Definitely Not Mr. Darcy by Karen Doornebos
“Pride takes a hit in this Austen Misadventure”
So this was on my list of Pride & Prejudice-inspired books/films/etc and I have to say it was much better than I expected. I liked how it wasn’t trying to retell the story of Pride & Prejudice, but express the author’s love of the books and films.It is very similar to the film I Want to Marry Ryan Banks, so if you’ve seen that movie and liked it you’ll like this book.
The story starts off with 39 year old, mother of one, divorceé, Chloe Parker. Chloe loves Jane Austen. In fact her motto is:
Anyways, so she enters a contest to compete in a documentary about Janeites. Each contestant will live in a Regency-esque world where they will compete in answering Austen Trivia, the winner receiving $100,000. Chloe really needs the money as her old-fashioned letterpress business is starting to tank and she might end up having to foreclose on her house.
Chloe figures that this contest is in the bag as she knows oodles about Jane Austen, her books, and Regency trivia. This whole contest is supposed to a throwback to how life used to be. No phones, computers, texting, tweeting, facebooking, myspacing, etc. She can’t wait.
When Chloe arrives on the set she finds out that the show isn’t a documentary about Janeites, but is in reality a dating show, a sort of Bachelor-esque one.
Chloe is in shock and utter disbelief. She decides that she is through with it as a reality show is something she never wanted to EVER be on. She is utterly mortified that she was almost on a Flavor of Love or Farmer Takes a Wife show.
George the producer and director convinces her to stay as he promises that this is vastly different from those other shows as it is all about Regency courtship. No hot tubs, none of those outlandish ways to try and win the guy; but all about proper Regency courtship; no touching, no drinking, no alone time (everything is chaperoned), and to win special outings/events with the bachelor, the contestants had to participate in Regency-esque activities, racking up points. The bachelor is Mr. Wrightman, a wealthy individual who is tired of women being after his money and is looking for love the old-fashioned way. All Chloe has to do is play the part of a down on her luck American heiress who is eager to win a man with title and wealth. It seems so easy, and how can she say no to an Janeite experience with a hot guy and a chance at a ton of money?
So now Chloe is dressed in a 19th century style muslin dress, wearing lemon deodorant, and has a reticule full of vinaigrette (to avoid nasty smells), a fan, calling cards, gloves, and a bonnet.
She is given a fake bio about her family, with the writer’s trying to keep it as close to her reality as possible. As she has English blood on her maternal side they wrote that her mother is English while her father is American, making her daughter Abigail her sister for the bio.
This is another thing I felt was a bit odd. If the whole dating show is supposed to take place in 1812 why have an American contestant? Would she have even been able to travel over with the blockades? Wouldn’t it have looked like her family was partial to the American side? Wouldn’t it make the English dislike/distrust her? Why not set it in 1811 or late 1815? And being the only American, man that’s going to be hard on her.
They give the contestants carriage rides to the house, Bridgesbridge, where the women are staying, and as they are riding there, Chloe hears a gunshot and the carriage stops dead in its tracks. Lady Grace of the d’Agrgent family, another contestant, has a pistol and was shooting, “accidentally” hitting the carriage. Chloe has a freakout and faints dead away.
She awakens in her new bedroom under Mr. Wrightman MD’s care. In fact he carried her in from the carriage area (just like Colonel Brandon in Sense & Sensibility)
While even though being unconscious and thinking she’d been shot (when her carriage really had just turned a wheel) made her feel like an idiot, she does love the idea of Mr. Wrightman having carried her. While Mr. Wrightman isn’t exactly what she pictured (a handsome, blond, spectacle wearing, kind looking man rather than the tall, dark, and brooding Darcy-esque man that she was expecting) she is happy to have made his acquaintance.
Chloe also meets her chaperone (as her character is unmarried she has to have one), Mrs. Crescent, who is very pregnant and ready to give birth anytime soon. Chloe also gets another dose of Lady Grace, the most annoying, vile, and irritating woman: a perfect villain.
Chloe isn’t one to stand idly by, but manages to put in quite a few of her own barbs, such as telling Grace that perhaps she will get bullet pudding tonight. She also one ups Grace by stating her father always called her a princess, a rank higher than Lady.
She also finds out that all the other girls in the house have been there for three weeks already and she was chosen to replace a girl who had to go home due to a family emergency. Chloe feels soooo far behind and doesn’t know how she will ever catch up.
She also finds out that Regency England is lacking in quite a few ways. Besides the lemon deodorant there is weak tea because of the “Napoleonic Wars“, micro amounts of butter, no salt, no pepper, etc. They get a small cake of soap a week, a bath a week, etc.
