Chatting with Beth Pattillo, author of Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart – and a Giveaway

Jane Austen is known for her finely drawn and memorable characterizations. Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice is undoubtedly her most famous hero, easily filling the literary romantic icon mantle. Our fascination with his haughty, arrogant noble mien has inspired many authors, screenwriters and even composers to try recreate that magic combination of enigmatic characteristics that Austen so skillfully introduced. The latest Austen inspired novel to feature a Mr. Darcy-like doppelganger is Beth Pattillo’s Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart. It follows a similar format to her previous novel Jane Austen Ruined My Life (2009) which was one of my Top 20 Favorite Austenesque Books of 2009. Set in contemporary times, young heroine Claire Prescott is at a crossroads in her life, travels to England, meets a handsome, haughty and wealthy young man and is thrown into the path of the ‘Formidables’, a secret sect of Janeites harboring Jane Austen letters, manuscripts and her reputation. Beth has kindly offered to chat with us today about her new book and her affinity to one of her favorite authors.

Welcome Beth, thanks for joining us:

When did you first discover Jane Austen and did she influence your reading choices and writing career?

I first discovered Jane Austen my junior year in college.  I was lucky enough to do a semester abroad at Westfield College, University of London.  It was a bitterly cold winter and I spent a lot of hours curled up beneath my down duvet, radiator blazing, reading those inexpensive Penguin Classic paperbacks.  I started with Pride and Prejudice and worked my way through the rest by the time spring arrived.

I love the Regency period and have read lots and lots of research books, so I feel as if it’s a time period I know well.  I started out writing Regency romance, spent some time with Southern women’s fiction and mystery, and then, after a trip to London, started to wonder about Austen’s lost letters.  That’s when the idea for Jane Austen Ruined My Life was born.  The new book, Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart, seemed the logical next step.  If I could fantasize about Austen’s lost letters, how much more fun would it be to play a game of “What If” with regards to the original draft of Pride and Prejudice?

Jane Austen is known for her astute observations of human nature and lively characterizations. Which heroes, heroines, rogues and flirts do you admire and or abhor in Austen’s novels and what do you think makes them so memorable?

I love all her heroines, with the possible exception of Fanny in Mansfield Park.  I think Elizabeth Bennet is memorable for her wit and complexity.  The Dashwood sisters in Sense and Sensibility set up a great ‘debate’ about just how much romanticism is too much romanticism.  I have to say, I’m much more an Elinor than a Marianne.  Anne Elliot may be my favorite heroine because she takes all the indignities her family foists upon her with good grace – plus, she triumphs magnificently in the end.  I also love Emma.  I know she rubs some people the wrong way, but I think her heart is in the right place.

As to the heroes, I’m particularly fond of Mr. Darcy, Colonel Brandon, and Captain Wentworth.  The first has to tame his own ego, the second has to persevere to gain his heart’s desire, and the third one has to learn how to forgive.  They all win our hearts because they prove themselves worthy of their heroines.

As to the rogues and flirts, I have to say I enjoy them all.  Austen has such a keen eye for describing human nature.  All her characters remind me of people whom I’ve met in my life.

In Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart, one of the main characters is James Beaufort, a wealthy and arrogant young man whose personality and social position are similar to Jane Austen’s Mr. Darcy. Could you share your research process for the character and elaborate on the dynamics between him and your heroine Claire Prescott. 

I wanted to explore what would happen if Claire did indeed meet her own version of Mr. Darcy.  I think that’s a pretty common fantasy among women today!  I tried to give James enough of the Darcy elements to make him intriguing without making him a carbon copy.  And he had to be tied in to the mystery of the manuscript Claire finds, so I set him up as part of an old publishing family.  I think the central Darcy question is whether, in real life, the average woman could trust him, whether his wealth and privilege would keep him from engaging in a relationship of equals.  That’s the journey Claire has to take.

The novel is set at Oxford University and your descriptions of the campus and town are vivid and intriguing. Jane Austen’s father, two brothers and uncle attended Oxford and I loved how you tided the family connection into the novel. Did you travel to Oxford for research or are you an armchair admirer of some of the most beautiful eighteenth-century architecture in the world?

I was lucky enough to spend a week at Christ Church, Oxford several years ago as part of a program called The Oxford Experience.  (I highly recommend it.)  I very much enjoyed reliving in my mind the wonderful places that I experienced firsthand.  I do worry that I didn’t get all the details just right, since it’s been several years since I was there.  I spent the week I was there doing a writing course with a wonderful instructor, meeting some fascinating people, sweltering in the heat (just as Claire does in the book), and sitting for hours in the Masters Garden.  The character of Harriet Dalrymple was inspired (but not based on) a woman that I actually met along the Kings Walk on my first day.

