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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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