Thursday, March 24, 2011

Review: Pemberley Ranch

Pemberley Ranch
By Jack Caldwell
Publication date: November 22, 2010

My review:

This retelling of Pride and Prejudice is set in post-Civl War Texas. The Bennet family leaves Meryton, Ohio to run a ranch in Texas. Beth Bennet is less than thrilled with her dad's decision to move the family to the South. She feels that it is a betrayal of her brother who died during the war. When the Bennets arrive in Rosings, Texas they are met with surprising civility and welcome from most people. Unlike Beth, her older sister Jane has no problem settling in and she captures the heart of the local doctor, Charles Bingley. Beth is still unforgiving of Southerners though she does befriend Charlotte Lucas, the daughter of the town sheriff. When she meets her future brother-in-law Bingley's best friend, Will Darcy, Beth feels instant dislike for the wealthy rancher whose land borders their own. Instead she prefers the company of charming fellow Northerner George Whitehead. Whitehead seems to have brilliant plans for the growth of Rosings but all is not as it seems. As the Bennets find themselves caught in the middle of a land war however, Beth finds that she must rely on Will Darcy's help.

Pemberley Ranch is a creative reimagining of Pride and Prejudice that stays true to the spirit of the original while at the same time bringing something new to the story. Beth is a spunky heroine with flaws that are more apparent than her namesake from P&P. Beth's unwillingness to let go of her hate and her prejudice toward Southerners keep her from growing as a person and healing from the loss of her brother. I thought the author did an excellent job with developing her character and portraying the changes Beth goes through over the course of the book. Unlike P&P, the reader is given insight into the mind of Mr. Darcy. Will has his own ghosts to deal with from his years as a Confederate office and personal losses. I found both characters to be likeable and I enjoyed the fact that they were not carbon copies of the original Jane Austen characters.

In addition to the main characters from Pride and Prejudice, other Jane Austen characters like Henry Tilney, Mr. Elton, and the Knightly brothers make an appearance. It was fun to find the literary nods sprinkled through the book. It is obvious that the author has a good deal of respect for Jane Austen. I also enjoyed the historical information about the war. There are even footnotes to add to the reader's experience.

There are a couple of parts in the story that I wish hadn't been there because they made me like Will less. At one point he spies on the heroine while she goes skinny dipping and at another point, he has a very vivid dream about her that I thought portrayed his interest in Beth as no more than lust and showed her behaving out of character. Thankfully it turned out be just a "dirty" dream of Will's rather than reality but it pulls the reader out of the story and the effect is jarring. For the most part, I liked the changes to the story. I found some of the characters to be more likeable because of it. I especially liked the change to Charlotte Lucas's storyline. The setting was also incredibly appealing and the nail biting showdown at the end had me flipping the pages.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed Pemberley Ranch. It combines historical fiction, western fiction, and romance very successfully with the original story. I hope that Jack Caldwell will write more Jane Austen inspired fiction. I would certainly read it! I consider Pemberley Ranch to be one of the best retellings of Pride and Prejudice I've read. I suggest this to fans of historical romance and western fiction and to those who enjoy retellings of Jane Austen's work.

Readalikes: The Other Mr. Darcy by Monica Fairview, The Independence of Miss Mary Bennet by Colleen McCullough, An Accomplished Woman by Jude Morgan, Ransom My Heart by Meg Cabot


  1. I really liked this one. I had forgotten about those weird couple of parts, but now that you mention it they were on the strange side, and probably could've been cut!

  2. I have only recently read a P&Pretelling of sorts, and while I did enjoy it this one sounds unique. The setting is especially interesting andI think I would enjoy the combination of post Civil Wat and the land wars in this. Great review.


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