After your success with Jane Austen Ruined My Life, you could have gone in any writing direction but chose another Austen inspired theme. I loved how you tie the two novels together with the ‘Formidables’ a group of Janeites protecting Jane Austen’s long, and thought to be lost letters and manuscripts. Where did the inspiration of this theme come from and do you plan to continue it in your next novel?

I’m not sure where the idea for the Formidables came from, other than that I’m always playing the “What If” game in my mind.  What if Cassandra Austen didn’t destroy her sister’s letters, as instructed?  Where would they be?  Who would have them?  And why wouldn’t they have been made public?

I chose the name “Formidables” because that’s how Jane and Cassandra Austen referred to themselves as the strong-but-loving maiden aunts in the family.  I hope to write someday about how the group was formed and more about their function.

My next novel from Guideposts will be The Truth About Jane Eyre (Winter 2011).  I’m switching to the Brontes for this one and it’s a nice change of pace.  I don’t think I’m done with Jane Austen quite yet, though, but it’s too soon to spill any beans.

If you could plan a tea with Jane Austen, who else would you include in your soiree?

If I could have tea with Jane Austen, I wouldn’t invite anyone else, because I wouldn’t want to share her!  I’d be terrified and ecstatic all at once.  I’d love to know what she would make of our fascination with/adoration of her work.  And I wouldn’t mind finding out a little more about how some of her famous couples spent the rest of their lives!

Thanks for chatting with us today Beth. I too would want Jane Austen all to myself if she came to tea. Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart will be released on February 1st, 2010. I highly recommend it.

GIVEAWAY CONTEST

UPDATE Feb 08: The giveaway contest has now concluded and the winners will be announced today.

UPDATE Feb 04: Because the outstanding response by readers to this giveaway, the publisher has kindly offered to double the number of books being offered to 6 copies of Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart and two sets of MDBMH and Jane Austen Ruined My Life. Huzzah!

Enter a chance to win one of three copies of Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart and one set combined with Jane Austen Ruined My Life by leaving a comment before midnight PT Sunday February 7th, 2010 stating who is your favorite Mr. Darcy in an Austen inspired book or movie. Winners will be announced on Monday, February 8th, 2010. Shipping to US and Canadian addresses only. Good luck!

UPDATE 02/08/10: The contest has concluded. The winner was announced. Follow this link to discover if it was YOU!

Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart: A Novel, by Beth Pattillo
Guideposts Books (2010)
Trade paperback (272) pages
ISBN: 978-0824947934

112 thoughts on “Chatting with Beth Pattillo, author of Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart – and a Giveaway

  1. I think my favorite Mr. Darcy in an Austen inspired book or movie is Mr. Darcy in Lost in Austen. I just loved how we got a bit of a different look at Mr. Darcy. Also, how can you not love the scene with him coming out of the water, and when he follows Amanda into modern day London? So great.

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  2. I’ve often thought debated whether or not I would like Mr. Darcy if he suddenly appeared in my life. Claire’s journey must be fascinating!

    As for my favorite Darcy, I’ve been reading The Last Man in the Word by Abigail Reynolds, and I find him intriguing. A bit harsh, but very Darcy-ish.

    Great giveaway!

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  3. Oh this book sounds awesome :)

    My favorite is Colin Firth in the BBC Series, I permanently have the DVDs in my DVD player just in case I feel the need to watch it :)

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  4. I really loved Colin Firth’s portrayal, but to be honest, lately I have really been enjoying Matthew Macfadyen’s work in general. He had to grow on me, but he is excellent as Hareton Earnshaw in Wuthering Heights, and there is a wonderful clip of him performing Shakespeare’s Sonnet 29 on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XOCL_NEgf0g. So I have to say that my current favorite Mr. Darcy is Matthew Macfadyen. He is delicious in the scene in the rain when he insults Elizabeth Bennet. Oh, this is just a hard question. I love them both! Why do I have to choose!

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  5. Wonderful interview! I enjoyed learning about this new book and would like to wish Beth best of luck with its release!

    My favorite Mr. Darcy is Laurence Olivier, he perfected haughtiness.

    I love Mr. Darcy’s portrayal in any Abigail Reynolds book!

    Thanks for the wonderful opportunity!

