Posts Tagged ‘Jane Austen Ruined My Life’

Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart by Beth Pattillo contains the same successful ingredients as her first book, Jane Austen Ruined My Life. A young woman, Claire Peterson, leaves a man (her boyfriend) and family behind in the U.S. and travels to Oxford to join a Jane Austen study group. She arrives at the last minute to present her sister’s paper on Pride and Prejudice, only to meet a gorgeous, drop dead handsome man in the mold of Mr. Darcy. The moment she meets James, Claire’s heart instantly goes pitter patter. Better yet, he expresses as much interest in her as she in him. But this is not the end of Claire’s good fortune. She also meets a ditzy older woman named Harriet Dalrymple, who inexplicably entrusts her with yellowing bits of paper containing the original version of Pride and Prejudice, titled First Impressions. Claire is in 7th heaven when she realizes what a treasure she’s been reading. She even shares a portion of the manuscript with Martin, a Jane Austen scholar, who confirms its authenticity. But Claire is puzzled. Why of all people was she chosen to read the book? Why is it being kept from the public? And who rifled her room, tearing it upside down? Did someone know about the manuscript, and if so, how did they know Claire had it? The Formidables, the secret group that guards Jane Austen’s literary reputation, much as her sister Cassandra had done, once again make an appearance. Like the ex-husband in Jane Austen Ruined My Life, the Claire’s boyfriend travels to England, only he is kind and long-suffering, not diabolical, and his presence in Oxford forces Claire to choose between him and James.

A recent review about Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart proclaimed, “These books will be loved by fans of Jane Austen and true romance fans alike.” Well, yes and no. My sense is that the reader who has only seen Jane Austen films (and not read her novels) and who is unfamiliar with Beth Pattillo’s first book, will like this book tremendously. Beth Patillo’s writing style is likable and breezy, and the plot of the book is just interesting enough to hold your attention.

But I think that many Jane Austen fans will be as put off as I was by the book’s main premise, which is that the original plot of Pride and Prejudice was drastically different from the final novel. In Ms Pattillo’s version, Mr. Bennet has died, leaving Mrs. Bennet in the horrific, nearly penniless situation she feared. Elizabeth Bennet must leave her family and make her way in the world as the companion of Anne de Bourgh. While living at Rosings, she meets Colonel Fitzwilliam and Mr. Darcy …

Ms. Pattillo made several decisions in writing this book that I found jarring. First, she makes the assumption that Jane Austen’s original plot of Pride and Prejudice was nothing like the final product. Throughout her book, Miss Pattillo included large portions of the so-called original manuscript to whet our appetites. While she can write well, she is no Jane Austen, and these excerpts make that fact painfully clear.  The excerpts also did not pique my interest, for the story seemed tepid and without Jane’s sparkling wit and biting humor. Perhaps this was Ms. Pattillo’s intention, for how else could she rationalize that Jane Austen would completely revamp her first novel? Oh, there was a hasty explanation at the end of Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart, but the comparison of Claire’s growth as a woman to Jane’s own growth as a woman and author seemed tenuous at best.

First Impressions was written in 1796-1797, probably in epistolary form. While no copy of that lengthy and bloated first draft remains, it was so popular within the Austen family, that the family repeatedly requested Jane to read it to them. They LOVED the story! A niece heard her Aunts Jane and Cassandra giggle as they went over its pages, and Jane Austen’s father thought so highly of the book that he tried to get it published in 1797, but he was unsuccessful. Perhaps the book was too long, for Jane did cut the book’s length and revise it in 1812 before its publication in 1813. Had Ms. Pattillo presented us with the edited out portions, let’s say (and provided us with more back story regarding Mr and Mrs Bennet or with more details about how Mr. Darcy contrived to arrange the marriage between Mr. Wickham and Lydia) I might have bought into her book’s premise.

