Like many, many other women (and a few discriminating men) I love the novel Pride and Prejudice. It’s a classic for a reason. Lots of reasons, in fact. So I’ve enjoyed the recent influx of P&P spinoffs, sequels, and retellings. Or at least I’ve enjoyed some of them. A few go so overboard with the “regency” sounding dialogue that they end up seriously cheesy, while others spend so much time steaming up the romance that I wonder if I’ve picked up a Harlequin novel by mistake.
There are hundreds of P&P spinoffs – just check Amazon if you don’t believe me – and it can be pretty annoying to try to sort through them to find the winners. Luckily, I’ve done it for you! Here are eight Pride and Prejudice inspired novels to put on your to-read list.
(Hey, if you’re a fan of P&P you’re probably also a fan of Downton Abbey – check out this post which lists 60 more great period dramas you’ll probably enjoy!)
Links used are Amazon affiliate links. If you love Jane Austen inspired books, you might want to check out Kindle Unlimited – there’s lots and lots of Jane Austen fan fiction available.
The Houseguest by Elizabeth Adams: In this P&P retelling, Georgiana comes to visit Darcy when he’s at Netherfield with Bingley, meeting and making friends with Lizzy from the get-go. Then, while Darcy is away at Pemberly, Geogiana invites Lizzy to stay with her in London, where she remains as a houseguest once Darcy returns. This book is lots of fun as Darcy struggles with his feelings seeing Lizzy in his own home. It’s especially fun seeing Georgiana and Fitzwilliam helping Darcy in his efforts to win Lizzy’s affections, and Lizzy’s reaction as she begins to understand his true character.
Unequal Affections by Lara S. Ormiston: This may be my favorite P&P retelling. What if, when Darcy first proposes to her, Lizzy doesn’t turn him down, realizing what good a marriage to him could do for her entire family (such as reuniting Jane and Bingley and saving the rest of the family from financial ruin). What if she instead asks for time to consider his proposal, giving Darcy time to woo her. What I like most about this book is that we get to see hundreds of pages of interactions between Lizzie and Darcy, which ends up being (dare I say) much more satisfying than the quick resolution in the original novel. We get to see Darcy, still prideful, having a hard time dealing with those Bennet connections he’s so worried about. We get to see him nervous when he realizes he loves Lizzy more than she loves him. And we get to see him decide to change in order to win her. It’s a great read, and very romantic without being racy.
Only Mr. Darcy Will Do by Kara Louise: In this retelling of P&P, Mr. Bennett dies shortly after Darcy and Bingley leave Netherfield, meaning Darcy never gets a chance to propose to Lizzy or explain his actions. She goes to work as a governess, never expecting to see Darcy again, until the family she works for happens into his social circle in London. What ensues is a very sweet story of Lizzie and Darcy getting to know each other under different circumstances and falling in love. It’s not terribly realistic, though, as Darcy seems to have made some sudden personality changes – he’s super nice, very self aware, and not nearly as concerned with Lizzy’s “inferior connections” as he was a year ago – but it’s romantic and enjoyable nonetheless.
Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman trilogy by Pamela Aidan: This trilogy retells the story of Pride and Prejudice from Darcy’s perspective. If you’re worried it will be boring (you do know how it ends, after all), don’t be. The switch to Darcy’s perspective as well as plenty of details not in the original book make this a really fun way to enjoy the story all over again. In fact, fans of the movie versions of Pride and Prejudic who have a hard time “getting into” the book may find this retelling a little more accessible. I found book 2 (which covers the time Darcy and Lizzy are separated) a little less compelling than books 1 and 3, but the entire trilogy is definitely worth a read.
Mr. Darcy’s Daughters by Elizabeth Aston: In this P&P sequel, Darcy and Elizabeth are out of the country on a diplomatic mission while their 5 daughters (ages 15-22) stay with Fitzwilliam and his young wife, Fanny, in London. This is a fairly light comedy of errors, with plot lines that shadow Pride & Prejudice without being a complete copy. Look forward to a happy, satisfying ending, along with many more books about Darcy’s daughters and other family members in the next generation.
Death Comes to Pemberley by P.D. James: This P&P sequel is written by the famous mystery author P.D. James, and the writing is extremely good – I think it’s closer to the witty voice of Jane Austen than any other P&P spinoffs I’ve read. The story picks up 6 years after Lizzie and Darcy are married, and centers around a murder which takes place on the grounds of Pemberly. As the mystery is solved, we see Lizzie, Darcy and many other characters from the original book, but my only complaint is I’d have loved to see a bit more of Lizzie and Darcy together – events in the book conspire to keep them apart. NOTE: The screen adaptation is coming to Masterpiece Theatre this fall!
Longbourn by Jo Baker: It’s easy to read Jane Austen and think “I wish I had lived back then.” This book, which tells the story of the Bennet’s housemaid, Sarah, makes us realize just how much we’ve romanticized the time period. P&P characters are a side note here – Sarah decides Lizzy would be more careful with her petticoats if she was the one who had to wash them – but the story is still satisfying and a great read. Note: content-wise this is a change from Austen – there are some brief references to sex and a section that describes one character’s experience in the recent wars, with some brief but disturbing “spoils of war” incidents. This feels like a much truer portrayal of what life was like for the bulk of people in England during this time period, but still with the happy ending we crave.
The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet by Bernie Su and Kate Rorick: Imagine Lizzie Bennet is a present day grad student studying new communications (i.e. the internet). Suppose for her thesis she decides to make a series of Youtube videos documenting the events of her life, including her older sister’s on again off again relationship with Bing Lee and her own ambivalent feelings toward successful web billionaire Will Darcy. This extremely clever premise is the basis for this book, which acts as a companion to the web series you can actually find on Youtube, although the book is plenty fun on it’s own (I read it without having watched the videos). It’s a great update, staying true to the original storyline but transforming it (and the supporting characters) enough to feel original. Plus I just love that Bing Lee stalks Jane’s pinterest account to figure out what kind of flowers she likes best.
Any other favorite Jane Austen/Pride&Prejudice inspired novels? Let me know about them in the comments!