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