(update: since this was originally written, this book has been reprinted.)
It's a real pity that Pemberly Shades is out of print! To me it's the best Jane Austen continuation/imitation that I have read so far. And, being a Jane Austen fanatic, I've read a lot of them! This one has the humor, character depth and interesting plot, not to mention slow, rambling narration style, of Miss Austen herself.
Ms. Bonavia-Hunt set the Austen style on the first page:
"Who could have foretold that Dr. Robinson, who had done nothing of note in all his lifetime should, by the common and natural act of dying, set in motion a train of events so strange, so startling, so far removed from probability, as to emulate the riotous fancies of a disordered mind?"
It takes place, as you might have guessed, at Pemberly three or four years after Darcy and Elizabeth wed. Lady Catherine makes an appearance, as does Mr. Bennet, and the conversations of both could have been lifted from Pride and Prejudice. Mr. Collins joins us by letter, sounding just as pompous and ridiculous as ever. Elizabeth and Darcy keep that same sparring attraction that they developed in Pride and Prejudice.
Only Kitty has changed, and at first I found it a striking, drastic change. But after thinking about it, several years away from the terrible influence of Lydia (who is never even alluded to!) could easily make a major difference in Kitty's life.
The new characters in Pemberly Shades have all the flavor of Austen originals. The Misses Robinson remind me of all of Austen's gossipy old maids, Mr. Acworth is a cross between Wickham and Willoughby and Major Wakeford is an unluckier Colonel Brandon.
If you love Austen and the Austen style, then I highly recommend this novel! Run down to your local library or used bookstores and see if you can come up with a copy of it. You'll thank me later.
(Originally read/reviewed 2003.)