    Meredith

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  6. Matthew Macfadyen is my favorite Mr. Darcy. I know most people think Colin Firth is a the quintessential Mr. Darcy but there is something about Matthew Mcfadyen’s tall, dark handsomeness that too hard to resisit! :)

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  7. I’m really excited to read this book, since I enjoyed Beth Pattillo’s previous Austenesque novel. Great interview, Laurel Ann! I’d actually like to have Cassandra at the tea…along with my own big sister. The four of us would have great girly fun!

    My all-time favorite Darcy is Mr. Cowan in 2008’s Lost In Austen. He shows a softer side of the character that we rarely see. I liked his portrayal of a man who, in spite of his social status, falls for a modern girl like Amanda.

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  8. In movies, I’d have to say Colin Firth. Hands down! But if we’re going to talk Austen-related books, I think I’ll have to go with Harry Noble from “Pride, Prejudice, & Jasmin Field.”

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  9. Matthew MacFadyen, for sure. There is just something about him that brings the character to life unlike any other actor who played the part. The little nuances of emotion that flicker briefly in his eyes, the way he balls up his hand after helping Elizabeth into her carriage, and just the sheer essence of the man are powerful enough to take your breath away.
    Margay

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  10. Matthew Macfadyen for me. The poor guy wet from the rain just looks so pathetic after Elizabeth refuses him :). Even though it’s not in the book, we always get a wet Darcy, don’t we? ;)

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  11. I think I have to go with Colin Firth as being the ultimate Darcy, although I haven’t minded the actors in the recent adaptations (the 2005 one, and Lost in Austen). Still, Colin Firth captured a Mr. Darcy that can’t really be duplicated…that most everyone recognized immediately.
    I would love to receive the book giveaway, as this novel sounds very intriguing, and I am always on the look-out for Jane-inspired things that are skillfully done.

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  12. Colin Firth is definitely my number one but coming in a close second is Elliot Cowan. He played Darcy in the series Lost in Austen.

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  13. I must agree, Colin Firth is the best Mr. Darcy EVER! Thanks for the contest! I read the first book and loved it, and cannot wait to read this one!

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  14. Colin Firth would be my first pick,,but then I have not met a Mr Darcy I did not like,,I would love to win a copy..please enter my name,,
    Devon
    hanna_563 at msn dot com

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  15. This is like Sophie’s choice… how can one choose a favorite Darcy?

    I would have to say that I love Colin Firth, but as Mark Darcy in “Bridget Jones’ Diary”. In that adaptation he’s the somewhat stodgy Darcy we know from the book, but he also shows a scrapiness we normally don’t see. Fighting in the street? Yes, please. And those Christmas sweaters!

    Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart sounds like a good read! Thanks for bringing us this interview.

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  16. Colin Firth was my first Mr. Darcy and I shall always love him best. But Matthew Macfadyen comes a close second, the scene where he comes striding out through the mists gets me everytime.

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  17. In the movies? While I love Colin Firth and wonder if I’m committing terrible, terrible blasphemy by admitting this, I really do love Matthew Macfadyen as Darcy, too. In fact… urgh. I’m giving to to Matthew. Don’t hate me! :)

    In books… I really loved Darcy in Abigail Reynolds’ Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy: The Last Man In The World. Sensitive, strong and devoted — all the things I love!

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  18. I’m definitely still liking Colin Firth as Darcy. Although I have to say, after watching Lost in Austen…I really like Elliot Cowan {even though I know he wasn’t REALLY a Mr. Darcy}.

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  19. My favorite Mr. Darcy is Colin Firth as Mark Darcy (Bridget Jones’ Diary), a character based on….Colin Firth playing Mr. Darcy! I love the roundabout-ness of it all and the fact that he’s essentially playing a character based on himself. Plus, he’s really nice to look at.

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  20. Like so many others, my favorite Mr. Darcy will always be Colin Firth. The first I saw and my absolute favorite – – I think he nailed it.

    I adored “Jane Austen Ruined My Life” – – I would love to win this one. Thanks for the opportunity!

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  21. Hard question… My favourite mr. Darcy is no doubt Colin Firth… He IS Mr. Darcy! He played this role with perfection in Pride & Prejudice and in Bridget Jones’ Diary… And hes’s the only one I picture when reading the book!

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  22. My favorite Mr. Darcy has been and will forever be Colin Firth in the 1995 adaptation. I’ll admit that I also love Lawrence Olivier in the terrible 1940’s adaptation.

    Great interview. I previously read your review of Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart and it sounds fantastic. I read Jane Austen Ruined My Life about a year ago and loved it.

    Thanks for the great giveaway!

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  23. Call me nuts, but I like the two most recent Darcies for different reasons. I thought Colin Firth’s Darcy was more true to the book & more haughty/snobbish, while Matthew Macfadyen played Darcy more as a shy, nervous young man. Firth was arrogant at first & then restrained in his passion; Macfayden was initially disinterested & then approached his love cautiously. I enjoyed both interpretations (& I own both!).

