Book review: ‘The Man Who Loved Pride & Prejudice’ by Abigail Reynolds

For marine biologist Cassie Boulton, summers spent in Woods Hole, Massachusetts are reserved for study, experiments and reflection. She enjoys days with friend Erin, a fellow researcher, and chooses to focus on her work and opportunities brought about by all the concrete, tangible data before her.

Enter S. Calder Westing III, the wealthy son of a politician who spends summers with his buddy Scott lounging about in Woods Hole. Scott and Erin meet and hit it off, thereby introducing Calder and Cassie — and their feelings? Not quite so romantic. Or mutual. Over the course of an awkward lunch, Cassie’s first impressions of Calder are anything but flattering. Calder’s mannerisms are decidedly Darcy-like: aloof, arrogant, unfeeling and argumentative. And that’s being kind.

Abigail Reynolds’ The Man Who Loved Pride & Prejudice, tagged as a modern love story “with a Jane Austen twist,” is a contemporary romance with overtones of the Austen we know and love. Cassie and Calder have the push-and-pull, love/hate thing down pat — until suddenly, almost out of nowhere, they’re staring dreamily into each other’s eyes. And sharing a steamy evening in the water.

That didn’t bother me. As a whole, I’m a huge fan of the “You’re a jerk but, OMG — you’re smokin’ hot” plot trope. Generally speaking, that makes for some good times. But here? I’ve discovered why contemporary romance typically doesn’t work for me: I’m all about wishes. And daydreams. And build-up. And fantasy. When Things Really Begin To Happen — and y’all know what I’m saying — I suddenly lose interest. Like a lusty teenage boy only after “one thing,” I’m all hot and bothered and into this story until I get what I want. And then? I’m ready to move on.

Such is the case with The Man Who Loved Pride & Prejudice. I was super into the plot as Cassie and Calder met and tried to avoid one another, enjoying all the Austen-like twists that were similar enough to our dear Jane to be interesting but, importantly, different enough to keep my attention. But once the sizzle ratcheted up and “passions were consummated,” if you will (and that happens frequently), my ambivalence took over.

There’s plenty of backstory revolving around Cassie’s secret past and the objections of Calder’s family to his new love, all of which were fairly predictable but not unenjoyable. A blue blood to the core, there was no way Calder’s WASP-y crew was going to accept someone like Cassie — brought up from nothing and with more than her share of secrets. Calder’s family wants him to embrace politics, just like they did. He has other ideas, of course, and that’s where much of the novel’s tension in the latter half of the novel stems from.

I enjoyed the story for what it was: a contemporary tale of love, family and making one’s own way in the world. The Massachusetts setting and Cassie’s unconventional job elevated this one beyond the typical girl-works-in-publishing, girl-is-a-teacher stories with which I’m well acquainted, and I definitely appreciated that. While some of the dialogue felt stilted, I still liked the witty Darcy-and-Elizabeth-like banter flowing between our two leads. Fans of modern love stories and contemporary romance probably will, too.

3.5 out of 5!

ISBN: 1402237324 ♥ Purchase from AmazonAuthor Website
Review copy provided by publisher

Book review: ‘Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy: The Last Man In The World’ by Abigail Reynolds

What if Elizabeth had accepted Mr. Darcy the first time he asked?

Those of us familiar with Jane Austen’s classic Pride & Prejudice — which, if you’re even reading this, is probably most of us — know that Fitzwilliam Darcy popped the question to a flabbergasted Elizabeth Bennet long before she actually accepted, forcing Elizabeth to launch into her famous diatribe about Darcy being “the last man in the world whom I could ever be prevailed on to marry.” (Yikes. What a shut-down.)

Because Darcy? He was proud. Arrogant. Disdainful of Elizabeth’s family and “low connections.” And yet there was something about her — something spirited — that got him to cast aside his reservations and actually drop to one knee.

Or, in this case, plant a giant kiss on her.

While reading a novel like Abigail Reynolds’ Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy: The Last Man In The World, a variation on Pride & Prejudice, we have to remember what life was like in Regency England — decidedly straight-laced. After Darcy offers for Elizabeth’s hand in marriage and assumes she’ll be overjoyed at the proposal, he leans forward to kiss her. But his belief that they’re alone while walking is quickly voided when Colonel Fitzwilliam stumbles across the pair. Shocked and horrified that she has now been “compromised” — and knowing there’s no way she can walk away from Darcy’s unbelievable offer of marriage now — Elizabeth stays mum as she is congratulated by her acquaintances and Darcy formally asks Mr. Bennet for permission to wed his second-eldest daughter.

Can you imagine? You’re caught in a man’s arms and suddenly you’re damaged goods — destined to bring shame and poverty upon your family because of one small, unexpected smooch. Let’s just say I’m glad it’s not 1815.

But I digress.

Reynolds’ Darcy is a familiar one: haughty and in control, but his unexpected tenderness and obvious infatuation with Elizabeth — though she most definitely did not return his sentiments — was very different. I enjoyed this novel from start to finish, absolutely loving the push-and-pull between our principle characters. Reynolds does an impeccable job of keeping us firmly rooted at the Pemberley we know and love while still allowing for some change. Familiar characters enter the landscape — like the devious George Wickham, a man for whom I must admit to have a certain soft spot (I know, I know) — and Austen’s plot points are honored, though Reynolds does take us in some new directions. And some of those steamy scenes would have brought a decided blush to Miss Austen’s cheeks.

The discourse between Elizabeth and Darcy was funny and tender — and, dare I say it, they bantered. Really bantered. So many recent spin-offs or variations of Pride & Prejudice I’ve read, like Mr. Darcy, Vampyre, feature our beloved characters as mere shells of who they used to be. Reynolds’ Elizabeth is still spirited and independent, afraid of Darcy though she can’t quite put her finger on why. The evolution of their relationship was believable and, though I knew that they would have to grow to love each other (right?), there was still a little shadow across my brow when I wondered how the couple would finally set aside their — ahem — pride and prejudice to accept one another . . . faults and all.

After reading a page or two here and there for a few days, when I finally sat down to devote my full attention to this novel? I whipped through it in a few hours. And what a diverting few hours they were! Fans of Austen and our beloved Darcy and Elizabeth won’t find much fault with this novel, though I have to admit to getting a little weary of the fact that they were so often at cross-hairs. But that’s just part of the fun, right? If you love Austen fiction, don’t hesitate to pick this one up.

4 out of 5!

ISBN: 140222947X ♥ Purchase from AmazonAuthor Website
Review copy provided by publisher