Following a spate of terrible dates in her native New York, bookstore manager Emily Albright impulsively books a trip to England to spend the Christmas holidays on a “literature lover’s” tour of Jane Austen’s native land. With a copy of her beloved Pride & Prejudice, Emily hopes to find something to inspire her — and bring her a smidge closer to that elusive and dashing of all heroes, Mr. Darcy.
If only she knew how right she would be.
Everything about Alexandra Potter’s Me & Mr. Darcy appealed to me — the setting (oh, that English countryside!); the subject matter (a woman on an Austen quest? Yes, please!) and the hint that a great love story was to follow (Mr. Darcy had to appear in here somewhere). And while I did ultimately enjoy the book, I have to say that getting there was a little tedious.
Firstly, there wasn’t anything subtle about the novel — it’s a clear model of P&P if ever I’ve read one. And yes, that definitely makes for a predictable plot. But I tried to let go of that as much as I could and just enjoy the story . . . Emily is a cute, if flawed, main character. She’s certainly not putting on any airs. And her realizations about Mr. Darcy and the “pedestal” on which adoring women have placed him were interesting, if not totally original.
But something that continuously irked me was that, from the get-go, I realized our “American” narrator couldn’t possibly be American. (Indeed, Potter herself is British.) Phrases like someone “pulling a face” made me continuously question whether the plot included Emily actually turn into an Englishwoman, and these references were littered everywhere in the text. On some level, I’m fine with that — I’m not an American slang snob! But then Emily would sprinkle in phrases like “awesome” in the next breath, making me feel like the only possible response our American narrator could have to Mr. Darcy’s advances was something a California surfer would say. Really? And traditional British slang totally dumbfounded her. We all know what the “loo” is, don’t we?
But what I liked about the book was the burgeoning relationship with wry British journalist Spike, a man who takes the same tour as Emily at the command of his editor. Spike sets out to discover why Mr. Darcy ranks No. 1 on a survey of men British women would most like to date, and the continuing obsession with the literary lover is the subject of his editorial. While I thought Emily’s immediate dislike of Spike was totally unwarranted — and, dare I say it, prejudiced? — I did eventually enjoy watching their conversations change and lengthen. I hate to say it here, but I would have gladly taken more Spike over Potter’s version of brooding, moody Darcy. (I know — the audacity!)
Ultimately, not the most fascinating read — and definitely not my favorite work of Austen fiction. But if you’re someone who shares a love of Darcy and wants some cute scenes romping through the English countryside, it might be worth your time. That being said, I’ll say honestly that I hurried through several parts in an effort to just get done already. And that’s about the least “prejudiced” recommendation I can give!
2.75 out of 5!