It has admittedly been a long time since I read Pride & Prejudice. My memories of that book have probably been conflated with the several retreads that have come out in the last twenty years, most notably Bridget Jones. And maybe I need a reread in order to compare Austen to Angelini. Or maybe P&P just isn’t that great (blasphemy!)? But it feels like I’d remember if Original Recipe Darcy was this much of a prick.
Judge Fitzwilliam Darcy is a British barrister with an expertise in international law, who also happens to be the youngest judge in San Francisco. Elizabeth Bennet is a young attorney who appears before him on a regular basis. Elizabeth’s sister Jane falls in love with Darcy’s best pal Bingley, who is the brother of Darcy’s friend-with-benefits, Caroline (which itself feels kind of out of the realm of believability), which allows Elizabeth and Darcy to bump in to each other in a variety of awkward situations. There’s conflict, some barbs thrown, and some misunderstandings, along with a token Gay Best Friend Lou, a bachelor auction where Elizabeth bids $50,000 for Darcy, only to be outbid by Caroline, and a British estate called, naturally, Pemberley.
Okay, fine. We have all the players, up to and including Mrs. Bennet, who is desperate for her daughters to marry. And who also gets stoned for Christmas dinner.
Except not fine at all. Darcy is a prick. Like a Grade A, Genuine Jerk. I get that he’s supposed to be kind of crabby and curmudgeonly. But this is not what this Darcy is. The version is like a milquetoast iteration of Christian freaking Grey, complete with a scene involving a riding crop. He is a demanding, petulant, spoiled little brat who goes to Elizabeth’s boss and tells him – after he and Elizabeth have broken up and she has said in no uncertain terms that she wants to foster her career instead of their relationship – that they are having an affair. Which they are not, since they, you know, mutually decided to end it. Which leads to her boss freaking out and immediately sending her to another city because this could jeopardize the sale of his firm and his retirement (dude, this isn’t Suits). It essentially upends her entire life, forcing her to move or else risk her reputation. It never occurs to anyone that Darcy should consider stepping down; the courts are too overwhelmed and they are short a judge and it “wouldn’t be fair”. Darcy has about eleventy billion more options – a different court district, stepping down from the bench to practice law, the aforementioned Pemberley estate – than Elizabeth, who is just starting out in her career. But it’s Elizabeth whom Darcy expects to completely change her life.
If that wasn’t enough, the plot holes are big enough to drive a semi through. I’m not sure how the whole lawyer/bar thing works, but my guess is that you can’t be a British barrister, come over to San Francisco on a lark, and suddenly become a judge in California. Don’t you have to, you know, pass the bar over here? American laws and British laws are similar, but even I know that you can’t practice law in Alabama if you only passed the bar in Alaska. It’s also never made clear what kind of law Elizabeth is practicing here, nor what kind of judge Darcy is, only that the “courts are backed up” and there are only a few judges in the city/county/town/wherever they are. And Elizabeth tries several cases a day in front of Darcy, yet has time to meet with clients, and apparently her office is in the courthouse, even though she’s clearly in private practice. And it only takes a few hours to fly from California to London. Direct.
And then we come to the sex scenes. They…are not sexy. Your mileage my vary, but the use of the word “titties” when having your characters engage in sexy times talk would not be my first choice. And then there is this scene, after a brief interlude between Darcy and Elizabeth during Jane and Bingley’s wedding reception, where Elizabeth uses a trick that Gay Best Friend Lou taught her. (In person, by the way. With real life props. Ew.)
“It seems I have misjudged you, Mr. Hurst. I owe you an apology,” Darcy said to him, staring straight ahead.
Lou said nothing.
“And a car,” Darcy continued. He saw the corners of Lou’s mouth curl up in a reluctant smile. “And possibly a retirement plan of some sort,” Darcy continued.
Lou laughed. “She wouldn’t take all of my advice,” Lou replied and took a sip of his drink.
“There was nothing lacking in her performance, I assure you,” Darcy replied and took a sip of his own drink. Their eyes met in the mirror.
Lou replied, “Yes but it would be vastly improved by the removal of her front teeth.”
EW EW EW EW EW.
(Also, that’s a direct quote. The writing is… well, that’s a direct quote.)
Maybe I’m getting to be old-fashioned in my old age, or maybe I’m just a prude, but this scene squicked me out. It comes almost at the end of the novel, just before the magical wedding and the obligatory epilogue where Darcy has been brought to his knees by his love for his newborn daughter. And I think the reason that this scene bothered me so much is that it’s just so indicative of the whole attitude of the story. Darcy calls the the shots. Darcy doesn’t have to give up his career. Darcy’s career – and reputation – are never on the line. Darcy doesn’t have to move. Darcy doesn’t even have to reciprocate in that aforementioned scene. Darcy gets the girl, keeps his job, keeps his reputation, keeps his money, and is even cheered and lauded by his colleagues when they see him kissing Elizabeth. I wonder how that would have played if the roles had been reversed.
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