What better way to honor Jane Austen’s 236th birthday, then with a review of a contemporary version of Pride and Prejudice? Karen Doornebos’s Definitely Not Mr. Darcy is just this novel, complete with rakish gentleman, misconstrued personalities, mistaken identities, and a good dose of scandal!
Chloe Parker is in a slump. She’s quite close to 40, divorced, and her antique letterpress business, which she started and runs herself, is failing. Fearing that this loss will make the financial future for her and her daughter too unbearable, she must do something quickly to right their financial ship and save them. Relying on her love for all things Jane Austen, Chloe decides to sign up for a Jane Austen inspired reality show set in England, for which she will be paid and have the chance to win a grand prize. She’s in for a shock, however, when she discovers that what she thought was an innocuous documentary-style show is actually a dating contest set in 1812 a la The Bachelor style format. The man of the hour is a Mr. Wrightman, and she must battle eight other women for his hand. Upon arrival she finds 2 Mr. Wrightman’s and realizes quickly that she is falling for the wrong one. Will she be able to win despite the numerous setbacks against her? Will following her heart lead her down the wrong road?
If Doornebos’s debut novel is any indication of what she’s capable of as a writer, then we’re in for following her long career. She creates characters that you can relate to. Chloe is the epitome of an Austen fan. She’s in love with Regency England, wishes (like most of the rest of us) that we could step back into that time of gentlemanly manners and courting. While most of us would love to take a trip back in time, Doornebos does a god job at reminding us of how wonderful technology and progress is. With the talk of chamber pots, chaperones, and the low social standing of women, Doornebos reminds us of how romanticized the period is.
While the ending of the novel isn’t really a surprise, the steps to conclude the story were as gratifying as I thought they would be. The ending lived up to my expectations. I’m excited to see what Doornebos comes up with in the future. Regardless if she writes Jane Austen fan fiction or not, I think we’ll be intrigued by her stories and her funny and snarky characters. If you’re looking for a fresh, contemporary take on the “Austen” genre, then look no further than Karen Doornebos.
4 out of 5 Stars
Definitely Not Mr. Darcy by Karen Doornebos
Penguin Group (2011)
Paperback 384 pages