Again Tate’s face changed, only this time he went from anger to what appeared to be amusement. “I have never owned you, even though you first appeared to me in a nightdress that was from a child’s fairytale. Was your intent to seduce me into an illicit liaison?”
Casey’s anger increased. “Seduce you? Why you vain, arrogant –” She glared at him. He was not going to make her forget where she was! “You, sir, are the villain in this. When you first showed yourself to me, you were as bare as the day you were born. You conjured rain from above and soaped parts an unmarried woman should not see.”
(from The Girl from Summer Hill)
The Girl from Summer Hill by Jude Deveraux is a modern-day retelling of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice set in Summer Hill, Virginia. Casey Reddick is a chef who left the hustle and bustle of D.C.’s restaurant scene to live in the guest house on Tattwell Plantation. She has been hired by Kit Montgomery to cater meals for the cast and crew of the stage adaptation of Pride and Prejudice that he is directing for charity. She meets the sexy actor Tate Landers when he shows up naked on the porch of her cottage. They get off on the wrong foot when he catches her watching him at the outdoor shower and accuses her of taking pictures on her phone. She later catches him in her home eating one of her fresh-baked pies after having torn apart her bedroom.
Much to her chagrin, Kit casts Casey as Elizabeth Bennet and Tate as Mr. Darcy. Casey can’t stand Tate, and her opinion of him only worsens when his ex-brother-in-law Devlin Haines (cast as Mr. Wickham) tells her his tales of woe at the hands of the rich and powerful actor. Meanwhile, Tate is drawn to Casey because she is the only woman he’s ever met who isn’t in awe of him, sees the man behind the celebrity, and has no qualms telling him how she really feels about him.
As Casey and Tate grow closer, there is plenty of behind-the-scenes drama involving Tate’s best friend Jack (Mr. Bingley), Casey’s half-sister Gizzy (Jane Bennet), Kit, and Olivia, who once played Elizabeth and has returned to the stage after many years to play Mrs. Bennet. Jack is an action-movie star who is in awe of Gizzy, who appears to be a delicate flower but is really a danger-loving adventurer. Kit and Olivia seem to share a secret from a long-ago summer at Tattwell, and Devlin will never be happy unless he’s bested Tate at something.
The Girl from Summer Hill is a real page turner, one of those books you pick up for a few minutes before bed and end up breezing through 20 to 30 pages in no time. Deveraux does a good job writing two Pride and Prejudice adaptations — one on the stage and one behind the scenes — and running them parallel to one another. It’s easy to see Austen’s characters in how Deveraux’s characters act both on and off the stage. (In this aspect, I was reminded of a delightful book I read a few years ago, Pride, Prejudice and Jasmin Field by Melissa Nathan, which also has a stage version of the novel running parallel to the modern adaptation.)
For the most part, I liked how Deveraux updated Austen’s characters, though I must admit that I initially found Casey annoying, but then she softened a bit and grew on me. I enjoyed the chemistry between Casey and Tate, and Tate’s encounters with a peacock are humorous and thoroughly delightful. Deveraux handles the modern-day Wickham/Lydia scandal in a sensitive, realistic way, and it was fun to see the characters evolve over the course of the play — especially when they are supposed to love or hate each other and the actors feel the complete opposite.
The Girl from Summer Hill is the first book in Deveraux’s Summer Hill series, but don’t let the fact that it’s a series prevent you from reading it, as there is a satisfying ending that doesn’t leave you hanging at all. I’m not sure where the series will go next, but I’m looking forward to it. The Girl from Summer Hill is a lighthearted and fun take on Pride and Prejudice that doubles your Austen fun and strikes the right balance between funny and sexy and serious and sassy.
Disclosure: I borrowed The Girl from Summer Hill from the public library.
© 2016 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.