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

‘Mr. Collins, we will never cross the estuary at this rate.  Can you not speed up?’

‘I…!  Oh!  I think I have swallowed a fish!  I…!  Oh my!’

Mr. Collins, now progressed to deeper water, was coughing and spluttering and flailing his arms around and indeed looked in danger of drowning.  They were out of their depths, and Lizzy had serious cause for concern.

‘Oh my!  Oh…’ Mr. Collins disappeared under the waters.

(from Mr. Darcy Goes Overboard, page 78 in the ARC; finished version may be different)

Mr. Darcy Goes Overboard by Belinda Roberts is a fun take on Pride and Prejudice that brings Jane Austen’s beloved characters to the present day and to the English seaside resort town of Salcombe.  Roberts parallels the events of Pride and Prejudice but with a modern and comedic twist.

The Bennet family spends much of their time on the beach or the water, Fitzwilliam Darcy and Charles Bingley are rich university students spending the summer at Bingley’s villa, Netherpollock, located across the estuary, and Pemberly is a yacht.  Letters are replaced with text messages, and balls and after-dinner pianoforte playing are replaced with group swims and sandcastle contests.

If you don’t like authors messing with Austen’s characters or prefer more serious re-tellings of Austen’s work (which, on some levels, ignores the fact that Austen’s novels are actually very humorous), you’ll want to steer clear of Mr. Darcy Goes Overboard.  But if you sometimes like your Austen with a side of ridiculous humor, you should give this one a try.  I found myself laughing out loud many times, especially with Mrs. Bennet sending Jane off to Netherpollock in a dinghy as a storm approaches, Lydia and Kitty Bennet streaking across the crowded beach, Mr. Collins bulging out of a wetsuit and unable to swim, and Wickham as a lifeguard.

But the biggest laughs came from Roberts’ description of Lady Catherine de Brrr as a sort of Dolly Parton, without the sweet disposition.

At that moment, a tall, powerful woman appeared on the balcony.  She was dressed in skintight black jeans, a black strappy top embroidered with ‘Brrr’ in diamante.  Her dyed blond hair was piled high, her nails painted blood red, her feet adorned with high-heeled golden slippers.  (page 111 in the ARC; finished version may be different)

My only complaint about the book was the pacing in the middle of the story — right around where Mr. Collins turns his attentions from Lizzy to her friend Charlotte (“Lotte”) Lucas — is a bit rushed.  Also, there’s no good explanation for why Mrs. Bennet needs to marry off her daughters.  The Bennet property is still entailed, but if they’re considering colleges for their daughters, the girls obviously could support themselves.

Mr. Darcy Goes Overboard is all about the laughs and the ridiculousness.  You can’t and shouldn’t stop to contemplate any of the events in the story; just go with the flow and enjoy it for what it is.  One could say Roberts goes overboard with all the silliness, but I must admit I rather enjoyed it.  At just over 200 pages, it’s a book that can be devoured in just a few hours.  It’s the perfect beach read or a bit of fluffy fun at the end of a stressful day.

Disclosure: I received Mr. Darcy Goes Overboard from Sourcebooks for review.

© 2011 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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