Oh dear. Perhaps it's my own failing and there's something I fail to understand about the real motivations for writing, but I find it hard to believe that when Ann Herendeen set out to write this homoerotic slash version of Pride and Prejudice that this published result really conveys the exact sentiments to the reader that she intended. I can understand the creative ambition that would drive a writer to put some kind of twist on a Jane Austen novel... they're classic and amazing and many readers love to explore new twists or sequels. And I can even understand why folks might write slash fiction for their favorite characters. But then there's Pride/Prejudice, which seems as though it's using the classic novel to advocate for a bisexual/open relationship telling, but still remains oddly biased and limiting. Really, all Herendeen wanted to create with this telling was bisexual porn that seems to advocate male love over female love? The basic story follows the plot of the standard Pride and Prejudice but behind-the-scenes motivations are all a bit different for our three main couples. Darcy isn't as convinced of the Bennets unsuitability for his friend Bingley so much as he wants to keep Bingley to himself, as his young and pliable gay lover. Wickham used to be Darcy's lover back in the day, and it broke Darcy's heart when Wickham ended it and said he only did it so he could get money out of Darcy... and then tried to seduce Darcy's sister, too. Lydia's a slut-- oh wait, that's the same, never mind. Lizzy is repulsed that Charlotte would consider marrying Mr. Collins but is partially jealous that Charlotte could give up Lizzy, her gay-lover-but-not-quite-because-apparently-women-don't-have-the-same-attachments-that-men-do-when-it-comes-to-same-sex-couples? There's something a bit confusing in this logic and I'm not quite sure what to do with it, as clearly Herendeen has no problems when it comes to gay couples... but she seems to imply that female couples just don't last? Apparently love between two male friends is this Greek ideal and is the highest level of love that can be attained... but women are just kind of playing around? Um, what?

Then there's the issue of committed relationships versus open ones... and if Herendeen was trying to make a bid for more open relationships when it comes to sex, then I'm not sure she achieved her goal. Things seem to wind up where Bingley and Darcy get to have their cake and eat it, too, but the ladies are totally satisfied with their husbands. Even while I'm glad we don't delve into incestuous sisters, it still seems to be a bit unfair. Lizzy finds out pretty early what's going on between Bingley and Darcy (and evidently so does Jane, as Bingley confesses it to her during their courtship). Bingley is not as committed to such a homosexual lifestyle as Darcy and lashes out at Darcy a few times while Darcy tries to ignore Bingley's insistence and keep him under his... well, let's just say thumb. Darcy is presented as a very selfish woman-hater who coerces Bingley into keeping up their sexual activity long after Bingley has expressed a wish to end things. Bingley's love for Jane seems a bit more likely as opposed to Darcy's love for Elizabeth, which hinges on her ability to converse with him as an equal (and is semi-sparked when he originally thinks that her body resembles that of a boy). Darcy seems to learn more about honesty and openness and forgiveness and not-hating-women as a result of his struggle over loving Elizabeth, but I'm not quite sure that I buy it. Ultimately, the gentlemen marry their lady-loves, but there's a bit of a rift between the two couples before the wedding when Jane learns that Darcy was responsible for keeping Bingley and Jane apart when she was in London. The anger is uncharacteristic of Jane, but then, Herendeen doesn't quite present the same Lizzy and Jane that we all know. Ultimately, after a month of marriage-sanctioned sex, the couples reunite... and with their wives' blessing, Darcy and Bingley get to have their ideal male love while still having perfect marriages. Lizzy and Jane, however, remain completely devoted to their husbands... and while Jane blossoms into rational and sweet womanhood, Lizzy's conversation makes her appear somewhat bitter and whiny once she starts having children. The only pro-lesbian pairing is Anne de Bourgh and Charlotte Collins, but Anne isn't interested in the sexual side of things and even agrees to a very gay husband, as she just wants to be left in peace.

I read this book in the space of time that it took the Super Bowl to occur, as I had a quiet apartment to myself and a friend had presented me with an advanced reading copy of this novel. At least it was a fast read? And free? Seriously, I don't recommend spending money or much time on this particular book, because even if the idea of gay sex in P&P is new, it's not all that interesting... or if it is interesting, it's interesting for the hypocrisy and ridiculousness. In the beginning, things seemed to move along quite quickly -- thankfully, Herendeen didn't see the need to re-hash every scene from the original Austen with her new motivations threaded through (à la Pride and Prejudice and Zombies). Instead, she tends to occupy the space between the existing scenes -- so I thought we might get through the original story rather quickly and then Herendeen could stake out her own territory in the post-wedding storyline. Not so. We get bogged down when Darcy and Caroline accompany Bingley to London. Bingley mopes around, forming a platonic friendship with Georgiana, and Darcy takes up with a men's club that specializes in his particular sexual preferences. The amount of time spent on this club seemed ridiculously unnecessary and bizarre until I noticed that Hendereen has written another novel that features that club that she felt the need to link into the P&P plotline. Clearly, this was all set up for the writer's delight and the reader just has to trudge through. There was only one moment in the book where I laughed, and that was when the fellows at the homosexual club mentioned a fellow named Henry Tilney -- the male lead in Northanger Abbey who is so foppish that it's likely he was gay, despite marrying Catherine Morland. If someone wanted to explore the homosexual past of a character, Henry Tilney would be the prime candidate.

If you expect any kind of interesting statements about alternative lifestyles or homosexual relationships, then you've come to the wrong place. But I guess I was wrong to expect that in the first place. This is the only book of slash fiction that I've ever read and evidently it just isn't my thing -- I can't quite wrap my head around the fact that apparently most slash fiction is written by heterosexual women (according to that final say on all research, Wikipedia). But whatever floats your boat, I suppose. As far as the genre goes, I have no idea if this is the norm or any good, but if you're looking for a ridiculous pornographic re-telling of Pride and Prejudice that requires little-to-no thought on your part and focuses on the gay sex more than straight sex, then you've found exactly what you're looking for. I might also recommend Linda Berdoll's Mr. Darcy Takes a Wife (originally published as The Bar Sinister), which has a more substantial story, but also features Mr. Darcy and his new bride having lots of sex. But if you're looking for a clever and sexy re-telling of Pride and Prejudice... well... keep looking.

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