I wasn't going to buy any new books (packing up two bookcases + random piles that no longer fit onto the shelves will do it to you), but I saw this in a bookstore last weekend and couldn't resist. I loved Amanda Grange's other Austen retells (Mr. Darcy's Diary, Mr. Knightley's Diary, Captain Wentworth's Diary, and - coming soon to my bookshelves, no doubt - Edmund Bertram's Diary), and Colonel Brandon's Diary was no exception. I'm glad she chose to write from Colonel Brandon's point-of-view, rather than Edward's, because 1) I think Brandon's back story is more interesting, and 2) I really, really enjoyed picturing Alan Rickman as Brandon while I was reading it. (Yes, yes, I know: "He's too old to be Brandon!" I don't care. It's ALAN RICKMAN.)
The story begins when Brandon is a student at Oxford; he reveals his feelings for Eliza, their plans to elope, and the tragic end to their affair. It also covers Brandon's time in India and his military (naval?) career, his relationship with Eliza's daughter (also called Eliza), his friendship with Sir John, and his eventual introduction to the Dashwoods, culminating in the requisite happy ending. I liked the first half of the novel more than the second, I think. It's nice to read such a fleshed-out story about a situation that was mentioned briefly in Sense and Sensibility - it's very similar to what Grange was able to do with the Wentworth/Anne backstory in her retelling of Persuasion. It also sets Brandon up as a big ol' romantic, something that helps make his attention to Marianne more realistic. That's the main reason I really enjoyed this book: the idea of impulsive, wild Marianne settling down with prim and proper Brandon always seemed a bit strange to me. Some of their interaction in the back half of the novel seems a bit off (a sure sign it's time for a re-read of S&S), and Grange's characterization of Brandon (a reciter of poetry and part-time matchmaker!) is...maybe not exactly how I pictured him, but it works.