Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart by Beth Pattillo
Have you ever had a book and had a bad feeling about it?
Either you check it out from the library, unwrap it, or pick it up in the bookstore and you just know that this book is not going to be something you enjoy.
Well that’s how I felt about this book. In fact I borrowed it from the library months ago, but just couldn’t bring myself to read it. Eventually I couldn’t renew it any longer and had to read it.
So I started the book out and I actually was enjoying it.
WHAT! MUST KEEP READING
But then I got to the end where it all fell apart and I hated it.
So what went wrong?
So the book starts out Claire Prescott. Claire is in her thirties and from Kansas City. She is in a lackluster relationship with Neil,a sports fanatic, and has recently lost her job when her sister calls in with a favor. After Claire’s parents died, she became the soul caregiver for her sister, forgoing college and other young adult dreams. Even now she is always caring for her sister, no matter that she is married and pregnant with her second child. Anyway, when her sister is put on bed-rest and can’t attend a special Pride & Prejudice seminar to give her paper, Claire steps up to the plate.
Only one problem. Claire has never read anything Jane Austen, and the only thing she knows about it is that everyone who has read or watched it is obsessed with Mr. Darcy.
So Claire journeys to Oxford University where she will be presenting the paper, and starts to feel overwhelmed as she is nowhere near the caliber of these people.
She tries to relax and settle down, when the most gorgeous man comes her way and asks to sit with her.
He introduces himself as James, in publishing, and from Manhattan. He too will be in the Pride & Prejudice seminar, although he is not a fan. Unfortunately he is as arrogant as he is cute. Luckily, the tongue-tied Claire is saved from making a fool of herself, as her room is ready.
That night and the welcome dinner, Claire finds herself seated with James and Martin, a kindly old man who instantly likes her. Claire tells them she is a doctor in pediatrics instead of the truth, making the same stupid cliché mistake that is done a thousand times in film and books.
So now you know she is going to fall for James, and he for her, and then the truth will all come out making James never want to see her again. Same old, same old.
The next day is a free one, to help those who are suffering from jet-lag, and Claire decides to take a walk in the country. As she is roaming, she runs into an older woman, in a trench coat, sitting on a stump.
Her name is Harriet Dalrymple and it turns out that she is a fan of Jane Austen as well. In fact she is distantly related to the author.
Harriet invites Claire over for tea, and Claire goes as she hopes to get Harriet out of the heat. They get to Harriet’s home, when Harriet drops a bomb on Claire. It turns out she has an earlier draft of Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice, the one that has been believed to be destroyed.
Claire is sure Harriet is joking, but Harriet pulls out a sheet of very old paper, written in old ink, and it looks extremely legitimate.
So Claire starts reading, and even to her limited knowledge it doesn’t seem right. While the style looks right,
Mr. Bennet is dead!!!
And Mr. Bingley chooses to forgo renting Netherfield!
Rev. Collins decides to leave the church and instead become a gentleman of leisure.
This version sounds more like the beginning of Sense & Sensibility, with Elizabeth planning their removal to a cheaper area, Mr. Collins coming and kicking them out a’la Fanny Dashwood, and the whole group moving to the seaside. The only difference? Elizabeth decides to seek employment.
Now there are quite a few problems with this writing, the first being why didn’t Jane marry Mr. Collins? When you read Pride & Prejudice, we know Jane is a people pleaser and that she would do anything her parents told her too. And we know that Mr. Collins likes Jane, in fact the only thing that keeps him from marrying her is because Mrs. Bennet assumed that Mr. Bingley would ask for Jane’s hand. But if we have no Mr. Bingley, then most likely Mr. Collins would have asked for Jane’s hand and Mrs. Bennet would have agreed, like in Lost in Austen.
Why would Elizabeth be seeking employment? I mean we know that Elizabeth cares for her family and wants to help them, but she is of the gentry class [minor], so it is a bit odd that that would be her first idea. Someone like her who has never had to worry about such things automatically jumping to that? This isn’t modern times, it would make more sense if the idea grew gradually instead of all at once.
So Claire becomes a little weirded out as Harriet says “the others won’t be happy” that she shared the manuscript. In fact she starts to worry that maybe she is in the opening scenes of a horror film.
