Wednesday, April 19, 2023

Book Review: Brother of the Bride by Jack Caldwell

A sequel to Pride and Prejudice and The Three Colonels.

In 1816, everyone thinks—with the Napoleonic wars over and done—that life in England will be peaceful. Not necessarily.

For four wonderful years, Fitzwilliam Darcy has joyfully lived at his beloved Pemberley with his adored wife, Elizabeth, precious young son, Bennet, and cherished sister, Georgiana, by his side. All this is about to change; Georgiana has fallen in love. In quick succession, the Darcys agree to take in the young and spirited daughter of the widowed Lydia Wickham and then learn that Elizabeth is expecting another child.

Now—with a wedding to plan, a baby on the way, interfering relations invading Pemberley, and a new ward turning the place upside down—the question becomes: How will Mr. Darcy maintain his sanity?

For many years I have enjoyed the work of Austenesque writer Jack Caldwell. His “Fighting Men” series began with The Three Colonels in 2012, and with Brother of the Bride's release, five titles are now available. All are sequels to novels originated by Jane Austen, with Pride and Prejudice being the dominant source material. In Caldwell’s world, the Darcy family interacts with characters throughout the Austen universe. For example, Colonel Brandon from Sense and Sensibility is a dear friend to the Darcys, and several individuals from Emma are also a part of their lives. As strong men and women of their time, this unique cast of characters has encountered trials on the battlefield and open sea. Now in Brother of the Bride, Fitzwilliam Darcy and his associates must face challenges both familiar and untried: the birth of a child, the fostering of another, and the marriage of young Georgiana Darcy.

The audience of Brother of the Bride is most certainly a specific type. We are familiar with not only the works of Jane Austen, but of Caldwell’s series as well. This latest title does have an individual tone, but many details hinge upon what has come before, both in the original works and in the “Fighting Men” collection. While its narrative arc does not have the same scope as its siblings, Brother of the Bride is a treat for those of us who call ourselves “Janeites”. In the pages of this novel we are immersed in what would have been the everyday inner workings of the Darcy family and their associates. There is no Napoleon to vanquish or damsels to rescue from certain peril on the sea. Trials and tribulations emanate from domestic concerns which many of us must face at one time or another. 

When young Georgiana Darcy becomes engaged to be married, it creates a tangle of issues which the characters must unravel as they also face other variables. Elizabeth Darcy is pregnant again, and due to give birth near the time of Georgiana’s preferred wedding date. Lizzy’s flighty sister Lydia has entrusted the care of her daughter Chloe to the Darcy family. Chloe is a handful and makes life interesting within the Pemberley estate. And with the engagement of Georgiana, all manner of relatives and friends step forward to “assist” in planning the nuptials. Between Lizzy’s pregnancy, Chloe’s antics and issues surrounding the wedding, Fitzwilliam Darcy and his ilk are juggling challenges that would confound even the most talented battlefield warrior. It makes for an amusing read. 

As he has done in the past, author Jack Caldwell has deftly woven together the characters of the novels of Jane Austen. The material is very family friendly, with very little “adult” content of note. Romance is chaste, and all bedroom scenes are between married partners, with modest details given. The most “vexing” aspect of the story are the antics which ensue when elder stateswomen attempt to meddle with the wedding plans. Those of us who have arranged a wedding might have flashbacks to the stress involved in that endeavor, but the episodes in Brother of the Bride are quite amusing and meant to entertain. It was refreshing to see family members stand up to the austere Lady Catherine de Bourgh as she attempted to mistake her place in the order of things. Mrs. Bennet was as high-strung as ever and also had to be reined in from time to time. 

As a fan of these characters, I felt as if I was a mere observer to the realistic goings-on at Pemberley as life continued. Again, this was no expansive narrative. It was a delightful visit with and a character study of the personalities who have become permanent residents in the minds of those who love them. Through Brother of the Bride we see Fitzwilliam Darcy, his family and friends as they interact during a new period of their lives. This season brings with it relational tangles which must be unraveled, but it also brings much joy and celebration as well. Author Jack Calwell is to be applauded for this latest work in his Austenesque library. Brother of the Bride is a pleasure for those who cherish these beloved characters.

About the Author

Jack Caldwell, born and raised in the Bayou country of Louisiana, is an author, amateur historian, professional economic developer, playwright, and like many Cajuns, a darn good cook.

Jack is the author of twelve Jane Austen-themed historical romances. PEMBERLEY RANCH is a retelling of Pride & Prejudice set in Reconstruction Texas. MR. DARCY CAME TO DINNER and THE COMPANION OF HIS FUTURE LIFE are Pride & Prejudice-flavored farces. 

THE THREE COLONELS, the first of his JANE AUSTEN’S FIGHTING MEN SERIES, is a sequel to Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility. The next two books in the series are companion novels: THE LAST ADVENTURE OF THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL, a cross-over of Northanger Abbey with The Scarlet Pimpernel, and PERSUADED TO SAIL, a sequel to Persuasion. BROTHER OF THE BRIDE is a sequel to Pride and Prejudice and THE THREE COLONELS. ROSINGS PARK is the conclusion to the series.

In 2015, he released the first four of a series of historical novels about New Orleans, titled THE CRESCENT CITY SERIES. THE PLAINS OF CHALMETTE begins the series, commemorating the Bicentennial of the Battle of New Orleans. Jack marked the tenth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina with three modern novels: BOURBON STREET NIGHTS, ELYSIAN DREAMS, and RUIN AND RENEWAL.

When not writing or traveling with his wife, 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.

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