That would be the hardest thing for me. I was actually surprised that they were able to find as many people who would be willing to give up such niceties. Deodorant, toothpaste, food with taste, soap, indoor plumbing, etc; I know that there are some things I cannot live without and I don’t know if I could go weeks without them: I NEED my indoor plumbing. I also couldn’t do a bath only on Sundays. And I’m half-Mexican, I need spice in my food! I can’t live on bland.
To make matters worse, any thought of bowing out was quickly destroyed when she hears that her chaperone Mrs. Crescent is eager to win because her child, William, has a tumor and needs an expensive operation. If Chloe wins Mr. Wrightman than Mrs. Crescent gets money too.
Chloe’s having a slight meltdown and all she wants to do is take a shower. Unfortunately as those don’t happen until Sunday, and today is Monday. She can’t handle not getting cleaned up and just happens to look out her window and see a pond. As every true Austenite has seen Pride & Prejudice (1995) she gets the idea of taking a bath in the pond. While she can’t dive in completely like Colin Firth, she is still able to clean a majority of her body.
Just like Mr. Darcy, Chloe is also caught, but by two attractive men. The first is this tall, dark, handsome, Darcy-ian man. He tries to talk to her, but she is so embarrassed that he caught her she is rude to him. He warns her that she is on Darthworth property which is grounds for termination. As she is gathering her belongings and leaving, she runs into Mr. Wrightman. As Chloe tries to explain what was happening, Mr. Wrightman makes a reference to P&P (1995) telling her that he was hoping she would emerge in a white shirt. Chloe is all:
The two have a great conversation together and Chloe is amazed at how well they seem to click. In fact, Chloe is starting to think maybe this won’t be so stupid, but perhaps fun as Henry, Mr. Wrightman seems like a really great guy. More Henry Tilney than Darcy, but Tilney isn’t that bad. (In my opinion he’s amazing)
On her way back she meets the rest of the contestants who all seem to be much, much younger and more carefree than her. There is Miss Julia Tripp who is very exuberant and full of energy, Miss Kate Harrignton who suffers from allergies, Miss Becky Carver who is African-English and just turned 21, Miss Gillian Potts who is a bit of a whiner, and Miss Olive Silverton who is a tad critical.
When dressing for dinner, Chloe asks Fiona, her maid, who the tall, dark, stranger might have been with Fiona responding that it is Mr. Wrightman.
Chloe is confused as the blond doctor is Mr. Wrightman. That is when she finds out there are two Mr. Wrightmans. Sebastian is the brunette and the eldest so he is the one to inherit, the one the contest is all about. Henry, the blond doctor, is the youngest and has to marry wealthy as he won’t have a large inheritance (Very Mr. Tilney indeed). Chloe is horrified that she might have just lost her chance at Mr. Wrightman since she yelled and was rude to him. Uber embarrassed.
The next day the competition begins as the girls are taught archery and dance. None is allowed to move to the next task until they have finished their first assignment and gained their points for the day. Chloe is far behind the other girls in everything as they have been there for weeks.
Chloe even finds out that many of the girls know only a little about Jane Austen; such as Grace saying that her favorite Austen is P&P, the Keira Knightley version. Obviously not only does she have no idea that P&P wasn’t published until 1813, Sense and Sensibility was the only book out at the moment. Chloe’s reaction to this statement is exactly how I would respond.
“Chloe cringed. Not her favorite adaption. It was historically inaccurate, for one thing…Chloe looked at her in askance…” (Pg. 81)
I know how she feels, that is my least favorite version.
Chloe thoroughly enjoys Regency dances, but Grace tries to throw a wrench in her plan to learn, saying she can’t dance with a girl who has ink all over her fingers. “She might catch it” Hmmph…what a pansy. Instead Chloe has to dance with Cook, Cook who she relies on and always tries to help her.
Grace and Chloe trade barbs once again, with Chloe being the victor. However, her win rings hollow when Grace runs off to meet with Mr. Wrightman, having garnered the most points and won time with him.
As Chloe looks outside the window to watch Grace, her spying quickly ends when Mrs. Crescent’s dog Fifi runs off and Chloe runs after him to get him. She runs smack dab into Sebastian and has another awkward conversation with him.
But by now she’s hooked. He is so dashing, charming, and always knows the right thing to say. Chloe is in this thing totally and completely.
Something that puts a whole damper on the situation is a call from Chloe’s daughter, Abigail. Apparently Chloe’s ex, Winthrop, has met somebody, and is getting married, and wants to change the custody arrangement. He got a promotion so he won’t be traveling as much anymore. Chloe is freaking out over it, but can’t really get involved as she is away in England.
