From the desk of Sophia Rose:
Can a Jane Austen-themed dating agency do anything about a floundering career woman’s life- ahem love life? With trepidation and not just a few sharp pokes in the back from her friend, Sophie Johnson, long-time Jane Austen lover, and dreamer of finding her own Mr. Darcy is about to find out.
Sophie Johnson dreams of a grand career in the editing office of a posh magazine, a chic lifestyle, and a dashing rich handsome guy to lavish anything her heart desires on her because he is utterly devoted to her happiness. Of course, in real life, she’s stuck in a low-level sales job at that posh magazine, a shabby chic lifestyle, and not the fashionable kind, and a pathetic serial texter who won’t believe she called it quits. She does nothing but work her dead-end job and go home to her small shared flat for a book or a favorite rom-com movie. Something has to give and fashion writer friend Mark, finds it, a dating agency right up Sophie’s alley.
Sophie loves Jane Austen and the thought of experiencing dates while engaging in themed balls, card parties, picnics, and lectures at various Jane Austen real life and movie sites makes it worth her jitters over putting herself out there to be matched. On her way out of her interview, Sophie spots a picture on the wall of gorgeous and obviously wealthy Darcy Drummond’s whose company is backing the agency and wonders what it would be liked to be matched with him.
Sophie encounters the man in real life and is unimpressed with his arrogant rich boy attitude when Darcy vocalizes his disapproval of her and others like her. After that, she bristles just being in the same room with his high and mighty, but soon she finds herself engaged in the new circle of people who have also joined the lower tier of the agency.
The group sorts into couples though Sophie notices some interesting dynamics between her new friends. Sophie thinks she’s destined for annoying Rob, who goes on and on about his connections with Darcy’s aunt and is a menace on the dance floor until she gets paired up with charming Daniel for the Box Hill picnic.
As the engagements pile up and her world expands with experience in life and love, Sophie starts to really look at her own life with an eye for change and how to get where she really wants to be. That is until a devastating series of events force her to face reality as she never has before and see Darcy as more than an insufferable rich guy.
I had the mistaken impression about The Jane Austen Dating Agency after reading or watching movie adaptions of other modern Austen-flavored group events so I hadn’t expected a modern retelling. I liked this one for its heroine’s character and her relationships with family, friends and watching her go for her dreams, but also ended up with some reservations. There were some wonderful surprises in this one. It took me a bit- too long really to spot it, but the background cast and side plots are all from Austen’s other novels. This all blended easily into one coherent story because of the dating agency-sponsored group events that leant itself to a large cast of characters and sub-plots.
When I said I had reservations, there are a few minor things. For someone who is fully aware they are living out the Pride and Prejudice story with uncanny parallels in characters and events, she made all the same mistakes Elizabeth made each step of the way like she couldn’t deviate no matter the mounting evidence that Daniel is a true Wickham. There was also a disconnect between what Sophie said and how she thought and acted though that resolved toward the end when her character was matured from the beginning.
I had a grand time with the dating agency group and seeing all the fun events they did, and yes, I was utterly jealous. I was also well pleased with Sophie and cheered her on as she became her own hero and make her dream come true.
While this contains a romance, actually several romances, and was centered around people looking for relationships, Sophie herself was the focus and not her romance. Those, particularly Janeites, who enjoy light women’s fiction blended with romantic comedy would be the target group for this one.
4 out of 5 Stars
The Jane Austen Dating Agency: An Uplifting Romantic Comedy, by Fiona Woodifield
Bloodhound Books (January 31, 2020)
Trade paperback & Ebook (320) pages
Cover image courtesy of Bloodhound Books © 2020; text Sophia Rose © 2020, Austenprose.com