6 Rated Books Book Reviews

Book Review: Impulse and Initiative by Abigail Reynolds

Title: Impulse and Initiative

Author: Abigail Reynolds

Genre: Historical Romance

Stand Alone/ Series: This is a variation of Pride of Prejudice by Jane Austen – I recommend you read that one first.

Summary: In Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice, Mr. Darcy gives up on winning the woman he loves after she refuses his proposal of marriage. What if, instead of disappearing from her life, he took the initiative and tried to change her mind? In Impulse & Initiative, Mr. Darcy pursues Elizabeth Bennet to her home in Hertfordshire, planning to prove to her he is a changed man and worthy of her love.

Why Did I Read The Book: I was offered a copy by the publisher, SourceBooks and I had to say yes – I do so love Pride and Prejudice.


It is a truth universally acknowledged that Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen is one of the best known books of all time (a BBC survey has placed it in second in the list of UK’s Best Loved Books) and loved by many romance readers including yours truly. Elizabeth Bennet and Mr Darcy certainly figure high up there with Romeo and Juliet and Heathcliff and Cathy in the classic love stories listings. There are plenty of movie and TV adaptations (like the 1995 BBC series – Colin Firth anyone?) and more recently, from what I can gather, a plethora of books with story variations.

Impulse and Initiative is one such book. In the original novel, after many sequences in which it appeared that Darcy and Elizabeth were in opposite sides, the seemly arrogant Mr Darcy proposes marriage to a bewildered Elizabeth Bennet who could not have expected the high-born, proud man to love her. Darcy completely mucks up the proposal by telling her that he loves her “against his own will” and despite her family. Elizabeth who has reasons to believe, incorrectly, that Mr Darcy is not honorable, refuses him and tells him that he is “the last man in the world whom she could ever be prevailed on to marry”. Darcy is mortified that she would say such things and the next day delivers a letter to her clarifying the points that would dispute his honor and disappears from the novel for some time until they come together again in later chapters.

Impulse and Initiative plays with a “What If” that starts right after that first proposal – what if Darcy, instead of retreating decided to go on the attack by trying to woo Miss Bennet’s affections properly? By showing her that he was indeed honorable, that his intentions were true and out of deep love and that he could find in himself the strength to review his actions, the ungentlemanly way he proposed, the arrogance of his treatment of others and become in the eyes of the reader (and of Elizabeth) the more open character that appears at the end of Pride and Prejudice.

Leaving all thought of emotional restraint aside, Darcy embarks on a rather persistent pursue of Elizabeth who is conflicted to begin with – does she like or dislike Darcy? Can she really enjoy the time she spends with him even if he is proud and overbearing and threatens the independences she loves? And what about those *gasp * kisses and what they do to her? Are they proper? Should she even like kissing a man that is not her husband? These and other questions are raised and answered as their relationship progresses based this time, not in pride and prejudice but as the title implies, on impulse, initiative – and seduction. Be it of the mind for truly, they share a similar wit, and one of the greatest points of this novel is the banter between Darcy and Elizabeth or the moments where they hurl literary quotes at each other or their common tendency to judge based on wrong assumptions. Or of the body, where a less than controlled Darcy can hardly keep his hands off her – which leads them to a pre-marital encounter that raises the question: is this truly how the original Darcy and Elizabeth would behave since both characters were so bound by their sense of propriety? In fact, one may argue that the Darcy and Elizabeth in Impulse and Initiative end up acting like the Villain (Wickham) and the Floozy (Lydia) of Pride of Prejudice.

If you are a Jane Austen purist or a literary traditionalist you should probably stay away from the book (or from any variation, as a matter of fact) as the Darcy and Elizabeth portrayed here are hardly like the original creation of Jane Austen.

But on the other hand, if you like me, think you would like a sweet, double sugar-coated (Darcy is so sweet here it made my teeth ache as he would profess his undying love at every chance he got which was VERY often – this, the only real problem with the book for me) conflict-free “what if” involving two beloved characters from literature – and follow an alternate story from wooing to bedding, from pre-marriage to wedding and birthing of their first child – who even though not quite like Austen’s creation are still interesting enough to warrant a few good hours of your time on a Saturday afternoon, then by all means do pick this up. You could do much worse than this – much, much worse.

Notable Quotes/ Parts: I like the moment where Elizabeth realises that Darcy is always taking care of people and is never taken care of.

“A smile curved her lips as she considered the hubris it would require to take on the responsibility of taking care of Fitzwilliam Darcy. Continuing to stroke his hair, she let her eyes trace the lines of his face, wondering at her sanity in allowing herself to love this complex and often difficult man -as if she had allowed herself to love him; the truth was closer to what she had said of him at Hunsford, that she loved him against her will, against her reason , and even against her character. It was certainly poetic justice. “

And oh dear lord how I laughed at the scene where Darcy and Bingley were talking about – ahem – pre-marital encounters and how Bingley was thoroughly jealous of Darcy as up to that point all he was allowed to get from Jane was a chaste peek at the cheek. And how Jane was completely horrified when she learns from Elizabeth that –ahem- the marital bed? Not as bad as their mother told them.* wink wink nudge nudge *

Additional Thoughts: On the subject of Pride and Prejudice variations, I recently watched ITV’s Lost in Austen and it was a complete riot – so much fun. I wrote about it here.

