10 Feb 2006
The Regency period in England’s history has been a fertile field for romance writers for a long time. While writers such as Amanda Quick and Marion Chesney have long crossed the genre boundary by introducing crimes to solve, it’s only in the last decade, since the late Kate Ross introduced the elegant crime-solving fop Julian Kestrel, that mysteries have found a home in the time of the madness of King George.
There has also been a number of attempts at sequels and prequels to the books of Jane Austen, so it should come as no surprise that someone should attempt a mixture such as that found in “Pride and Prescience,” the debut of a series featuring Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy, last seen getting married at the end of “Pride and Prejudice.”
Carrie Bebris’ novel continues their story, picking up literally after the Darcy’s double wedding with Elizabeth’s sister, Jane, and Charles Bingley. At the reception, Bingley’s sister, Caroline, announces her engagement to Frederick Parrish, a wealthy landowner from Louisiana. Their whirlwind courtship and marriage prevents the Darcys from returning to his estate, Pemberly, and they stay in London for the wedding.
Soon after the wedding, a series of frightening incidents casts a pall over the newlyweds. A horse bolts underneath Caroline. The Darcys’ find her walking dazedly through the London streets by night. She apparently tries to kill herself by slitting her wrists. The family wonders if she is going mad and they agree to carry her off to Charles Bingley’s country home, to rest and to be treated by Parrish’s friend, Professor Julian Randolph. Readers of Gothic novels will discern the pattern this story is treading.
“Pride and Prescience” is a story of nots and knots. The story is not bad, but there are no surprises and no interesting scenes to linger over until you reach the inevitable unmasking of the villain. Except for the conflict between Fitzwilliam’s belief in rationality and Elizabeth’s in intuition, the Darcys act more like a long-married couple rather than newlyweds needing to adjust to new and unique circumstances. The prose hews to the Austen style, its rough edges smoothed, without committing any serious solecisms, but it also lacks Austen’s wit and observations, a point made clearer when you compare the quotations from “Pride and Prejudice” that head each chapter.
Bebris takes care not to offend Austen fans, but without taking risks, there are also no rewards. “Pride and Prescience” might appeal to Austen fans who want to spend a little more time in the company of her characters, but may be disappointed that more wasn’t done with them.