I'm not sure that what I am about to do is in any way fair.
In fact, I'm so uncertain about this review that I spent two months trying to figure out a different way to go about it.
May Ms. Pierson please forgive the following ...
And This Our Life: The Chronicles of the Darcy Family by C. Allyn Pierson early in my Austenesque explorations, and it was a book I returned to repeatedly. It was listed at the first in a series, and for years I dutifully checked Amazon to see if the continuation would soon be released, until a rather disgruntled day in September of 2010 when I saw that Ms. Pierson had indeed released another book, just not the one I wanted. It took only the moment to see the publisher was Sourccebooks for me to understand what had happened. Like so many of my other favorite Austenesque novels, And This Our Life had been republished under a new title, Mr. Darcy's Little Sister (the name "Darcy" is almost mandatory in thes endeavors), with a fancy new cover, and having undergone internal tweaking. I understand this process to a decent degree, having negotiated with Sourcebooks several years ago regarding First Impressions. They offered to publish my book, but the deal fell apart in marketing, my story not having enough of a hook for their formula to work. I imagine Ms. Pierson had similar conversations, and I'm sure it was rather intuitive for her to shift the book's focus to Georgiana, as she always had a large role in the story. Unfortunately, some of the best parts of the original novel were sacrificed in this transition, and while the second version of the book is still a fine novel, I could not read it without mourning what was lost.
I actually didn't have the courage to take up Mr. Darcy's Little Sister until this year, when I decided to read it for the Pride & Prejudice Bicentenary Challenge. It had been languishing in my Amazon shopping cart for nearly three years. I knew it had somewhat expanded on the original story, and as I was aching to learn what happened next it was bound to be read someday. The novel as it currently stands develops Georgiana Darcy's transition into adulthood. The beginning is lengthened to further delve into her burgeoning emotions, but, as in And This Our Life, most of her story is devoted to the pursuit of Colonel Fitzwilliam. There are some moments of incredibly heightened drama which will keep readers steadily turning pages, but I really think Mr. Darcy is Ms. Pierson's strongest character, and his adventures are sadly cut short. My absolute favorite part of And This Our Life was an episode when Mr. Darcy is sent my the Prince regent (along with a fabulously portrayed valet who was pretty much complete cut in the revision) to war torn France on what essentially amounts to an espionage mission. While he still makes the journey in Mr. Darcy's Little Sister, we only hear of it second hand. There was also some strong and wonderful references to The Scarlet Pimpernel (a personal favorite) in the first book, and while some of this remains, it is far more oblique. I was grateful to finally learn a bit more of what happened to the Darcys in the months following the end of And This Our Life, but despite of my pleasure in Ms. Pierson's recognition by the much revered traditional publishing market (for she is an excellent writer), I can't help but wish she had self-published her original intentions for the second book, rather than just tacking a few of them onto the end of this re-branded effort. It is one of the unfortunate realities of those revered traditional publishers that sometimes, in the quest for sales, a fabulous book is altered into something more easy to advertise, but less enjoyable to read.
I do hope, should Ms. Pierson ever read this review, that she is offended by neither my preference for her first effort, nor the gall displayed in comparing the two. The good news, for readers and the author alike, is that And This Our Life is still available on Kindle. Ms. Pierson is sure to make far more money on these sales than those to which Sourcebook claims a cut, and so I have little compunction in suggesting that this is the book that should be purchased. It's really must-read JAFF, and who knows? If enough people continue buying it, maybe we'll still get that second book someday.
This is my forth review for the Pride & Prejudice Bicentenary Challenge, hosted by Austenprose. Here is a list with links to my previous reviews:
An Unlikely Missionary by Skylar Hamilton Burris
The Disappearance of Georgiana Darcy by Regina Jeffers
The Three Colonels by Jack Caldwell