Looking up at the boathouse rising from the water with its verandah and windows, unchanged over the years except for fresh paint and the addition of some gothic decoration, she imagined him standing there, waving to her. Tears misted her eyes and spilled over her cheeks. Dreaming of her Mr. Darcy would never be enough, but there was absolutely nothing she could do about it.
(from Project Darcy, page 219)
Project Darcy is the second book in Jane Odiwe’s Time Travels With Jane Austen series, which began with imagining the inspiration for Persuasion in Searching for Captain Wentworth. This time, Odiwe follows five college friends on an archaeological dig at Jane Austen’s childhood home in Steventon, Hampshire. Ellie Bentley has always been able to see things other people can’t, and the moment she sets foot in Hampshire, she sees the ghost of a fair-haired man inhabiting the home where she and her friends are staying, a former rectory that belonged to a friend of Jane Austen’s. Without warning, Ellie is transported from the hot summer dig to the winter of 1796, where she experiences first-hand the romance between Jane Austen and the man who may have inspired Pride and Prejudice.
Ellie is confused about whether she is experiencing Jane’s feelings or whether she is actually falling in love with the man from Jane’s past herself. It becomes increasingly hard for Ellie to stay grounded in reality, where she is painting pictures of what the Steventon Rectory may have looked like as part of her work on the dig and doing her best to avoid Donald, the curate who has been pursuing her at the urging of her mother. Sound familiar? That’s because when she isn’t traveling back in time, Ellie’s life in the present is very much a modern-day retelling of Pride and Prejudice.
Ellie and her friends are reminiscent of the Bennet sisters, with Ellie, a free-spirited woman who, like Elizabeth, is not afraid to speak her mind; Jess, who is just as good-natured as Jane; Martha, who is just as serious as Mary; Cara, who is exuberant and a follower, like Kitty; and Liberty, who is every bit as wild as Lydia. At the dig, Jess hits it off immediately with Charlie Harden, whose sister, Zara, and best friend, Henry Dorsey, turn their noses up at Ellie and her friends, especially when Liberty and Cara hang all over the camera crew both on and off the dig.
Odiwe makes the romance between Jane and her Mr. Darcy believable, from the stirrings of first love to the end that we know is coming but hope will turn out differently. Jane was such an astute observer of human nature, and I like to believe that just like her heroines, she had her own love story. Odiwe also makes Ellie’s travels through time seem plausible, from the subtle triggers to her intense response and ultimate confusion. However, the ending of the novel seems a bit rushed and completely unexpected, given how insignificant the character in question seemed until that point. I like that the ending is unpredictable, but that also serves to make the conclusion feel less realistic.
Even so, Project Darcy is a fun take on Pride and Prejudice, especially for Austen fans who wonder about the inspiration for her beloved novels. Odiwe does a wonderful job balancing the past and present story lines and making the present-day characters similar enough to Austen’s to follow the parallels to Pride and Prejudice but also different enough that there are some surprises. Odiwe makes Jane Austen come to life, and I really hope she is planning more time travel novels for the rest of Austen’s books.
Disclosure: I received Project Darcy from the author for review.
© 2013 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.