Keeping up with the Cavendishes, Book 1
Heat Factor: Sparks
Character Chemistry: You are dreadful! I hate you. Wait. Maybe I don’t hate you? I certainly don’t hate your kisses.
Plot: Pride and Prejudice, with a few deviations.
Overall: I did a lot of snort-laughing.
If you are not a fan of anachronistic hoydens as heroines of Regency Romances, this is not the book for you. It is anachronistic in the extreme, but that is part of what makes it so much fun.
In her retelling of Pride and Prejudice, Rodale hits some of the key scenes of the story (Darcy won’t dance at the party, Darcy insults the heroine during his proposal), but the point really seems to be about playing around with other retellings as well – most obviously Bridget Jones’ Diary, but the 1995 and 2005 film adaptations also both make cameos. Other pop culture references are sprinkled throughout, ranging from obvious call-backs (“on Wednesdays we wear pink”) to more obscure one-liners (“pecked to death by pigeons”). The end result is an intertextual mishmash that I thought was a pure joy to read. I mean, how can you not love a P&P retelling that has Darcy getting his shirt all wet not once, but twice? Once in a lake (while reciting poetry in a rowboat, natch), and once in a gazebo in a rainstorm.
Also, this scene totally happens, and I laughed my pants off:
The basic premise of the story is that Lady Bridget Cavendish, of the American Cavendishes, has come to London with her family after her brother unexpectedly inherited a Dukedom. As one might expect, she and her sisters are not really up to the standards of the ton.
Colin Fitzwilliam Wright, Lord Darcy, has been trained since childhood to uphold the standards of the ton at all costs. Obviously, he is not impressed with Lady Bridget and her family, as people who ignore etiquette and protocol give him anxiety.
Sniping ensues, etc. The writing is lively, the quips are fun, and Bridget and Darcy (or should I say, as Bridget does, Loooooord Darcy) are appealing leads.
However, I didn’t really buy the relationship after Darcy’s first proposal. The insulting one. Even though the proposal itself included some slurs on her actions and her family, Rodale had already effectively established the leads as attracted to each other, so Bridget’s subsequent waffling about whether she REALLY likes Darcy doesn’t work. We all know that she really likes Darcy, not because that’s how the story has to go, but because it’s already been made clear to us, in this iteration of the story, that he makes her swoon.
I also didn’t care for the portrayal of female friendship as toxic. Sure, Bridget has her sisters, but none of the women in the story have friends – at best they have frenemies. The Wickham character may be courting Bridget for less than honorable reasons, but he’s not malicious and he gladly paves the way for true love to triumph. The real villain is, instead, Lady Francesca, who has been expecting a proposal from Darcy any day for the past three years. So the major conflict is centered on two women competing for the love and attention of a man. Awesome.
Despite these quibbles, I enjoyed myself immensely. Lady Bridget’s Diary is not particularly deep or thought-provoking, but it is a huge amount of fun.
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