Even though it is the second book in the "Fitzwillaim Darcy, Gentleman" trilogy, nothing important happens in "Duty and Desire." This book takes place...moreEven though it is the second book in the "Fitzwillaim Darcy, Gentleman" trilogy, nothing important happens in "Duty and Desire." This book takes place during the time where Darcy and Elizabeth do not have contact and, as a consequence, Aidan has had to invent characters and a plot that bear no relation to the action of "Pride & Prejudice." It is a boring book because of this. Aidan could easily have only written TWO novels and condensed the "action" of this time period to keep the story going, but as it is this middle book drags on and on without any real purpose.
Well, perhaps that is unfair. Darcy escapes London for a country house trying to forget Elizabeth and, perhaps, find a "proper" wife, but all he finds is trouble. After the (stupidly unbelievable) adventure is over, Darcy has only realized that Elizabeth is the One Woman For Him even though they can never be together because of her family, but he does not care! Yet he must care! He is a Darcy! But she is Elizabeth! Etc. etc. blah blah blah.
I will say that Aidan's characterization of Georgiana is very, very good, and it is a shame that she had to be put in this book. I would say read "Duty and Desire" just for her, but she is not a central enough figure to make it worthwhile. I did find myself liking Georgiana and her recovery from Wickham's betrayal a lot, though; very believable and well done.(less)
I have a confession to make: Mr. Darcy is NOT my ideal male romantic lead in any capacity. In fact, until I read "The Annotated Pride & Prejudice"...moreI have a confession to make: Mr. Darcy is NOT my ideal male romantic lead in any capacity. In fact, until I read "The Annotated Pride & Prejudice" I had no real appreciation for his character or Jane Austens world. After reading the excellent book mentioned above, however, I began to see just how much I had missed from my first reading. Darcy emerged as a far more complex and genuine person and it piqued my interest to learn more. Unfortunately, Jane Austen left much unsaid about Darcy's transformation in P&P, and so I decided to turn to the many "re-tellings" from his POV to find it. Almost all reviews pointed to Pamela Aidan's "Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman" trilogy as the most in-depth and satisfying, so I decided to give it a try. 'An Assembly Such As This' was soon downloaded onto my Kindle, and within the first chapter I recognized that it would be an enjoyable, if predictable, read.
By "predictable" I do not refer to the plot itself; everyone knows what happens in P&P, and it is not as though anyone expects Aidan to change anything significant. I mean that, having spent many years reading fanfictions of various quality one notices certain patterns of narration to which even the best stories fall victim. Darcy meets Elizabeth at the Meryton Assembly and is immediately captivated without his knowledge; his eyes and thoughts are drawn to her constantly as he stays at Netherfield; she can do no wrong, but her perfections are done so modestly he is only more captivated by her simple yet engaging manner, etc. etc. I do not mean to say that Darcy COULDN'T have felt this way in P&P, but it all seems too convenient and, well, amateurish. After awhile Darcy (i.e. Aidan) has glorified Elizabeth so much that she no longer seems like a person; there are descriptions about her lustrous locks of hair, her sparkling, laughing eyes, her piano playing, which allows Darcy to know "enchantment" while in the middle of a crowded room... Such consistent extolling of her virtues gets boring, but sometimes the sheer ridiculousness of it is unintentionally entertaining.
I will say, though, that Aidan has done a fantastic job of researching the world and time period of P&P. I can see why this is the most recommended re-telling from Darcy's POV, and Darcy himself comes across as more likable from the beginning as well. Aidan is very comfortable with her characterization of Darcy, and it is easy to imagine that it really IS the Darcy from Austen at some points. By the time the ball at Netherfield occurs, Darcy's delusion that Elizabeth wants to be with him (because of his money, power, social standing, etc.) is so complete that when he asks her to dance and she does not seem happy, he is SHOCKED. And it is hilarious, and probably 100% accurate to what Austen would imagine as well. That is the best part about reading "The Annotated P&P" and then Aidan's trilogy: You finally realize just how out of touch with reality Darcy is about certain things, and even though you cringe at his arrogance and cluelessness, you still root for him.
My main point of contention is the pacing of the story. Aidan chooses to end the first book right as Bingley returns to London and Darcy follows to keep him there. All that has happened in the narration at this point is that Darcy and Elizabeth have met, had extended contact during Jane's sickness, and danced together. The entire "plot," as it were, is all about Darcy and his feelings for Elizabeth and how they're evolving (in slow, detailed description). The second book takes place when Darcy and Elizabeth have NO contact in P&P, and the third feels rushed as a consequence of Aidan having to wrap up the story. Still, I recommend this book for all those wishing to get to know Darcy better.(less)
VERY good. It never dragged or overwhelmed and still taught the reader a lot about the turbulent period surrounding the fall of the Tsarist monarchy....moreVERY good. It never dragged or overwhelmed and still taught the reader a lot about the turbulent period surrounding the fall of the Tsarist monarchy. I especially enjoyed how it centered on the Romanov family and their personalities. When you study History, the people involved are overshadowed by the events around them, and it's hard to find a book that can balance its view of both. This book does just that, and I loved reading it.(less)
I am very sorry to give a book a bad review, especially one that I started reading with such high hopes, but this book got very annoying very fast. I...moreI am very sorry to give a book a bad review, especially one that I started reading with such high hopes, but this book got very annoying very fast. I suppose it has to do with the fact that Diana remains a controversial figure still very much in the public consciousness, but I found this book to be an extremely biased account of her life. The amount of times I had to read about how lovely, graceful, sympathetic, charming, and kind she was made me feel like Diana was someone who could do no wrong. Doing that over and over is the quickest way to make your reader actually DISLIKE the subject more than anything. Diana, it seems, could do no wrong and even when she DID, it was because of her loveless marriage, lonely life, etc. Her suffering, which should have lowered her to the level of the humans she seemed to care so much about, only serves (in Bradford's hands) to elevate her to a godlike state through her perseverence. It all gets to be too much by chapter 10 (where I stopped) and I found myself flipping to the very end just to see how she wraps things up. All in all a very disappointing read.(less)