Category Archives: book review

Book Review – Darcy’s Passions


Darcy's Passions: Pride and Prejudice Retold Through His Eyes

Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice is an addiction of mine.  Like chauceriangirl with her epic love for Chaucer, I will read any permutation/mash-up even remotely related to Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennett.  Sometimes, the results are brilliant, such as Pamela Aiden’s three volume retelling, in which Mr. Darcy’s character development is given a unique perspective completely in line with with the historical events and social mores of the time.  Other attempts are dreadful, such as Linda Berdoll’s Mr. Darcy Takes a Wife, which turns the property into erotic soap operatic nonsense.  Most of them, Regina Jeffers’ Darcy’s Passions included, fall into the third category: kinda good with some problems.

Mr. Darcy in Jeffers’ version makes a rather lovely journey from his arrogant, prideful beginnings to the more gentlemen-like man Elizabeth Bennett falls in love in with.  Several characters are fleshed out, most particularly that of Georgiana Darcy, who is beautifully sketched as a young girl on the cusp of womanhood.  She is at once naive and decisive, and her relationship with her much adored older brother is exquisitely drawn.  Darcy’s character transitions are delineated by his changing relationship not just with Miss Elizabeth, but with all those he interacts with.  He is continually learning and growing, and though he occasionally falls back into old habits and patterns, he learns to recognize and rectify his behavior before it can get out of hand.  Though certainly no Jane Austen, Jeffers, for the most part, does a nice job of retelling one of literature’s great love stories.

The trouble lies in the last third of the book.  Not content to leave off at Darcy and Elizabeth’s marriage, Jeffers continues the story another eight months through the conception of the Darcys’ first child, the engagement of Col. Fitzwilliam to Anne de Bourgh, and the introductions of Georgiana and Kitty respectively to the gentlemen they may eventually marry.  Part of the strength of the first two-thirds of the novel is that Jeffers had Austen’s general plot and dialogue to fall back on.  It gave depth and believability to Darcy’s version of events.  This was lacking in the latter part of the book, to Jeffers’ detriment.  In addition to speaking words that did not feel true, she had her characters using modern colloquialisms, such as when Elizabeth claimed that she “totally forgot” something.  It kicked me forcefully out of the story and I was never quite able to buy back into it.  It also seemed that Jeffers couldn’t figure out what Darcy and Elizabeth might talk about in private.  Most of the conversations were some variation of the proposal scene in the original version.  In one section, she had them quoting word for word, a mash-up of Beatrice’s and Benedict’s best lines from Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing.  Considering how drastically Shakespeare’s couple differs from Austen’s, it just didn’t work.  After the third go-around on the same exact topic of conversation, I began losing my patience.  Finally, Jeffers was unable to resist the temptation to up the melodrama by creating a situation in which one character almost loses his/her life, prompting the other character to realize how wrong he/she was about an earlier argument.  It was just silly and felt like something one would find on

One could successfully argue that all of these permutations are fan-fiction, but I expect higher quality from the published kind.  Jeffers might have been better off condensing the last third of the book into an epilogue.  If you are a dedicated fan of Pride and Prejudice and you love to read every version out there, then by all means avail yourself of Darcy’s Passions.  It is a truly enjoyable read up to Darcy’s and Elizabeth’s engagement.  If you haven’t read Pride and Prejudice yet, then skip this and go for the original – superior – version.


Book Review: Harry, A History



In Harry, A History, author Melissa Anelli recounts her experience in the Harry Potter fandom.  I’m a Harry Potter fan, too, but Melissa’s book is a lot more interesting than mine would be, owing to her sheer proximity to the PTB in the Potter-verse all the way to the grand-poobah herself, JK Rowling-rhymes-with-bowling.  The text is littered with details from Anelli’s eight hour/two day interview with JKR, and for the dedicated Potter fan is, alone, worth the price of admission.  Any Potter fan would be thrilled over the extra content-the commentary straight from JKR, the wonderfully enthusiastic fan-like descriptions of Anelli’s visit to the Prisoner of Azkaban film set.  (“Where’s the section in Honeyduke’s with the blood lollipops?  It’s supposed to be right here!…The velvet poufs!…they’re velvet and poufy!”), the insightful reporting on the interview with anti-HP activist, Laura Mallory, the insider’s look at the Wizard Rock phenomenon, what it’s like receiving a phone call from JKR, and all while running The Leaky Cauldron while working full-time as a journalist.  No doubt about it-the extras are awesome.  But they are not the heart of the book.


It seems every Potter fan I’ve ever met has a story about how the Harry Potter books helped them in some way.  For Anelli, the biggest moment was September 11, 2001, the day the twin towers fell.  Anelli had family who worked in one of the towers.  It was the HP community on the Internet that kept her centered-that kept her connected to the human race at a time when she desperately needed connection.  Anelli peppers the book with personal anecdotes that enhance rather detract from the story of the fandom.  I found myself remembering the first time I cracked open a Harry Potter book, shortly after a devastating life-altering event.  And here was this book that transported me to another world and for a little while I forgot my own.  When I turned the last page I felt stronger because Harry was strong.  I felt I could battle Dementors because Harry could.  (Plus, chocolate.)  Like Harry, Anelli was tenacious and persistent in the pursuit of her goals, and, again like Harry, she had true friends helping her on her journey.  This is what makes Harry, A History so compelling. Harry’s story is Melissa’s story, and at the end of the day, Melissa’s story is ours. 

