“I clean up pretty well for a tomboy, don’t I?” She stared Darcy straight in the eye.
Bloody hell. “You heard that?” He glared at Charles. “Your phone was on speaker? And you didn’t tell me?”
Charles shrugged. “I was doing yoga. It never occurred to me that my highborn friend would say something stupidly insulting about my girlfriend’s sister.”
(from A Searing Acquaintance)
Quick summary: J.L. Ashton’s debut novel, A Searing Acquaintance, is a modern-day retelling of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Elizabeth Bennet is a grad student working for a marketing firm who wants to become a writer. Fitzwilliam Darcy is a businessman from a well-known family with a tragic past. They meet at a University of Meryton football game, where Darcy earns the nickname “Mr. Noir,” and Elizabeth calls him out for his lack of team spirit. When his best friend, Charles Bingley, and her sister, Jane Bennet, hit it off and start dating, Elizabeth and Darcy are forced to endure each other’s company, but a heated moment and a misunderstanding during a weekend getaway to Netherfield lead to months of tension between the pair. Complicating matters are Elizabeth’s work on a sports book, with help from the sports agent George Wickham; George’s characterization of Darcy as a ladies’ man; Elizabeth’s mother, who ran away from the family when Elizabeth was a little girl to pursue her dream of being a country singer; and Darcy’s need to deal with his past and the guilt he has carried with him since he was a teenager.
Why I wanted to read it: I can’t pass up a modern-day Pride and Prejudice!
What I liked: Ashton transforms Darcy into a tragic hero, which means there are more obstacles for him to overcome than his awkwardness in social situations and his pride. Elizabeth’s relationship with her family is more complicated here, which adds another layer to the story. I loved Ashton’s take on the secondary characters, particularly Sylvia Bennet-LaRue, an outrageous take on Mrs. Bennet; Catherine de Bourgh, who reminded me of the Lady Catherine in the Laurence Olivier/Greer Garson movie adaptation of Pride and Prejudice; and Annabella de Bourgh, the performance artist who thinks far outside the box. Ashton does a great job building the romantic tension and inserting some humorous and passionate scenes to keep the story from getting too heavy.
What I disliked: The pacing felt a little off about halfway through the book, but it didn’t affect my enjoyment at all. I liked that readers got to see Darcy and Elizabeth’s relationship progress.
Final thoughts: A Searing Acquaintance is the perfect modern-day Pride and Prejudice for readers who want a little more darkness and complication with the romance. Ashton does a great job bringing Elizabeth and Darcy into the present and letting readers see their fears, confusion, and desires. The characters felt real to me, and her take on Mr. Darcy is one of my favorites.
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Disclosure: I received A Searing Acquaintance from Mertyon Press for review.
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