Before I get into this post too far, I have to say that it will not be an unbiased review of the book, A Proper Darcy Christmas, by Pamela Aidan. Pamela and I are friends who go back mumble.mumble years, and I have had the good fortune to be with Pamela most of the way in writing this novella.
Our good friend, Laura Hile walked us through creating Amazon ads and helped me when the template I was using went haywire and made pagination a true nightmare in my release, Wentworth’s Christmas Wish. (On Amazon and Kindle Unlimited.) Yes, I am namedropping. When you have good friends as talented as mine, you do all you can to strengthen the association with blog posts.
As for the novella, it is wonderful and fun. I can tell that Pamela had a good time writing many of the parts. Now I also know that she worked like a coal miner to create a wonderful story. There were mornings for all of us where echoes of “can I do this?” flew through the chat window.
I have a quick passage that shows how a talented author writes to further the story and to show how they love the characters.
Brougham was not in Reynolds’s office, nor for that matter was Reynolds. Startling a servant unused to encountering his master below stairs, he determined from him that Reynolds was in the wine cellar. “To the wine cellar,” he muttered to himself, a bit alarmed that his allies had become so elusive. But then, again, Dy … And the wine cellar was, actually, a good location. Only Reynolds possessed the key and that, on his person. No one would surprise them there.
A soft rap of his knuckles on the wine cellar door was answered by the appearance of Reynolds’s eye and followed by a finger to the butler’s lips. He opened the door enough for Darcy to slip inside where he could see a tidy servant’s mattress spread on the floor with Dy lying upon it, covered with quilts and, seemingly, dead to the world.
Darcy looked down upon his sleeping friend, wondering if he had ever before seen him in repose. It was not likely. Dy was always so vibrant, so up to everything, that the lines across his brow and around his mouth seemed to belong to some other creature. He looked tired, very, very tired. And why not? He’d ridden all night in beastly weather to come to his aid … or, rather, to Georgiana’s aid, truth be told. And his hair! He had not noticed before, maybe because of a cap, but the bushy hair on the top of his friend’s head and that hung shaggily over his brow had turned grey: stark, raving grey! When had that happened?
Why had it happened? Darcy shook his head and glancing at Reynolds, indicated that they leave the room. Let him get some sleep … some peace.
Reynolds closed the door behind them, but did not lock it, trusting in the regard of the staff concerning the relationship of the head butler with the wine to keep them from the door. “He was exhausted, sir. Almost dropped at my feet.”
“You did well, Reynolds. Just the place for him. Anything he wants, you understand?” They reached the butler’s office and once inside, Darcy reached for a pen and paper, quickly scribbling a note. “Give him this and keep me informed if you can, but do not be concerned should he disappear. Lord Brougham knows what he is about.”
“Yes, sir.” A wary grimace flashed across Reynolds’s face. “And well I know.”
Aidan, Pamela. A Proper Darcy Christmas: A Delightful Pride and Prejudice Christmas Romance (pp. 103-105). Kindle Edition.
I always enjoy fly-on-the-wall moments in fiction. The passages that show characters at rest, contemplation, worry, and quiet contentment give me clues about the character and how the writer feels about them.
The character of Dy Brougham is Pamela’s creation and has been used in past novels to help Darcy when he’s in been in an acute pickle of two. Or three. He’s dynamic and always thinking. But here, he’s asleep and yet we see so much. When you read the book, you learn he’s come again at the behest of Darcy and made his way through a blizzard. That’s a true friend. Here he is, asleep on the floor of the wine cellars of Pemberley. And Darcy notices his hair.
This observation is important later, but it is also written in such a way as to be very realistic. I have had moments when I suddenly notice something has changed about someone I care about. Particularly children, but adult friends as well. You notice and then wonder how much of their life do you really know? It’s a simple experience like this that always makes me glad when I find it in a book. There is a lot of talk about identifying with characters. This is what I identify with. Simple, common touches that make a story ring true. And make the characters human.
If you have been around Jane Austen Fan Fiction for a while, Pamela Aidan is a well-known quantity. You know you will get a good story with A Proper Darcy Christmas. If you are looking for a good romantic Regency Christmas story, forget that Austen is involved and read the book. No deep studies in Austen are necessary. This is a standalone that will do just that. If you just want to spend a little time out of the twenty-first century and the bustle of the season, read the book and enjoy a historic Christmas in Derbyshire, England.
The above is a photograph of the primary copies of Persuasion I own. I don’t tend to grab every copy I see, I am selective. And cheap. The most expensive copy I have is the “Sentimental Favorite” on the right, The Everyman’s Library edition. The first editions of Everyman were published in 1906 with Northanger Abby and Persuasion being the last of the series at #25. I bought an older copy at Powell’s Books in Portland, Oregon, in approximately 2000. Pamela Aidan came out to western Oregon to shlepp around with me and Laura Hile. I was stupid and gave it away in a group marketing campaign. I regretted it the minute I put it in the mail. So, I decided that this edition would be my gift to myself for completing a novella in five months. (You can buy Wentworth’s Christmas Wish on Amazon HERE. It is also available on Kindle Unlimited.)
The book to the left is a cheap book club edition published in a set in 1998. It is truly the workhorse. I had broken apart a cheap Barnes and Noble edition I go in ’97 when I started writing. The set was cheap and I’ve been using this Penguin edition for most of my writing “career.” You can’t see them clearly but it is full of Post-its and book marks for various passages. It’s torn here and there and the plastic coating is starting to come up but she will do for a while longer.
I also use a digital version from the Gutenberg Project. As I write on a laptop, it’s simpler when I need the word search function. Which is more and more often. (The ageing brain is not a pretty sight, y’all.)
Last, is my favorite copy. My son’s partner went to London for her job earlier this year, (2022) and she brought me this edition. It is a Vintage Classic and I love the faux muslin print on the cover. I also love that it is not a standard paperback size. Odd-sized books on my shelves make me happy. I only have one Post-it, marking The Letter, destroying the classy look of it.
All my copies of Austen are important to me. But so are my copies of Patrick O’Brien’s Jack Aubrey series. I don’t have a lot of books. This worked out well for us when we moved across the country this summer. There was stress enough without having to decide who would make the trip and who would be left behind.