Monday, September 6, 2010

Mr. Darcy, Vampyre (book) by Amanda Grange

I saw this at a bookstore and wanted to read it - I ended up having to wait a surprisingly long time to get it via ILL. Somehow, I would've thought more libraries would have this in their collections. Well, it's been ages since I last read Pride and Prejudice (I think I might've been in high school at the time). I've seen the BBC's two TV adaptations more recently than that, but it's still been a while.

Basically, my memory of the the original story is not as fresh as it could be. I probably missed a few references in Grange's book to scenes in the original, but I still caught quite a few. It probably helped that I had at least read Pride and Prejudice and Zombies not too long ago - zombies aside, the book did a good job of refreshing my memory.

Synopsis:

This book begins just before Elizabeth and Jane's weddings.

Elizabeth and Jane decide to have a joint wedding, and everyone is happy. Presumably, Jane's life with Mr. Bingley ends up being an ordinary, happy one, but Elizabeth's life with Mr. Darcy takes strange and unexpected turns almost immediately. Rather than going to the Lake District after their marriage, as Elizabeth expected, Darcy decides that they should go to Paris - that's right, Paris, France. Elizabeth is surprised and a little nervous (she's never been out of the country, and there is a possibility that war could break out in France again at any time), but she trusts Darcy.

What follows is a much longer trip than Elizabeth and perhaps even Darcy expected - they not only spend time in France, but also Italy. Some aspects of the journey are exciting for Elizabeth. She enjoys the various sights, the parties, and getting to meet Darcy's friends and relatives. However, there are other things that are puzzling, worrisome, or upsetting. For instance, Mr. Darcy never once comes to Elizabeth's room (i.e. no sex). She can tell from the way he looks at her and acts around her that he loves her, but it bothers her that he doesn't seem to want to share her bed. She also occasionally catches Darcy looking sad or regretful, which only adds to her worries about her marriage. She wonders, does he regret marrying her?

It's possible that he could. It's obvious that several of Darcy's relatives don't approve of his marriage to Elizabeth. Lady Catherine makes a couple appearances in the book, and, in her first appearance, makes it clear that Darcy should have married Anne. Elizabeth might've been able to withstand everyone's disapproval - however, she can't stand the thought that their marriage has caused Darcy nothing but trouble and regret. Eventually, with the help of a seemingly kind prince, Elizabeth runs off, determined to go back to her family and leave Darcy to his own life, a life she doesn't seem to always fit in with.

It's at this point that all kinds of things suddenly make sense (to Elizabeth - the readers knew the "secret" all along, at the very least because the title gave it away). All throughout their journey, there have been hints of something...other about Darcy, his relatives, and several of their new acquaintances. Darcy had managed to keep the truth from her, but it finally becomes clear to her that Darcy is a vampyre. Unfortunately, her clarity comes a little too late - a guest of the Prince's is also a vampyre, one much older than Darcy and in the same "family". This other vampyre feels that it is his right to have any new brides in the family for his own before those brides may be with their husbands (again, read "sex"). In order to find out more about Elizabeth and keep her from contacting her family, he managed to keep all the letters Elizabeth wrote to Jane from getting to her. The vampyre is determined to have Elizabeth (who is repeatedly referred to as "beautiful" throughout the book), but Darcy is equally determined to prevent that from happening. The vampyre is badly hurt when, during his fight with Darcy, he grabs hold of a cross Elizabeth gave Darcy earlier in the book (each vampyre's weakness is different, and Darcy's happens to be that he goes transparent as the sun rises or sets).

Although the vampyre isn't vanquished, it'll take years for him to heal, so Elizabeth is safe for now. Unfortunately, Elizabeth and Darcy's troubles are not yet over. Elizabeth adjusts well to the revelation that Darcy (and Georgiana, Lady Catherine, Anne, and Mrs. Reynolds) is a vampyre, especially when she learns that Darcy and his friends have chosen not to hunt humans (presumably they drink from animals). However, on Elizabeth and Darcy's wedding day, Darcy was slipped a note that said that Elizabeth would become a vampyre if the two of them slept together. That was the reason Darcy never went to Elizabeth's room, and that was the reason they traveled so much, visiting Darcy's vampyre relatives. Darcy had hoped that someone could confirm or deny what the note had told him, but no one was able to say for sure whether it was true or not.

