Seducing Mr Darcy: A Lost in Austen ripoff?

July 30, 2009

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 Time-travelling? Romanian masseur spouting words of wisdom in pidgin- English? Brooding hero/literature professor that sneers at Austenmania? Contrary to the title, Darcy enticing heroine to a romp in a temple for all to see? Win!

While i was reading the first few chapters of  Seducing Mr Darcy, i was pretty sure the author had unashamedly lifted the plot from an ITV (UK) mini-series called Lost in Austen. Dissatisfied heroine longs to be transported to another time and via a quirky plot device sees her wish fulfilled. She ends up in  Pride and Prejudice and wreaks havoc re Elizabeth and Darcy’s budding relationship.

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Though they were both released at around the same time,  I doubt Cready riffed Lost in Austen.  In the mini-series Jemima  is enticed via a boarded-up door in her bathroom by Lizzie Bennett into the Pride and Prejudicesetting. She ends up capturing Mr Darcy’s heart while Lizzy lives it up as an Au-pair in present-day London. Jemima finds that while she longed for the long lost chivalry in her own world, Austenland isn’t all it is cracked up to be.  It’s a well written, witty series, which managed to overcome the miscasting of a rather flat Mr Darcy.     

While the premise is the same, Gwyn Cready takes a very different route than Lost in Austen. To relieve her back pain, Flip, resident ornithologist at Pittsburgh university, goes to visit Madame K’s massage parlour, who offers not only a deep massage but a trip to your favourite book. While Flip idly daydreams about some Harlequin Venetian adonis, she suddenly remembers she has to finish Pride and Prejudice in time for her book club meeting. When she drifts off into her dream, she finds herself in a regency setting as Lady Quillan, the frustrated wife of an errant Earl who accepts a very seductive proposition by none other than Mr Darcy myself. After Flip wakes up she finds out that her misadventures with Darcy have been recorded in the first edition Of Pride and Prejudice. If she doesn’t go back and reunite Lizzie Bennet and Darcy her porntastic romp with mr Darcy will segue into every single copy of Pride in circulation. Aiding her is Magnus, a brooding literature proffesor who wants to save his beloved masterpiece from pornolicious ruin.

While the book was engaging, I walked into work a few days with bleary eyes after staying up late, saying to myself  ‘one more chapter.. Just one.’ Seducing mr Darcy did have its fair share of flaws.

The Names! I know that in novels like these, the chances of the lead characters being called things like Pete and Jane are remote, yet there are limits. The heroine is called Flip. This is to show she’s a spunkier version of the regular gal, yet I found her name rather off-putting. Maybe because the only person i have ever met in real life that was called Flip was the boy who sat next to me in primary school. He chewed his lip and hid behind the supply cupboard whenever anyone looked at him.  The hero is called Magnus. Only in American novels would you find an Englishman named Magnus. Needless to say he’s sulky, brutish and, worst of all, British.  

Another annoying aspect was the unconvincing coupling. While he was certainly handsome, it was hard to warm to the hero, which is an absolute necessity. He’s an unappealing pedant that doesn’t seem to be able to have much respect for Flip and it was hard to believe that their coming together was anything other than carnal.

 My biggest peeve is reserved for the character in the novel that makes it all possible. Madame K was a missed opportunity. The introduction of a Romanian gipsy that can transport people to the book of their dreams are the raison d’etre of this blog. Yet her backstory was crammed into a couple of sentences and she was woefully underused. Her ‘Vat eef ai vould teel you..’ language was laughable. Maybe i shouldn’t be expecting anything else from a pulpy romance novel, yet i do wish writers would back away from hackneyed phonetics. Stating that your protagonist is of Romanian origin and that she has a thick accent should be enough. Phonetic language just makes her sound like a cardboard stereotype, rather than an interesting character.

Having said all of this, within its genre, Seducing Mr Darcy isn’t a bad read. Flip’s friends are appealing and they manage to get their own moments in the spotlight rather than be reduced to colourless foils for the heroine. While its a romance novel and you could bet the farm on the ending it does manage to harbour some surprises. The romancing left me cold i read it to the end, just to see what was going to happen next.  All in all, not a bad contribution to the long list of Jane Austen sequels.

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