REVIEW: Evan And Darcy by Melanie Coles
Jane Austen gets a little dusty in this outback retelling of a beloved story about a man who learns that first impressions can be wrong when you’re looking for Ms Right.
Wheat farmer Evan Bennet is happy being single until his brother falls for the new girl in town, wealthy hotel owner Claire Bingley. Suddenly finding a girl seems more appealing…unless you’re talking about Claire’s best friend, pretentious lawyer Darcy Fitzwilliam. Her cold manners have Evan seeing red, and when a cute girl with links to Darcy’s past catches his eye, he’s even more determined to dislike her.
When a startling revelation turns Evan’s world upside down and he unexpectedly crosses Darcy’s path again, he’s forced to reassess his opinion of her. But just as he starts to open his heart, a crisis engulfs his family, threatening to destroy any hope of a future with Darcy.
With a cloud hanging over his family, Evan knows his chance of winning Darcy’s heart is gone… until some surprising news and a generous gift leave him wondering if her heart might be his after all.
Dear Ms. Coles,
I am very selective when contemplating reading updates and retellings of the books of Jane Austen. It’s not that I’m an Austen fanatic myself but rather that if an author is going to dabble in Austen’s world, I want it to be well done and not just jumping on the bandwagon. What caught my attention with “Evan and Darcy” is the fact that it flips genders.
So here we are in the Australian outback with Mrs. Bennet fussing over the fact that none of her five sons are married and she has to endure the fact that smug friends are grandmothers while she is not. Evan’s best mate Charlie Lucas is the son of the eccentric town mayor while cousin Cara Collins has had a crush of almost stalkerish proportions on Evan for years. Meanwhile mysterious newcomer Jemma Wickham is a woman Evan is actually interested in but there’s some backstory going on between her and icy Darcy. Events keep throwing them together and in spite of their initial impressions of each other, slowly Evan and Darcy begin to reassess their opinions.
This is a nicely done rendering of the story in the Aussie Outback. I like that the wine industry there gets a nod as well as paying homage to the hardworking farmers – including of olives – as well. Australian terms and slang pepper the book and it felt native.
While the plot stays fairly true to the original, it does get pared down for space and pacing. There are a few minor changes such as Evan having a bit of a temper and Liam being aware he’s screwed up and making a change in his behavior for the better after Darcy fishes him out of the mess he got himself into. Other characters, such as Mrs. Bennet pushing her brood of sons towards eligible young ladies, are a hoot. Mr. Bennet is a quiet type but when he says something, the family take notice.
Evan and Darcy bond over a vineyard, though he begins to fall for her for real even before he sees Pemberley or knows much about it. And while they realize their mutual feelings within months, they don’t rush into marriage which I think a contemporary setting allows thus giving time for their relationship to mature – like fine wine. This ends up being a fun, fast read for me and one I’m glad I took a chance on. B