I had been planning a blog post about Mr. Darcy, Vampyre since I bought it. I mean, seriously. The title lays it all out there for you: Mr. Darcy is a vampyre. (Not even a boring old vampire, mind you: A vampYre.) How is this not fodder for this blog?
And then I read Mr. Darcy, Vampyre. This book, which opens on the wedding day of beloved Pride and Prejudice characters Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy, rotates around two main questions: when will Elizabeth figure out that her beloved Darcy is a vampyre? And will they ever have sex? Many, many successful books operate on at least one of those two questions, whether the heroine will figure out the hero’s dark secret, and/or when said hero and heroine will hit the sheets. But there is no tension. Elizabeth and Darcy in this book are Elizabeth and Darcy in name only. Darcy is chatty and popular, going on about Elizabeth’s beauty until he catches a whiff of her blood, and suddenly he’s Edward Cullen. Elizabeth is insecure, willing to talk to pretty much anyone about the fact that she and Darcy haven’t yet consummated their marriage, and decides it’s a good idea to go skinny dipping with her husband while visiting strangers. Neither of them speak as though they are actually living in the Regency era, and Elizabeth’s letters to Jane certainly hold none of the charm or language of a lady of her time. There is nothing to draw you to these sad shadows of characters who share names with some of the most interesting characters in English literature, and you certainly don’t care if they ever get to it.
Secondly, there is no mystery. You, the reader, know that Darcy is a vampyre before you even open the book, and the fact that Elizabeth doesn’t figure it out until the end doesn’t make you fear for her, it makes you wonder how dumb she is. And of all of the character traits that make Austen’s original Elizabeth Bennet who she is, stupidity is not one of them. The not-so-subtle hints the author drops to make you wonder if everyone in the book besides Elizabeth is undead hit you over the head with Vampyre 101 (garlic wreaths, silver, crucifixes, etc.) You can only look in so many mirrors and not see a reflection before the willing suspension of disbelief becomes a suspension of patience.
The book mostly follows Elizabeth and Darcy as they take their wedding tour throughout Europe, making stops fit for any fanfic princess. Darcy changes plans on Elizabeth willy-nilly, and they spend their honeymoon visiting with Darcy’s many relatives and connections and stopping in at his endless hunting lodges and palaces and estates. His wealth and connections are endless, as are the references to the original Austen the author throws in to make sure you know she read the book. I would hazard that there are more references to Mrs. Bennet’s nerves and Mary’s “moralising” in this book than Jane Austen penned in all the drafts of Pride and Prejudice.
The book goes on and on, meandering through the European continent, hinting at vampyres but never actually introducing them until the very end. There is nothing in this book to fear, nothing to make chills run down your spine. It plays fast and loose with vampire mythology, taking what it wants, ignoring what it doesn’t like, inventing what it needs. And finally, the when the inevitable Love-Conquers-All ending comes around and neatly ties up the action in the course of about three pages, it disappoints, because anything else would be more satisfying than the bad Indiana Jones knockoff that results.
I finished this book on Friday, and the more I thought about it, the madder I got. Not only did this book completely squander the promise two of English literature’s most famous and beloved characters, not only did this book seem like a cheap exploitation of a classic to appeal to women (anything that involves Mr. Darcy and anything that involves vampires is a sure bet right now), but this book wasted my time. I wasn’t expecting it to be good, but I was expecting it to be entertaining.
Like most people, I don’t have a lot of free time to read. What little time I have to read, I carve out of time when I should be doing something else: mundane things like cleaning the house or reorganizing the basement or taming the jungle that is our backyard; intellectual things, like writing more or doing some research for the article I want to write but never seem to get anywhere on; or necessary things, like sleeping. Every time I sit down with a book I am painfully aware of how many things I am not doing while I have that book open in my lap. So when I take the time to read, I want it to be worth it.
I’m not saying that everything I read has to be high literature. I just read Heartburn by Nora Ephron, and while it certainly wasn’t a Pulitzer Prize-winner, I enjoyed it. I liked it. I laughed with the heroine. I recommended it to friends. I felt like I was justified in taking the time to read it. And that is how I need to judge my reading anymore: by how much enjoyment I get out of it. I don’t have time for books that are a struggle, and I certainly don’t have time for books that are going to make me mad.
I said not too long ago that motherhood and my own limited time are making me rethink how I write. Mr. Darcy, Vampyre, was the final kick in the pants to make me really and truly rethink how I read.