Pemberley Ranch is a wonderful new western starring my favorite literary couple, Mr. Darcy (known as Will in this book) and Elizabeth Bennet (referred to as Beth).
The novel starts with William Darcy and Charles Bingley in the thick of action during the American Civil War. After an altercation with crooked Yankee officer George Whitehead, Darcy and Bingley are shipped off to a prison camp for the rest of the war. Afterwards, Darcy goes back to his ranch, Pemberley, near the small town of Rosings, Texas. Bingley moves to town as the town doctor, but unfortunately, George Whitehead shows up after receiving a government appointment. Darcy tries to avoid town and Whitehead in order to forget the past, but he finds it hard to avoid when he meets the lovely Beth Bennet.
Beth Bennet grew up with her family on a farm in Ohio. After her elder brother Samuel’s death in the war, Beth finds herself unable to forgive Southerners. In order to better their situation in life, Mr. Bennet moves his family to a new farm in Rosings, Texas. Beth has prejudice against the townspeople as they were on the side of the South during the Civil War. Although she hates the ex-confederate officer Will Darcy and all he stands for, she can’t help but be attracted to him.
Will’s cousin Cate Burroughs owns the other half of the land around Rosings that Darcy does not own. Together with George Whitehead and Billy Collins, Cate embarks on a scheme to make money in a nefarious way. Will Darcy and Beth Bennet have to work together to stop them and find romance along the way.
I really enjoyed this novel. I loved the Civil War action at the beginning of the novel, but I thought the novel got a bit slow when it moved to Rosings Texas five years after the war. Luckily the action picked up after that point and I had a hard time putting it down. Pemberly Ranch had a great historical fiction background, and I loved the footnotes that explained certain historical items in more detail.
Caldwell did a fantastic job creating wonderfully unique characters. The characters use similar names as our beloved characters in Pride and Prejudice, but Caldwell made them his own by changing each slightly in unique ways. For instance, Charlotte Lucas is the plain outspoken daughter of the Sheriff who has a secret romance with Darcy’s foreman, Richard “Fitz” Fitzwilliam. I loved this change in Charlotte and I also loved how Mrs. Bennet is a good farmer’s wife that talks too much. She and Mr. Bennet have a much deeper love than what is seen in Pride and Prejudice. And of course, Beth and Will are fantastic lead characters. I was a bit annoyed with Beth’s automatic hatred of Will at the beginning, but soon the two characters were sharing a passionate (though chaste) romance that was riveting to watch unfold on the page.
It was also delightful how characters from other Austen novels would make “guest” appearances. Henry Tilney, Edmund Bertram, Mr. Knightly, etc. all make appearances. Each arrival of an old favorite made me smile.
I thought the novel did an excellent job of using the theme of pride and prejudice. There is much exploration of pride and prejudice between the north and south and that war is actually a grey zone with wrongs and rights on both sides. There was also prejudice against religion (a nice twist was that the Darcys were Catholic) and race (the Darcys have Native American and Mexican heritage and an ex-slave family moves to town). It was intriguing.
I was initially drawn to this novel as it says on the cover that it is a mix of Gone with the Wind and Pride and Prejudice. I love both novels so I was excited by that. As I read the novel though, I thought this description is actually a disservice to the novel. Pemberley Ranch is an excellent western and is the perfect blend of Pride and Prejudice with the old west. Caldwell makes the characters his own and has his own unique plot. I loved it.
Jack Caldwell will have a guest post on my blog on Thursday December 16th. Please stop back by and see what he has to say about this novel. I can’t wait!
Pemberley Ranch is my thirteenth item in the Everything Austen Challenge II.
Book Source: Advance Review Copy from Sourcebooks. Thank-you!