From the desk of Christina Boyd
In Pemberley by the Sea, author Abigail Reynolds presents a contemporary romance loosely inspired by Jane Austen’s novel Pride and Prejudice. The story begins on the summer seaside resort of Woods Hole, a research Mecca for marine biologist Dr. Cassie Boulton. As she overhears a conversation between Calder Stephen Westling, III, a rich Republican politician’s son and his friend Scott, Democratic humble inner-city Chicago Cassie casts Calder as pompous and insulting. Sound familiar? As a relationship grows between Cassie’s friend Erin and Scott (paralleling Jane and Bingley), Calder and Cassie are thrown together on various excursions; and like Darcy, Calder finds himself drawn to Cassie. There is a particularly passionate, albeit spontaneous love scene at the beach, and although Calder believes this is only the beginning to their relationship, Cassie dissembles to concentrate on her research. By summer’s end, Calder leaves under a cloud of misunderstanding and heartache, and Cassie returns to her tenure track at a Philadelphia college. Later, she discovers the true identity of one of her favorite romance novelist Stephen R. West is none other than her very own Calder Westing. Like Darcy’s letter to Elizabeth, Calder’s novel (which he has dedicated to her) confesses through his own Pride and Prejudice adaptation, all he was unable to verbalize.
Reynolds does a great job with her characterizations with the exception of Rob Elliott, who is utterly contrived and unconvincing as Cassie’s previous love interest. He is supposed to lend depth to Cassie’s lack of confidence in men; unfortunately, his character seems almost a thin afterthought. Unlike Darcy and Elizabeth, when Calder and Cassie do finally get together, there is quite a bit of coddling and reassuring for each other’s insecurities. But given their personal histories, can you really blame them?
I own all of Abigail Reynolds’ published works, and as much as I dearly enjoy all her Regency era Pride & Prejudice “what ifs”, this modern romance is by far her finest yet. The first time I read this romance (when Reynold’s had self-published it in 2007) I read it from cover to cover in one night and I simply could not put it down. This Sourcebook edition has undergone major professional edits – deleting the entire gang connection – which serve to make it only stronger and more cohesive. Pemberley by the Sea is the type of novel you will want to keep at the top of your ‘to be re-read’ book stack as there is just enough delicious romantic tension to keep you turning the pages. Is it Austen? Well, most assuredly not. But this modern romance can easily stand on it own. I hope that Reynold’s will be inspired to write a sequel. More Calder Westin? Yes please. For mature eyes only.
4 out 5 Regency Stars
Pemberley by the Sea, by Abigail Reynolds
Sourcebooks Landmark, Naperville, IL (2008)
Trade paperback, (426) pages
© 2009 Christina Boyd, Austenprose