Also to Chloe’s surprise there is a new guest, Miss Imogen Wells. Apparently she was there the whole time but had to be apart from the others as she was on her period. In olden times women had to be separated while they had their cycle. Chloe is freaked out that there is another girl to contend with, but quickly gets over that as she finds Imogen to be one of the friendliest girls ever.The two become fast friends. The two both love painting, drawing, and Jane Austen.
I couldn’t imagine being in Regency times on my period, that would be awful. Back then they didn’t have underwear, and you just bleed through your clothes. Ew! Being on your period is bad enough but without pads, tampons, and in a chamber pot?
However, things take a turn for the better, Chloe gets an invitation to meet up with Sebastian (Mrs. Crescent has to come too) to see castle ruins! And they will all be having diner at Dartworth Hall the next day too.
Later that day Chloe is out gathering ingredients to make ink, Sebastian comes bounding by on a white horse. A man on a white horse?
Chloe is in deep, and she isn’t looking for a way out.
Later she runs into the other Wrightman brother. He comes upon her as she is painting and compliments her work. (Very reminiscent of Emma, except Henry isn’t the creepy Mr. Elton.)
Imogen and Chloe discuss the two brothers, their merits and qualities. Imogen brings up her partiality to Henry, as he is honest and forthright, while Sebastian is more of an enigma.
Chloe goes off with Sebastian and Mrs. Crescent and has a truly romantic time. He even gives her a set of paint, painting papers, and a pink cabbage rose. Chloe is just drowning in her crush.
She also finds out that Grace is not only after the money, but wants to get her family’s land back. They been lost to the Wrigtmans for centuries and she is still carrying anger for it.
That night is the ball and when the girls get there Chloe immediately checks out the library. Same here, as I I love libraries, I mean I would rather gush over a library than a man. But hey, that’s just me.
But before the girls can continue to dinner they do the invitation ceremony (much like the rose ceremony in the Bachelor or the picture one in America’s Next Top Model.) Imogen, Becky, and Olive end up being sent home. Grace is so annoying and everyone wishes she was sent home, but she makes great TV.
Since Chloe is lower than the other girls, she enters last but she does have Henry to guide her in, and he is also placed next to her. Chloe makes a Persuasion reference about lotion, and while Kate Harrington doesn’t get it, Henry does.
Okay everybody, Henry is perfect. After all, he has clearly read Jane Austen.
After the conversation the two have, I would far rather have Henry than to risk getting Sebastian, who one knows nothing about. All are having a wonderful time until Grace pops out a boob in order to get the focus on her.
Sebastian makes plans to have a faux fox hunt for the girls. Everyone is exclaiming over it when Mrs. Crescent screams out that
Immediately Chloe goes to help. It turns out to be a false alarm, but Henry seems more interested in her than ever.
Chloe goes out the next day and runs into Henry with falcons. The two share some tender moments, but it is
ruined ended when she also runs into Sebastian who gives her a message with clues in it to find a great prize.
Instead of trying to make ink to get her accomplishment points, Chloe goes into the kitchen to make strawberry tarts. She isn’t supposed to be in the kitchen as she is a lady, but Chloe finds it so hard to be proper all the time, (blame it on her American upbringing).
Afterwards Sebastian come to take her silhouette. She finds out that he knows more about Chloe as he has had the opportunity of watching her audition video, check her facebook, twitter, and research her through the internet. He tells her they have a lot in common and he also takes a lock of her hair. Taking someone’s lock of hair meant you were very interested in them and were planning on courting or possibly proposing. Most would turn them into rings or place them in lockets.
The next day is the fox hunt and Chloe is ready to give it her all.
The first to reach the area where the faux fox is wins the challenge and accomplishment points. Chloe is in the lead, but as she is going Henry falls off his horse.
Apparently his horse was injured. Chloe stops to help him even though she is sacrificing her chance of winning. Henry strips off his shirt so that he could use it to help the horse, but seeing all the blood, makes Chloe faint again.
Henry wakes her up and kisses her.
Everyone returns indoors after the hunt. Chloe is certain she will be the next to go home as she never made it to the tree. But to her surprise she wins all the points as the real test was to see who would stop. To add to Chloe’s joy is that she is chosen to host the after hunt tea. Before they can enter though, they all have to have their reticule’s examined to make sure that no contraband has been carried through. Chloe is sure that she will pass but then they find a condom in her purse.
Chloe is shocked at how that got in there. She argues that it is obviously a plant as why would she even chance it at her own tea party. They let her continue, but tell her that she is on probation until they get to the bottom of it.