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  24. I’m torn between Colin Firth and Matthew McFayden, but as I do appreciate the subtle differences McFayden brought to his version (i.e., the hand clenching, then splaying after handing Lizzy into the carriage), I will have to say him.

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  25. My love for anything vintage, retro, ‘old-timey’….began when I watched the 1995 A&E/BBC version of Pride and Prejudice….Colin Firth is the ONLY person that I can imagine playing Mr.Darcy….I have watched other versions, but none captivate me and hold my interest…..
    I went to the library one day when I was 16(Now 29), and I was looking along the bottom shelf of movies and I saw a 6 tape set with a very handsome man on the cover…..That was the beginning of ‘love’….It will always be Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy. :)

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  26. My favorite Mr. Darcy by far, has to be Laurence Olivier. Even though the 1940 version of Pride and Prejudice deviated the most from the book, it is one of my all time favorites. Laurence Olivier was the perfect Mr. Darcy. When I first read Pride and Prejudice, I pictured him exactly the way he was portrayed by Olivier. I’ve seen virtually every version of Pride and Prejudice ever produced, and he still is my favorite Mr. Darcy.

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  27. Favorite has to be Matthew Macfadyen. With those gorgeous eyes and that amazing voice, how can a girl resist?
    (Though I do admit Colin Firth is pretty close behind ;)

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  28. Well, this is a grand turn out. You all really want to read this book. Huzzah!

    I must have my share of the conversation and say that I may be the only one to vote for David Rintoul. I am very fond of Colin Firth’s wet shirt Darcy, and Elliot Cowan was quite yummy too.

    Good luck to everyone.

    LA

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  29. I loved Matthew Macfadyen’s performance as Darcy. He was haughty/aloof, yet you could excuse him as shy or uncertain. The expression on his face conveyed a solemn stillness and he brought emotional depth to the role, rather than simply being purely eye candy.

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  30. As far as the movies go…Matthew Macfadyen for me. As far as the books…Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Call me crazy…I can’t help it, I loved that book!

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  31. Oh, Colin Firth! It doesn’t matter if it’s the BBC version or the 2008 version with Kiera Knightly.
    Mr. Firth is the best and only man I can picture as Mr. Darcy.

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  32. This is a problem. Out of ALL the filmed versions I must say that I was MOST disappointed with Laurence Olivier’s (however, that may also have been because of the horrible script which took outrageous liberties with P&P as well as repurposing costumes from Gone With the Wind –sheesh, how cheap!). I loved both Matthew McFadden and Colin Firth in the role — and David Rintoul, too!

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  33. Like most others, it has to be Mr. Firth. Although sometimes I think he seems to be a bit too old and Mathew Macfadyen seems more like the correct age. But it always come back to Mr. Firth. Always.

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  34. I’m going to have to go with Matthew Macfadyen. His line “You’ve bewitched me, mind and soul, and I love, love you. And from this day never wish to be parted from you.” was magnificent! <3

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  35. I think Matthew Macfayden is the best Mr. Darcy. He has this way about him, the way his eyes can change from harsh and cold to warm and kind so quickly. He’s the perfect Mr. Darcy because of how he pretends to not care, but from his mannerisms you can see that he truly cares. Colin Firth has to say everything the book says because he can’t express it in his expressions, but Matthew Macfayden can say it with a flash of his eyes.

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  36. Matthew Macfadyen’s portrayal of Mr. Darcy is my favorite of the Pride and Prejudice version, but my all time favorite on-screen incarnation of the character is Colin Firth playing Mark Darcy in Bridget Jones Diary. I always wanted to find and fall for a real life Mr. Darcy, and wondered how he would translate into real life. While BJD is still pretty fairy tale-esque I love how he is presented to our generation. He is haughty, and stiff.. and Bridget tells him off about such irritations, but he is also strong, loyal, smart, a tad bit boyish and geeky, and just… a real man. Once he gets over himself, you see how protective and really loving he is. Downright sensual! The deep raw kiss he gives her.. how he is just under a spell until she will stop fussing and give him some lovin! At Bridgets birthday party, there is this look he gives her.. just piercing in, deep, loving and longing, with his jaw tightening. That look tops ANY Mr. Darcy-coming-out-of-the-water scene in my book! He fights for her, he loves her “just as she is” faults and all, he is willing to work with a modern mess of a girl because he recognizes her beauty within. Lastly, to sum up why he beats the other on-screen Darcy’s… HE CAN COOK!!! Ha!

