Reviews - Kathryn L Nelson



Pemberley Manor


available at… Magers & Quinn

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Reviewed by Lakisha at aromancereview.com, April 2009

It is almost scary how beautifully written this story is. Pemberley Manor was written as a continuation of Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. It documents the wedding ceremonies of Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy, and those of her sister, Jane Bennett and Charles Bingley.

The Bingleys have a well-suited marriage of peace and harmony. Charles is easy-going and pleasant. His wife, Jane, continues to be the epitome of sainthood in her disposition. The only real problem that exists is the barely veiled hostility of his sisters, Caroline and Louisa, toward Jane's inferior birth. However, that is a problem they are more than willing and able to ignore.

The real problems are with the Darcys. Fitzwilliam is battling the past ghosts of his parents tumultuous relationship and Elizabeth with her ever present optimism is willing to aid him in the fight. The reappearance of two people from his parents' past causes Mr and Mrs. Darcy to face the truth and hopefully have enough courage for the future.

Pemberley Manor is a well written piece of literature. What I loved about this book is it answered a lot of questions and filled in the gaps left in Pride and Prejudice. Ms. Nelson has really written something special here. She captures the same spirit of Jane Austen's book. The language, characters, and the story plot are all reminiscent of the prior book. As an English teacher I would recommend this book to be read in addition to Pride and Prejudice. Most of the time sequels are bad, but this story tells of how a couple who love each other fight the demons of the past and dare to hope for a future.

Review by Jessica Emerson, austenblog.com, April 2, 2009

I was so relieved upon commencing reading Pemberley Manor to realize quickly that Nelson "gets it." She can write in a Regency style that does not sound forced, stilted, or altogether ridiculous, as is the case with some other writers of historical fiction. Her prose is smooth and her tone is confident, much like Austen's. This was a great relief, as bad writing can mar even the most intriguing plot. Conversely, good writing may buoy your readers along even when they disagree with your plot choices.

Nelson knows her audience. It is not the purists who prefer not to think beyond the happily ever after. The audience for this book is open-minded readers who love Austen's creations, but recognize that real life and real people are necessarily more complex than the world of Austen's novels. This book is for those who think maybe Jane and Bingley are too perfect, that Darcy and Lizzy became engaged too quickly, and who wonder what might happen after the weddings. In the reserved Regency society, where emotions may not have been so easily expressed or scandals so readily discussed as they are today, two people of unequal birth attempting to have an egalitarian marriage would certainly have faced great challenges.

Nelson's creations are based on the novel, inspired heavily by the BBC film adaptation, and also augmented by a healthy dose of reality. She explores their psyches, motivations, desires, and fears from modern perspective, but weaves her concepts neatly into the Regency time period and writing style. Purists may shudder at some of her choices, especially regarding Darcy's darker nature. However, I think if one stops to contemplate for a minute, one sees that she has added depth, complexity, and indeed humanity, to characters that have for the most part been revered as larger (and better) than life. If Lizzy and Darcy were real flesh-and-blood people, imperfect people, living within the social and sexual confines of Regency society, what sort of problems would they face in their marriage? That is the thought experiment Nelson's sequel invites us to embark upon. If it intrigues you, then you will enjoy this smoothly written and carefully thought-out novel.

This sequel takes us from the dual wedding, through the Darcy's honeymoon and early months of marriage. They discover unanticipated range and depth of emotions within each other, and weather quite a number of shocks and trials that threaten to undermine their relationship. Along the way, they also confront some of the enemies who disapproved of their union, as well as less tangible demons from Darcy's unusual childhood. If you prefer the haughty, enigmatic, and polished Darcy of the novel, you may be in for a shock. This Darcy is haunted, conflicted, and ultimately much more emotional than you may expect.

I truly enjoyed Nelson's continuation of Lizzy. I think her strength, grace, and humor were perfectly in line with Austen's creation. The influence of Jennifer Ehle's performance is clear too, in Lizzy's zest for life and laughter and her constant "bemused smile." It is on Lizzy's strength that much of the plot rests, and Nelson's achievement with her makes the novel a success. Throughout this story, we have many opportunities to cheer for Lizzy, whether she is supporting her loved ones or taking down an enemy with her ample, but never malicious, wit. A carriage ride scene featuring the Mr. and Mrs. Darcy and Caroline Bingley is wonderfully done. Nelson also writes very good witty dialogue between Darcy and Lizzy, showing the intellectual dimension of their love forone another, as well as the equality between them.