What starts out as a normal tea party ends up becoming a a full fledged food fight. Somehow Chloe manages to make it through to the next invitation ceremony.
However she feels awful about some of the things she said about Henry when she and Grace were arguing (what escalated into the food fight). So Chloe does the only reasonable thing and dresses up like a messenger boy so she can tell Henry how sorry she is.
This Shakespearean twist isn’t completely crazy. There is no way Chloe could send him a letter, note, or talk to him privately about how she feels. Women could only do that if they were engaged.
The next day everyone is going to the maze for an outing, but both Grace and Chloe are on probation for their outlandish tendencies. Fifi the dog takes off into the maze and Chloe follows, and then it begins to pour (hey it’s England). Instead of turning back she takes off after him to save him, with Henry also going. Fifi gets in a fight with a weasel and Henry runs off with Fifi to help with his wounds leaving Chloe behind. She gets lost and Sebastian goes in there to get her-carrying her out Colonel Brandon style.
He puts her down and as Chloe is making her way to the house she realizes that while she is falling for both men, she needs to put her eyes back on the goal and win Sebastian and the $100,000.
Even though she had just had Sebastian’s arms around her, Chloe is depressed as she looks like a wet dishrag in comparison to the others.
She has to return home, quite sad that she couldn’t stay longer at the event longer.
That night Chloe is able to take a bath, but finds out that she has to take it after all the other girls because she is lower than them. EWWWWW! She has to use USED BATHWATER!!!! NFM! I could not handle that. I’d be in that pond. To make matters worse she finds a mouse in her room. It’s just not her day.
Chloe gets a letter from home and becomes extremely stressed out. Without a gym or kitchen to be able to go in and destress, she skips an accomplishment task to take a walk. The cook agrees to cover for her, and Chloe takes off-running right into Henry and feelings about him that she doesn’t want to think about. The two enjoy a bit of birdwatching and she tells Henry that she has a mouse.
She returns home and cook starts grilling her about her about where she has been. She questions whether Chloe is throwing away her opportunity on the penniless brother. This gets Chloe all riled up, but makes her wonder…She finds out that she missed Sebastian calling and Grace won the next outing with Sebastian. Then she ends up fainting. That makes it the third time.
The next day Chloe gets a present from Mr. Wrightman. It’s a cat!
Why isn’t this guy real?
Ah, he’s perfect! He got her a mouser. Now Chloe thinks that Henry told Sebastian, and Sebastian sent it but it is obvious that Henry sent it. I mean the guy is totally in love with her. And I feel that he is a much better guy than Sebastian as he is real. Sebastian is too oily, and too perfect.
Chloe has a moment upstairs when she really wishes she could just chill out to some tunes. Since she can’t she just sings her heart out and does a Sweet Charity number. And to her embarrassment, she spots Sebastian watching her through her window outside.
Next up is the archery tournament and one has to get four bulls eyes. Chloe is not on the top of her game and manages to shoot very badly.
Henry loans her his glasses so that she can make her bullseye and proceed to the ball. All is going well until Grace steps on her foot and causes her to miss, sending the arrow right at Henry. Grace faints and Chloe thinks she has just killed him. Henry is alright and Chloe thinks she’s out of the contest. ;(
Chloe ends up getting another shot and gets a bullseye.
Grace gets first place and the first dance with Sebastian. Chloe has second but has to sit out as her arrow went awry. Julia has third. When Chloe returns to her room she finds that her cat has got the mouse and an invite to the Grecian temples with Mr. Wrightman.
Chloe is so excited about her date she bribes a footman to get her a razor and shaves her legs.
The date isn’t all as she hopes it would be. Sebastian has a toothache and has to suck on cloves as they are “in the 1800s”. Chloe tries to discuss things with him, but garners no response at all. To further ruin the moment, Chloe has to pee and there is no chamberpot in site. Lucky for her, Henry’s lab is nearby and Sebastian tells her that he has a water closet. She has more moments with Henry and gets something to help Sebastian’s toothache. She gives him a drop of laudanum. After taking it, Sebastian really cuts loose. He starts saying all kinds of things and starts trying to get all over her. Charlotte ends up decking him as he as he tries to pull her dress off, with Henry arriving just in time to cart him off.
Now here I would have completely jumped off the Sebastian train and gone Henry all the way. Sebastian is a loser.
So Chloe still wants to win, she needs the money, and is set on trying to prove that Grace is doing all kinds of illegal activities. She finds all kinds of things to support that and even gets caught by Grace as Grace is trying to get down with a footman.
