Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The "What If?" Genre Part 1: Abigail Reynolds

What if Darcy and Elizabeth danced at the Meryton Assembly? This is the question that inspired my book, First Impressions: A Tale of Less Pride & Prejudice. I had just finished reading all of Abigail Reynold's Pemberley Variations and was hungry for more. It seems, by my research, that Ms. Reynold's is the godmother of the "What If?" genre. By taking pivotal moments in Pride & Prejudice and slightly twisting their outcomes she creates an entirely new tale. My two favorite are From Lambton to Longbourn, in which Darcy and Elizabeth reach an understanding before she departs from Lambton, and Impulse & Initiative, where Darcy decides to actively pursue Elizabeth following her rejection of his proposal at Hunsford. The latter is particularly gratifying as it follows Darcy and Elizabeth after their marriage (a thing I intend to do in my second novel, currently in the conception phase, picking up where First Impressions leaves off). These stories are fun and witty, with favorite characters finding themselves in new and sometimes inexplicable situations. The one thing I feel uncomfortable with in Ms. Reynold's writing is the degree of sexuality. I've addressed this before and recognize that so many fans want to see Elizabeth and Darcy "getting it on", so to speak, but I just can't reconcile it with the culture of the Regency and, in particular, Austen's explicit avoidance of the tawdry. That doesn't mean I haven't read and reread these books. I just grit my teeth a bit while doing so. Ms. Reynolds also wrote The Last Man in the World, which explores what would have happened if Elizabeth and Darcy did become engaged at Hunsford, before Elizabeth learns Darcy's worth, and By Force of Instinct, in which Darcy remains at Rosings after his rejected proposal. She has a new variation due out in 2010 entitled The Bounds of Decorum. According to the description at, it will stray farther from the text of Pride & Prejudice than her previous books in the series, exploring the decadent world of the ton.

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