In brief: A love story between Elizabeth Scott and the dashing Donovan Darcy, loosely based around Pride and Prejudice, but involving dog shows.
The good: It works! The story is fun and doesn’t stick rigidly to P&P- but you will recognise the basis of some moments.
The not-so-good: A few too many dogs for me (I’m not a fan).
Why I chose it: Sent to me by Harlequin Books – thank you!
Publisher: Harlequin Mira
Setting: USA and England
My rating: 8.5 out of 10
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen is one of those books that you can read again and again, but still want more. What happened to Darcy, Bingley, Lizzie and Jane? Countless sequels, prequels and alternative tellings (with/without zombies) have been produced. Teri Wilson’s Unleashing Mr Darcy doesn’t fit into any of these – it’s more of a modern story modelled on Pride and Prejudice. It doesn’t model itself exactly Jane Austen’s story, rather it takes elements and modernizes them.
In this story, Elizabeth Scott is a newly 30 year old single teacher. She’s under a cloud at her job, after she refused to take a bribe from a parent to change their son’s grade (can’t you just see Lizzie doing that?). Her outlet is dog shows with her dog, Bliss. It’s at a dog show when she meets Donovan Darcy, rich dog breeder and dog judge. Naturally, sparks fly at the table as things get off to a rocky start. Then Elizabeth is offered a temporary job as a ‘dog nanny’ in London. She finds that Mr Darcy just happens to be her neighbour and is very, very popular as one of Britain’s most eligible (and wealthiest) bachelors. Helena Robson will do anything to keep Elizabeth away from Darcy, while her brother is making eyes at Elizabeth’s sister Jenna. Will Elizabeth and Darcy ever get together as their relationship is fraught with newspaper gossip columns and little known dog show rules?
This book is a fun laugh. I loved trying to match the characters to their P&P equivalent – some are difficult to spot, some are rather easy. The Unleashing Mr Darcy Mr Collins (Collin Montgomery) is delightfully odious and makes a few suggestions about what Mr Collins may have been after. Both Jenna and Henry Robson are just as sweet and delightful as their P&P namesakes. Of course Elizabeth is just as feisty and strong-willed and Mr Darcy is still as remotely sexy. There is also homage to the most replayed scene of the BBC Pride and Prejudice miniseries.
Other things are quite changed around – those looking for a modern day Lydia or Mary will be disappointed (although Lydia could probably have her own series in the modern world, which would be a delightfully scandalous read!). Elizabeth’s family also has a much reduced role, so fans of Mrs Bennet should look elsewhere. However, I loved that this book was not a slave to the plot of Pride and Prejudice –it kept me much more entertained wondering where the next recognisable scene would spring from.
The only thing I wasn’t keen on was the dog show setting. I’m not a dog fan and what I know of dog shows is only from television. Fortunately, the dog shows aren’t bogged down with detail and generally serve as a plot device for Elizabeth and Darcy to get together.
This book is funny and sweet. Definitely worth a read, even if you’re not a Pride and Prejudice devotee.