Hello everyone, and thank you, Grace, for having me here on Books Like Breathing. It’s been such fun doing the virtual tour for my book The Trials of the Honorable F. Darcy. I wanted to talk today a little bit about how I updated Jane Austen’s characters from Pride and Prejudice and the challenges I faced in doing so. Knowing that I was working with literature’s most beloved couple, modernizing them with integrity and fidelity was a daunting task, but I must say that I was ultimately very happy with the outcome.
The first hurdle was to address the plot. Obviously, the strict social circles of the Regency era are not present today. The gulf between Darcy ‘s and Elizabeth’s social statures was essentially unbridgeable; Elizabeth had no real hope of ever entering those circles and Darcy faced almost-certain ridicule, embarrassment, and scandal by marrying her. In today’s world, a comparable pairing was Anna Nicole Smith and J. Howard Marshall - by all appearances, a farce of a marriage choreographed by a white-trash gold-digger and a nearly-senile man duped by desire and the miracle of Viagra. To take Austen’s characters to such extremes simply to stay faithful to the literal plot seemed both unjust and in poor taste.
Yet the conflict could not be simple dislike or misunderstanding; the essential plot dictated that there be an external force that compelled Darcy to deny himself the luxury of choosing who he wants to love, and then to do the unthinkable by pursuing the very thing that would bring him down. Likewise, Elizabeth’s rejection of him had to be judged extremely foolish by her peers.
The only conflict that I could think of that would have strong sway over the characters was an ethical one. Because I am a lawyer, I am familiar with the strict ethical standards to which the judicial and legal communities are bound. If a judge has any personal bias, knowledge, or stake in a case, he should recuse (disqualify) himself from hearing it. In fact, even if he has no actual bias but it appears that he does, he should recuse himself. Failure to do so allows the loser to argue that the judge was prejudiced, and then the judge’s dirty laundry is aired in an effort to prove or disprove his stake in the case. I couldn’t think of anything more humiliating to Darcy than having to explain that yes, he was boinking Elizabeth but no, it hadn’t affected his decision in any way.
(It’s been suggested that with the current political climate rife with sex scandals [wide-stance, anyone?], a relationship between a judge and an attorney would be small potatoes. I have to say that I don’t agree. Judges really are our last resort for conflict resolution, and we need them to be completely impartial. If I lost a case only to find out that my opponent was sleeping with the judge, I would raise holy hell to have the decision overturned. If I already knew the judge and the attorney had a relationship, I would disqualify the judge. While I can roll my eyes over a senator’s mistress, I can’t forgive a judge for being sleazy.)
By making Darcy a judge and Elizabeth an attorney, I set up a conflict that prevented them from having a relationship as long as they continued to work together. I pulled the noose tighter by making the district a small one which had only one other judge, thereby assuring that Elizabeth and Darcy would have to choose love or career.
With the plot set , some other changes were in order. Darcy’s and Elizabeth’s ages had to be advanced by about ten years to allow Darcy to realistically have achieved the position of judge. Likewise, his sister, Georgiana, would be about 25 instead of fifteen. Her seduction by Wickham would have been ancient history by the time Darcy and Elizabeth met, thereby eliminating that rogue’s role from the plotline. That meant Lydia’s elopement with Wickham was also out; our hero was going to have to prove his worth without Wickham’s aid.
Rather than substitute some other plotline, I decided to focus solely on the relationship between Darcy and Elizabeth and how they interact in my modern world while maintaining their core characteristics: A proud, standoffish man used to getting his own way and a wry, intelligent woman unafraid to speak her mind.
Once the plot was outlined, I had to tackle modernizing the characters. Nearing 40, Darcy was certainly going to have his share of paramours, but if he was such a great catch, why wasn’t he married yet? I had to make him somehow content to be single, which meant at a minimum he was able to have sexual gratification. Enter Caroline Bingley.
Poor Miss Bingley. I always felt sorry for her, she really got the short end of the stick. She chases after Darcy in her passive-aggressive Regency way and gets nothing but disdain for her efforts. I made the choice to empower Caroline Bingley by making her independently wealthy. With Darcy’s social cache irrelevant in modern society and with no money worries, Caroline is free to pursue Darcy or not as she pleases.
In Austen’s original, Darcy seems to tolerate Caroline - they joke about the Bennet family in the beginning of the book - until he falls for Elizabeth. Then he pretty much ignores her or insults her. I found this to be a rather unattractive trait of the original Darcy, and decided to put their relationship on equal footing by making them friends “with benefits.” This would explain why Darcy was content to remain single while also put some teeth into Caroline’s role as foil to Elizabeth.
Darcy’s proposal at Hunsford also had to be updated, because modern men simply don’t propose to women they’ve never dated. It became a come-on disguised as a career boost, and ended with Elizabeth’s vehement rejection and career suicide.
I won’t give away the rest of the book except to say that their relationship is modern in all aspects - Elizabeth is flirty, sassy, and sexy and Darcy is warm, tender, and funny. They fall in lust, have dynamite sex, break up, and fall in love somewhere along the way. I hope that you will enjoy their journey as much as I enjoyed writing it.
The Trials of the Honorable F. Darcy—in stores October 2009!
A sexy, bold adaptation of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice that re-paints favorite characters in twenty-first century colors
Judge Fitzwilliam Darcy, a legal expert on both sides of the Atlantic, is ready to hang up his black robe and return to the life of a country gentleman—until he meets Elizabeth Bennet, a fresh-faced attorney with a hectic schedule and no time for the sexy but haughty judge.
About the Author
Sara Angelini is an attorney living in the San Francisco Bay area. After earning an MS in Animal Sciences, she decided against becoming a veterinarian when she realized she only liked her own pets and moved to California with her husband to pursue law school. She is working on her third novel. For more information, please visit www.judgedarcy.com.