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!