Pemberley Ranch by Jack Caldwell — Review and Guest Post

Some months ago I read an excerpt from a JAFF story that transferred Pride & Prejudice into post-Civil War Texas. I thought the excerpt was terrific and placed the story on my ever-growing Must-Read list. About a month ago I won a paperback copy of the book from another blog – and as there is nothing better than a new book except a new book won as a prize, I was delighted and started digging in.

Now that I’ve read Pemberley Ranch twice within a month (no, once was not enough!), I’m ready to share my thoughts about it with the JAFF/Regency community.

Blurbing the book

PemberleyRanch_Final_CVRWhen the smoke has cleared from the battlefields and the civil war has finally ended, fervent Union supporter Beth Bennet reluctantly moves with her family from their home in Meryton, Ohio, to the windswept plains of Rosings, Texas. Handsome, haughty Will Darcy, a Confederate officer back from the war, owns half the land around Rosings, and his even haughtier cousin, Cate Burroughs, owns the other half.

In a town as small as Rosings, Beth and Will inevitably cross paths. But as Will becomes enchanted with the fiery Yankee, Beth won’t allow herself to warm to the man who represents the one thing she hates most: the army that killed her only brother.

But when carpetbagger George Whitehead arrives in Rosings, all that Beth thought to be true is turned on its head, and the only man who can save her home is the one she swore she’d never trust…

“It’s Pride and Prejudice meets Gone with the Wind-with that kind of romance and excitement.”
-Sharon Lathan, bestselling author of In the Arms of Mr. Darcy

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About the author

Caldwell-117bJack Caldwell is an author, amateur historian, professional economic developer, playwright, and like many Cajuns, a darn good cook. Born and raised in the Bayou Country of Louisiana, Jack and his wife, Barbara, are Hurricane Katrina victims who now make Florida their home. His nickname — The Cajun Cheesehead — came from his devotion to his two favorite NFL teams: the New Orleans Saints and the Green Bay Packers.

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.

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.

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Guest post

Nearly – but clearly not quite – all of JAFF is written by, and read by, women who love Jane Austen’s writings. There is, however, a small group of male authors, and I would presume readers, in the JAFF community, and in my not so humble opinion they all must be very comfortable in their manhood to venture into JAFF territory! I asked Jack some rather impertinent questions about this and he was gracious enough to share his responses with me and ESCD.

What was your inspiration for writing this story?

About ten years ago, my wife and I were watching the TV news, and on it was a report about the Protestant Orange Order in Northern Ireland conducting their annual march celebrating Prince William the Orange’s victory over Catholic King James II at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690. Over three hundred years after the event, and the Protestants and Catholics are still bitter about it.

It then occurred to my wife and me that America is different from Europe. If we were like them, I, a son of Louisiana whose ancestors fought for the Confederacy, would never marry a lady whose parents grew up in Wisconsin, whose troops occupied and committed atrocities in Louisiana during the Civil War. That the vast majority of Americans would find the idea of a Southerner rejecting a Northerner (or vice versa) over what happened 140 years ago silly shows that we are not the prisoners of our past like our friends in Europe.

That got me thinking. How did we get here? Why did we not fall into that trap?

PEMBERLY RANCH is the story of Reconstruction in post-Civil War Texas. (The Deep South has been done—it’s called GONE WITH THE WIND.) I saw that the conflict between Jane Austen’s Elizabeth and Darcy in Regency England could fit such a story. Of course, to fit the time period, I amped up the tale a bit by killing off Beth Bennet’s only brother. I also pointed out there were heroes and villains on both sides of the war. Plus, I make Darcy a cowboy. It’s PRIDE AND PREJUDICE on steroids.

At the risk of being arrested for gender insensitivity, what inspired you to write in this genre given that it is a largely female domain of authors and readers?  

Several reasons. I really enjoy Jane Austen. She gave us wonderful, relatable, timeless characters. We have all met Mrs. Bennet, Mr. Collins, and Lady Catherine. Why not use her characters? It’s fun.

Another reason is that the plot of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE is timeless as well, and can easily be adapted to different periods in history.

One can’t forget that the majority of the readers are female. Write something that is relatable and enjoyable to them and they’ll read it.

I like being different. A lot of people in JAFF know I’m that crazy Cajun guy that writes Jane Austen-flavored historical romances. It gets me noticed.

And lastly, I like women. My favorite is my wife!

Well bless your soul, Jack!

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And now for my review

Most JAFF I read is set in the same era as Jane Austen wrote the original stories. A handful of authors have relocated the story and the characters to different time periods with varying success. Pemberley Ranch is one of the most successful time-shifting JAFFs I’ve yet enjoyed.

The main characters are mostly true to their original counterparts, altho’ there are a few secondary characters who have been improved, and several who are far worse than Jane ever drew them.

This version of our story has Elizabeth Bennet as a die-hard Yankee supporter while William Darcy is a former Confederate army officer. Needless to say this creates some difficulties between them. All the important elements of the original have, however, been transferred successfully to this version: the Hunsford proposal, Lydia’s escapades with Wickham, Darcy’s heroic retrieval of the wayward sister, Jane finding love with Bingley, and an angsty relationship full of misunderstandings between the two main characters which ends, of course, with their happy ever after.

This fast-paced story is full of cowboys, very good guys, really bad guys, very good ladies, really bad ladies. And the author weaves the real history of the American War Between the States into the narrative too. This war was not about slavery. Jack has Darcy explain exactly what it was about without being preachy or pedantic.

What I liked most

A truly evil Wickham (altho’ in this version his name is Whitehead). I admit to preferring evil Wickham to “merely” scoundrel Wickham.

An expanded, heroic, and very swoon-worthy role for Fitzwilliam. Hot dam, is there anything that man can not do? He also finds love in an engaging and endearing secondary story line.

As I mentioned above, the clear and non-pedantic outline of the real reasons why this awful war was fought.

The clever populating of the story with characters from Jane’s other stories – and even a nod to Gone with the Wind.

What I liked least

Elizabeth being called Beth. It’s not that I dislike the name, it’s just that Beth Bennet doesn’t flow as well as Elizabeth or Lizzy. (Yes, you’re right: that is really picky!)

The author’s apparent preference for Winchesters over Henrys. Ha!

In short

This is a tight, well-constructed story – and well-edited, with the few typos barely noticeable. And, of course, everyone ends up getting more or less what they deserve, for better or worse.

I’m delighted to give Pemberley Ranch 4.9 out of 5 Darcys (hey, I had to take off something in defense of Henry).

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As this is not a new publication – it was Jack’s first foray into JAFF, believe it or not – there’s no giveaway this time. I do hope you enjoyed meeting Pemberley Ranch. It’s available “wherever books are sold.” Here’s the link to the listing at amazon, where you can find it in Kindle, Kindle unlimited, and as a new or used paperback. Please note that this is not an affiliate link.

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Your comments are most welcome!

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And … if you haven’t already got your copy of Desperate Hearts, you can order a kindle copy here. Also available on kindleUnlimited.

 

 

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