March 4, 2010

Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart by Beth Pattillo

I bought this book for my mom in anticipation of Mother's Day, and then I very carefully read it, barely cracked open so as not to damage the spine. I have to admire any writers willing to tackle anything related to Jane Austen. Few writers have as dedicated a fan base as Austen, and those fans are purists. Don't mess with my Jane! You think you can write like her? Psh. Go ahead and try. Remember this one?

Patillo is more clever. She knows she can't write like Austen, but she needs Austen's voice for this story. The solution is a long lost manuscript by a very young immature Jane Austen who had not yet developed the voice her fans are familiar with today. This manuscript is still not quite up to par in my opinion, but I have to concede that Pattillo had the dual challenge of trying to fit said manuscript into her own novel without turning it into a doorstopper. Note to Ms. Pattillo: I love doorstoppers! But I understand, your editor probably doesn't.

Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart is the story of a 30 year old woman who is familiar with Austen but not obsessed, and finds herself attending a seminar on Austen at Oxford to present a paper on her sister's behalf. She is at a crossroads in her life: with a boyfriend who barely looks at her, a job loss, a lack of education, and a little sister that doesn't need her anymore. She's hoping to use the week in Oxford to sort out the rest of her life. But two new acquaintances make this difficult. Harriet, the local eccentric, who has been hiding Austen's forgotten manuscript, and a dreamboat Mr. Darcy clone who seems oddly infatuated with her.

I think this book could have been better. In fact it may have been better, I can just imagine Pattillo being told over and over to cut and cut and cut some more! She had a lot to cram into only 250 pages. If it wasn't for that, I think the book could have had a lot more body to it, the kind of body that made Jane Austen's books so great. Instead she has to constantly throw her characters into each others' paths and rush things along at the speed of light. I think this happens a lot with Austen fan books. I wish the agents / publishers / editors / writers would realize that we Austen fans love the intricacy of her writing, the details and minutiae exquisitely penned with delicious fat words. Instead they always turn it into something light and fluffy at the sixth grade reading level.

Also the seminar the main character attends has only 6 people? I've never been to an Austen seminar at Oxford, but I'd think there'd be several hundred at least.

However, I really loved what Pattillo did with the Mr. Darcy phenomenon. Women LOVE Mr. Darcy. He really is the ultimate romantic hero. No real man can ever measure up. And so Pattillo's character learns. The Mr. Darcy clone makes her head spin, but she comes to realize than spinning can make you dizzy and dizziness is not conducive to the kind of changes she needs to make in her life. It's long been a theory of mine that romantic novels give women unrealistic expectation in their own lives, making relationships difficult. We have a standard that no man can live up to (thanks a lot Jane!), which causes us to be disappointed with our mates at every turn. I think Pattillo does a great job of addressing this issue.

I recommend this book for any Austen fan looking for a light read and will look for her previous novel, Jane Austen Ruined My Life.


  1. Thank you for your great recommendations, always! You've been awarded the Beautiful Blogger Award. Congratulations!!

  2. This one sounds good. So many Austen wannabe novels are hit and miss. I think I need to check this one out!


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