Unleashing Mr. Darcy

I wasn’t sure if I was going to like Teri Wilson’s Unleashing Mr. Darcy. On one hand, I can’t read enough new takes on Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, but this one isn’t just set in upscale Manhattan and London neighborhoods, it’s also based around dog shows. I am, well, not a dog person. Or a cat person. Or a babies person. I’m not really good at that whole caring and responsibility thing. But I AM a Pride and Prejudice person, so…

Elizabeth Scott is on hiatus for her teaching job at a Manhattan prep school — after being framed for extortion, no less! — and takes herself and sister Jane to a dog show as a birthday treat. Donovan Darcy is introduced when he judges the event in which Elizabeth shows her dog. The dog has four legs and fur, and also some other characteristics that make it show-worthy. I skimmed that part.

Elizabeth manages to set sparks flying with Mr. Darcy, as well as landing a temporary gig as a dog caretaker for a British couple with their own collection of show dogs. Good thing, too, because if she doesn’t find a job, she’ll have to move back to New Jersey and work in family business, and that would be the worst thing ever. (Just kidding, family members in New Jersey!) In London, Elizabeth just keeps bumping into Mr. Darcy, despite declaring over and over how much she dislikes him.

Although the story uses some of Austen’s dialogue, and some other sweet references to classic Pride and Prejudice adaptations, the story is not a shot-for-shot remake. Wilson has updated the plot, with snarky prep-school politicking and nosy tabloid journalists, but kept the themes and basic outline of Austen’s novel. Readers have no doubt that Darcy and Elizabeth’s harsh words and misunderstandings will eventually lead to a dreamy proposal, but aren’t sure how Wilson will take them there, which is the best kind of revision.

I empathized more with Jane than Elizabeth, which is unusual for me. Wilson’s Jane is calmly sipping Starbucks and quietly romancing Bingley throughout Elizabeth’s twists of fate.

I’m just not a dog person, so there was certain amount of skimming over breeds and canine characteristics.  Still, there’s enough smouldering Mr. Darcy and clever Janeite banter to make me glad I read it.

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