At Home with Mr. Darcy (Austen Addicts Book 6), by Victoria Connelly – Preview and Exclusive Excerpt

At Home with Mr. Darcy (Austen Addicts Book 6) by Victoria Connelly (2014)Austenesque author Victoria Connelly’s next installment in her contemporary Austen Addicts series has just been released by Notting Hill Press. At Home with Mr. Darcy marks her sixth book following: A Weekend with Mr. Darcy (2011), Dreaming of Mr. Darcy (2011), Mr. Darcy Forever (2013), Christmas with Mr. Darcy (2013) and Happy Birthday, Mr. Darcy (2013). Each of the novels and novellas continue the story of original characters that endearingly resemble Austen’s in some small way or another.

PREVIEW (from the publisher’s description)

The Austen Addicts are back!

It’s summer and renowned actress, Dame Pamela Harcourt, has organised a treat: the first Purley Hall Jane Austen holiday – to the home of Mr Darcy no less.

With Katherine and Warwick, Robyn, Doris Norris and the rest of the gang, it’s going to be a trip to remember. But then a hardened journalist and non-Janeite, Melissa Berry, joins the party. Fearing a stitch-up, the friends rally together, hoping to convince Melissa that the only way is Austen…

At Home with Mr Darcy is the sixth title in the bestselling Austen Addicts series.

EXCERPT (from chapter 6)

‘Chatsworth is one of England’s greatest “Treasure Houses”,’ Dame Pamela announced as the minibus came to a halt after arriving at its first Pemberley, ‘and a place I was lucky enough to call home for a summer whilst I was filming Twelfth Night.’ She paused as the minibus exploded into applause as everybody remembered the tour de force that was Dame Pamela’s Viola.

‘Pemberley was thought to be situated near Bakewell,’ she continued, ‘and many Jane Austen fans believe that Chatsworth is the house she had in mind when she was envisioning Mr Darcy’s home.’ She took a deep breath. ‘”To Pemberley, therefore, they were to go.”‘

Everybody except Melissa cheered as they remembered the line from the book, standing up from their seats and grabbing their bags and cameras.

‘This is too too exciting!’ Doris Norris exclaimed as she caught Katherine’s eye.

‘You know, Elizabeth and the Gardiners took “their Northern tour” in the month of July. So we’re here at the perfect time too,’ Katherine said.

‘Of course,’ Dame Pamela said. ‘We like to get things right, you know.’

‘Isn’t it Chatsworth on the front of the Hodder edition of Pride and Prejudice? I’m sure it is,’ Annie said, producing a copy from her handbag.

‘It looks very much like it,’ Rose said, peering at it.

Mr Allsop, the driver, cleared his throat. ‘Can I switch this off now?’ he asked.

Dame Pamela looked confused for a moment and then she realised that the Dario Marianelli soundtrack to the 2005 film adaptation was still playing.

‘Oh, yes,’ she said.

‘Thanks heavens for that,’ he said under his breath.

Dame Pamela shot him a look of disapproval as she left the minibus.

The driver turned to look at Robyn. ‘You folks really are nuts about this Austen woman, aren’t you?’

‘Oh, yes,’ Robyn said.

They were to spend the entire day at Chatsworth. With the enormous house, extensive gardens and grounds as well as the restaurant, cafes and deluxe shops to be visited, there was enough to entertain any holidaymaker let alone a Janeite who needed to do nothing more than wander around with a trusty copy of Pride and Prejudice in their hands.

The group soon split up with most making a beeline for the house first. Robyn was one of them, drifting around in a dream as her eyes roamed from fine old portraits to decadent pieces of furniture. She gloried in crossing the black and white floor in the Painted Hall just as Keira Knightley had done in the 2005 adaptation and nearly screamed for joy when she saw her first view of the Emperor Fountain from one of the bevelled glass windows.

It was an enormous house with so many splendid rooms that it made Robyn feel quite dizzy. Like Elizabeth Bennet when she visited Pemberley, Robyn made sure she looked out of each window at the landscape beyond, glorying in the immaculate gardens and the countryside in which they were set.

