In Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice, Mr. Darcy gives up on winning the woman he loves after she refuses his proposal of marriage. What if, instead of disappearing from her life, he took the initiative and tried to change her mind? In Impulse & Initiative, Mr. Darcy follows Elizabeth Bennet to her home in Hertfordshire, planning to prove to her he is a changed man and worthy of her love. THE PEMBERLEY VARIATIONS by Abigail Reynolds is a series of novels exploring the roads not taken in Pride & Prejudice.
Publisher and Release Date: Intertidal Press, 3 August 2007
Time and Setting: Regency England
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer rating: 4 stars
Review by Patrice
There are some books that you reread because you don’t want them to end, can’t wait until the sequel, or feel like you missed something. Then there are books where you are forced into the “undecided zone”. It might be worth a revisit, and you may love it later—or not. I’ve not quite made up my mind about Impulse and Initiative. Did I truly enjoy it? Or was it merely a reading interlude? You know, like a tolerable summer fling because you’re bored. There were pleasant moments, the writing is solid, but the essence of what makes this story special got lost in Ms. Reynolds’ translation. Just for the record, I am not saying that is a bad thing just a different flavor for an original recipe.
Impulse and Initiative begins at the turning point of Pride and Prejudice after Mr. Darcy proposes to Elizabeth while she is visiting her friend, Charlotte Collins, at Rosings. Elizabeth returns home, confused and perplexed, unaware that Mr. Darcy is being rallied by close friends and family to pursue her. What follows is an ardent and aggressive courtship, igniting into a passion fanned into being after smoldering under the burning embers of resentment, attraction and fascination.
The basic framework of the story is altered by a couple of unexpected plot twists, but it’s clear that the author has taken great pains to preserve the feel of the original in her dialogue and writing style.
The concept of Mr. Darcy’s refusal to accept Elizabeth’s resounding, “NO!” is intriguing. There is still enough angst, conflict and obstacles to overcome, forcing the couple to grow and change during the course of the novel.
The characterization of the supporting characters remains true to the original, though in certain cases, they make minuscule appearances. Other characters important to Pride and Prejudice (e.g. Caroline Bingley) are mentioned and make no appearance at all; which in certain cases is fresh, while with others, such as Lady Catherine, I felt the lack of their presence.
I had a few issues with the characterization. Yes, this the plot of this book is driven by that of Pride and Prejudice, but it was hard for me to sometimes identify the characters as Lizzie and Darcy. The overall tone was lost in the author’s candid interpretation and reinvention of the characters. At times, they became Ms. Reynolds’ characters than Austen’s. Perhaps this was the intention? If so, there are moments of pure genius and wonderful observations that are spot on. But there are also boundaries that are crossed where I have to dismiss my own prejudices and apply a subjective appreciation for the creativity and guts to shift Darcy into a mould that he might object to. I couldn’t see him kissing Lizzie openly or passionately before he was engaged to her. He is a man who is very concerned with appearances and respect. His chivalrous nature would not allow him to treat any woman of such a close and dear acquaintance with less regard than he would expect for his sister. So imagine what it would mean for a woman he adored?
If you’ve never read Pride and Prejudice, or at the least have not become acquainted with the characters and storyline, you might be confused because of where this story begins. You may also fail to connect with Lizzie and Darcy if you don’t have a basic idea of their personalities, or you may like them a lot more than originals.
I’m embarrassed to say that I placed this novel on a literary pedestal and was reluctant to recount things about it that didn’t work for me. This is ridiculous because despite all of the self-imposed angst I had about character changes and the sex scenes – which aren’t excessive and explicit — the writing style carries the flavor of P&P with a hint of daring and original dash. My goal is to reread Impulse and Initiative because I liked the dry humor, the romance, and the new way of looking at everything P&P. I liked it enough to want to give it another ago. I knew I was truly enjoying myself when I got to the last paragraph and I felt a bit outraged it was ending. I simply wanted more – well, a little more. That’s an excellent sign that the author brought to life something splendid from start to finish. Ms. Reynolds wins the day.