Title: A Darcy Christmas: A Holiday Tribute to Jane Austen
Authors: Carolyn Eberhart, Amanda Grange, Sharon Lathan
Length: 290 pages
My star rating: ★ ★ ½
Three holiday tales featuring Mr. Darcy, Elizabeth Bennet, and their friends and families.
If not for Amanda Grange’s story, this brief anthology would have gotten two (or even one and a half) stars from me. I wasn’t expecting greatness, just cuteness, and I barely even got that.
The first story, “Mr. Darcy’s Christmas Carol,” was simply a rehashing of the Dickens classic, and it did not work for me at all. The original relies on Mr. Scrooge being an objectively awful person, but what has Darcy ever done except be a bit prideful? In Pride and Prejudice, he seemed beloved or respected by most people, and he went out of his way to save Lydia Bennet’s reputation even though he loathed Wickham. Darcy was a good man. Here, he is turned conniving and bitter and spouts “Bah! Humbug!” a lot.
Worst of all, though, the author actually forces Scrooge into the epilogue—and she names one of Darcy’s grandchildren “Timothy” for no other purpose than to make him deliver the famous line, “God bless us, everyone!” (I’m not kidding, but I wish I was.)
“Christmas Present” by Ms. Grange was the only good thing about this book. She captured the Regency tone almost perfectly. I felt that it was just a logical extension of the original novel. All the characters were familiar and the small conflict created by Mrs. Bennet’s interference and Lady Catherine’s grumbling was amusing and appropriate.
[Mrs. Bennet] looked around the drawing-room. “This is a very elegant drawing-room, far better than the one at Lucas Lodge, and better than Netherfield, too, is it not, Mr. Bennet?”
“The relative merits of various drawing-rooms are, I an afraid, beyond me,” said Mr. Bennet. (133)
It was also just fluffy enough, and unlike the disastrous story that follows it, here the Bennet girls gave their children names that were feasible (not cringe-inducing).
Which brings us to the titular and final story, “A Darcy Christmas.”
Not good. Not good at all.
This one goes through a litany of Darcy family Christmases over the years. It steadily adds an alarming number of Darcy
brats children to the mix as it goes along. It was, as I saw another reviewer term it, saccharine. The author obviously found the idea of Elizabeth and Darcy’s offspring so utterly darling that she kept adding more—for some six chapters (and thus six Christmases), poor Elizabeth is either pregnant or has recently given birth. A few of these children have actual personalities. The others are window-dressing that were, I assume, supposed to make readers squeal.
And the girls have awful names. Really awful names. Not awful like “Fitzwilliam.” Awful like “Noella Holly Jane” and “Audrey Faine Bethann.” Noella? Bethann, for God’s sake?!
The character of Audrey in particular existed only to tug at readers’ heartstrings. She was a waif in the Tiny Tim mold: the product of a difficult birth and therefore delicate and slightly disfigured (but still gorgeous of course!); an angelic child whose health is fragile and who has trouble walking but is nevertheless the brightest of her siblings, because why not?
Can you see me wincing?
And then there were other problems. The prose was not Austenesque in the slightest, nor were many of the scenarios. The dialogue was dreadful. Elizabeth and Darcy are portrayed as sex fiends who make a “tradition” of having sex on Christmas morning before their children wake them up, who explore the thrills of bathing together…and on in that vein. I’m no prude, but Jane Austen managed to create a memorable romance between two characters who barely even touch, so why did Sharan Lathan feel the need to make them such bunny rabbits? I wouldn’t have minded a scene or two, but that’s almost all there was: either Lizzy and Darcy cuddling or kissing or something still more intimate, or else Lizzy and Darcy Being Cute with their Brood.
Everything about this one rang false and set my teeth on edge. I ended up just skimming the last several chapters.
I would skip the bookends, but “Christmas Present” is definitely worth a read if you’re a P&P fan. It’s short, genuinely sweet, and funny: a perfect dose of Austen Christmas cheer.