‘”To be mistress of Pemberley might be something!”‘ she quoted to herself, remembering Elizabeth’s words as she’d thought about what her future might have been had she accepted Mr Darcy’s first proposal. Robyn smiled. How would she have reacted if Dan had revealed himself to be the master of a property like Pemberley? Would she have swooned at the thought of being its mistress? She didn’t think so. She probably would have run a mile because their home at Horseshoe Cottage was her idea of perfection. Of course, she was also lucky enough to be able to work at Purley Hall which was grand by anybody’s standards. No, she thought, as beautiful as they were, the Chatsworths and Pemberleys of the world were suited to other people – not her.

After touring the house, Katherine and Warwick found themselves walking behind Melissa Berry. She had shunned the house in favour of the gardens and was now making her way towards the stable block where the restaurant and shops were.

‘Shall I tackle her now?’ Warwick asked Katherine.

‘I don’t like your use of the word tackle,’ Katherine said. ‘It sounds like you’re going to get her in some sort of head lock.’

‘I wish I could,’ he said, ‘then maybe I could make her see reason.’

‘You haven’t got to make her see reason,’ Katherine said, ‘only the joys of Jane Austen.’

‘Isn’t that the same thing?’ Warwick asked with a lopsided smile that still melted Katherine. ‘Leave her to me. You go and buy yourself a book or something in the shop.’

Katherine laughed. ‘I don’t need any encouragement to buy books.’

They entered a wide courtyard where tables and chairs were set out and people were eating and drinking in the sunshine. There was a small fountain in the middle and a bar at the far side selling drinks and ice creams. Melissa Berry was heading towards the bar.

‘Can I get you a coffee?’ Warwick asked as he approached her.

She jumped in alarm. ‘I thought you lot would all be in the house following in the footsteps of Mr Darcy,’ she said.

‘We’ve just been round,’ he said.

They both bought coffee and went to sit in one of the bright purple seats.

‘How long have you been a journalist?’ he asked.

‘A couple of years,’ she said, sipping her coffee.

‘And you like it?’

‘Sure,’ she said. ‘Do you like being a novelist?’

‘So you know about that?’

‘It’s my business to know about the people I write about,’ she said, her face blank and unreadable. ‘So, do you like it?’

‘I love it,’ he said. ‘It’s the kind of job you couldn’t do unless you love it.’

‘I guess,’ she said and there was a pause.

‘So,’ Warwick began again after taking a sip of his coffee, ‘have you read much Jane Austen?’

‘No,’ Melissa said bluntly. ‘Just a bit of that Pride and Prejudice one and some stuff about her life in preparation for this job.’

Warwick’s left hand clenched into an angry fist under the table. A bit of that Pride and Prejudice one. She was a hopeless case, wasn’t she?

END OF EXCERPT

Many thanks to author Victoria Connelly for sharing this passage from her new novella, At Home with Mr. Darcy. We look forward to reading it.

AUTHOR BIO

Author Victoria Connelly (2012)Victoria Connelly was brought up in Norfolk and studied English literature at Worcester University before becoming a teacher. After getting married in a medieval castle in the Yorkshire Dales and living in London for eleven years, she moved to rural Suffolk where she lives in a 200-year old cottage with her artist husband and family of rescued animals.

Her first novel, Flights of Angels, was published in Germany and made into a film. Victoria and her husband flew out to Berlin to see it being filmed and got to be extras in it.

She has had ten novels traditionally published worldwide and seventeen titles indie published. Several of her books, including her first volume of autobiography – Escape to Mulberry Cottage – have been Kindle bestsellers. She is now working on a brand new series called The Booklovers which will launch in 2015.

Website          Twitter           Facebook        Goodreads

A Weekend with Mr. Darcy (Austen Adiction Book 6), by Victoria Connelly
Notting Hill Press (2014)
Trade paperback & eBook (128) pages
ISBN: 978-1910522028

Austen Addicts banner 2014 US covers

Cover image courtesy of Notting Hill Press © 2014; text Victoria Connelly © 2014, Austenprose.com

Austenprose’s Top Jane Austen-inspired Books of 2013

Jane Austen Pop Art Banner

Huzzah! It has been a banner year for Jane Austen-inspired books in 2013. The bicentenary of Pride and Prejudice motivated many authors to take up their pens in celebration resulting in a fabulous selection of new titles. From historical and contemporary novels to non-fiction and scholarly, Austen-inspired books were present in several genres making our favorite author even more popular than ever.