Nelson fleshes out some supporting characters from the original - Caroline Bingley and Georgiana Darcy both get a lot of page time and added complexity and depth. On the other hand, Col. Fitzwilliam and the Gardiners have all but disappeared. The new supporting characters that Nelson adds do not stand out so clearly as the principals. Trevor Handley and the Alexanders are somewhat similar to, but less memorable than, some of Austen's own creations. Thomas Hill, however leaps off the page with his fresh dialogue and was a worthwhile addition to Pemberley.

At 375+ pages, and encompassing a veritable rollercoaster of emotions for both its character and readers, I do think this work is a bit long. The suspense of the family secrets could have been rather less drawn out, and a couple of tearful scenes could have been consolidated. Overall though, I enjoyed the relatively steady pace of the novel. The much-anticipated Christmas visit toLongbourn was the only part that felt strangely rushed. The reader is told, more than shown, how well Darcy managed to get along with the Bennets. This is unfortunate, because I think Nelson could have written some great dialogue between Darcy and the Bennet women.

On the whole I enjoyed this sequel and looked forward to seeing what twists and turns Nelson would throw into the plot next. Nelson set herself up for quite a challenge, but she carries it off quite well. She has a great love for Austen's creations and has put a good deal of thought into how to further their story. She has taken Darcy and Lizzy off their pedestals and out for a turn in the real world, and they have not suffered materially for it. In fact, I believe it we as readers who have gained.

NOTE: Sexual situations in Pemberley Manor are handled tastefully and modestly, without any graphic descriptions or awkward romance novel cliches. There is innuendo and aftermath, but actual lovemaking takes place "off-page."

From Love Romance Passion, March 30, 2009

If you're looking for an Austen sequel that combines the characters' original flaws of pride and prejudice I would highly recommend reading Pemberley Manor. Nelson spins a web of finely strung perceptions and choices. Darcy is one for angry words in the heat of the moment, swift regret, and fleet-footed in his escape to nurse his wounds. Elizabeth is also one for angry words and quick remorse. Darcy is only just learning how to express himself and gets it all wrong. Elizabeth is ready to find offense, certain he must in some way regret marrying her - after all hadn't he in his first proposal said how inferior she was to the task of being his wife?

Meanwhile an old friend has reappeared stirring up a whole mix of bad childhood memories for Darcy… and good ones, if Darcy were to be honest. He's worried about how his mother's influence on him might wreck the only happiness he's ever known and at the same time can't reconcile himself to his father's actions and behavior. Can the old friend and Elizabeth help Darcy unravel the past? Can Darcy let it go if they can't?

Through it all Caroline Bingley is plotting and spilling poison amongst Darcy's old colleagues. She wants Darcy for herself; he must surely regret by now his decision to marry that country bumpkin. Finding a co-conspirator in her older sister, Mrs. Hurst, Caroline hatches a few petty and mean spirited plans. How will they affect the Darcys?

If Caroline weren't enough the local gentry around Derbyshire are determined to snub Mrs. Darcy because of Darcy's previous bad and snobby behavior. Will Elizabeth's goodness and mirth capture their attentions long enough to change their mind about her or will their determination win out in the end?

Quite an excellent book! Very engrossing. The book is chaste; there is nothing overt in the bedroom.

Rating: 4 Stars

Laurel Ann at Autsenprose, March 29, 2009

When a new Pride and Prejudice sequel lands on my doorstep, I freely admit that the Austen geek in me goes into adrenalin rush. Usually after the third chapter I can see the lay of the land. Is the language reminiscent? Are the characters respectfully rendered? Is the tone appropriate? Is the storyline plausible? By the second page of Pemberley Manor: Darcy and Elizabeth, for better or for worsemy hopes soared. By the end of the third chapter, I was wholly convinced that if author Kathryn Nelson could maintain her premise I was in for one of the most original, compelling, and satisfying new interpretations of Lizzy and Darcy after the nuptials that I have ever had the pleasure to read. My only fear was what might happen over the next 350 pages to change my mind!

