I initially added this book to the list as a contemporary Pride & Prejudice retelling, albeit a loose one. Basic concept – Casey ends up playing Elizabeth in a local theater production of P&P, except her relationship with the guy playing Darcy is a lot like the one the original characters had. I really liked the way that the chapter titles were listed as though they were part of a play (Act One, Scene Two), and reflected the fictional/P&P names of the characters (“Elizabeth Doesn’t Tempt Darcy”), even though their actual names weren’t anything like Elizabeth or Darcy. I also appreciated that the characters were no unaware of how ridiculous it was that their lives were somewhat paralleling the original P&P story.
Actually, there were a lot of things to like about this book to start. The characters were funny and friendly, the conversations pleasant, and there was a decent concept underneath of it all. But in the end, I was just so frustrated with the incredibly choppiness of the story and the way the author kind of acted like we should already know a lot about these people. For instance, Casey is staying in a house that was loaned to her by Kit, who is also directing the play – but we’re given no information about Kit or his relationship with Casey, which meant I was really confused when Kit immediately was interested in an older lady; at first I assumed that Kit must be close to Casey’s age, but it turns out that he’s a lot older than her – more of an uncle/father figure.
There was also this extremely weird thing where a bunch of the characters were half-siblings because their biological father was actually a sperm donor … but there is no explanation as to how all of these siblings actually found/met each other, and Casey’s relationship with her father is really ambiguous – like, are they friends? It just made no sense and was never really explained.
I wondered for a while if some of these characters were in other of Deveraux’s books, because she has written a lot, but I couldn’t find any information supporting that; supposedly this book is the first in a new series.
There were a lot of random things that nagged at me. It felt like who parts of this book had just been chopped out with no attempt to smooth the rough edges. Consequently, everyone falling in love with everyone felt very sudden and kind of strange – especially when we jumped straight into snogging/sex.
And hello?? They get caught in the rain on the back of the estate and have to take shelter in this old shed where Darcy’s mum used to hang out when she was little and the blankets and pillows are still there from when it was her secret hideout literally 20 years or more ago – and that’s where they shag!? All I could think was GROSS. There is no way that those cushions weren’t full of all sorts of unsavory insects and rodents. ICK. This book was full of completely impractical stuff like that; there was absolutely no attempt to make any of this remotely realistic or believable.
Still, I was still fairly confident that this book was going to get a 3/5 for a decent effort (albeit with a lot of eye rolling) until it completely went off the rails at the end. This is a BIG SPOILER (I mean, sort of… it’s not like we don’t know who the villain is from the very beginning, and since we all know the basic concept of P&P it’s not really a big surprise when “Wickham” absconds with “Lydia”…) but yeah so the Wickham character convinces Lydia to run away with him. Lydia has told everyone she is 18, but it turns out that she’s actually only 15, just like Book Lydia, so it’s a big deal that he has run away with a minor, but instead of chasing after him, they come up with this convoluted plot to lure him back by presenting the upcoming play as a contest of acting ability between Wickham and Darcy. (???!!!??!?!) Despite the fact that Wickham has been portrayed as complete cad who will do whatever he can to satisfy his own selfish whims and has been known to accost/sexually harass/rape women in the past, no one seems overly concerned that he’s disappeared with a fifteen-year-old girl. I mean, they’re upset, but I don’t think that “luring him back” is really the kind of option that law enforcement would agree to (or at least I hope not! Good grief!).
So yes, the most ridiculous part is – it worked! He just comes back with Lydia in tow! And goes right to the theater to start acting in the play! AND THEN instead of arresting him immediately, they convince the police that they should let the play go on because it’s for charity!? Not only that – Lydia still plays her part! No one bothers to, I don’t know, find out if she’s been raped?! What!?
And then we get this write-up of the play, praising how “realistic” everyone was, etc., and it’s supposed to be this big thing where everyone acted so passionately… except then it concludes with the way the play will be running multiple times and people should go see it… and to myself I’m thinking… Except Wickham is gone and the play isn’t going to be that great because it will completely lack the emotional charge of that opening night…???
So yes, a 2/5 in the end. The whole thing with Wickham taking off with a young girl really bothered me (she didn’t actually get raped, by the way; she convinced Wickham that she was on her period, which apparently was enough to keep him away…. surrre it would be), especially when nobody acted like it was a big deal and that obviously Lydia was fine and would be able to do the play just like regular. Combined with the overall choppiness, the lack of character background/connections, and the complete disconnect from any kind of reality, this book didn’t leave me with any desire to seek out more of Deveraux’s works.