I am amazed at how many Austenesque novels continue to have “Mr. Darcy” worked into the title. Recently there has been: A Wife for Mr. Darcy, by Mary Lydon Simonsen, The Trouble with Mr. Darcy, by Sharon Lathan, The Truth about Mr. Darcy, by Susan Adriani, Mr. Darcy and the Secret of Becoming a Gentleman, by Maria Hamilton, Only Mr. Darcy Will Do, by Kara Louise, What Would Mr. Darcy Do?, by Abigail Reynolds and ironically Mr. Darcy Goes Overboard, by Belinda Roberts – and that is only in the last four months!!! Gentle readers, have we indeed gone overboard over Mr. Darcy? *shudder* Can there ever be too much Mr. Darcy?
As I opened A Weekend with Mr. Darcy, yet another new novel featuring Jane Austen’s romantic icon of Nonpareil in its title, it was difficult not to feel a rush of astonishment. What could Victoria Connelly possibly offer that has not already been said several times in historical, contemporary or paranormal versions? The back blurb looked promising: “Surrounded by appalling exes and fawning students, the only think keeping professor Katherine Roberts sane is Jane Austen, and her secret love for racy Regency romance novels. She thinks the Jane Austen Addicts weekend will be the perfect getaway. Maybe she’ll even meet her own personal Mr. Darcy… Breezy and beautifully witty, internationally bestselling author Victoria Connelly’s charming modern love story will appeal to all Jane Austen fanatics… and anyone who loves a good romance.” OK. So I’m an admitted Jane Austen fanatic and also love a good romance… this was a good start.
Set in contemporary England, we are introduced to the two main characters, singletons Katherine Roberts, a young and beautiful Oxford professor, and Robyn Love, a romantic idealist North Yorkshire receptionist. They are both bound for an idyllic Jane Austen weekend retreat at Purley Hall in the countryside of Hampshire, not far from Janeite Mecca – Steventon, where she was born and raised, and Chawton Cottage, where she wrote many of her novels. Also secretly headed to the retreat is famous Regency romance novelist Lorna Warwick who has been privately corresponding with Katherine for months, building a strong friendship but remaining an enigma to her. Even though she is an international bestselling author, she has never given a personal interview, nor allowed pictures to be published of herself. Lorna is captivated by Katherine and arrives at the retreat incognito – as Warwick Lawton. (Spoiler) Yes, Lorna Warwick is a man.
Both ladies have their complicated romantic past following them to the retreat. Katherine can’t seem to connect with the right man and prefers to fall in love with Jane Austen’s fictional world of Mr. Darcy, Captain Wentworth and Henry Tilney, easily finding solace in her obsession of heroes because there are so few real ones. Robyn on the other hand is a pure romantic. “Life for her was never as good as it was in fiction.” She is in a longstanding (but unfulfilling) relationship with Jason Collins. Unfortunately she does not know why she stays with Jace. They have nothing in common and the thought of being Mrs. Collins (the same last name as Jane Austen’s odious Reverend Collins in Pride and Prejudice) is unbearable. When he insists upon tagging along on her Jane Austen weekend, staying in a nearby Inn, she is both annoyed and suspicious.
The perfect summer fantasy Austenesque novel, A Weekend with Mr. Darcy supplies all the elements on this scrutinizing Janeite’s checklist: stunning early eighteenth-century country manor house, cast of colorful & humorous secondary characters, emotional roadblocks and misunderstandings, and two heroines in need of some personal growth before they can fall in love. Connelly’s enthusiastic knowledge of Jane Austen is solid and her writing style is fresh and funny.
Will A Weekend with Mr. Darcy get lost in the sea of “Mr. Darcy” inspired novels flooding the market? Nope. It is the leader of the pack! Brava Ms. Connelly! Since this is the first in a trilogy, we are all anticipation from this very talented author.
5 out of 5 Regency Stars
A Weekend with Mr. Darcy, by Victoria Connelly
Trade paperback (352) pages
© 2007 – 2011 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose