Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Source: Review Copy from Author
TYPE OF AUSTENESQUE NOVEL: Modern Adaptation, Mature Audiences
SETTING: Present day, New York
A modern-day retelling of Pride and Prejudice where Elizabeth Bennet is a grad student and striving to establish her career in the literary world and Fitzwilliam Darcy is the ultra-reserved, unhappy-looking friend of her sister’s new boyfriend. Thrown together often by the happy couple – Jane and Bingley, Darcy finds himself intrigued by Elizabeth and surprised at how he easily opens up to her. And Elizabeth begins to feel some sparks for Darcy too (or maybe that’s just the Vicodin), but sadly mistaken assumptions and a lack of communication drive these two apart before something develops. What happens when they continue to encounter each other? And what happens when Elizabeth learns the truth about Darcy’s past?
WHAT I LOVED:
- Touches of Pride and Prejudice: I love that this story doesn’t parallel Pride and Prejudice in every way and how Ms. Ashton doesn’t utilize all of Jane Austen’s characters the same. This story had its own course and it was interesting to see the unique alterations Ms. Ashton made with these characters. I thought the changes to both Elizabeth’s family and Darcy’s family were inventive and stimulating to explore. I especially enjoyed Aunt Catherine’s surprising helpfulness and Richard’s ever-present playfulness!
- New Themes: While there are traces of pride in this story, prejudice and the consequences of making hasty judgments come more into play. Both Darcy and Elizabeth are quick to asses and judge each other and it takes both a little bit of time to realize the errors of their first impressions. In addition, an important central theme introduced in this story is the healing powers of love. Both Elizabeth and Darcy carry baggage and deep pain that they hide in different ways. The second half of this story beautifully illustrates how love can help erase past pain, unleash unbridled happiness, and forever change a person. It was a very moving experience to see Elizabeth and Darcy on this emotional journey together.
- A Balance of Light and Dark: With the pain of heartbreak and past tragedies this story does have some moments of seriousness and heart-wrenching poignancy. But Ms. Ashton did such a marvelous job of making sure she balanced her tale with plenty of scenes and sequences that are “light, and bright, and sparkling!” I especially loved seeing the sense of humor Elizabeth has with Darcy – her nicknames for him, how she makes fun of him to his face, and how he loves it! Not to mention there are many achingly sweet romantic moments where there love for each other is everything that is fierce, devoted, and whole-hearted!
- A Quintessential Darcy: He may be reserved and have made past mistakes, but because this Darcy isn’t too proud and haughty, he was very easy to love. He has many of Jane Austen’s Darcy’s sterling character traits, but some wonderful new additions include: his sweet love for animals, his adorable playfulness with children, his supportiveness to his family in all their crazy endeavors, and his more vulnerable and sensitive side that he keeps hidden. Ms. Ashton created a most endearing and attractive Mr. Darcy for us to admire.
WHAT I WASN’T TOO FOND OF:
Just a few minor quibbles about the pacing (some developments could have unfolded a little slower, and some parts could have been a little tighter) and one or two moments of awkward dialogue.
WARNING: Some uses of strong language and a few intimate scenes are interspersed throughout.
Evocative, sincere, and empathetic – A Searing Acquaintance is a poignant and powerful debut release that beautifully explores overcoming your past, rising above difficult relationships, and discovering the precious powers of unconditional love. I applaud J. L. Ashton for her sensitive adaptation and her skillful yet plausible addition of a bit of shade to Jane Austen’s beloved masterpiece.