Pardon me readers for saying that I am not the ideal person to be reading or reviewing Pride and Prejudice: The Wild and Wanton Edition, by Annabella Bloom and Jane Austen, but I am not sure who is. Although I am very fond of the double entendre and believe in the First Amendment, I do not enjoy erotica and definitely not porn. I actually squirm (but not in an erotic way, more in a thinking about your parents having sex way) when watching sex scenes in movies. So reading a book that proudly announces on the back cover “Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy FINALLY DO IT” is not my cup of tea.
Were I to imagine the ideal reader for this book, I suppose it would be someone who likes Regency romance and erotica or soft porn (very soft, and that is not meant to be funny) but has inexplicably never read Jane Austen.
Wait, let me explain the gimmick here: author Michelle Pillow (Bloom is the house pseudonym of Adams Media, which also publishes the W&W edition of Wuthering Heights) has taken the majority of the text of P&P (53 chapters and a epilog versus the 61 chapters of the original) and added in naughty bits in bold face. I think it’s skillfully integrated and anyone who’s ever been puzzled about the mention at the end of Chapter Twelve about the flogged soldier will appreciate the addition of private Sykes.
OK, back to that ideal reader. They might really appreciate this version of P&P. But what about a person who has read and loved P&P, but wouldn’t mind a bit of rumpy pumpy between our heroine and hero? Would they enjoy this? Probably not because a real Austen fan would be annoyed by the understandable need of author Pillow and the publisher to justify this edition. After all, if all you wanted was to see our characters “finally do it,” you just add a wedding night scene, but if you’re spending $12.95 for the paperback edition you might want a little more for your money. It’s kind of like mission creep (see Libya no fly zone).
So you can’t just stick the sex all the way at the end, which you’re kind of forced to do with Elizabeth and Darcy because they are barely on speaking terms for much of the book. So who else could have sex? You guessed it, Lydia. Again, cleverly done. You’ve already thought about it; Julia Sawalha as Lydia screamed sex kitten. (Actually an admission here; I never thought about it. I am an idiot. I actually thought she and Wickham were just playing cards the whole time.)
Still, although Lydia is fun to play with, who else could be having sex? Let’s just say that Mr. Darcy is not the master of his domain. Ew! And who else? Well, Charlotte does actually marry Mr. Collins. No! Get that thought out of my head.
OK, the Collinses having sex is played for laughs, but reading about Darcy pleasuring himself? I just don’t want to think about it. (Oddly Elizabeth’s experiments with self gratification come much later in the book. I almost sensed a reluctance on the author’s part to address the topic.)
Also, having read P&P several times and currently reading the annotated version, I naturally just read the bold faced bits, which I think most Austen fans would do, which does a disservice to Pillow and leaves you with concentrated naughty bits.
But the real problem with the book for an Austen fan is Pillow’s need to explain some of the motivations behind the characters. In other words, Pillow added non-naughty explanatory bits. I find them unnecessary. My friend Lee, however, couldn’t enjoy the original (actually couldn’t finish it) because I think she didn’t understand or appreciate the motivations of Elizabeth, I think. And I think she found Darcy unpleasant.
So maybe Pillow is correct to think there’s a need to explain further. But I think P&P is perfect the way it is. I am content to read Austen and wait for that one kiss at the end; that is enough reward for me.
So can I recommend this book? Well, if I had a friend who I thought wouldn’t mind recommending an abridged version of P&P and who I thought might find the book slow going without the appeal of sex, I might recommend this book. And if I knew someone who’d read Jane Austen in high school and wouldn’t mind rereading P&P if there were sex in it, sure. But if you’re a Janeite, I think you’ll want to keep away. Of course, since all the naughty bits are conveniently in bold face …