The story begins where Pride and Prejudice ends, with the double wedding of the two Bennet sisters Jane and Elizabeth to their respective fiancés Charles Bingley and Fitzwilliam Darcy at Meryton Church. We are reunited with many familiar characters from Jane Austen's novel as the respective families assemble for the ceremony. It is a happy day for the Bennet family, but the two Bingley sisters Caroline and Louisa find their new country connections deplorably low and the whole day exhaustingly tedious. Caroline's indignity and spite will continue to eat away at her foreshadowing trouble for her brother Charles, his new wife Jane, and the object of her true venom, the Darcy's.

After the reception at Longbourn, the Darcy's and the Bingley's depart for their respective honeymoons with plans to meet up later at Pemberley. The Darcy's stay at a coaching Inn on route to Derbyshire, and there we experience their first days together and are surprisingly introduced to Nelson's choice of direction and tone as she skillfully reveals a side of Mr. Darcy that I have long suspected, but other sequel authors have failed to perceive. The proud and arrogant man that Elizabeth Bennet married has a troubled past, confirming for me much of his actions in the original novel and why I havenever thought that their happily-ever-after could just instantly happen because they declared their love and took vows. Hold on to your bonnets! If you thought that the Bennet family was dysfunctional, then just wait until you meet the Darcy's.

We now know what Lady Catherine de Bourgh meant when she bragged about the true Darcy spirit. There is an oppressive presence haunting Pemberley Manor. Mr. Darcy's deceased mother Lady Anne is not the elegant, proper and gracious woman that one would suspect as the Mistress of Pemberley. A seductive beauty with a "dangerous, demanding temperament," she is similar to her sister Lady Catherine, but emotionally unstable, "frightening and confusing her son, and emasculating her husband." It is her influence more than his gentle father that has shaped Darcy's adult personality. Even seventeen years after her death, his childhood memories of his mother's tyranny and its affect on his parent's marriage plays havoc with his present happiness. As Darcy gradually reveals his troubled past to his new bride Elizabeth, she is not only challenged with the demands of becoming the new Mistress of a grand estate, but in helping him discover the missing pieces to his parent's story that will free him from the past and allow him to find peace and happiness in their new life together.

Nelson has taken a huge leap of faith that readers will buy into her theory that Mr. Darcy's broody and puzzling temperament is a product ofbad parenting. Even though I am very guarded over liberties taken with Austen's original characters, her presentation and languageare so plausible that I understood her direction immediately. Since Austen does not delve into Mr. Darcy's inner-thoughts and psychological motivations, we can only guess at his true nature by his temperament and actions in the original novel. He is an enigma to many, including himself. We can find further foundation in Nelson's theory by re-reading this passage from the end of Pride and Prejudice which reveals more about Mr. Darcy's past life than any other.

Painful recollections will intrude, which cannot, which ought not, to be repelled. I have been a selfish being all my life, in practice, though not in principle. As a child, I was taught what was right; but I was not taught to correct my temper. I was given good principles, but left to follow them in pride and conceit. Unfortunately, an only son (for many years an only child), I was spoilt by my parents, who, though good themselves (my father particularly, all that was benevolent and amiable), allowed, encouraged, almost taught me to be selfish and overbearing to care for none beyond my own family circle, to think meanly of all the rest of the world, to wish at least to think meanly of their sense and worth compared with my own. Such I was, from eight to eight-and-twenty; and such I might still have been but for you, dearest, loveliest Elizabeth! Chapter 58

Every foible that he mentions about himself in the above passage as a failing has been learned since boyhood. Human nature being what it is, it is no stretch of my imagination to believe that just because someone says that they have been humbled and changed by love, that it actually happens. Nelson was chosen to continue the story and explain the puzzling temperament of Mr. Darcy through the back-story of his spoiled and disturbed childhood. We see Darcy as an introspective man, buoyed by the love of Elizabeth and his new marriage, but compelled to search for answers. What transpires in Pemberley Manor is his quest to understand the past with the help of his new wife, family and friends.

Even though this deep psychological subtext may sound omnipresent, there are other intriguing elements to his novel that lighten it up. The evolving relationship of Darcy and Elizabeth as newlyweds is fascinating to watch. Nelson has captured the spirited, witty and energetic Lizzy Bennet that we so admire to a T. Amazingly, as I have mentioned previously, she also understands Darcy's personality completely. If there were ever two souls of opposite temperaments destined to be better as a team, it was Lizzy and Darcy. Their conversations run hot and cold to downright hilarious. We also see familiar characters such as Caroline Bingley evolve beyond her bitterness and spite, shy Georgina Darcy bloom and catch the heart of a new beau, Jane as angelic as ever, her husband Charles Bingley finally have a revelation, and new charactersintroducedthat blend in and addinteresting depth.