We reviewed 76 books and short stories in 2013. Here is our annual list of top favorites .

Top 10 Austenesque Historical Novels: 

  1. Return to Longbourn, by Shannon Winslow (5 stars)
  2. One Thread Pulled: The Dance with Mr. Darcy, by Diana J. Oaks (5 stars)
  3. Loving Miss Darcy: The Brides of Pemberley, by Nancy Kelley (5 stars)
  4. The Pursuit of Mary Bennet: A Pride and Prejudice Novel, by Pamela Mingle (4 stars)
  5. Longbourn: A Novel, by Jo Baker (4 stars)
  6. The Passions of Dr. Darcy, by Sharon Lathan (4 stars)
  7. Falling For Mr. Darcy, by KaraLynne Mackrory (4 stars)
  8. Darcy’s Decision: Given Good Principles Volume 1, by Maria Grace (4 stars)
  9. When They Fall in Love: Darcy and Elizabeth in Italy, by Mary Simonsen (4 stars)
  10. Young Mr. Darcy in Love: Pride and Prejudice Continues (The Darcys and the Bingleys) (Volume 7) by Marsha Altman (4 stars)

Top 5 Austenesque Contemporary Novels: 

  1. Pride, Prejudice and the Perfect Match, by Marilyn Brant (5 stars)
  2. Undressing Mr. Darcy, by Karen Doornebos (5 stars)
  3. My Own Mr. Darcy, by Karey White (4 stars)
  4. Sense & Sensibility (Austen Project), by Joanna Trollope (3.5 stars)
  5. Finding Colin Firth: A Novel, by Mia March (3.5 stars)

Top 5 Austenesque Paranormal/Fantasy Novels:

  1. Jane, Actually, by Jennifer Petkus (5 stars)
  2. Project Darcy, by Jane Odiwe (4 stars)
  3. Austensibly Ordinary, by Alyssa Goodnight (4 stars)
  4. Attempting Elizabeth, by Jessica Grey (4 stars)
  5. A Jane Austen Daydream, by Scott Southard (4 stars)

Top 5 Austen-inspired Nonfiction Books:

  1. Among the Janeites: A Journey Through the World of Jane Austen Fandom, by Deborah Jaffe (6 stars)
  2. The Annotated Northanger Abbey, edited by David Shapard (5 stars)
  3. Walking Jane Austen’s London, by Louise Allen (5 stars)
  4. Mr. Darcy’s Guide to Courtship: The Secrets of Seduction from Jane Austen’s Most Eligible Bachelor, by Fitzwilliam Darcy (5 stars)
  5. The List Lover’s Guide to Jane Austen, by Joan Strasbaugh (4.5 stars)

Top 5 Austen-inspired Scholarly Books: 

  1. The Real Jane Austen: A Life in Small Things, by Paula Byrne (5 stars)
  2. Jane Austen’s England, by Roy and Lesley Adkins (5 stars)
  3. Sense and Sensibility: An Annotated Edition, edited by Patricia Meyer Spacks (4 stars)
  4. Matters of Fact in Jane Austen: History, Location, and Celebrity, by Janine Barchas (4 stars)
  5. What Matters in Jane Austen: Twenty Crucial Puzzles Solved, by John Mullan (4 stars)

Top 3 Austenesque Young Adult Novels: 

  1. The Trouble with Flirting, by Claire LaZebnick (4.5 stars)
  2. Emmalee (Austen Diaries), by Jenni James (4 stars)
  3. For Darkness Shows the Stars, by Diana Peterfreund (4 stars) 

Top 3 Austenesque Self-published Novels:

  1. Return to Longbourn, by Shannon Winslow (5 stars)
  2. One Thread Pulled: The Dance with Mr. Darcy, by Diana J. Oaks (5 stars)
  3. Loving Miss Darcy: The Brides of Pemberley, by Nancy Kelley (5 stars)

Top 3 Austen or Austenesque Audio Books:

  1. Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen, read by Emilia Fox (5 stars)
  2. Mr. Darcy’s Diary, by Maya Slater, read by David Rintoul (5 stars)
  3. Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy: The Last Man in the World (A Pride and Prejudice Variation), by Abigail Reynolds, read by Rachel E. Hurley (4 stars)