She quickly runs away and heads to downtown.
In downtown she runs into Martin and learns more about Jane Austen, such as the fact that she wrote a manuscript 10 years prior to Pride & Prejudice, but choose not to keep it, later publishing the one we have today. That starts her thinking, could the one I’ve been reading at Harriet’s be the “real” one?
Martin also tells Claire about Tom Lefoy, the wealthy man Jane Austen fell for, but was unable to marry as his relatives quickly spirited him away from such a poor conquest. Tom Lefoy is believed to be the foundation for Mr. Darcy’s character, Austen’s version having a man of high means willing to brave the negative consequences of marrying down, along with the hateful reception from his relations. Tom Lefoy was also the basis for the plot of Persuasion, of course that novel being a wish fulfillment as the man goes away, but comes back, reuniting the couple.
The next day starts the seminar, and Claire meets their facilitator Eleanor Gibbs. Besides Claire, James, and Martin, there are three other group members: Rosie and Louise from New Zealand, and Olga from Russia. Rosie & Louise go first, their video presentation on the many portrayals of Mr. Darcy in film and TV.
Now nobody likes their presentation, but this would actually be pretty fascinating IF done right.
I mean first we have Laurence Olivier (my opinion one of the best Darcys) who is able to play restrained and rude; balanced with the charming and endearing Darcy. You also see subtle changes in how he talks to Elizabeth, but with the proposal still coming as a shock. Then we have David Rintoul in the ’80s who is more rude than restrained. Colin Firth‘s Darcy is the first time we are seen multiple sides of Darcy as in this depiction as we are shown his viewpoint on events instead of just Elizabeths. In Furst Impressions, Mr. Darcy is played by Wishbone the dog, being RADICALLY different. Then we have Colin Firth again, this time in Bridget Jones’ Diary, playing a betrayed man, restrained as his heart was broken, but eventually showing his true emotions. Martin Henderson in Bride & Prejudice, is not only extremely cocky but integrating into a vastly different culture. Matthew Macfayden is more cold than rude, changing more rapidly to the charming Mr. Darcy. Lost in Austen’s Darcy is played by Elliot Cowan who can be downright cruel at times. Josh Hopkins‘ Darcy in The 12 Men of Christmas isn’t a gentleman or rich, but a rugged outdoorsman, small business owner, and volunteer on the rescue squad. J.J. Feild in Austenland is more reserved, but then easily transforms to the Darcy we all love. And then of course Daniel Vincent Gordh, The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, isn’t even shown until the very end, forcing the viewers to rely on how Lizzie and friends see him, contrasting that to the amazing Darcy we are later introduced to. Sorry small tangent, I’ll get back to the book review.
So, no one likes their presentation and Claire feels better about presenting next time.
The next day, Claire sees James and Eleanor talking, and it doesn’t seem to be going all that well. She waits until they are done to get a seat, when Eleanor comes over to talk to her.
It turns out that Harriet is Eleanor’s mother and suffering from dementia. Eleanor thinks Claire will only make things worse and wants her to stay far away. Claire doesn’t want to stop seeing Harriet, but at the same time she doesn’t want to hurt her.
Later that afternoon as she is walking away, James comes out of nowhere and asks her to dinner.
Claire is surprised, but accepts.
James takes her to a super fancy place for dinner and the two discuss Darcy. James thinks it’s the money and extreme good looks that stirs the women’s hearts, but Claire doesn’t agree. He kind of squashes anything Claire has to say in retort and moves on to other topics.
Now here is where James is dead wrong. Money isn’t what makes Darcy so sought after, [you can read more about in my post First Impressions], it’s the fact that he is willing to humble himself and admit he was wrong, help out the Bennet family with no promise that he would gain Elizabeth’s heart, and the fact that he is brave enough to withstand all objections by his family for the woman he marries. That is why he is so romantic!
Anyways, James tells Claire that Martin is a professor who’s field is Jane Austen, in fact he will be teaching in Oxford in the fall. Claire is surprised and the conversation moves on.
That night as James is walking Claire to her dorm, the two have a moment, nothing happens, but Claire is starting to feel guilty about it as she is in a relationship with Neil. A stagnant, boring one, but a relationship none the less.