Nelson's skill with language is respectfully reminiscent of Austen, but not mimicy. The greatest complement that I can offer her to her style is that the density of her prose slowed me down to Austen pace, as I thought about each word and appreciated her choice. The story is compelling, with a haunting mystery suggestive of du Maurier's Rebecca, and the extended tensions and anguish of Bronte's Jane Eyre, all combined with a historical romantic fiction. Unlike Mr. Darcy who "has no defect. He owns it himself without disguise." Pemberley Manor does have its faults, but they are meager in the comparison to itsscope. After hundreds of pages of dazzling me with her brilliant psychoanalysis of human nature with Mr. Darcy, she starts off well presenting one of the villains as Caroline Bingley, then delivers an unsatisfying thud to the resolution of her character. Though I understood exactly there she was going in showing us the dark side of Darcy, he was a bit too tearful at times for my ideal masculine English iconic romantic hero taste, and as the novel moved along, I found it becoming more modern in style and progressive in thinking on how the characters thought and reacted. When more than a ghost comes out of the closet, I was a bit taken aback by the characters 21st-century response to it.

Because Nelson was taken a risk and presented a side of Darcy and Lizzy that we have not yet explored to this depth, there will be those ready to throw a few disapproving bricks through Pemberley Manor's elegantly glazed windows. Regardless, I found her tale charming, intelligent and engaging; uniquely one of the most thought provoking and satisfying Austen sequels that I have ever read. Happily, the ending left a possibility for a prequel. I understand the author is in the throws of writing another book. Ms. Nelson, please be advised that I am heading to Minnesota to camp out in your back yard with protest signs reading "Write for Darcy" until the new prequel is completed. What time do you serve tea?

5 out of 5 Regency Stars

Dana at ReadingRomanceBooks.com, February 1, 2009

…This book was thoroughly, thoroughly engrossing from page 1! I do not know if it is a result of my deep love of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice or if it is based solely on the merits of the author. I do not think it matters. Kathryn Nelson was incredibly successful in importing the Regency era into my mind and then whisking me away into the world of the Darcy's new marriage. The characters were true to the original and the issues they faced far from any happily-ever-after fairytale endings we might have conjured on our own…

What I liked:
~ I heartily approve that Jane Austen imitators follow her trend of no explicit sex (of course!), but the dramatic shock that unfolded on the eve of the Darcy wedding was wholly unexpected by myself. I was glad that it actually made sense once it was explained. I was hooked.
~ Elizabeth and Fitzwilliam "Will" Darcy enjoyed many repartees together and this reader could not help but enjoy their wit as well. There was at least one instance where Will teased Lizzy in such an unexpected fashion that I didn't figure out until almost too late that it was a joke! It was quite refreshing and heartily amusing that Mr. Darcy's character improved so well on better acquaintance.
~ I did not realize until nearly halfway through the book how emotionally involved I had become! KN is a masterful storyteller!

Rating: A+! I highly recommend this, even if you're not an avid Pride and Prejudice fan!

Reviewed by Kathy Perschmann at Armchair Interviews, February 2009

What happens after the end of Pride and Prejudice? Will Elizabeth continue to have to deal with Darcy's reticence and lack of emotion? What on earth could have made him the way he is? The dark secrets of Darcy's childhood and his parents' marriage continue to overshadow the early days of their marriage, starting with their wedding night. The arrival of Trevor Handley, a mysterious man out of Darcy's past, and the malicious animosity of Caroline Bingley, compound matters. Trevor had disappeared quite suddenly when Darcy was in his teens. They had been great friends, ever since Trevor had been taken in by Darcy's parents when his father died. Darcy could never understand why Trevor had left so suddenly and had never been in touch.

