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undressing mr. darcy

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

Vanessa had, as a young teen, developed a sibling rivalry of sorts with Jane Austen, competing with her for her aunt’s attention, even though her aunt doted on her.  She never could get through Pride and Prejudice and, much to her aunt’s chagrin, she’d only read the outlined study-guide version.

To this day she didn’t quite believe in happy endings.

(from Undressing Mr. Darcy, page 18)

I absolutely loved Definitely Not Mr. Darcy, so I couldn’t pass up a chance to read Karen Doornebos’ latest novel, Undressing Mr. Darcy, which is just as funny and sexy as the title implies.  Doornebos’ heroine, Vanessa, is not a Jane Austen fan, but her Aunt Ella, who pretty much raised her and is slowly losing herself to dementia, is Austen-obsessed.  As a favor to Ella, social media-obsessed Vanessa handles the PR for Julian Chancellor at the Jane Austen Society of North America’s Annual General Meeting in their hometown of Chicago and the Jane Austen Festival in Louisville.  When Julian waltzes into her life in full Regency wardrobe, turns his nose up at modern technology, and speaks and acts like a gentleman, Vanessa isn’t sure what to think.

Vanessa spends nearly every waking moment on Twitter and other social media broadcasting Julian’s every move as Mr. Darcy, helping him promote his book, My Year as Mr. Darcy, so he can earn enough money to restore his rundown estate in Chawton.  But Julian’s striptease show, Undressing Mr. Darcy (which is supposed to educate attendees about men’s clothing during the period but really is just a way to see Mr. Darcy nearly naked), is steamy enough to pull Vanessa’s attention away from her phone and toward the charming man who seems to have stepped right out of Austen’s novel.

Meanwhile, Vanessa tries to come to terms with her beloved aunt’s failing health, take her aunt’s advice about enjoying life offline, and handle the reappearance of her one-time best friend and business partner, Lexi, who quickly sets her sights on Julian.  Add Chase, a shameless flirt in a pirate costume, Vanessa’s budding love for Austen, a plastic Colin Firth, and a scavenger hunt into the mix, and you have a hilariously romantic tale that pokes fun at the popularity of All Things Austen.

Janeites bond over stories about how they came to love Austen, and Undressing Mr. Darcy is a novel about one woman’s journey from rolling her eyes at even the slightest mention of Jane to promenading around Bath in a Regency gown.  Vanessa was likeable even though I found her annoying and clueless at times; that just made her more real.  I loved how Doornebos kept me chuckling throughout (there’s a plastic Colin Firth!), and by the time it became clear how it would end, I’d grown attached to all of the characters and was sad to see it end.  I longed for more time with Aunt Ella and even Sherry, the woman with an overflowing closet of Darcy-themed attire, and the novel made me determined to attend an Austen event someday.

Undressing Mr. Darcy is a lighthearted novel that shows how happily-ever-afters can happen even for people who are so resistant to them and how social media and classic novels can complement one another.  I still don’t completely understand the whole #hashtag thing, nor do I want to spend more time on Twitter, but Doornebos’ playful take on social media addiction was both funny and sadly realistic.  The novel also veers into more serious topics, like dementia, but it never once feels heavy or depressing.  A treat for Austen fans, especially those who like to read about Austen but don’t want to read a sequel or retelling of one of her novels.

Book 21 for the P&P Bicentenary Challenge

Disclosure: I received Undressing Mr. Darcy from the author and Berkley for review.

© 2014 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 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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