Feb 252010

Excellent Premise, Sub-Par Execution

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

It is a verifiable truth that a Jane Austen addict will read anything and everything related to Jane Austen that they can get their hands on, and I am no exception to this statement. A book like Seducing Mr. Darcy is not the type of novel I am customarily drawn to and while I have read novels that include intimate and sexually explicit scenes, it is not the primary thing I look for in a book. It was the fact that this book featured Mr. Darcy and the plot of Pride and Prejudice that piqued my curiosity and prompted me to read it despite its suggestive cover.

Flip Allison, a divorced ornithologist experiencing a very rough morning, decides to treat herself to a therapeutic massage. But this is no ordinary massage. Madame K, the proprietor of Looking Glass Massage Therapy, advertises that her clients will imagine themselves in their favorite book. Flip has two books that she has recently been perusing; one is Pride and Prejudice, which she is rereading for her book club, and the other is a sexy romance novel that involves a hot encounter on a bathroom sink. Flip intends to visit the romance novel during her massage knowing she will have a more rapturous time there. Unfortunately, she winds up in Pride and Prejudice instead, and has an unexpected steamy interlude (very reminiscent of the bathroom sink scene) with Mr. Darcy. When awake from her massage, Flip discovers that the plot of Pride and Prejudice has gone catastrophically off course and somehow has been altered by her imaginings. She now has less than twenty-four hours to set the story to rights before the changes are permanent!

In order to repair the damages made to Pride and Prejudice Flip begrudgingly enlists the help of Magnus Knightley, an arrogant, brooding, and sexy Austen scholar visiting from England. But is he only interested in the restoration of Pride and Prejudice? Or is he developing a soft spot for the impudent yet vulnerable Flip Allison? If he had to choose between the two, which would it be?

Why the two stars you ask? No, it’s not because of the time travel, steamy scenes, or the liberties taken with Pride and Prejudice, but because I felt it could have been better executed. Writing a story that includes time travel, romance, and the plot of a beloved novel gone awry is a tremendous task and unfortunately, in this case, ended being up too disjointed and difficult to follow. Because there was so much going on in this novel I often felt that some of the story-lines were incomplete and under-developed. Furthermore, the novel’s resolution felt hurried and unsettled. I would have liked a more satisfying and complete conclusion rather than assume that all had ended well.

I have no compunction in reading about Pride and Prejudice characters in the bedroom, as I have done it before in novels by Abigail Reynolds and Linda Berdoll. However, the romantic scenes in this novel were often a little flat and uninspired. In addition, I sometimes felt that the characters behaved so uncharacteristically that they were unrecognizable. Yes, I can believe that Darcy and Elizabeth would have a sexy and passionate side to them, but for Elizabeth to drink from a flask and be preoccupied with losing her virginity???

While I greatly enjoyed the premise of this book, I walked away disappointed for the book it could have been. It had great potential and merit; the hysterical hijinks often reminded me of the movie Lost in Austen, another clever slant of Pride and Prejudice. I do not recommend this book to readers who know Pride and Prejudice like the back of their hand, as the liberties taken and character distortions may hinder their enjoyment of the novel. Nonetheless, people have varying taste and opinions and this novel may be more to your liking than it was to mine.