Published Feb 2010
by Guideposts Books
Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart by Beth Pattillo is another read that came recommended to me by several readers (and bloggers) including Lisa at 5MinutesForBooks, Carrie at Reading To Know, and my friend Alison. I read and enjoyed Jane Austen Ruined My Life, so I quickly added this sort-of-sequel (it's not really a sequel, but it is connected) to my summer TBR list. Unfortunately, at the risk of being unpopular I must admit it didn't end up rating as high on my rating scale as I had anticipated it might...
"Claire Prescott is a sensible woman who believes in facts and figures, not fairy tales. But when she agrees to present a paper to a summer symposium at Oxford on her ailing sister's behalf, Claire finds herself thrown into an adventure with a gaggle of Jane Austen-loving women all on the lookout for their Mr. Darcy. Claire isn't looking for Mr. Anyone. She's been dating Neil, a nice -- if a bit negligent -- sports fanatic. But when a tall, dark and dashing stranger crosses her path, will she discover her inner romantic heroine? Her chance meeting with a mysterious woman who claims to have an early version of Austen's Pride and Prejudice -- in which Lizzie ends up with someone other than Fitzwilliam Darcy -- leads to an astounding discovery about the venerated author's own struggle to find the right hero for Lizzie Bennett...." (Summary courtesy of the publisher)
Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart is the second novel by Beth Pattillo which is influenced by Jane Austen and her novels and involves the "Formidables", a fictional secret society whose goal is to protect the lost writings of Austen, including in this novel the first draft of Pride and Prejudice entitled First Impressions.
As I sated above, at the risk of being unpopular with the author or any of her fans, I have to admit I was just not that impressed with this book.
Don't get me wrong, Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart is entertaining. It is as light-hearted and fluffy as chic-lit should be. As an extra bonus it is also very clean (eg. no foul language, no bedroom scenes, etc.) yet without losing any of the reality of the story. (Why can't more chic-lit novels be like this?) But what I liked best about this book is the fresh approach Pattillo takes to a very well-known story. With so many Austen-themed novels flying off the presses it definitely impresses me that Pattillo was able to write a story about Jane Austen and her most famous novel, Pride and Prejudice without falling as so many other authors have to the level of just retelling the original story. Yes, I can honestly say Pattillo succeeded that far -- Claire's story certainly gives a different twist to Pride and Prejudice.
Which brings me to the things about this book that I didn't like. For starters, I could not stand the fictionalized First Impressions. I realize there was a specific point Pattillo was trying to make by giving the reader a version of First Impressions to read, but no matter how I hard I tried I just couldn't see past the writing style. The "text" of First Impressions screamed 21st century so much that I could never get past knowing it was Pattillo's words to immerse myself into the story within the story. I think because of this I had a harder time accepting it as a "gem" as Claire does within the novel. For me it detracted from the story rather than adding to it, which is a shame as it is such a big part of the story's plot.
Which brings me to the other annoyance. Claire. I tried to, but just couldn't connect with Claire as the "Lizzie Bennett" heroine of the story. I realize she is supposed to embody a very human and identifiable character who undertakes a journey to self-discovery and comes out the other side a better person, much like Elizabeth Bennett does in Pride and Prejudice, but for me the two heroines just cannot be compared. I've always loved Elizabeth Bennett, faults and all, but Claire I found downright annoying. I sped through the story hoping she'd get her act together before her life completely fell apart. I know it sounds harsh, but I wanted to slap her a time or two.
Thankfully (semi-spoiler here), Claire does get a more settled happy ending than Pattillo gave Emma Grant in Jane Austen Ruined My Life. But even with this I can't say that I favored Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart when lined up next to the former. I think if I had to chose I'd pick the former over the latter, but that's just my opinion.
Yes, if Pattillo writes more novels that involve the Formidables I may be interested in reading them. She's worked with Emma and Pride and Prejudice that leaves her at least four other novels she could use to inspire stories of her own. I guess we'll have to wait and see.