This is a very satisfying and clever take on Jane Austen's ‘Pride and Prejudice.’ This is not even remotely tongue-in-cheek. Grange starts off the story as Jane and Elizabeth Bennett are married to their sweethearts Mr. Bingley and Mr. Darcy. Jane is going off into the countryside for her honeymoon and Elizabeth is going off to the Lake Country. But, as they take off in Mr. Darcy very fine coach, he tells her they are not going to the Lake Country, they are going to Dover and then off to Paris. Surprised, Elizabeth agrees and off they go.
Paris is an elegant civilized city and Elizabeth is delighted with it….even with Darcy's circle of friends, very old friends. All of whom are amazed and delighted he has finally married. But Paris is also too big and crowded for Elizabeth, so Darcy suggests they leave and visit an old uncle of his who lives in a castle in the Alps. Elizabeth agrees, just delighted to get out of the city and back out in the countryside. The drive to the castle is very gothic...dark and raining, precipitous drops into ragged canyons until finally they reach Count Polidori's home, a huge brooding mountain of a castle ancient and forbidding…as classic a haunted abode as one could find. But they are greeted by the charming count and Elizabeth is less frightened by the overwhelming ancient atmosphere.
Polidori decides to have a party to celebrate Darcy's marriage and invites some of Darcy's very old friends in the area. Again: very old. Good sensible Elizabeth does her best to keep to her balance and deal with this unsuspected side to Darcy as best she can. But the stay comes to an unexpected end, when the castle is attacked by villagers in the area who do not like the ones visiting. Darcy and Elizabeth are forced to flee via a secret route and head to Venice where Darcy has a palace, of course.
Elizabeth's unease grows ---not just about all these friends of her reclusive husband, but more fundamentally, why hasn't Darcy and she consummated their marriage? He claims he loves her and she still madly loves him. But he leaves her alone at night. She finally accepts the rather thin excuse that he would hate for her to be pregnant and traveling over rough roads and through inclement weather when it would all be so much safer to wait until they return to Pemberley. Elizabeth agrees, but still in her heart is unsure at Darcy's shows of intermittent passion that he halts before they go too far.
Poor Elizabeth. We as readers know why…he cannot make himself turn her into a vampire…
So, this tension ratchets up throughout the book as the two travel to Venice and then on to Rome. The grande dames and old gentlemen Elizabeth meets are all very nice, but, well, rather peculiar. And all rather decadent. And they talk in an old-fashioned manner.
I really enjoyed the fact that Grange does not descend into giggles or snarkiness but keeps very true to Austen's writing style. It all makes sense: Darcy's aloofness, his extreme wealth, his brooding and isolation. And the nasty Lady Catherine de Burgh whose position in Darcy's life becomes rather clear, especially with her expecting her daughter Anne to marry Darcy.
It all fits so well.
And the denouement, when Elizabeth finally understands Darcy's true nature, is all an Austen fan could want. A very entertaining twist to Austen's Pride and Prejudice. ~~ Sue Martin