The true nature of Darcy's mother and her relationship with Trevor is hinted at, and Darcy's mistrust of that situation clouds his relationship with Elizabeth. Darcy's anger and resentment of his father was never settled before his death, and Darcy regrets it terribly. Finally he becomes friends with a man who was close to his father, Mr. Alexander, and this helps him come to a better understanding of his father and his torments. Caroline visits with Jane and Charles, and she decides to set into play events to make the Darcys miserable, using suspicion and mistrust as her weapons. Will she succeed in driving a permanent wedge between Darcy and Elizabeth? Will Darcy ever overcome his feelings about his father and mother? Will Caroline ever be forgiven?

Nelson has created an excellent backstory for Darcy, and re-creates the feel of Jane Austen's witty dialogue and deep characters with great success. If you love Austen, you will most certainly love this story!

Excerpts from a review by Laura Boyle in the Jane Austen Regency World Online Magazine (find Laura at www.Austentation.com, a website specializing in custom-made Regency hats, bonnets and accessories):

"It is a truth universally acknowledged that one of the most romantic stories of all times must be in want of a sequel. And so, Pride and Prejudice gains another completion, this time in the form of Pemberley Manor, by first time author, Kathryn Nelson. Unabashedly inspired by A&E's Miniseries, Pemberley Manor gives new life to familiar characters as they seek their individual Happily Ever Afters…

"Jane Austen gives us only a glimpse into the future awaiting the new couples and Ms. Nelson expands on that theme with surprises at every turn. New and interesting characters are introduced even as Pemberley's ghosts begin to materialize…

"Not for the faint of heart, this sequel runs well over 400 pages and explores themes along a darker and more adult line than the original… Scenes of marital felicity between Darcy and Elizabeth abound and are explored in a delicate and tasteful way. Sometimes heartbreaking and often humorous, the story will keep readers intrigued to the last… "

Find the full review here.

Also from the Jane Austen Centre in Bath, a review in the glossy magazine, Jane Austen's Regency World, September/October 2007:

"…As in Pride and Prejudice, The couple we really want to know about is Lizzie and Darcy: witty, sexy, well-matched and not about to settle into a placid happy ever after. And what we get is a storm of strong emotion and suspected betrayal before the ends are satisfactorily tied up.

"Kathryn Nelson weaves a well-crafted tale of the young couple's first months of marriage, exploring the reasons for Darcy's famously brooding personality and taking a number of other characters forward into new lives, with sometimes surprising but always entertaining results…

"The denouement is expertly handled, and is bound to coax a few tears from sentimental readers…

"Having obviously immersed herself in her subject, Kathryn Nelson has created a well-paced, carefully plotted sequel to Pride and Prejudice that will surely please the many, many fans for whom the original novels are simply not enough."

Review by Linda Waldemar, 18 July, 2007 on The Republic of Pemberley website:

"…Jane Austen's characters, I am happy to say, are not too far off the originals. Elizabeth and Darcy are very quick studies. He learns to tease and laugh at himself within a couple of weeks…

"I found this book to be very entertaining. In the end, all demons are vanquished and all skeletons are routed and everyone lives happily ever after. I recommend that you give it a try."

Find the full review here.

Reviewed by Natasha Zwick for JASNA SW:

"…Yet another Pride and Prejudice sequel? What more could possibly be done with the characters we know and love that would be believable and heartwarming and in character with the spirit of Austen's novel?

"I was well-rewarded for my reading efforts. In this version, which starts at the wedding ceremony, it is not so easy as "happily ever after… "There are some delightful new characters, but not too many to obscure our enjoyment of their presence…

"The novel also has some quite beautiful uses of figurative language that most modern sequels do not attempt…

"Lesson-wise, a primary theme comes from the mouth of Jane Bennet, but accurately reflects the philosophy of both Bennet sisters - and, I'd argue, all happy people: "Happiness," she tells Caroline, "is a choice we make for ourselves." Nelson shows us that even with the right man, a woman must daily choose happiness in order to secure it.

"I recommend that you choose happiness - by reading this book."

By Linore Burkard in her Regency e-zine, LinoreRoseBurkard.com, March 2007:

"Pemberley Manor is a light and sprawling continuation of the lives of Elizabeth and Darcy following their wedding. The author is inventive and imaginative and the reader comes away from the book feeling they understand the characters better than they did, before…

"Kudos to Ms. Nelson for attempting such a piece of work and for coming up with a book that entertains as well as gives her vision of the future for a well-beloved fictional couple. If you like JA continuations, then you must get this book!"




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