Top 3 Regency Romance Novels: 

  1. The Tutor’s Daughter, by Julie Klassen (5 stars)
  2. The Passion of the Purple Plumeria: A Pink Carnation Novel, by Lauren Willig (5 stars)
  3. Blackmoore: A Proper Romance, by Julianne Donaldson (5 stars)

Debut Austenesque Author:

  1. Diana J. Oaks, One Thread Pulled: The Dance with Mr. Darcy (5 stars)

Our thanks and congratulations go out to all of the authors and their publishers, whose endeavors entertained us so aptly. A very grateful thank you to all of our loyal readers.

The Austenprose review staff

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Laurel Ann Nattress © 2013, Austenprose.com

Undressing Mr. Darcy, by Karen Doornebos – A Review

The Pride Prejudice Bicentenary Challenge (2013)This is our twelfth and final selection for The Pride and Prejudice Bicentenary Challenge 2013, our year-long blog event honoring Jane Austen’s second published novel. Please follow the link above to read all the details of this reading and viewing challenge. Sign up’s are now closed but you can read the reviews and comment through 31 December 2013.

From the desk of Christina Boyd: 

With a title like Undressing Mr. Darcy, author Karen Doornebos’ new release is sure to turn a few heads this holiday season. “Sex sells, even to smart, liberated women, and Mr. Darcy was the smart girl’s pinup boy.” p. 7 And like the novel’s heroine, a master PR rep who has turned tweeting into an #artform, Doornebos has carefully crafted another contemporary romance novel about an ambitious, highly energized, very modern woman who meets a charming Mr. Darcy re-enactor, sure to draw the attention of Janeites and romance readers alike.

When Vanessa Roberts, PR extraordinaire with the perpetually-present smartphone and ever-ready clever social media tweet or posting, takes on a pro-bono job as a favor for her elderly Jane Austen loving aunt, little does she expect promoting the English author of, My Year as Mr. Darcy, to turn her organized world topsy-turvy. When she finally meets Julian Chancellor, who has capitalized on his good looks “as he gives a little historical background on his Regency-era clothing as he proceeds to take it off –down to his drawers” at his book signings, she finds she too, like the throngs of Darcy fans in the audience, is caught by his artful allurements.

When she realizes his incentive for writing his book is to raise money to support the restoration of his ancestral home, coupled with his charm and gentlemen-like behavior, she can’t help herself but start to fantasize what a fling, nay relationship, with him might be like. As they all attend the Jane Austen Society North America (JASNA) Annual General Meeting (AGM) in Chicago, while surrounded by Austen lovers fully immersed in the hubbub, Vanessa is busy promoting her author, “Want to tie the knot with Mr. Darcy? He’s in Cravat Tying 101 right now.#JASNAagm #UndressingMrDarcy #OrDressingMrDarcy?” p. 71 Surprisingly amongst all the bonnets and lace, she discovers she might be open to the possibilities of something more to life than constantly being plugged in.

It felt as if some of his Austen quotes were speaking directly to her at times, and it occurred to her that it might be time that she gave the author another chance. Perhaps her aunt had been on to something all these years. Was there something beyond the happily ever after stories and the demure portrait of a woman in a white ruffled cap that popped in Vanessa’s head every time ‘Jane Austen’ was mentioned?” p. 36

Undressing Mr. Darcy by Karen Doornebos (2013)As Julian’s clothes come off, the heat turns up. But it’s not just his fine person that captivates her; his endearing friendship with her beloved aunt coupled with his affection and knowledge of all things Austen soon bewitch her body and soul. “‘The conversion has begun. It’s in your blood. Resistance is futile.’ He looked into her eyes and took a step backward. ‘You’re becoming an Austen fan.‘” p. 9

But like in life, ever dry spell has its flood. And for the lonesome, loveless Vanessa, soon after meeting Julian she meets a handsome, amiable pirate! Turns out HeroCon is happening simultaneously at the same Chicago hotel. Is Chase MacClane a rogue of the highest order or is he the hero in disguise?

