing to Lady Catherine, and Lady Catherine's daughter, Anne, as more of a shrinking violet; all of those personality traits are just mild exaggerations of the ones they have in the original book, and it works. In this "Dark Darcy" mystery, Lady Catherine takes ill after a dinner at her estate; it is deemed poisoning. The village constable sets out to make an arrest, is stopped by Elizabeth, and she and Darcy subsequently solve the mystery. I had a hunch that the culprit was one of 3 people, which was correct, but the book was nevertheless enjoyable while it reached its ultimate conclusion.  5/5

SECRETS AT PEMBERLEY
Book 4 of the Dark Darcy Mysteries
by Penelope Swan

This is the final installment in Penelope Swan's Dark Darcy series. Referring to Pride & Prejudice, this covers the last fourth of the book, when Elizabeth Bennett and her aunt and uncle are visiting the region where Pemberley, Mr. Darcy's house, is located. In this version, Elizabeth and her aunt do indeed go to the town near Pemberley, staying at an inn in town. Upon arrival, they are warned that the highwayman Gentleman George has been seen in the area, and they shouldn't venture out at night. Soon, they go to see Pemberley, when Mr. Darcy is not supposed to be around, and enjoy a tour of the house. Mr. Darcy arrives, and invites them to visit the next day and meet his sister. When their inn burns in a fire, Mr. Darcy invites Elizabeth and her aunt and uncle as houseguests; Elizabeth becomes friendly with Georgiana Darcy; and the pianoforte which Mr. Darcy bought for Georgiana is believed by the servants to be haunted because they hear music at night, when everyone is asleep. Gentleman George is seen around the house; the Bingley sisters arrive to visit, and there is jealous conflict between them and Elizabeth. A well written and well executed variation on the end of P&P. 5/5

I read all of these on the Kindle, although they are now also available in paperback.

And, because there are no pictures of the covers, how about a picture of Jeffrey's dog Tank, gazing intently at his favorite store?

Happy Thorsday, everyone!

6 comments:

rottrover said...

Great reviews! Thanks!

Nichole Burke said...

That pic is just TOO cute! Love the ears!

altadenahiker said...

Here's a very funny and perceptive essay on P&P by Martin Amis. http://www.martinamisweb.com/pre_2006/austen.htm

SissySees said...

I didn't realize Pet Supplies Plus was a chain. I knew there were a couple here in VA...

Pam said...

I think they all sound like good reads! I love the photo of Tank...so cute!

Dexter said...

It's wonderful to see Hsin-Yi living her dream of being an author.

Mango Momma