Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart, by Beth Pattillo – A Review

I have read a few Austenesque books in my day. Am I jaded? Hope not. I usually know by the end of the third chapter if it has wings: a fresh concept skillfully rendered, Austen allusions or her characters reverently portrayed and humor in the form of wit and irony, please. I know. It’s a tall order. I’m fastidious. But occasionally, and more frequently as of late, “every feature works.” Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart was a welcome surprise. It charmed me right down to my be-ribboned dancing slippers. Let me extol upon its charms.

Pragmatic heroine Claire Prescott is not nearly as keen on Jane Austen as her romantic young sister Missy who has earned a grant to attend a week-long Jane Austen seminar at Oxford University in England. Even though she has read Pride and Prejudice, she can not understand her sister’s passion for Mr. Darcy, that romantic icon that has fluttered thousands of hearts for the last two centuries. When pregnancy complications prevent her sister from attending, Claire steps in to present Missy’s paper despite her immediate need to hunt for a new job and attend her negligent sports crazed boyfriend Neil.

The dreaming spires of Oxford are captivating, but James Beaufort, a fellow attendee is most certainly not. Even though his noble mien just might rival Mr. Darcy in the rich, handsome, and haughty department, he is not Claire’s type and personalities clash. Meanwhile, a chance meeting with Harriet Dalrymple, an eccentric elderly woman who casually presents her with what could be the Holy Grail of Austenalia, the manuscript of First Impressions, the lost first draft of Pride and Prejudice is not what she expected. Surprisingly, this manuscript’s plot is different from Austen’s published novel and Claire is wary of its authenticity and Harriet’s claim to be one of the ‘Formidables’, a secret sect of Janeites safekeeping Austen manuscripts and letters thought to have been destroyed years ago. When James Beaufort’s attentions change their tact, her room is ransacked, others interested in the manuscript begin to threaten her and Neil’s unannounced arrival in Oxford complicates her confusing relationship with James, Claire, like Austen’s heroine Elizabeth Bennet must reevaluate her first impressions.

Sparkling, engaging and subtly humorous, brava, brava, brava to Beth Pattillo for knowing her Austen lore and cleverly weaving it into a contemporary romance that will enchant Austen fans and romance readers alike. What true Janeite could not be enthralled reading the long lost First Impressions manuscript, having a romance with a Mr. Darcy doppelganger and spending a holiday among the dreaming spires of Oxford University? *swoon* It was such a heady rush that this Anglophile was reading until the wee hours.

Pattillo has succeeded in surpassing the charm and creativity of her last novel Jane Austen Ruined My Life and supplied us with a much more satisfying ending. My one trifling quibble, which I deign to mention, is that Miss Austen spelled Mr. Collins’ home Hunsford Parsonage, and not Huntsford. Easily overlooked in comparison to the scope of one of the best contemporary Austenesque novels that I have ever had the pleasure to read. Oh, and where can I sign up to be a ‘Formidable’?

5 out of 5 Stars

Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart, by Beth Pattillo
Guideposts, New York (2010)
Trade paperback (263) pages
ISBN: 978-0824947934

Cover image courtesy of Guideposts © 2010; text Laurel Ann Nattress,

21 thoughts on “Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart, by Beth Pattillo – A Review

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  1. I usually avoid modern Austenesques, but this review gives me pause. I love the idea of a secret society of Austen fans zealously guarding her work and will seriously consider purchasing a copy. Thanks for the review.


  2. Thanks for the review! I’m a bit wary of all those Austen-like books as there are so many (ahem) bad ones out there. But this sounds quite good and I’ve added it to my “to read” list. When you figure out how to become a Formidable, please, please post that as well – I am in! ;)


  3. I put this one on my to-read list for 2010 as soon as I heard about it and have already requested it at the library. I really enjoyed Jane Austen Ruined My Life (although I had some reservations about the ending), and I was thrilled when I learned Beth Pattillo wrote another modern Austen-inspired novel. If you say this one surpasses the previous book, I’m sure I’ll enjoy it as well.


  4. Sounds like a great book and one that I might have to give a try. I have read a few “Austenesque” book, myself. I have to admit, most of them fall flat with me. This sounds like one with a bit of substance to it.


  5. This one sounds fabulous! At first I thought it was a sequel to Jane Austen Ruined My Life, but it doesn’t sound like it? And has different characters, so I’m going to guess it’s not! :) I love the modern Austen stories even more than some of the historicals, I have to admit, so I’ll definitely be adding this one to my TBR stack. Pattillo’s first novel is already there… need to read that soon!


    1. Meg, I highly recommend this one for you, in fact, as I was reading it, I though, ah, Meg will like this. It’s worth moving to the top of your huge TBR pile.

      Cheers, LA


  6. Oh this looks good! I was really pleased with Jane Austen Ruined My Life so this should be great!
    Wouldn’t it be fantastic if there were really a group of “formidables” and there are more Austen letters in existence than first thought?????


  7. Thank you for the recommendation of Jane Austen Ruined By Life. It is an absolute dream! I also picked up the new Mr. Darcy. I have been a lurker on your blog for a while and appreciate your fine recommendations, especially since there is so much Austen taddle out there to “suffer” through.


  8. I love to read each and every Jane Austen book adaptation and thought this one sounded intriguing when I saw it on Amazon. I will be sure to give it a read.


  9. Maybe I am just turning into cranky “cousin Philly” Austen but this was just ok. In my opinion. It was a quick, easy book that I read in almost one sitting but I felt there wasn’t much meat to the story. Rather quick surface ideas that I found I needed to buy into right away or I wasn’t going to get the story at all. I didnt like Claire very much as she starts right off with a lie, claiming to be a pediatrician when in fact she has only a GED. I guess “What happens at Oxford, stays at Oxford.” But seriously, I would think the next round of questions would have been, “So where did you go to medical school?” It would have been easy to out her in this lie. I don’t know what I disliked about this character more… that she isn’t even a good lier (if there is such a thing) or that she ends up carrying the priceless manuscript in her oversized bag like its her shopping list??? I was also annoyed that the Oxford JA conference just talks about Darcy and P&P — almost dismissing any of Austen’s other works. And then the back story of her relationship w/Neil was thin. Patillo only writes that he doesn’t pay attention to Claire and that she isnt even sure Neil knows she has left the country… but then has him showing up to surprise Claire with a platinum diamond ring… what brought that on?? I liked the whole drama with the Formidables, Harriet and James. The “First Impressions” composition was creative and I enjoyed the whole way that each chapter was “discovered” and presented to Claire and reader. And I was relieved for Claire’s happy, yet predictable ending. Thanks for the recommendation. I am glad to have read it but enjoyed Patillo’s “Jane Austen Ruined My Life” so much more, despite that book’s ending, that left the “happy ending” entirely up to chance.


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