Because the plot of Mr. Darcy Stole My Heart so closely follows the outline of Jane Austen Ruined My Life, this second novel has a formulaic feel to it. Despite my own reservations, I suspect that many readers will like this book, for it does provide several hours of light and frothy escape fiction. There is no violence, as so many books feel the need to include these days, and there are no weird or distasteful plot developments. I would hope that Ms. Pattillo, if she plans to write a third book that involves The Formidables and their guardianship of Jane Austen’s literary reputation, will deviate just a little from her now tried and true formula and dare to be different, just like the author she so ardently admires.

I give this book 1 ½ regency fans (out of 3)

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I brought several books to read during my holiday hiatus. The first will come out in February, the second is a popular murder mystery series by Stephanie Barron starring Jane Austen as sleuth.

Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart is the second mystery book by Beth Patillo, author of the popular Jane Austen Ruined My Life. The book is based along similar lines as the first novel. A young woman without a job and with a neglectful boyfriend travels to Oxford to attend a Jane Austen seminar. The adventure begins when Jane Austen’s lost manuscript of First Impressions is found. The reader once again runs across The Formidables, who played such a prominent role in Ms. Padillo’s first book. I have finished the second chapter and cannot wait to finish the book. Click here to read my review.

My other choice for the holidays is Stephanie Barron’s Jane and the Genius of the Place, the first book in a long, successful mystery series. I have started to read this first book on four occasions and never quite managed to get into the story. I am determined to read the book front to back this time to learn why two of my friends are die-hard fans.

Today is Boxing Day in England. May you and yours enjoy the lingering effects of this lovely holiday season.

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jane-austen-ruined-my-lifeJane Austen Ruined My Life by Beth Pattillo is a surprisingly fast and fun read, and I found myself unable to put it down at times. The plot revolves around wishful thinking: WHAT IF Jane Austen’s sister Cassandra saved more of her letters than we know about? What if the missing correspondence is hidden somewhere protected from the public?

This knowledge has English professor and devoted Jane Austen scholar Emma Grant salivating. Her academic reputation is in tatters after her husband and his teaching assistant (and paramour) accuse her of plagiarism. Newly divorced and denied tenure, Dr. Grant travels to London hot on the trail of the rumored missing letters. There she meets up with Mrs. Gwendolyn Parrot, a Formidable, who tantalizingly allows Emma to read a copied snippet of Jane’s missing letters. Scholar that she is, Emma immediately recognizes Jane’s handwriting and the (seeming) authenticity of the fragment. To be certain, she would have to read a copy of the original.

After extracting a promise of secrecy from Emma, Mrs. Parrot sends her on a series of tasks, in which Emma visits Steventon, Chawton Cottage, Bath … well, you get the drift … all the places that Jane Austen either lived in or traveled to. Emma’s motives for going through all this trouble are the possibilities of handling the actual letters and researching them. Her resulting book would salvage her academic reputation. Traveling with Emma is an old flame who, coincidentally, is staying in the same flat as Emma. Does he know of her secret or is he truly as interested in her as he claims? His presence adds to the mystery and suspense of the plot. The book is a fast read and I found it completely satisfying until the very end. While Emma finds her own definition of a happy ending (which, I will concede, made logical sense), I wanted to scream out “No!” and rewrite that ending. You see, romantic that I am, I do believe that people can have their cake and eat it too.

Beth Pattillo’s latest novel reads less like a Jane Austen sequel and more like a The Da Vinci Code offspring. Consequently it will appeal to a broader audience than most Austenesque books. Having said that, the plot is not wholly original . There are echoes of  Syrie James’s The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen (in which Jane’s lost manuscript is uncovered and in which she describes a lost love) and Lori Smith’s A Walk With Jane Austen (in which Lori visits the places where Jane lived or traveled). The author, whose writing style is elegant and spare, has written eight other popular books, including the award winning Heavens to Betsy. You can visit her at http://www.bethpattillo.com for more information.

3-regency-fansJane Austen Ruined My life, a Guideposts Book, is slated to come out on February 3rd. 978-0-8249-4771-2, $14.99. Order a copy at this link.

I give it 3 regency fans out of 3.

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