Two Austen events later, Vanessa finds herself in England for the celebrated ten day Jane Austen Festival in Bath. As soon as the plane lands, the consummate media maven posts, “‘Here I am once more in this Scene of Dissipation & vice, and I begin already to find my Morals corrupted.’ Could a girl ask for more? All sorts of sordid things happen in London.” p. 209 But all may not be how it appears. Later as she scampers about London and Bath on a wild, Austen-inspired scavenger hunt, she questions the authenticity of her relationship with Julian, her friendship with Chase, her aunt’s imminent Alzheimer’s diagnosis, and what she is going to do about any of it. “She laughed at her own folly. Folly? Had she ever used that word before? Why did she palpably feel Jane Austen’s presence across the room, near the trio, with folded arms and laughing at her?” p. 214 Doornebos’s storytelling had me biting my bottom lip until the very last, guessing who, if anyone, our fair heroine might choose!

Karen Doornebos, the author of Definitely Not Mr. Darcy, has certainly delivered me good tidings of comfort and joy this holiday season with this latest offering. Because of her concise research of Austen, in concert with the believable dialogue and madcap romantic antics, I am compelled to tweet: “@xtnaboyd Undressing Mr. Darcy is the #perfectstockingstuffer for Austen & Darcy lovers everywhere- regardless who are naughty or nice!”

5 out of 5 Stars 

Undressing Mr. Darcy, by Karen Doornebos
Berkley Trade (2013)
Trade paperback (368) pages
ISBN: 978-0425261392

Cover image courtesy of Berkley Trade © 2013; text Christina Boyd © 2013, Austenprose.com

Undressing Mr. Darcy Book Launch with Author Karen Doornebos and Giveaway!

Undressing Mr. Darcy by Karen Doornebos (2013)Please join us in celebration of the launch of author Karen Doornebos’ second novel, Undressing Mr. Darcy, published today by Berkley Trade.

Karen has joined us to chat about her inspiration to write her new book, a humorous contemporary romance inspired by the chemistry between Jane Austen’s characters Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy. Her publisher, Berkley, has also generously offered a giveaway chance for a paperback copy of Undressing Mr. Darcy to three lucky winners. Just leave a comment with this blog post to enter. The contest details are listed below. Good luck to all. 

Thank you for joining us Karen.

Inspiration for Undressing – shall we say – a flame? 

Laurel Ann asked me to talk a bit about my inspiration for Undressing Mr. Darcy. Full disclosure: when I was researching Regency male clothing for my first novel, Definitely Not Mr. Darcy, I hit upon an English website called The History Wardrobe that did a show called Undressing Mr. Darcy. It seems a “Mr. Darcy” would disrobe down to his drawers while a woman lectured about his articles of clothing.

Wow. What more could a Darcy fangirl ask for?! I never saw the show and it’s now defunct, but my imagination started clicking and it wasn’t long until I came up with:

He’s an old-fashioned, hardcover book reader from England who writes with a quill pen. She’s a modern American career woman, hooked on her social media. Can he find his way into her heart without so much as a GPS?!

So, undressing caused the cognitive wheels to turn. ;) But, going deeper than that, what else inspires?

It’s cliché, but: sparks flying.

There is no better way to describe the air between Darcy and Elizabeth than: flammable in a good way. And I love that! I loved it at 16 years old when I read Pride and Prejudice and I love it now. There isn’t any sex in Austen, but P&P is especially rife with sexual tension, and the entire book feels ready to ignite at the inevitable union of Darcy and Elizabeth.

In Undressing Mr. Darcy I haven’t tried to recreate Darcy and Elizabeth, but rather, bring a similar kind of energy to Julian, who has been called “adorably old-fashioned” by RT Book Reviews, and Vanessa, my thoroughly modern Millie.

I also think the eternal appeal of Darcy and Elizabeth happens to be the fact that they need to learn something from each other. They came into each other’s lives to be educated, so to speak, by each other. They need to calibrate and recalibrate. Likewise, my flawed characters need to learn a thing or two from each other—but do they? Who learns and who doesn’t?

When, back in 2011, I stumbled across the Undressing Mr. Darcy idea, what I didn’t know was that a pirate would get into the mix. To say this character was inspired by Johnny Depp’s Captain Jack Sparrow would be…true! Does he bear any resemblance to Wickham? You’ll have to read and find out!

