Mr. Darcy, Vampyre
by Amanda Grange
Sourcebooks Landmark (August 11, 2009)
Reviewed by Sandy Rainey
Every reader who has ever been puzzled by the dashing Mr. Darcy's intermittently distant and even unfriendly behavior in Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice will instantly grasp the possibilities of the conceit advertised in the title of Grange's novel. The vampire's affliction could certainly explain Darcy's more churlish moments. Unfortunately, the promise of this concept is never fully realized. It's a pity; a rip-roaring vampire tale starring Darcy would have been a real treat.
The novel begins well enough. After wedding her beloved Darcy, Elizabeth Bennet is surprised to discover that he has altered their honeymoon plans. Instead of visiting the Lake District of England as they had discussed, they will be touring Paris, Italy and other spots on the Continent. Nor is this the only aspect of Elizabeth's new married life that does not go as she had envisioned. Though his passion for his bride occasionally flares, Darcy leaves their union unconsummated for days, for weeks. Hurt and confused by Darcy's apparent rejection, Elizabeth eventually runs out of excuses for her man's avoidance of the marital bed and begins to fear that he has no real feelings for her, after all.
Equally troubling are some of the people the Darcys meet as they travel through Europe. Though Elizabeth is dazzled by some of the places they stop, she cannot fathom the odd manner of some of Darcy's friends and acquaintances. Like Darcy, they are vampires, of course; the title tells us so. Grange could have built far more suspense had she chosen a more opaque title for her book. As it is, we spend much of the novel wondering when Lizzy will figure out the dark secret we have known from the start. Grange must have realized this would weaken her hand as the author; the allure of an eye-catching title to pull in all those bookstore-browsing Twilight readers pining for a fix must have been too irresistible.
To Grange's credit, she keeps our expectations of a payoff fairly high. What keeps us reading is wondering how Lizzy will react when she realizes that the real reason Darcy will scarcely touch her is stranger than she could possibly imagine. When Elizabeth's moment of discovery comes, though, it doesn't measure up. And it is at that moment that things really go off the rails. What has been an almost eventless tale up to this point is suddenly overburdened by a bizarre and breathless series of underground happenings that seem grafted onto the narrative, wrapping things up in an out-of-left-field, credulity-busting rush.
It is hard to say what non-fans or casual fans of vampire literature would make of Grange's foray into paranormal romance. (By most accounts, Mr. Darcy's Diary, her other—non-paranormal—Pride and Prejudice spinoff, is a strong and satisfying read.) But regular readers of vampire fiction will likely scoff at a tale that includes far too little of what keeps them coming back for more. Grange, a skilled writer who captures quite well the cadences of Austen's work, nevertheless appears to be on unfamiliar turf here, and because she doesn't really know the neighborhood, this is a vampire tale that literally has no bite.