Book Review: Thin Is the New Happy


I’m sure you’ve seen the Weight Watcher’s commercials loudly proclaiming “DIETS DON’T WORK.”  For those of us obsessed with body image (e.g. you, me, and everyone we know), this is old news, about as shocking as Clay Aiken’s revelation that he is, in fact, gay.  (Really?)  And yet, despite knowing diets are evil and wrong, many of us still persist.  We have an ideal of ourselves living somewhere inside that is thin, and therefore happy, because after all, thin equals happy, doesn’t it?

In Thin Is the New Happy, author Valerie Frankel humorously and frequently profanely chronicles her lifelong obsession with her own body image, made worse by her “fatphobic” mother who started nagging her about weight when she was only 11 years old.  She spent her childhood and later her adult years on a succession of diets, losing and regaining hundreds of pounds.  Her body issues were front and center.  Thin equaled success, beauty, determination and control, while fat equaled lazy, ugly, failure and a lack of control.   This cycle continued until Frankel had what would become a series of epiphanies, centering on the idea of weight as symptom of bigger issues-literal emotional baggage manifested in a physical form.  Flab.

Instead of dieting, Frankel determined to resolve her body issues and end the cycle of dieting; to send a message loud and clear to her daughters, the eldest aged 11-the same age Frankel’s obsession began-that they could be comfortable in their own skin, that they were beautiful and strong and capable.  Frankel would be a chain-breaker.  The struggle of body image and acceptance would end with her. 

Frankel enlisted the help of friends, family, and therapists to explore her body image issues and ultimately, put them to rest.  Her account is painfully honest, at times heart-breaking, and frequently hilarious.  (Her favorite defense mechanism as a teenager enduring verbal abuse of the “hey-fatso” variety from a group of boy bullies, was to eviscerate them in the pages of her diary via her alter-ego, Sal.  Sal killed her tormenters in a variety of ways, her creativity rivaled only by the multiple deaths of Kenny in South Park.) 

Because Frankel is an inveterate list-maker, she started her new life philosophy with a list.  I won’t spoil the reader.  The lists are part of the fun.  At her heaviest, Frankel wore a size 14.  If you are now rolling your eyes and thinking something like “poor baby…I’d kill to be size 14 again,” don’t let that sway you from reading her story.  Poor body image is a universal problem among women and Frankel has much to share.  Her epiphanies are brilliant and as I read her story, they became my epiphanies as well.

This isn’t an “accept your fat and be happy” book.  It’s about forging straight through the issues that scar us and coming out on the other side with true self-acceptance.  While Frankel did, in fact, lose weight on her journey, the book celebrates the shedding of old thoughts and old attitudes rather than the shedding of pounds.

Buy your copy here.


Borrowed Water



Borrowed Water is LaToya Brown’s painfully honest memoir of growing up neglected and abused, and subsequently rising above it.  The title refers in part to the shame derived from being compelled by her mother to literally borrow water from neighbors for cooking and cleaning.  Symbolically, Brown refers to herself as a vessel and admonishes her readers to be wise-to be careful who they borrow water from.  You can fill yourself up with truth or you can fill yourself up with lies.  Ironically, many find it easier to believe the lie.

Faith is and was essential to Brown’s journey and she is honest and passionate in her expressions of it.  God is her lifeline and she credits Him with putting individuals in her life who believed in her; she also credits her faith for finding the courage to turn her back on the life she knew best-the life she thought she deserved.

While faith was the primary motivating factor in her change, Brown also has a firm belief in the power of education to change her life.  Despite an itinerant childhood, gross sexual abuse and violence, and constant emotional abuse, Brown persevered, graduating from high school and community college, and capping it off with a BSW and MSW from the University of Texas at Arlington.  Today, she works in the same middle school she attended as a youth-the same school where she met her mentor and began her diligent pursuit of a better life.

Brown doesn’t make excuses, nor does she ask for pity.  She tells her story in a matter-of-fact manner, calmly describing horrific episodes of abuse and the impact it had on her formative years.  I defy anyone facing similar circumstances to acheive in such an extraordinary mannor, yet Brown asserts that it is possible. 

Brown’s story is a compelling, and unfortunately, all too common example of the type of abuse suffered by too many of our nation’s children.  She doesn’t give a pat answer, and admits herself that she continued to make mistakes, even while trying to reshape her life.  But she is proof positive that nurture can win out over nature.

If there is a fault to Borrowed Water, it is an excess of grammatical errors, some of which distracted from the flow of the story.  Brown is an excellent writer, but she needs a good editor.

Ms. Brown is an exceptional young woman who has told her story with unflinching honesty.  You can order Borrowed Water here.