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Nov 29, 2010

Book Review: Pemberley Ranch by Jack Caldwell

Pemberley Ranch by Jack Caldwell
Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark (December 1, 2010)
ISBN-13: 978-1402241284
Review copy provided by the publisher, thank you!
The Burton Review Rating: Great story!

When 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…

Pemberley Ranch is not your ordinary Pride & Prejudice sequel. It mirrors Jane Austen's famous literary characters somewhat, and borrows from some of the themes, and then author Jack Caldwell spins us a yarn of wild west fun. The author has been an avid fan of Jane Austen and his debut novel would probably make Austen proud (and perhaps a bit scandalized, but in a good way!). The Bennet family is relocated from Ohio to Texas just after the American Civil War, and the family learns to adjust to becoming southern while mourning the loss of their brother due to the war. Down the road at Pemberley Ranch, brother and sister Will and Gaby Darcy welcome the Bennets to the neighborhood while trying to break through Beth Bennett's toughened exterior.

We also have a Cate Burroughs who is the overbearing and quite greedy mother to the innocent Anne Burroughs, as well as several new characters in the Texas settlement such as posse and lawmen. Shady deals are underfoot that will affect all of the members of the Texas community of Rosings, but the question is who is involved, and how far will they go to get what they want?

Although not something that is Austen-like, I still enjoyed the western spin on the story. It was completely original and not just another rehashing of how Darcy wins the girl, as this author had no qualms to make the original story disappear in the dust of the wild horses' hooves. The writing was styled succintly and not in the melodramatic female tones, as it dealt more with the shady George Whitehead and the aftermaths of the Civil War. I loved connecting some of these new characters with the old P&P characters, but was surprised at how much I enjoyed the way the author intrigued me with this western story. A great read for those readers who like a bit of gunfighting and romance rolled into one.