But I ask – how do you feel about variations of literary works? Do you think the originals are “untouchable”?

Verdict: Sweet (sometimes too sweet), funny with witty banter and good writing. If you think you can get past a Darcy that professes his love at every other paragraph, this is the book for you. It certainly helps if you picture Darcy’s smoldering dark looks in a Colin Firth package.

Rating: 6 good.

Reading Next : The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

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  • kmont
    November 20, 2008 at 8:08 am

    I really do not like double-sugar coated heroes. I think that’s a recent development too for some reason. I mean, yes, I want them to be kind (at some point at least), realize their deep love and express it, but not to an excessive point.

    I dunno, I’ve never seen a reason to read a variation on a classic, especially such a well-established one. Could be good, I really just do not know. Maybe my library has it. Cross your fingers for me lol.

  • little alys
    November 20, 2008 at 9:09 am

    It’s not that I want to leave a story ‘untouched,’ but especially with a book such a Pride and Prejudice; filled with love, passion, biting social commentaries- I don’t see how these forcibly continued or reinterpretations ever reached the original’s standard. Even some writers whom did great jobs, the books just are not up to par with the original. I’d rather these authors have rewritten it into their own book rather than try to reinterpret someone else’s…especially Jane Austen.

    Does this make any sense? I don’t consider myself a Jane Austen purist because I would love to know what happens afterwards, but I would only enjoy the best if it was written by Jane Austen. Those that go back onto it…feels a bit like fanfiction and although some of them are really great…I donno, it just makes me a bit sad they would rather write a prewritten book to fit their interpretation.

    Ugh…I feel like I’m going into a circular argument. Bleh. Okay…how do I put this? I would rather read the author’s original work rather than their variation of Pride and Prejudice. When I do read and watch these new variations, I change the names in my mind and turn it into another story anyways.

    Yes, I am weird and lame like that.

  • Ana
    November 20, 2008 at 9:28 am

    I don’t mind reading variations on classics as long as it’s good.

    I liked this one for example – even though they are far from being Darcy and Elizabeth. I think it helps if you can detach yourself from the original and that can only be achieved if the writing is good. Like you said Alys, change it into something else.

    But there are others I hated. Like, for example Scarlet. GOOD Lord was that book horrendous.

  • Tracy
    November 20, 2008 at 11:15 am

    I loved the orignal so much I don’t know that I’d enjoy any variations of it.

  • orannia
    November 20, 2008 at 12:01 pm

    Hmmm. Like kmont I'm not a fan of the sugar-coated hero. I want more realism. I read a book recently (by an author I really like) in which the hero kept coming out with sugary sweet comments to the heroine (that were so out of character it completely threw me out of the story [and made me slightly nauseous])

    As for Impulse & Initiative….I don't think it is me. I would rather see the heroine come to like the hero for who he is by *shock* talking to him, that being seduced into liking him. Then again, I may have completely misinterpreted the review (if so, mass apologies). I like the fact that in Pride & Prejudice Elizabeth got to know and love Darcy slowly. It just seems like a more solid grounding….I'm way OT now, aren't I?

  • Ana
    November 20, 2008 at 12:20 pm

    humm Orannia, yes I see your point. Yes, Elizabeth in this book was seduced into liking him – she first enjoyed his kisses then his personality.

  • orannia
    November 20, 2008 at 12:45 pm

    Sorry, I should have added – I'm not saying that it's the seduction first approach is a bad thing…it's just that it doesn't seem like the Elizabeth Bennett we know from Pride & Prejudice. It's the abrupt change in character that has me a bit lost..

  • Kate
    November 20, 2008 at 5:42 pm

    Hm…I don't know how much this one would appeal to me (this from a girl who recently reviewed a book called "Seducing Mr Darcy"!) Can I ask who the audience was, or what sort of book it was? I know you said historical romance – was it romance-light or hot and heavy? I think the reason I could relatively get along with "Seducing Mr Darcy" was that it was a sex-filled romance novel with time-travelling character-hoppers so really no semblance of seriousness and very, very little resemblance to the P&P we know and love. If I&I (heh) tries to be more serious and more of an emulation of Austen, I think I'd have a lot of problems with it.

    I just noticed that the subtitle contains "variant." That's covering your bases (or your ass, as it were.)

  • Ana
    November 21, 2008 at 12:19 am

    Kate, it is a light romance, with a few sex scenes (not very hot, or graphic) and it was within the confines of Austen’s original work – meaning, no time travel, no new characters.

    It is interesting this “discussion” – even more interesting my own reaction. Even though I love the original , I had no problems reading this as I had reading Scarlet for example.

    I think maybe I didn’t take it too seriously? as it was a light, sweet book, I was able to enjoy it as a romantic journey purely regardless of who the characters were? I have a few moments where I thought, hold on, would Darcy really do that? But they were fleeting moments.

    The one thing that bothered me was how obsessed he was with Lizzy – a double sugar coated hero can be so boring sometimes.

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