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  37. I do like Colin Firth but will try to be different here and mention a book. I fell in love with Kate Fenton’s Lions and Liquorice which is a sort of inverted Pride and Prejudice with an unusual hero worth hunting down!

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  38. My favorite Mr. Darcy is Matthew MacFadyen in the recent adaptation of the novel with Keira Knightley. I believe he brings so much more to the character than brooding Colin Firth’s in the miniseries does. He’s stiff and rude, yet he really shows Elizabeth how he feels, especially in the scene where she visits his sister at Pemberley. Also, it’s easier to see the two’s attraction to each other. There’s better eye language and body language; the secret smiles and longing looks he gives to her. When you’re watching him, you can see the change in character, the whole character arch, and you fall in love with him just as much as Elizabeth does.

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  39. I’m torn between Colin Firth (who is indeed Darcy God) but I really liked Elliot Cowan’s version too. Although Matthew MacFadyen and the scene in the rain *shivers* so much suppressed emotion… that’s it, I can’t choose I love them all. As for book versions, I’ve only read a few Austen-ish ones but I liked Mr. Nobley from Shannon Hale’s “Austenland”.

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  40. Listen, I’ve seen just about every version of P&P out there (along with every other Austen film), and still think that Colin Firth nails the arrogant and gentle loving sides of Darcy to a point. As for books, I’ve actually quite taken a shine to Sharon Lathan’s depiction of a strong, yet fiercely loyal and romantic Darcy. Love them all!

    Thanks for this great giveaway opportunity!

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  41. I’d have to say Colin Firth. P&P95 was the first adaptation that I watched, and now I find it somewhat difficult to picture Mr Darcy as any different when I read the book.

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  42. It may sound a little off, but my fav Mr. Darcy is from Mr. Darcy Vampire. I just get a kick out of those type of books.

    lizzi0915 at aol dot com

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  43. Colin Firth would be the winner here. He played Mr.Darcy so well with his hard shell on the outside to everyone but Elizabeth. When I read books or watch other movies I only see him.

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  44. I quite enjoyed the Colin Firth-inspired Mr. Darcy in Austenland. I’m watching the CF P&P for the very first time this weekend. Seems he’s the favourite around here :)

    Thanks for hosting this fantastic giveaway!

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  45. While I liked Matthew Macfadyen’s “shy” interpretation of Mr. Darcy, no one can do smoldering like Colin Firth. He can say so much with just a look! The definitive Mr. Darcy in my opinion.

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  46. It would be wonderful to win one/some of these books. I have to say Colin Firth – he plays haughty, anguish and smitten all very well!

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  47. My favorite Mr. Darcy is Matthew Macfadyen. I didn’t think Colin Firth acted enough in the ’95 P&P, though I love Jennifer Ehle. Firth kind of came off like a wooden post, IMHO. Macfadyen really showed the emotion, the passion, and I liked that. Plus, he has a nice voice to listen to :)

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  48. Do I have to choose? Really? I adore both Colin Firth and Matthew Macfadyen as Mr Darcy!!!

    I have read your reviews and sooooo would love to read these! Thanks for this fantastic opportunity (how generous is that publisher!)

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  49. I really can’t choose, I was always about Colin Firth but Matthew Macfadyen really won me over and I finally saw the 1940 version and I could see why my mother raved about Laurence Olivier and how Colin Firth could never top him. I do love them all for different reasons so I can’t choose!

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  50. Maybe because he’s the newest, I’m going to say Eliot Cowan from the P&P-inspired “Lost in Austen.”

    I love the scenes when he goes to modern-day London. Although I don’t quite see his attraction (aesthetically) to Amanda. Her haircut!

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  51. I had always casually admired Colin Firth’s film work, but until his role in Pride & Prejudice did I realize that the genius of his style is that he is so subtle in manner that you don’t even realize how forcefully emotional he really is. This is why he is the perfect embodiment of Mr. Darcy. And Firth has the humor to take on the same role in Bridget Jones’ Diary and put those traits to excellent work in comedic form!

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  52. The 1980 BBC version of Pride and Prejudice with David Rintoul as Mr. Darcy is the more authentic version, in my opinion. Rintoul’s Darcy is aristocratic, cold, handsome, whereas Colin Firth’s is more modern and accessible, which is why it appeals to more viewers. But if you read the book, you will see how Rintoul’s Darcy evolves more, as a character. Rintoul’s Darcy together with Garvie’s Lizzie, is very romantic.
    Firth’s is the Hollywood version–more expensive production, more frilly.

    Like

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