The next day Claire finds herself going to see Harriet’s, and another portion of the “manuscript”.
Elizabeth is at Rosings Park, a companion to Lady Catherine de Bourgh’s daughter Ann.
Okay why is she working here? How did she even meet Lady Catherine? Reverand Collins introduced them in the original novel, but judging from how people treated the ex-Reverand Hale in North & South, I don’t think Lady Catherine would want someone related to the ex-Reverand Collins. Whether he left the church for beliefs or money.
So Mr. Darcy and Colonel Fitzwilliam are on their way to visit. Elizabeth goes out walking the gardens and getting messy, dirty, and tan. She runs into Mr. Darcy on a horse. He believes her to be a lower class servant and is rather mean to her. Elizabeth shoots the barbs right back.
Okay in Pride & Prejudice, Mr. Darcy was seen as rude or cold, but never downright mean. In fact the whole reason everyone really starts hating him is that he gives the impression of looking down on people and says Elizabeth isn’t pretty enough to him. BUT, we know from his servants that he really nice and caring, so why would you make him like this?
As she continues on her way, angry with herself as being rude might get her fired, she encounters Colonel Fitzwilliam, who has injured himself riding. The two flirt a bit, and Elizabeth scurries on her way to get help.
So we have Colonel Fitzwilliam as a rival for Elizabeth’s affections instead of Wickham. Claire is surprised by this, but can’t read more as she has to leave. Harriet warns her about Mrs. Potter, the leader of the Formidables, a secret society that wants to make sure anything Jane Austen’s sister did not intend for public viewships to remain hidden. Eleanor also wants the manuscript as she wants to publish it and become rich. Harriet sends all the pieces she has found with Claire, feeling they are safer with her until she makes her decision as what to do with them.
So now it is as if Claire has entered a spy movie, as she has “the package” everyone is after.
As Claire is contemplating what to do, she runs into James, who invites her to tour the Botanical Gardens with him. They walk around with Claire wanting to slowly stroll and take it all in, while James is just wanting to keep moving forward. Claire questions him as to what happened if a famous author’s previous manuscript was discovered and James tells her that it will mean A LOT OF MONEY for the person and the publishing house.
They eventually have to stop as it gets too hot. Now I have never been to England and I know this author has, but I looked up the temperatures and it does not get hot. 70 degrees? That’s nothing, try being in the ’90s or 100s. THAT’S HOT!
Anyways, as they are resting, James falls asleep, leaning on Claire. So with Claire having one guy interested it is fitting in scriptworld for Neil to decide to call her up.
Yes Neil who hardly ever seems to pay attention and is just calling her after she has been there like three days already! THREE DAYS!! He should have called the first day to see that she got in okay. Bad boyfriend, bad.
It turns out that Claire’s sister Missy said something to him, that made Neil want to call. Hurumph.
James wakes up and asks Claire to dine with him again, but she decides that the dining hall is better as the nice restaurants make her a bit uneasy and they really should be mingling with the other students. They have dinner, with Martin joining them. At the end of it, one of the porters comes for Claire as she has a package waiting for her.
Inside the package are more pages of the novel. Claire runs to her room to read more when she finds a warning note from Mrs. Parrot who wants the pages back.
Claire decides to continue reading as she just has to know what happens next.
So Lady Catherine is throwing a ball, of which Elizabeth is not invited. To her surprise at the last minute Lady Catherine requests her presence, and she dresses quickly in a black gown.
So as this manuscript is missing a lot of pages, we are unsure how long after Elizabeth’s father died that this ball is taking place. Black was only worn during the full morning period, half of the complete mourning period. As a daughter, Elizabeth would mourn for six months, having to wear all black in the first three and could wear half black for the last three. SHE WOULD NEVER, EVER wear a black gown if she wasn’t mourning. Now as Elizabeth is mourning, as she is wearing black, she could not go to the ball. Customs allowed the deceased’s family to only go to Church and a few functions, balls were out of the question. And a woman like Lady Catherine who cares so much about propriety and society would never make a faux-pas like that. NEVER!
So a mistake like that? Book’s a fake. Move on Claire, move on.