Chloe goes to get her new dress finished for the ball and finds that she has lost weight. (Due to her hating and refusing to eat the food offered at the areas). She also spots Grace (through her window) putting the moves on Henry and becomes livid, though she can’t imagine why. She also gets a note from Sebastian to meet up during the ball in the icehouse. She is extremely worried as she hopes that they don’t have a repeat of the Grecian temple.
They have the final invitation ceremony and Julie is sent home; only Grace and Julia are left. Since Mrs. Crescent is about ready to pop she can’t go, so the cook accompanies and chaperones Chloe, rescuing her from the evil clutches of Grace & Co. It turns out the cook is actually Mrs. Wrightman, the Mr. Wrightmans’ mother.
Henry takes her to the library and gives her a first edition of Sense and Sensibility.
Henry really knows how to win a girl over. I’d propose to him.
Anyways, while they are there, Henry reveals his feelings for her quoting P&P
Chloe gets the second dance with Sebastian and gets to do the dance Darcy and Elizabeth do in the ’95 adaption.
She also makes a great Darcy reference, but one that Sebastian does not get. To cause further frowns she spots a girl making the moves on Henry. Then when she is about to dance the very risqué waltz with Sebastian she gets a message from Fiona that Mrs.C just went into labor. She steals a horse and is off to help.
However when she gets back to the house she discovers Mrs. C is perfectly fine. Mrs. C is not having a baby. FIONA LIED!!!!!
She tries to run back to the party and totally messes up her outfit and runs into Henry. He tries to console her and she enjoys it, but then that she recognizes she is in the icehouse. When she tries to get rid of Henry as Sebastian is coming, Henry is disappointed (even worse than angry) and takes off.
When she meets up with Sebastian she realizes that this isn’t what she really wants. He admits to flirting with Fiona, he pulls out a knife and plays with it (what a psycho), and then tries to strip her. She freaks out-I would too-and Sebastian proposes. The footman enters and tells them Mrs. C is having the baby. As Chloe tries to leave Sebastian pulls her back.
Now I don’t know why Chloe says yes, Sebastian is crazy. And this dude clearly doesn’t take no for an answer.
Sebastian lets Chloe take his horse and she goes off. There she helps Henry deliver the baby.
She has a fight with Fiona and goes back to her room. She looks out the window and sees Sebastian and Fiona finishing the “horizontal tango”. This man is definitely not Mr. Darcy, Tilney, Knightly, Brandon, Wentworth, Bingley, Ferras, or Bertram.
He’s nothing but a Wickham, Elliot, Willoughby, and Crawford.
The then have a huge fake wedding to end the show. They even bring Chloe’s mom and dad over. Chloe has a huge freakout as she marches down the alley and dumps Sebastian taking off to find Henry. Henry who Chloe has has announced that she loves.
As she tries to go to town to get home to her daughter and find Henry. She runs into some people who tell her that Sebastian isn’t the heir to Dartworth Hall, but Henry is.
Henry comes after her on a white horse. A WHITE HORSE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Henry takes her out and explains everything. Henry is a forty year old man who is heir to the Dartworth estate and a very large fortune. He works as a doctor because he loves helping others. He loves art, architecture, Jane Austen,
Women have been after him for his name and fortune so he hasn’t been able to settle down. His friend George came up with the idea, and Henry was hoping he would find his “Anne Elliot”. Sebastian is his cousin, and an aspiring actor, and Lady Anne (the cook) is actually his mother. He hated Grace but had to keep her on for ratings. Henry tells her he loves her, but Chloe is just so angry she refuses the money and goes home.
So Chloe goes home. All she keeps is the cat.
I would have kept the money and Henry. Chloe is crazy.
So Chloe is back in the states. She has given up in trying to find a fairy tale guy and she instead dates regular guys. The only Austen thing she does is watch the show she was on, Dating Mr. Darcy.
In the last episode she sees that they did exit interviews with everyone but her. Grace went back to her trading firm and is dating a politician. Fiona set a date with her fiancée who is back from fighting in Afghanistan (the guy she was porking about behind his back). Mrs. Crescent’s son had a successful operation and the lump is benign. Sebastian was given a leading role in a TV series and is currently dating one of the milkmaids from the show. Henry ends with a heartwarming plea telling Chloe that she pierce’s his soul and asking her to contact him.
The book ends with Chloe emailing Henry. Hoping to start a new beginning.
So both guys were definitely not Mr. Darcy, but Henry turned out to be one great guy.
To read another Pride & Prejudice post go to Parental Favoritism
To read another Northanger Abbey post go to Storybook Ending: Northanger Abbey (2007)
For more Jane Austen book adaptions, go to An Assembly Such as This