Ah, Mr. Darcy: he’s handsome, he’s haughty, he has 10,000 a year, but just when you think you know someone…
The year is 1802; Europe is experiencing a brief lull of calm between the signing of the Treaty of Amiens and the onslaught of the Napoleonic Wars, and in Hertfordshire, the entire town is abuzz with excitement at the wedding between Elizabeth Bennet and the proud, handsome, and abundantly rich Mr. Darcy—one of the most illustrious persons in the land. As Lizzie and Darcy embark on their wedding tour, Lizzie thinks happily of the vow she and Darcy had made upon their engagement to be the happiest couple in all of England, but their travels take an unexpected turn when Darcy announces that rather than taking his bride to the Lake District as arranged, he has decided to take advantage of the temporary calm on the Continent to show her Paris.
At first delighted, Elizabeth, who has never been out of England, finds much pleasure in visiting the sights of Europe with her husband, until Darcy’s mysterious disappearances and sudden alternations between bursts of passion and bouts of brooding aloofness begin to trouble her. By day, they wander the streets of Paris as blissfully happy newlyweds; by night, they are strangers, for Darcy, despite his apparent longing, has failed to consummate the marriage. As he whisks Lizzie on a whirlwind tour from the glittering lights and salons of Paris, to the picturesque mountaintops of the Alps, to the liquid streets of Venice, introducing her to an alluring circle of friends and acquaintances, Lizzie begins to wonder: just who is this man she married? A man who claims to love her, but fears to touch her; a man who, at only 28, has friends who regale Lizzie with stories of Venice at the height of her glory in the sixteenth century with the detail of first-hand accounts; a man in whose eyes Lizzie glimpses the shadow of a dark and dangerous secret that threatens to engulf her life.
In the style of Austen’s satirical treatment of the Gothic novel, Grange both parodies and pays tribute to the Romantic and Gothic literary traditions; her vivid, breathtaking descriptions of the Alps resonate with echoes of Shelley’s “Mont Blanc,” and the isolation, superstitious murmurings, and hidden passages of Darcy’s enigmatic uncle’s castle will be frighteningly familiar to readers of Ann Radcliffe’s novels. In true Austen style, the novel’s title reminds us that the fun of reading any Austen novel is not the discovery of what will happen next, but how Grange will take us there. As readers, we know more than Lizzie; our only suspense lies in wondering just when, and how, she will discover her husband’s secret.
Like any derivative work, Mr. Darcy, Vampyre demands that you read it with a healthy sense of humor; a story in which Darcy is a 150 year-old vampire instead of a 28 year-old wealthy bachelor in want of a wife naturally requires a few timeline adjustments. Grange softens the suspense with a fair bit of fluff, and she handles Mr. Darcy with loving authenticity; he is just as intriguing, just as handsome, and at times, just as irritatingly proud, as Austen intended him. With the perfect blend of romance and intrigue, Mr. Darcy, Vampyre is sure to deliver enough thrills and chills to satisfy the Catherine Morland in all of us.