Yet, as much as I enjoy the romance, the teasing, the push and pull, I like learning something as I read (back to that learning thing again)! That’s why I think Austenprose readers will especially enjoy Undressing. Aside from the Jane Austen Society of North America gatherings and Jane Austen Festivals, I delve into Jane Austen’s life, weaving into the story a bright colored ribbon of biography to follow along with (but not in a lecturing, pedantic way)!

To educate myself, I reread Austen’s letters to her sister Cassandra. I traveled to Bath, Chawton and London to see what she saw and experience for myself her cottage, especially juxtaposed with her brother Edward’s massive inherited estate. One of the most poignant moments and certainly a highlight of my trip was seeing Austen’s writing desk at The British Library in London. I incorporated all of this into the book: a modern American woman’s perspective of Austen. Yet, when we analyze Austen, we analyze ourselves, do we not?

Austenprose readers, check out the first chapter of Undressing Mr. Darcy here!

So much more to say, but I have to thank Laurel Ann again for hosting me on this special day! So great to be here.

Author Karen Doornebos in Bath (2012)

A * wave * from the top of Bath Abbey! 

On each leg of the Undressing Mr. Darcy Blog Tour, I’m taking you along for a ride to England, where I traveled during the summer of 2012 to do some research for my new book. Where am I on this stop? I climbed the 212 steps to the top of Bath Abbey for the panoramic views of the hills and crescents. Afterwards I promptly treated myself to a fluffy Bath bun at the famous Sally Lunn’s, established in 1680 in a house built in 1482… The bun arrived smothered in butter and strawberry jam, but the real topper was enjoying that and peppermint tea in Sally Lunn’s Jane Austen Room!

Sally Lunn's in Bath

JOIN THE BLOG TOUR OF UNDRESSING MR. DARCY: 

12/2: The Penguin Blog

Launch! 12/3: Austenprose

12/4 Laura’s Review Bookshelf & JaneBlog

12/5 Chick Lit Plus – Review

12/6 Austen Authors

12/9 Fresh Fiction

12/10 Writings & Ramblings

12/11 Brant Flakes & Skipping Midnight

12/12 Risky Regencies Q&A

12/13 Books by Banister

Jane Austen’s 238th Birthday! 12/16 Jane Austen in Vermont,

My Jane Austen Book Club &

Author Exposure Q&A

12/17 Literally Jen

12/18 Savvy Verse & Wit – Review

12/19 Kritters Ramblings

12/20 Booking with Manic- Review

12/23 BookNAround

12/26 My 5 Monkeys – Review

12/27 All Grown Up – Review

12/30 Silver’s Reviews

1/2 Dew on the Kudzu

Mr. Darcy’s Stripping Off… 

His gloves. At each stop on the Undressing Mr. Darcy Blog Tour, Mr. Darcy will strip off another piece of clothing. Keep track of each item in chronological order and at the end of the tour you can enter to win a GRAND PRIZE of the book’s, “DO NOT DISTURB I’m Undressing Mr. Darcy” door hangers for you and your friends, tea, and a bottle of wine (assuming I can legally ship it to your state). US entries only, please. 

Thank you Karen for joining us today on Austenprose. Best wishes on the success of your new book. 

Please visit us on December 11 for our review of Undressing Mr. Darcy.

Author Karen Doornebos (2013)Author Bio: Karen Doornebos is the author of Undressing Mr. Darcy published by Berkley, Penguin. Her first novel, Definitely Not Mr. Darcy, has been published in three countries and was granted a starred review by Publisher’s Weekly. Karen lived and worked in London for a short time, but is now happy just being a lifelong member of the Jane Austen Society of North America and living in the Chicagoland area with her husband, two teenagers and various pets—including a bird. Speaking of birds, follow her on Twitter and Facebook! She hopes to see you there, on her website www.karendoornebos.com and her group blog Austen Authors.

A GRAND GIVEAWAY

Enter a chance to win one of three copies available of Undressing Mr. Darcy, by Karen Doornebos by leaving a comment including your favorite Mr. Darcy quote from Pride and Prejudice, or by asking Karen a question about her writing process or the characters in her new book. The contest is open until 11:59 pm PT, December 11, 2013. Winners will be drawn at random from the comments and posted on Thursday, December 12, 2013. Shipment to US addresses only. Good luck to all.

