It is a truth universally acknowledged that an erotic romance reader in possession of a Jane Austen passion must be in want of a riff on Austen’s most popular novel that a) doesn’t include characters succumbing to putrefaction; b) doesn’t make them think of treacly pop-music movie soundtracks; and c) spins out the rest of the sexually fluid story they already suspected – with delight – is behind the seemingly enmeshed relationship between Misters Darcy and Bingley.
Yeah. So, I was blown away, too, when I learned that last one. A few years back I was fortunate to find a small-house pubbed novel -- now pubbed large -- Phyllida and the Brotherhood of Philander , about a classic, manly Regency hero, who happens to be bi-sexual, and who falls in love with his straight wife. While turning folks on to this book, commenters – many -- began saying they always got a hot “bi vibe” between Darcy and Bingley!
How did I miss this?! I mean, I like to fantasize about romance heroes kissing as much as the next girl. But as a student of literature, I just never thought Darcy was being any more than a condescending, emotionally distant jerk when keeping Bingley away from the elder Miss Bennet, the lovely girl of young Bingley’s earnest and ardent affection.
Turns out Princeton U grad Ann Herendeen’s lit-class fantasies and desire to create fun, well-written/researched and non-political books about bi-sexual men who love straight chicks inspired her to tell her story behind Darcy’s and Bingley’s relationship, and to fill in from her perspective the desires, motivations, joy and heartache of hers and most of our favorite P&P characters.
The result is “Pride/Prejudice ,”* and it’s nothing short of brilliant. For those awaiting it – or who will read a bi-sexual Regency romance with empathy and open-mindedness -- it’s every bit as erotic and by turns delightfully genteel and fabulously dirty and brash as one could hope.
And for the reader who simply wants to try a new style of historical fiction with decidedly alternative, yet absolutely satisfying, happily ever afters, “Pride/Prejudice” is as engaging a romantic historical novel as has come down the pike in some time. History isn’t only told by the victors; Ann Herendeen tells it from the views of folks who in their time were seen as almost completely outside the norm, and often allows them to explore their struggle to see themselves and each other as “normal.”
In P/P, Fitz Darcy has been Charles Bingley’s lover and mentor for nearly two years when they head to Netherfield and meet the sisters Bennet. As Bingley is drawn full-speed toward Jane Bennet, Fitz becomes concerned that Charles will fall for her, a girl with a vulgar family, and whom Fitz thinks is trying to trap Charles into marriage.
Yet Fitz seems to protesteth the possible marriage too much. Charles, nearly in thrall to Fitz’s need to control him, thinks Fitz may be right, that he should leave Jane’s side, head back to London, and forget her.
But he can’t, even though Fitz does his best to machinate behind the scenes, and keep Charles interested in their physical relationship, one Charles mostly has become disinterested in since he’s met Jane. And, truth be told, Fitz can’t get Jane’s smart-and-competent-as-any-man younger sister, the pretty Elizabeth, from entering his thoughts and teasing his libido.
And while this is a very big deal for the seemingly misogynistic Fitz Darcy, Lizzie’s not all that impressed. She’s more concerned with the harm caused to Jane by Fitz’s actions – and her own jealousy when her very close friend, Charlotte, marries and leaves her.
Following the plot of the classic, Herendeen provides rich, dynamic, authentically-voiced dialogue and gorgeously touching, sweet, and wonderfully raucous moments woven from whole, creative cloth to tell a compelling, wildly entertaining story that many of us have longed for.
Of course, a lot of you probably can do without “Pride/Prejudice,” in the same way folks were mortified by those zombie-fighting sisters Bennet or Linda Berdoll’s naively cheeky success, “Mr. Darcy Takes a Wife.” Perhaps one day a sweet novella based on a forbidden love ‘twixt Mr. Collins and Lady Catherine De Bourgh will be published.
Then you might know what all the fuss is about.
How do you feel about riffs on “Pride and Prejudice” and other classics? How do you enjoy romances with bi-sexual elements?
*The “/” or “slash” as used in “Pride/Prejudice” denotes a story in which established characters from TV shows, movies or other fiction are written in bi-sexual scenarios and relationships. Slash began as an Internet phenom, and it’s generally believed the first was based on a relationship between Kirk/Spock of “Star Trek.”