It is a truth universally acknowledged that a prequel should at least lead to the possibility of the original book. At least I thought it was universally acknowledged. Darcy’s Decision, by Maria Grace, had me wondering.
Granted, this book is part of a series and I thought the next book might clear things up. But in Pride and Prejudice Darcy’s change of heart, though not really explained, is brought about in some way by Elizabeth. Here a clergyman causes considerable reformation before Darcy even meets Elizabeth. Wickham is certainly a villain and his conduct in this book, though appalling, is in line with the character sketched out by Jane Austin. But the plot development seemed to make his further flirtations next to impossible.
I went ahead and got the second book in the Given Good Principles series, The Future Mrs. Darcy, simply because I was curious as to how on earth the writer was going to get herself out of the corner she had written herself into in a way that made the Jane Austin plot possible. After I read the second book, I started to realize this was never intended to be a prequel. Rather, Ms. Grace has taken the characters and the initial setup of Pride and Prejudice and written her own story. Not a prequel, not a change in point of view, not a sequel, but a “what if?” What if Darcy had been forced to see his selfishness before he ever met Elizabeth? What if Lydia’s flirtatiousness had been recognized earlier? At this point the series has been written out to the point that Darcy and Elizbeth have just met — and not at a ball.
Still, I have few hopes that this series will be anything like as good as Pamela Aidan’s Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman series.
One of the things this book has forced me to recognize is that there are a number of kinds of books based on Pride and Prejudice. I’ve categorized them (for the moment) as:
1. Non-fiction. This can include scholarly critiques, biographies of Jane Austin, and books about her times, which can be helpful in defining words such as squabs (carriage cushions) or the difference between a curricle and a chaise.
2. Prequel. Books whose main action is before the action of Pride and Prejudice. I haven’t read one, but a book about the marriage of Darcy’s parents, or of Elizabeth’s early life, would certainly qualify.
3. Pride and Prejudice from a different point of view. There are a number from Darcy’s POV, and of course the movie versions are almost of necessity from an omniscient point of view. I haven’t come across versions from other points of view such as Bingley’s, Mary’s, Wickham’s, or those of other characters such as Lady Catherine de Burgh, but they’re certainly possible. Maybe this challenge will help me find some!
4. Same time period, same characters, different story. The Given Good Principles series falls into this category, and so does Lost in Austin.
5. Sequel. This and 3 are the largest categories. Sequels can be straightforward, mysteries (I have several of those), paranormal (sometimes combined with mystery) or for all I know science fiction or any other genre you can think of. Sequels from different points of view exist, too; I’ve just started reading Georgiana Darcy’s Diary, which starts with Darcy and Elizabeth already married and a house party that makes me shudder. (Mrs. Bennett and Lady Catherine are both guests.)
I’m not even going to count romances where the characters start out misunderstanding each other; that’s become a plot element too common to catalog.
Henceforth I’ll try to determine what category a book belongs in before writing a review!