At the time of this writing, only available at Amazon.

The Benefits of Extensive Reading**

So-so Story Plagued by Egregious Errors

Titles of Jane Austen fan fiction often arise from famous quotes or phrases from the original book. I’ve seen a variety of them, but I don’t think I’ve seen one that had to do with this particularly infamous quote of Mr. Darcy’s when he said that a woman should improve her mind through extensive reading.

Reading that sets off the romance in this book. Unlike in canon, where Elizabeth and Darcy spend a half hour reading but not conversing while in the Netherfield library, in this version the couple accidentally gets locked into it after midnight after an inebriated Mr. Hurst broke the doorknob. They aren’t alone for long; Bingley and Mr. Darcy’s valet find them.

Of course, Mr. Darcy tells Elizabeth that if anything gets around about this incident he will marry her to save her reputation. He has the shock of his life when she tells them that not only would she not marry him even in such a circumstance, but she doesn’t like him at all.

Bingley is an interesting character in this particular variation. In regard to Jane, he is a stronger man than he is in canon and in most JAFF versions. But he keeps slipping up and nearly giving away that Darcy and Elizabeth were locked in a room together.

Will Bingley be able to keep his mouth shut? Will Darcy be able to make Elizabeth fall in love with him?

There are some things I found annoying in this book, and I’ll mention the smallest ones first. The initial displeasure for me was when Mr. Collins spread his incorrect facts about Mr. Darcy being engaged to Ann; it is just one of those flat devices that we often see in P&P JAFF. At least in this version, he did so deliberately, not accidentally, as he already had designs Elizabeth and was trying to blacken Darcy’s reputation for her. This did cause Elizabeth some distress, of course. The other disappointment was the nearly superfluous Wickham who was brought in but very late in the story, somewhere around 60%. Funnily enough, I had recently written a guide for my editing blog about looking at your writing from a developmental level, and I actually stated in that post make sure your villain doesn’t come in two-thirds of the way through your novel! (If you surf to the guide, it is in the Analyze Your Reverse Outline section.) At least, Wickham ends up to be a minor nuisance, which was refreshing, as again Wickham can be overdone in these variations.

The most annoying and frustrating part of the book was the utter and complete lack of copyediting and proofreading. I’ve seen a lot of badly edited books, but this was one of the worst. A variety of errors–and a lot of them–including some I’ve never seen before. Sometimes words were repeated right next to each other. Sometimes ending punctuation was left off. Quotation marks were either placed too often in the same line of dialogue or not place at the start of dialogue. There were spacing issues both around periods (for instance, no space between the period after Mr. and the Bingley following it in one spot) as well as around en-dashes that set off certain parts of text. I believe the author is using the British way of that kind of punctuation, where a space should exist on either side of it, but quite often one of these spaces was missing, making the construction look lopsided. This is a well-known and well-loved author. I find it hard to believe that she can’t afford a good copyeditor or at least a proofreader.

In all I found this book to be disappointing. The story itself didn’t offer enough variation from what we see in JAFF, and the errors alone make it almost unreadable in parts. I was pulled out of the story so often that sometimes I felt like I kept reading just to keep watching the trainwreck.