Four years ago I had the pleasure of reading Jack Caldwell’s novel, The Three Colonels. Many characters from multiple works of Jane Austen were brought together in a singular delightful tale, one that was quite original and entertaining. Caldwell has now followed Colonels with another mash-up of sorts, The Last Adventure of the Scarlet Pimpernel. Again, various Austen characters are used within the story (including the colonels from the previous work), but we also find creations from the mind of the writer Baroness Emma Orczy, namely the Scarlet Pimpernel himself, Sir Percy Blakeney. As a Janeite I was familiar with the backgrounds of many in The Last Adventure, but my knowledge of Orczy’s Scarlet Pimpernel was negligible to say the least. So this foppish, conniving and brave character is a new one for me, one that I have only begun to discover in this creation from the mind of Jack Caldwell.
In addition to getting to know the Scarlet Pimpernel better as a character, I also was given much time with an unlikely choice of protagonist for this tale, namely Frederick Tilney of Northanger Abbey fame. I’ve always thought of him as a bit of a flirt and playboy, in consideration of how he is known to treat women and his storyline in Austen’s novel. But in The Last Adventure of the Scarlet Pimpernel, we see quite a transformation in this man. Indeed, due to the love of a woman—true love, mind you—he works diligently to become worthy of her hand. When her safety is in jeopardy, it takes Captain Tilney in league with the Pimpnernel to come to her rescue. The Pimpernel is not as young or as nimble as he once was, so victory is not assured. He’s also aware of Tilney’s reputation, which becomes a problem as the Captain desires to court his daughter. Somehow Tilney must not only rescue his beloved, but he must win over her father’s good opinion as well.
So in The Last Adventure of the Scarlet Pimpernel, we have a bit of an adventure story, but we also have a bit of a romance. Although the titular character is the Pimpernel, this really was the Captain’s story. His journey is a long one, from a man of somewhat ill repute to possibly hero and man of honor. The novel has moments of excitement, intrigue, and of course a touch of romance. The villain was delectable in his own way, obsessed as he was with the ruination of his nemesis, the Pimpernel.
My negative thoughts on the novel are few. While not my favorite of Caldwell’s works (that would be Pemberley Ranch), it was a fun, enjoyable romp that is very family friendly. I wish that less time had been spent focusing on the history and politics of the period (the Hundred Days Crisis of 1815) and more pages spent building the relationship of Tilney and Violet Blakeney. In addition, there were moments when I had trouble keeping track of all of the characters, but Caldwell solves this problem with a listing of the cast at the opening of the book. I referenced it several times.
Once again, as in the previous work, I enjoyed seeing so many Austen characters interacting with each other. My two favorites, Mr. and Mrs. Darcy make more than one appearance, and we also spend some time with the former Caroline Bingley and her new husband, Sir John Buford. I also relished the story arc between Buford and Captain Tilney, as their relationship goes through an ebb and flow that I found compelling and interesting.
Overall I found The Last Adventure of the Scarlet Pimpernel to be another unique moment of Austenesque fiction from author Jack Caldwell. Thus far he has not failed to disappoint in this genre, and I hope he continues this series of Jane Austen’s fighting men.
Author Jack Caldwell has graciously offered to give away a copy of The Last Adventure of the Scarlet Pimpernel to one of our readers! The contest is open internationally. If the winner is in the U.S., they may choose between paperback or eBook. If an international name is chosen, they will receive the eBook. Content ends on September 1, 2016 at 12am EST. Utilize the Rafflecopter widget below to enter. Good luck!
His nickname -- The Cajun Cheesehead -- came from his devotion to his two favorite NFL teams: the New Orleans Saints and the Green Bay Packers. (Every now and then, Jack has to play the DVD again to make sure the Saints really won in 2010.)
Always a history buff, Jack found and fell in love with Jane Austen in his twenties, struck by her innate understanding of the human condition. Jack uses his work to share his knowledge of history. Through his characters, he hopes the reader gains a better understanding of what went on before, developing an appreciation for our ancestors' trials and tribulations.
When not writing or traveling with Barbara, Jack attempts to play golf. A devout convert to Roman Catholicism, Jack is married with three grown sons.
Jack's blog postings -- The Cajun Cheesehead Chronicles -- appear regularly at Austen Variations.
Connect with Jack Caldwell
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