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REVIEW: Definitely Not Mr. Darcy by Karen Doornebos

Dear Ms Doornebos,

We at Dear Author get sent a lot of requests to review books and many of us have lamented at the frequency of Jane Austen themed ones. Yet, despite that, another reviewer and I were interested in the description of your book “Definitely Not Mr. Darcy.” A reality dating show with a 1812 theme and $100,000 at stake for the lucky contestant who “nabs” the handsome Regency guy? Could be fun.

Chloe Parker is a 39, divorced single mother with a failing business who desperately needs to win the grand prize of the contest which she’s been selected to be a part of. A long time Jane Austen fan, she can quote the books, knows the details of life in Austen England and thinks having the chance to actually live as a Jane Austen heroine for the duration of the show is a dream come true. But the reality of life without hot showers, deodorant, modern bras and hampered by chaperones turns out to be more than she bargained for.

And then there’s her main rival among the contestants who won’t stop at breaking the rules but stoops to sabotaging Chloe at every turn. If that weren’t enough, Chloe finds that the accomplishments of a Regency Miss are harder and less interesting than they appear on film. Sebastian Wrightman is a hunk in his skintight breeches though and with her business needing a serious cash infusion, Chloe pursues him like a hound does a hare. If only she could stop thinking of his intelligent, younger, and penniless, brother Henry.

The PW blurb for the book promises sidesplitting faux pas as Chloe attempts to play a young woman on the hunt for a man in 1812 England. Well, amusing at times? Yes. Bust a gut laughing? No, not me. It’s also kind of sad in a way to watch as Chloe’s infatuation with the era is slowly stripped away though after watching some of the historical “reality” shows on PBS and the BBC, I kind of knew it was coming. Modern comforts are hard to let go of, as Chloe discovers. But along the way, she does discover something much more interesting – herself. She also unearths some business savvy and a well of inspiration that will allow her to save her business herself which I quite liked.

Now as for the romance…even if I hadn’t been a bad girl and skipped to the end to confirm my guess on who Chloe would actually fall for, as the story progressed it would have been pretty obvious. I was surprised that she didn’t bother to Google Sebastian Wrightman before leaving Chicago but then the book would have been over before it began. I like the man she falls for and who falls for her but since the reader must be kept in the dark about a lot of things, we never see his POV, or in fact anyone else’s, throughout the book. But, once Chloe knows what is going on, I have to agree wholeheartedly with her reaction. Clotted cream to the face wouldn’t be enough for me, though the way she tells him off in public is satisfying. Still, to be manipulated that way no matter what the reason would leave a bad enough taste in my mouth that any forgiveness would be a damn long time in coming. I was reminded of Patient Griselda from The Clerk’s Tale – a story I’ve always despised.

As a humorous tale about what life in Regency England was really like, “Definitely Not Mr. Darcy” has its moments and entertained me. As a romance, the hero leaves a lot to be desired no matter how much money he was or how much he enjoys Jane Austen books. I finished the book thinking Chloe deserves more which is not a good thing for this genre. C


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Another long time reader who read romance novels in her teens, then took a long break before started back again about 15 years ago. She enjoys historical romance/fiction best, likes contemporaries, action- adventure and mysteries, will read suspense if there's no TSTL characters and is currently reading very few paranormals.


  1. Becca
    Dec 10, 2011 @ 13:18:50

    This sounded kinda cute, and I might have purchased it even though it’s only a C review, but not for $10. That’s way overpriced for what for me would be a “read once and trash” book.

  2. KKJ
    Dec 10, 2011 @ 14:05:14

    This sounds a lot like Austenland by Shannon Hale.

    Instead of a reality show, Hale’s premise is (supposedly) a P&P fantasy camp. Same kind of mean-spirited game-playing, but in a high-priced country house resort run by the equivalent of Mansfield Park‘s Mrs. Norris.

    I hated hated HATED Austenland more than any book I’ve read in a long time, even to the point of an Airing of the Grievances on Goodreads. I seriously doubt I will EVER attempt another contemporary Austen spin-off.

    HOWEVER: If my heroine is going to be publicly manipulated to “win” her Mr. Darcy, I’d much rather have her EARN money for it instead of ruining an all-expenses paid “vacation.”

    I would LOVE to have you read Austenland and then watch Lost in Austen and write a review comparing the three. Consider it a 2012 challenge* :-)


    * I would have called it a “triple-dog dare,” but I have recently been informed by my 3rd-grader that only bullies make dares. Whatever.

  3. Jayne
    Dec 10, 2011 @ 18:04:03

    @Becca: Yeah, it would definitely be a “read once” book for me too.

  4. Jayne
    Dec 10, 2011 @ 18:05:51

    @KKJ: No, no, no. I am pretty much past reading any more Austen spin-offs – historical or contemporary or even SF in space.

  5. Ros
    Dec 10, 2011 @ 18:56:16

    The problem is, this was done brilliantly in Lost in Austen (TV show, not a book) and so now we have to suffer through the myriad inferior copies.

  6. dri
    Dec 10, 2011 @ 20:01:08

    @Ros: Well said! I utterly heart that show. And never expected to.

    I went through a phase of reading every Austen homage I could lay my hands on and every one made me want to throw up. Except for Gwyn Cready’s Seducing Mr Darcy which was pretty hot before it descended into all those made farcical romps. :p

  7. DS
    Dec 11, 2011 @ 07:28:39

    I had sworn off Austen inspired stories then let myself be tempted by P D James Death at Pemberly. I will listen to it next week if I have the time.

  8. Shannon
    Dec 11, 2011 @ 21:24:50

    I second (or third) Lost in Austen. Saw it on PBS, had to buy it on So delicious, and I normally hate the fanfic.

  9. FD
    Dec 12, 2011 @ 06:39:14

    @DS: Ha! I keep putting it in, and taking it back out of my basket. Because: Austen fanfic. But on the other hand: P. D. James! Oh, the indecision.

  10. Jayne
    Dec 12, 2011 @ 06:42:58

    Hmmm, I’m hearing so much love for Lost in Austen I might just have to try it. But no more books!

  11. Sue T
    Dec 12, 2011 @ 09:01:40

    @Jayne Definitely, Lost in Austen. I did not anticipate liking it as I don’t read or watch the Austen spinoffs and the actress playing the heroine was not the expected type. However, the show, and the heroine, sucked me in and I ended up loving it. So did my husband – which is saying something. :-D And now that everyone has reminded me of it, time to go add it to my cart. It’s a keeper of a show. I hope you do watch it and let us know if you like it.

  12. Jane Lovering
    Dec 13, 2011 @ 11:29:47

    Can I throw in a word for Juliet Archer’s ‘The Importance of Being Emma’? She does a wonderful line in updating Austen.

  13. Amy
    Dec 14, 2011 @ 11:49:37

    After reading a number of the Austen themed books – i’m done with the lot of them.

  14. Pamela
    Jan 14, 2012 @ 16:07:30

    To all you “Lost In Austen” Fans, I’ve heard there is a movie being made with the same title. I’m excited!

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