I am weak for a Pride & Prejudice retelling. My best friend pointed out that I never enjoy them, despite the fact that I will read almost any that come my way.
One of the reasons I so often don’t enjoy them is because I don’t know what I want in a retelling. When do I begrudge the changes made to put the story in a new context? What elements are necessary to retain the spirit of the story I love? Do I need to see Wickham preying on underage Georgiana (must she be underage?) and then hooking up with underage Lydia? Why do updates so often leave out my beloved Aunt and Uncle Gardiner??
These questions were never far from my mind as I sank into Evelyn Lozada’s The Wrong Mr. Darcy. Lozada takes some wild liberties with the story, and ultimately lands in a space that is officially too far from Austen’s original for my personal taste. My affection for the original could not extend cover to this version.
Hara Isari is a sportswriter in her small Oregon hometown. She’s stuck trying to live down her father’s reputation as a bookie known for fixing basketball games. She gets an opportunity to interview Boston Fishers star Charles Butler and leaps at the chance. Her interview brings her into the orbit of the entire Fishers organization, including Charles’s prickly friend Derek Darcy and the very officious Miss Bingley. Once Hara gets her foot in the door, she uncovers more drama than she ever expected. Lozada packs a lot into Hara’s three days in Boston. Side chicks! Bribery scandals! Workplace jealousy! A night at the club! A flood!
The writing isn’t great. For example, I spent way too much time trying to figure out who the Fishers were, assuming they were the team owners. No, it’s actually the name of the basketball team Butler and Darcy play for. While the story is being marketed as a comedy, there weren’t any funny scenes. Hara stumbles into a B plot that is mostly confusing and then takes a dark turn that feels wildly out of place.
Aside from the impression that this needs another round of development editing, there’s also too much drama packed into too little time. I want to say it felt unrealistic, but I understand Ms. Lozada is a Real Housewife. Perhaps that life comes at you a bit faster.
It’s hard to get a good handle on Hara, Derek, and Hara and Derek. Hara is a unicorn African American-Japanese woman with blue eyes and good hair. (Honestly, the blue eyed thing was very distracting. I kept trying to figure out how those genetics work. Black folks do carry recessive genes for blue eyes–you know why–but do Japanese folks?) I didn’t get the sense that she had any interest in Derek at all. Derek himself never comes around to that redeeming moment where you can almost forgive him for being a prat earlier in the story. He’s justified in taking offense at her in their first encounter.
My biggest problem with The Wrong Mr. Darcy is that it doesn’t feel inspired by Pride & Prejudice at all, other than lifting a couple of names. A couple of very key characters appear to be wildly inconsistent mash-ups. To wit, Charles Butler is George Wickham and Charles Bingley in one. If you’re wondering how that works, it doesn’t.
This one was a swing and a miss for me. The primary reason I requested it was because I love P&P, but there’s not enough of the original here to suggest the authors feel the same.
Content warning: attempted suicide and pregnancy trauma
I was provided with a complimentary copy of this book via NetGalley in order to facilitate this review.