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Source: Review copy from AustenBlog
Rating: ★★★★☆

“There wouldn’t be a letter.  I’d just have the footman deliver a verbal message.  We have to — push the envelope.  You know how Grace is.  we have to bend the rules, not break them.  You want us to win, right?”

“It’s not proper.”

Chloe knew Mrs. Crescent was right and she leaned against the cold wall.  Her right to talk, to communicate, had been stripped away, and she stood helpless, imprisoned in a glorified prom gown.  She was a modern woman after all, used to her freedoms of movement and expression.  This was exasperating!

(from Definitely Not Mr. Darcy, page 185)

Definitely Not Mr. Darcy is a fun novel for any Jane Austen fan who ever dreamed about living in Regency England and finding her own Mr. Darcy. Chloe Parker, an Anglophile, divorced mom, and struggling business owner, leaves her young daughter behind in Chicago to appear on what she believes is a documentary set in Mr. Darcy’s Derbyshire that will enable her to show off her knowledge of all things Austen, win $100,000, and solve all her problems.

She’s a bit horrified to learn that she’s actually been cast in a reality show in which she and several women much younger than herself will compete to win the affections of the wealthy Mr. Wrightman. All she has to do is assume the role of an American heiress, live like it’s 1812, stay in character at all times, and get Mr. Wrightman to propose. Although she’s not interested in finding love, Chloe desperately needs the prize money. Enamored of leaving the present behind for a simpler, more romantic way of life, Chloe jumps headfirst into the game.

She soon learns that Regency life wasn’t all that romantic nor as fun as she’d imagined. She’s not just giving up her cell phone and e-mail; she also says goodbye to underwear, deodorant, daily baths, and toilets. She has to learn needlework and how to make ink. Worst of all, she has to give up the freedoms she enjoys as a modern woman and can no longer speak her mind or be alone with a man. Chloe not only struggles with the loss of modern conveniences, but she must also deal with bad news from home, her conflicted feelings for the Wrightman brothers, and the conniving Lady Grace – a rival contestant who would stop at nothing to send Chloe back home.

In Definitely Not Mr. Darcy, Karen Doornebos has crafted a hilarious novel with a spirited heroine who would make Jane Austen proud. Readers will enjoy watching Chloe navigate the challenges of the game and come alive in a way she hadn’t been since before her divorce. It’s easy to relate to Chloe and her desire for a simpler life, and you can’t help but cheer her on as she blunders her way through archery tournaments, tea parties, and balls. So much for a simpler life — no matter how hard Chloe tries, she’s always getting her gowns dirty and running afoul of the Regency rulebook, which makes for plenty of laughs.

Definitely Not Mr. Darcy is a lighthearted look at the customs of Jane Austen’s time that gives readers a new respect for her beloved heroines.

Disclosure: I received a copy of Definitely Not Mr. Darcy from Margaret Sullivan at AustenBlog for review.

© 2012 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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Source: Review copy from author
Rating: ★★★★☆

[This review was originally featured on AustenBlog]

At last she forced herself to tune in to the play; just as well Three Sisters was one where she could instantly pick up the thread.  She’d almost grown up with it, intrigued by the title as well as her mother’s passion for Chekhov.  When she was young, she couldn’t make much sense of it; but by her twenties, she’d come to understand it only too well — and, instead of identifying with only one sister, she found traces of herself in each of them.  Like Olga, she was practical and conscientious.  Like Irina, she was idealistic about finding true love — but, ultimately, resigned to a life without it.  And like Masha she’s fallen for someone at eighteen…

(from Persuade Me, page 263)

Persuade Me, the second book in Juliet Archer’s Darcy & Friends series, is a modern re-telling of Jane Austen’s Persuasion, with lots of regret and resentment but also much humor and romance. Dr. Rick Wentworth is a marine biologist who returns to England to promote his book, Sex in the Sea, which, along with his striking good looks, has turned him into a celebrity. Rick has never forgotten the woman who broke his heart 10 years ago, and all of the anger and hurt is churned up when their paths cross. Anna Elliot, a professor of Russian literature at a college in Bath, never stopped loving Rick, and she regrets allowing her family to end their relationship.

Instead of confronting the past, Rick gets involved with Lou Musgrove, and Anna can do nothing more than sit and watch the two of them flirt. Meanwhile, Anna catches the eyes of both Rick’s friend and wannabe poet, James, and an old family friend and slimeball, William Elliot-Dunne, who ended a relationship with Anna’s sister, Lisa, to run off with a rich divorcee from Texas. Rick and Anna’s interactions are tinged with pain and jealousy, and of course, misunderstandings abound.

Once I started Persuade Me, I had a hard time putting it down. I loved Archer’s easy writing style and her appreciation of Austen’s humor when it comes to exaggerated secondary characters, especially in transforming Anne Elliot’s hypochondriac sister, Mary Musgrove, into Anna’s alcoholic sister, Mona, and Mrs. Clay into Cleopatra, a masseuse with a phony French accent. I also enjoyed how she lets readers into the heads of both Anna and Rick, though knowing the innermost thoughts of both lessened the excitement a little bit.

I must admit I am always thrilled to see a variation that takes on an Austen novel other than Pride and Prejudice. Fans of Mr. Darcy will be happy to know that he introduces the novel by describing how he and Georgiana met Rick, though these few pages have absolutely nothing to do with the book — except for the fact that it is part of the “Darcy & Friends” series, and a friendship must somehow be forged.

Archer does a wonderful job adapting Persuasion for a contemporary audience while staying true to Austen’s story of second chances. Her ability to add a modern flair to every event that transpires in Persuasion exemplifies the timelessness of Austen’s novels.

Disclosure: I received Persuade Me from the author for review on AustenBlog.

© 2012 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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