Elizabeth decides she doesn't care if it's true or not, but, before she and Darcy can do the deed, one of Darcy's loyal servants, Nicolei, who knows his secret, stops them. According to him, there may be a way for Darcy to break his curse. Excited, Darcy, Nicolei, Nicolei's son, and Elizabeth go to the place that hopefully holds the answers Darcy seeks. It's dangerous, but, by focusing unwaveringly on the love he and Elizabeth feel for one another, Darcy is able to solve the riddle that allows them all to survive and makes him human again.

Now that Darcy is human, he and Elizabeth head back to England.  The end.

Commentary:

The love between Elizabeth and Darcy is gag-worthy. Elizabeth is surprisingly mushy - I had always thought she was made of sterner stuff, but love appears to have weakened her.  All she seemed to do was fret over Darcy and his possible lack of love for her.  All this overflowing love and fretting made Elizabeth so brain dead that it didn't even occur to her that getting back to England from France on her own would be really difficult, even with the prince's help.  I'm not sure how she expected to accomplish it.

One thing that was really annoying was that it wasn't until more than two thirds of the way through the book that Elizabeth learned the truth about Darcy. Up to that point, readers could read bits and KNOW that they were meeting vampyres, but Elizabeth was clueless. Really, there's not a lot going on most of the time - just lots of chatting, parties, etc. and longing, tortured gazes from Darcy to Elizabeth. It just was not enough to grab me, and the vampire stuff was too little, too late.  Really too little, too late, because if you think Stephenie Meyer's sparkling vampires are lame, you won't find Darcy all that much more impressive.

This was like Pride and Prejudice with a thin veneer of messy Anne Rice (good God, every vampyre has their own special little weakness, and Darcy's was just so...stupid), as seen through rose-colored glasses that made their love all sparkly sunshine. Gag. The rose colored sparklies must have overflowed onto Elizabeth's maid, Annie, because she was you've-got-to-be-kidding-me loyal.  Near the end, Elizabeth told Annie that if she and Darcy and the rest didn't come back from attempting to get Darcy cured, then she could take all the remaining money they had with them and go back to England.  Massive temptation, right there, to just take all that money and run.  But no, Annie is a good and loyal servant.

Anyway, I really, really wish that the author had written more from Darcy's perspective. Actually, I don't think she wrote anything at all from Darcy's perspective. Maybe, after writing Darcy's diary (Grange has a book called Mr. Darcy's Diary), she just didn't want to any more, but it would've helped make him sexier and it would maybe have made Elizabeth seem less pathetic by taking some of the attention away from her fretting and lovesickness. It would've been nice to confirm that Darcy liked Elizabeth for more than her beauty, which is what he mentioned every time he spoke of his love for her.  Shouldn't there have been something about her mind?  Her wit?  Well, since Elizabeth seems to have lost all the qualities that I remembered liking about her in the original book, maybe all that's left for Darcy to love is her beauty (those who've read the original more recently: was there much of a fuss made about Elizabeth's beauty, because I'm drawing a blank on all of that).

Overall, not as good as I had hoped.

There are tons and tons and tons of Pride and Prejudice-inspired books.  I'm only listing one, because, if you want more of that kind of thing, they're easy enough to find.  Instead of those kinds of books, my list has a few suggestions that might not automatically occur to people.

Read-alikes:
  • Twilight (book) by Stephenie Meyer - As I reread my synopsis, I realized that Grange's book and Twilight are pretty similar.  The two heroines do little but fret over their respective heroes, the heroes are dark, brooding types with stunted communication skills who must not give in to the temptation to be with their respective beloveds or risk turning them into ravenous monsters, and both books turn the vampire myth into something a bit silly.  Still, if you want more brooding, angsty, tension-filled vampire romance look no farther than Twilight.  Even as I read it and recognized that I had read better, I still kind of liked it. 
  • Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (book) by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith - The book that started the mash-up craze.  It in no way takes itself seriously.  Those who'd like more Pride and Prejudice-inspired stuff (like there's a dearth of it) and crave a heavier dose of supernatural might like this.  Just keep in mind that the supernatural stuff is a bit like a B-movie.
  • The Passion (book) by Donna Boyd - Something about Grange's writing style made me think of this book, which is a bit like what Anne Rice would write if she were to write something with werewolves.  If I remember right, it's dark and has a few erotic elements, too, so read at your own risk.
  • Interview with the Vampire (book) by Anne Rice - Something about Grange's writing style made me think of Anne Rice, and this particular book is a great way to get started with Rice.  Plus, if my suggestion of The Passion intrigued you, but you'd rather have something with vampires, this might be better for you.

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