- Title: Mr. Darcy Broke my Heart
- Author: Beth Pattillo
- Length: 272 pages, also available electronically
- Price: $6 paperback via Amazon, $11 at Barnes and Noble, $8 kindle and Nook
Basic plot: Claire Prescott was asked by her sister Missy to attend a conference on Austen’s Pride and Prejudice to read her paper since she was forbidden to travel due to pregnancy complications. Claire leaves her boring boyfriend Neill and travels to Oxford College for the conference unwillingly. Once she gets there, things really start to get complicated. First of all, she meets the most handsome man she’s ever seen who instantly dislikes her despite the electric shock that seems to move between them when they touch; second, she meets a slightly demented older woman who claims to have the first draft of Pride and Prejudice written in Jane Austen’s own handwriting, and she wants Claire to help her decide what to do with it. That’s when the intrigue really starts. Someone else wants the manuscript which Claire is not even sure is authentic. Who would keep a priceless manuscript in a tool shed, after all?
My review: This was a fun story if you are familiar with Pride and Prejudice. I am, so it was enjoyable to see the fictional “first draft” that Ms. Pattillo wrote for the purposes of this novel. She explains at the end of the book there actually was a first version, called “First Impressions” Austen wrote about 10 years before she reworked it into Pride and Prejudice. That manuscript no longer exists (as far as we know) as apparently Jane’s older sister burned most of her letters and manuscripts after she passed away. However, it is assumed in this novel that it would have been a drastically different story than the beloved famous book. The author uses the differences in the two stories to illuminate Claire’s life choices and the relationship between her and her boyfriend as well as her and her sister Missy. Those illuminations, combined with the excerpts from the papers about the actual novel that are presented at the conference, give the reader some new insights into the familiar characters. I would actually recommend this book as a good book club read, especially if the group is familiar with P and P, to see how “First Impressions” stacks up. There are even some questions in the back meant for book clubs which would help start discussion.
The Tingle Scale: When it comes to the romance in this novel, however, I was not that enamored. True, James is handsome and they have a very brief non-sexual romantic fling, punctuated by a scorching kiss. Her love for Neill makes for a nice love triangle. But for me, James never came across as the type of hero I want to root for, and when we meet Neill, he doesn’t want to fight for Claire’s love, he just basically walks away from her, after telling her she has severe emotional problems. All in all, I found his reaction baffling, and I found her attempt at soul-searching to try to reach the root of her emotional difficulties very confusing. Besides that one kiss, there was almost no sexual tension, unresolved or otherwise. Although I got a bit teary-eyed in parts with Claire’s struggles, the tingle factor was really not there for me.