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He May Not Be Mr. Darcy, But He’s Definitely Dreamy

A review of Karen Doornebos's The Bachelor-meets-Pride and Prejudice masterpiece, Definitely Not Mr. Darcy

He May Not Be Mr. Darcy, But He’s Definitely Dreamy

BOOK REPORT for Definitely Not Mr. Darcy by Karen Doornebos

Cover Story: Chicky, But Not Humiliating
BFF Charm: Yay!
Swoonworthy Scale: 9
Talky Talk: Thoroughly Modern
Bonus Factors: The Bachelor, The Truth About The Olden Days
Relationship Status: Cabana Boy

Cover Story: Chicky, But Not Humiliating

The red shoes are a big clue as to the intended audience, but I do like the nice little sketch of a grand country manor. It lends a little bit of credibility to the book, which is a tall order, as it's obviously a light, romantic, P&P knockoff.

The Deal:

I had a hard time deciding whether do review Death Comes to Pemberley, an intelligent murder mystery by a master of the genre, P.D. James, or this book, which is basically The Bachelor+Pride and Prejudice. As much as I adore Death, Friday afternoon really calls for The Bachelor, no?

Like the main characters in Lost in Austen and Laurie Viera Rigler's Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict, Chloe Parker is a 21-st century woman who wakes up in the early 19th century, only Chloe's Regency period is fake. See, she's been picked as a contestant for a Jane Austen documentary project -- think 1900 House, but set in 1812 -- but when she shows up, it's not a quiz-show/reenactment contest at all. It's a reality dating show, and Chloe's been cast as the token American heiress in search of a title and a fortune to save her nouveau-plus maintenant riche family from ruin. It's a step up from her expected role as a widow or spinster, as she is the advanced age of 39, but not at all what she imagined when she sent in her application.

Horrified, Chloe almost quits, but she needs the prize money to save her failing letterpress business and pay for her daughter's private school tuition back in Chicago. Plus, she caught a glimpse of the bachelor, Mr. Sebastian Wrightman, stepping out of his bath, and it shocked her to realize how long it'd been since she'd stared at a fine, male ass. So she's dropped into a world of cutthroat bitches, Accomplishment Tasks (like ink making and firescreen embroidery), once-weekly baths, chamber pots, and high etiquette, and she is DETERMINED to make sure that bitch Lady Grace doesn't win Mr. Wrightman, who makes her feel all the feels. The only complication is Mr. Henry Wrightman, the younger son who ALSO starts to make her feel the feels. What's a girl in want of a husband to do?

BFF Charm: Yay!

Ok, I SWEAR I'm not just giving her my BFF charm so I can get steep discounts on all the letterpress stationery my house can hold. Pinky swear. Really. Chloe's funny, smart, artistic, and a feminist, even if she is a little confused. She NEEDS a BFF who will give her solid advice, not one who chucks her at every available man and tells her to get laid, and to cut it out with the 4 pm teatime, and sets her up on a reality dating show without telling her. I'll help her make clotted cream and scones for that teatime! And then help her eat it! Sure, Chloe lives a leeetle bit too much in the past (quite literally, once she's on set of Dating Mr. Darcy), but unlike her 9-year-old daughter and her best friend/business partner Emma, I DON'T think cell phones and Twitter are the answers to the great universal questions.

I have to extend BFF charms to Mrs. Crescent, Chloe's chaperone, who's a zillion months pregnant, and on the show to win money for an operation for her little son, and to Cook, who's delightful and warm and friendly, and lends Chloe more than one helping hand. Cook, come teach me how to make delicate pastries and savouries!

Swoonworthy Scale: 9

So, as a grownup book, this one obviously gives way more of the naughty details than most YA. It also has some smokin' hot scenes in the shrubbery, as well as a lively intellectual courtship that makes ME feel all those tingly feels. Sebastian's not really my type, as he's more of an 18th century rake, but Henry? Be still my heart!

Talky Talk: Thoroughly Modern

Doornebos doesn't attempt to copy Austen's style, which is good, as it would not go over well in a modern setting. She does make Chloe into a kind of updated Anne Elliot-Lizzy Bennet combo, who would rather be without a man than be with a man she doesn't love, but who -- in her heart of hearts -- really DOES want to find true love. She's feisty, like Lizzy, and has been sorely disappointed before, like Anne. She's also introspective and takes life a little seriously, also like Anne. The book sprinkles in references to all Austen's works, from ruined abbeys to getting stuck in the rain.

Bonus Factor: The Bachelor

Let's be honest -- Jane Austen probably would have LOVED The Bachelor, or at least written scathing satires of it. Hello, what else is Sense and Sensibility but a reality show dating game? It's no coincidence her novels are referred to as "marriage novels" -- the whole goal of the protags is to get hitched up (preferably to a rich guy with a heart of gold to match his bank account).

Bonus Factor: The Truth About The Olden Days

Like most modern-girl-in-olden-days stories, Chloe is alternately enchanted and horrified by the Regency period. Personal hygiene is rather lacking and the food is nasty, but I do sympathize with her satisfaction in having hours and hours each day to do nothing but sketch, paint, embroider, read, or otherwise just be accomplished.

Casting Call:

Emily Mortimer as Chloe

I'm sure Emily Mortimer has the range to play an American.

Paul Bettany as Henry

Paul Bettany is the perfect Henry. He gives me the shivers.

Matthew Goode as Sebastian

FYA favorite Matthew Goode could easily pull off Sebastian's rakish charm.

Kelly Reilly as Lady Grace

As Caroline Bingley, Kelly Reilly shone as an ice queen. She'd be perfect as Lady Grace.

Relationship Status: Cabana Boy

Look, guys. I've read a few Pride and Prejudice knockoffs in my day, but I don't advertise it, and they're not the bulk of my reading. I also enjoy a good romance, but once again, it's not all I read. I'm not ashamed by any means, but I would like people to know I have a wide range of tastes. I also don't enjoy reality tv at all (although I love the hell out of Jennifer Weiner's Bachelor tweets), but this book appealed to my naughty side. It's the book I'll invite on sexy vacations, and call up when I just need a few drinks and a good time, and I don't mind sharing it with my friends. It's not life partner material, but it sure is a hell of a lot of fun.

 

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Meghan Miller's photo About the Author: Meghan is an erstwhile librarian in exile from Texas and writer for Forever Young Adult. She loves books, cooking and homey things like knitting and vintage cocktails. Although she’s around books all the time, she doesn’t get to read as much as she’d like.