Review & Interview: 'First Impressions: a Tale of Less Pride and Prejudice' by Alexa Adams (2013)
In Pride and Prejudice, Fitzwilliam Darcy begins his relationship with Elizabeth Bennet with the words: "She is tolerable, but not handsome enough to tempt me; I am in no humour at present togive consequence to young ladies who are slighted by other men." What would have happened if Mr. Darcy had never spoken so disdainfully? First Impressions explores how the events of Jane Austen's beloved novel would have transpired if Darcy and Elizabeth had danced together at the Meryton Assembly. Jane and Bingley's relationship blossoms unimpeded, Mary makes a most fortunate match, and Lydia never sets a foot in Brighton. Austen's witty style is authentically invoked in this playful romp from Longbourn to Pemberley.
As some of you might know, I’m a big fan of Jane Austen and absolutely everything that is related to her or her work. So, when author Alexa Adams contacted me about possibly reviewing her three-part-series of books based on Austen’s ‘Pride and Prejudice’, I couldn’t possibly say no! It has been over 200 years since Austen’s first novel was published and since then the love story of Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy has been retold in numerous different voices and different ways. However, if I’m honest, I simply can’t get enough of the retellings of this classic romance tale, so I couldn’t wait to get started in ‘First Impressions’!
We all know what happened when one of the greatest couples of all time, Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy, first laid eyes on each other. While Mr. Darcy decided the young woman ‘not handsome enough’ to tempt him, Elizabeth immediately wrote Darcy off as too proud. But how would their love story have turned out if things had been different? In this novel the whole storyline of Austen’s ‘Pride and Prejudice’ is altered by a big change at the start of it all: Darcy and Elizabeth dance with one another at the Meryton assembly and slowly start to fall in love, which also alters the paths of almost all the people around them...
Over the years I’ve read many adaptations of Austen stories, and I have to say that this is definitely one of my favourites so far. I loved what Alexa Adams did with the plotline; changing almost everything by altering a detail at the beginning of it all. The novel still has Austen’s beloved basic storyline and keeps close to the events in the original and characters at its core, but with a fascinating twist. I especially loved the focus on characters like Mary Bennet, Kitty Bennet and Georgiana Darcy, who don’t play very big roles in the original, and how this focus gives them the attention they deserve and manages to answer questions readers might have about what could have happened to these characters.
It is clear Alexa Adams treats Jane Austen’s writing and original novel with respect and I was surprised by how she managed to get close to Austen’s writing style and that authentic feel of her work. This adaptation has enjoyable dialogues and wittiness, and is a read I’d definitely recommend to lovers of Austen and/or ‘Pride and Prejudice.’ Alexa Adams’ ‘First Impressions’ is a wonderful debut novel; a charming and well-written retelling of a classic many of us can’t get enough of, and I personally am already excited about reading the two other sequels the author has written!
I'm delighted to welcome author Alexa Adams to the blog today to tell us more about her novel 'First Impressions: a Tale of Less Pride and Prejudice'!
1) Can you tell us something about your novel, ‘First Impressions: a Tale of Less Pride and Prejudice’?
First Impressions, the working title for which was simply A Tale of Less Pride & Prejudice, began more as a reaction to other Pride & Prejudice sequels and spin-offs than a novel in its own right. I had been devouring all the Austenesque I could get my hands on, but there were certain things that I always wanted to see happen in the story which I had yet to read, while other notions I felt I’d seen a great deal too much. This book was my way of demanding a share of the conversation.
2) Where did you find the inspiration for ‘First Impressions: a Tale of Less Pride and Prejudice’? Are you a fan of Jane Austen and her work?
I am a massive and unabashed Janeite. I’ve loved Austen since I discovered her when eleven years old, and my relationship to her work has continued to grow and evolve since that time. When I wrote First Impressions, I was struggling to find my path in life. Reliable as always, Jane was there to show me the way. I’m eternally grateful.
3) There’s a great mix of characters in the novel. Which character did you most enjoy writing about and why?
My favorite character in the novel is Lady Catherine. I can’t seem to get enough of her. I love playing with her imperiousness, and in this book I tried to endow her with rather better motives and instincts than Austen gave to her. This softening allowed me to bring her into the folds of the family, so to speak, and I can’t say how often I’ve relied on her to move my plots along. I think she’d be pleased to know herself so useful.
4) What is your personal favourite Jane Austen novel and why?
Persuasion. I think Anne Elliot perhaps the most admirable heroine in literature. She has been an excellent role model, though no mere human could really achieve her excellence. My one quibble with the story is that Captain Wentworth can’t even begin to deserve her.
5) ‘First Impressions: a Tale of Less Pride and Prejudice’ is the first part of a series. Can you tell us a bit more about this series?
The second book is entitled Second Glances: A Tale of Less Pride & Prejudice Continues, and it picks up the story a year after the Darcys get married. The novel provides romances for both Georgiana and Lydia, who never marries Mr. Wickham in my version of events, but Kitty is the primary heroine. Holidays at Pemberley, or Third Encounters: A Tale of Less Pride & Prejudice Concludes is the final book, and it goes back in time to tell the story of Charlotte Lucas, who like Lydia has been spared the horrors of her original spouse. By beginning the story at the end of First Impressions and continuing it on past Second Glances, I was able to wrap up the fates of all the characters in a way quite satisfying to myself. I can’t speak for others.
6) Can you perhaps tell us something about your future plans as an author? Are you already working on a next novel?
I am currently working on a very different novel called The Madness of Mr. Darcy. It is far darker and a great deal more complex than anything I’ve previously written. It’s premised on Mr. Darcy’s inability to find Lydia after she runs away with Wickham, removing the entire happy ending Austen supplied. Twenty painful years go by before a shattered Mr. Darcy is pushed by his cousins to seek help from one Dr. Wilson, a move which results in his reunion with Elizabeth in the unlikely setting of a Victorian mad house. She is not the only familiar face he meets there, either. Though the primary focus is the Pride & Prejudice story, this novel is my first real attempt at integrating multiple Austen novels into one.
7) Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?
Just be persistent. Write as much as you can, good or bad, and don’t let it hinder you when you get negative feedback. Feedback of any sort is valuable, as long as it’s thoughtful. Embrace it, learn from it, and keep plugging along. Who knows if you’re the next great literary voice or not if you don’t keep trying?
8) And last but not least, if you had to describe ‘First Impressions: a Tale of Less Pride and Prejudice’ in just three words, which words would you pick?