Undressing Mr. Darcy, by Karen Doornebos
Berkley Trade (2013)
Trade paperback (368) pages
ISBN: 978-0425261392

Cover image courtesy of Berkley Trade © 2013; text Karen Doornebos © 2013, Austenprose.com

Project Darcy, by Jane Odiwe – A Review

Project  Darcy, by Jane Odiwe (2013)From the desk of Lisa Galek:

There’s one thing that’s true about Janeites – we love a good romance. Whether it’s a couple exchanging glances nearly two hundred years ago or a modern guy and gal sharing their first kiss on the streets of London, there’s something so magical about experiencing the feeling of falling in love… even if we’re only reading about it. In her new novel, Project Darcy, Jane Odiwe combines love stories from the past and present to give us an interesting spin on the life of Jane Austen.

When Ellie Bentley agrees to volunteer for an archeological dig at the site of Jane Austen’s childhood home in Steventon Rectory, she’s looking forward to spending a nice summer with her four closest friends – Jess, Martha, Cara, and Liberty. But almost as soon as she arrives, Ellie starts to see strange things: a man who looks just like he could be the ghost of Mr. Darcy and visions of a romance that happened 200 years ago. As the days pass and Ellie learns more about the secrets of Steventon, she gets drawn deeper and deeper into the life and loves of Jane Austen.

Meanwhile, the five friends are finding that their lives are playing out just like one of Austen’s romances. A handsome Oxford student named Charlie Harden has his eye on Jess, while Ellie is convinced that his friend, Henry Dorsey, is the most arrogant man who ever lived. Cara and Liberty are busy flirting with anyone and everyone in their path – even Greg Whitely, a gorgeous TV star who might not be as charming as he seems. Could the visions that Ellie keeps seeing hold the key to figuring out all their modern-day romantic entanglements?

Project Darcy is a bit of a literary mash-up. It’s part modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice and part Austen-inspired magical realism. Not only is Ellie on a journey to find her own Mr. Darcy, but she also has the ability to see into important moments from Jane Austen’s past. While this idea is really interesting and has a lot of potential, in the end, the book sometimes struggled to bring the two stories together.

Don’t get me wrong, I love a good contemporary update on Austen. It’s so fun to see her stories play out with modern couples. I also don’t take any issue with characters who randomly travel back in time and help us get to know Jane Austen a little bit better – there’s something delightful about letting our imaginations fill in the gaps in our favorite author’s personal story. But, combining these two is apparently a tricky business.

In this novel, we have a character from the present who randomly falls back into the past every so often. These transitions were always smooth and well-written, but they did sometimes interrupt the flow of the story. One moment we’re with Ellie as she’s about to confront Henry, the next, we’re at a ball in 1796 gazing across the room at Tom Lefroy. Sometimes, it was hard to figure out which love story to focus on. Just when you wanted more of one – poof! – it was gone.

There are lots of Austen-inspired novels that play with some kind of time travel. One of the things I’ve always noticed about these books is the main character will usually spend some time coming to terms with what’s happened. But, Ellie isn’t worried at all when she unexpectedly begins to see visions of the past. The author explains this by saying that Ellie always had a gift for seeing ghosts and such. But, these visions are so intense that they made me wish Ellie would have at least stopped to check in with her doctor and make sure everything was all right.

Aside from all this, the author does write well and the characters are well-developed and vibrant. The love stories, also, are passionate and sweet and will really draw you in. And the event that brings everyone together – the archeological dig at Steventon – really happened. The dialogue is fun and witty, but, at times, it got a little outdated. Occasionally, during the scenes that took place in the present, the characters just came off sounding a bit too formal to be 21st-century guys and girls.

Overall, the book gives us two intriguing romances. It just has a little trouble making them come together. At times, it felt like I was reading two excellent love stories, not one cohesive one. In the end, the author tries to tie everything together in an interesting and surprising way, but, sadly, I don’t think she’s completely able to wrap up all the loose ends.

4 out of 5 Stars

Project Darcy, by Jane Odiwe
Paintbox Publishing (2013)
Trade paperback (326) pages
ISBN: 978-0954572235

Cover image courtesy of Paintbox Publishing © 2013; text Lisa Galek © 2013, Austenprose.com