The Three Colonels, Jack Caldwell
This novel from Jack Caldwell is a continuation of both Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility and is set only a few years after the events of the original novels. As the title suggests, the story focuses on the lives of three men: Colonel Fitzwilliam (from P&P), Colonel Brandon (from S&S), and Colonel John Buford (who is a creation of the author but marries a lady all Austen fans will know).
MIGHT CONTAIN SPOILERS!!!
The beginning of the novel focuses on how, now with Napoleon exiled to Elba, these three gentlemen are home in England and concerned with getting their lives in order. Col. Brandon is enjoying his time at home with Marianne and their new daughter, Joy. Col. Fitzwilliam has been tasked with finding out why his aunt's estate is failing and ends up falling in love with his cousin, and Col. Buford is out to reform his somewhat scandalous image and find a wife - which he does in Miss, Caroline Bingley. When Napoleon escapes from Elba all three must head back to war and leave the women they love. Besides focusing on the gentlemen, there are several chapters that are from the ladies' points of view, giving readers a good idea of what life could have been like back at home during this conflict and showing how women had to adjust. All of these characters are connected in some way by Mr. and Mrs. Darcy (who do appear in the novel and do play a roll in the action but mainly from the background).
I have to admit that it took me a few chapters to get into the novel but once I did I really enjoyed it. At first I was a bit skeptical of how all the characters somehow knew each other (through the Darcys) but the author makes it work. I was surprised that, overall, the storyline I enjoyed the most was Col. Buford's and Caroline's! After reading Pride and Prejudice I thoroughly despised Caroline Bingley and was set to continue in my dislike. However, Caroline has realized how horrid her behavior has been and is determined to make amends and change her ways. Caldwell manages to turn her into a sympathetic character who wants to make amends for her past behavior (though I really liked her interactions with former "friends" as she still has some of that *itch still in her!). The transformation of Caroline and her love story with Col. Buford was the most interesting part of the entire novel. Col. Fitzwilliam's relationship with his cousin Anne de Bourgh was entertaining as well and a bit humorous because of his forced dealings with his aunt Catherine. Their storyline really gives the reader more background into why Lady Catherine was so determined for Anne to marry Darcy and was I was quite fascinated with how the author wove that story. Here Caldwell also manages to transform a familiar character, letting Anne mature from a meek and sickly girl to a young lady who knows her own mind and is determined in her course of action (Caldwell also solves why Anne was always so sickly and it is rather funny). Avid Austen readers will also be amused to see how he manages to connect Lady Catherine to a few characters from Northanger Abbey and Persuasion! To me the least interesting storyline was Col. Brandon and Marianne's. There wasn't that much happening besides Marianne's difficulties adjusting to being lady of the house. Willoughby does make a (very) short appearance but other than that there's not much going on here. Perhaps the author felt that there was enough emphasis on these two characters in S&S and wanted to focus more on the others (who were all secondary characters in the original novels).
Overall this was a good read. I always enjoy seeing what happened after the "happily ever after" at the end of Austen's novels and how new authors create more background for these very familiar stories. I would certainly recommend this one to Austen fans as it is entertaining with a nice bit of humor sprinkled throughout.
Received from Sourcebooks for review.