So Rev. Humphrey, the one who took Mr. Collins’ position, invites Elizabeth to an outing to show off his house. Mr. Darcy and Colonel Fitzwilliam are also going to take a look. Elizabeth agrees, if Ann’s health allows her to come. Lady Catherine agrees if Darcy leads Ann. Elizabeth notices that Darcy doesn’t seem eager to be thrown together with his cousin. Colonel Fitzwilliam will lead Elizabeth, disappointing Rev. Humphrey as he wanted her all to himself.
Claire decides to go out for some exercise, taking the manuscript in her purse, and runs into Martin. She asks for his help and shows him the manuscript. Martin wishes he could see more and find out where it all came from, but Claire can’t tell him as she promised Harriet. Martin guesses that the Formidables are involved somehow in all this, much to Claire’s surprise. In the end Martin tells her that he believes it could be real, and when Claire asks for advice of what to do, he tells her to follow her heart.
As she is heading to her room, Claire runs into James who makes her feel…words can’t describe. He walks her home when, he suddenly kisses her.
Just as suddenly he breaks away, all sorry that he gave her the wrong impression but nothing can happen here story. If nothing can happen why would you kiss her? Come, on!
Claire is justifiably incensed and takes off to her room. When she reaches her room she finds it ransacked!
The next day Eleanor is angry with Claire for bothering her mother, and tries to get the manuscript from her. But Claire steadfastly refuses.
It’s time for Claire to share her sister’s essay, which is on the relationship between Elizabeth and Jane. Her sister, Missy, feels that Elizabeth’s constant helping actually hinders her chances of securing an attachment with Bingley, rather than the younger sister’s actions. However, I disagree as anything anyone says about Jane doesn’t deter Bingley except for when Mr. Darcy tells him that not only is Jane from bad stock, but he doesn’t think she really likes Bingley that much. So in reality it comes from Elizabeth not telling Jane what Charlotte told her too, make it clear she was very interested. Sorry Missy but you have some huge holes in your thesis.
This whole essay upsets Claire as it makes her rethink her relationship with Missy, maybe Missy actually resents everything she’s done to help her.
After the paper is shared, they spend the rest of the time talking about the guy we all hate, Wickham.
When class end Claire finds herself back at Harriet’s cottage, and is given the next part to read.
So the group has gone out to visit Rev. Humphrey’s home. The good Rev. is very interested in Elizabeth, which upsets Lady Catherine. ( I don’t know why? Wouldn’t she prefer him giving her all the attention instead of her nephews?) Elizabeth finds herself continuously paired with the colonel and starts enjoying her time with him. Elizabeth asks about an engagement between Darcy and Ann, but Colonel Fitzwilliam assures her that there is nothing definite. Elizabeth is hopeful as she cares for Darcy.
Now why would she do that? In this manuscript we have only seen two thing with Darcy 1) rude to servants and people he thinks are below him 2) Very quiet. Now does that seem like something Elizabeth would fall for? NO! In Pride & Prejudice there is the hope that maybe he might be her true guy, which is dashed when he says that he doesn’t think she is that attractive. Her contempt for him is only changed after she sees his sweet behavior in Pemberly with his servants, sister, and her and her relations. This is all further fortified when he helps with Lydia and brings Jane and Bingley together. Get it right!
Elizabeth asks the Colonel more about himself and learns that he has recently left the regiment as he has been granted a parcel of land by his father. He doesn’t seem supremely happy with the choice as he misses being out on the sea. Elizabeth also shares a bit of her feelings on how she dislikes the changes her family was forced to go through. Elizabeth then starts thinking on how he would make a great husband, and protect his wife. If only Darcy was like that. Darcy, who makes her feel alive when he kissed her, but now only ignores her.
There are two, HUGE problems with that! Huge!!
First of all, look at Elizabeth!! That’s not Elizabeth. That character is the type you would find in a 10¢ “historical”, bodice-ripping, romance novel. Oooh what a strong protector. Oh Mr. Darcy’s eyes, his lips. NO NO NO NO NO NO! Elizabeth does not moon over such things NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! This is horrible! This is like bad fan fiction. This is Fifty Shades of Gray bad! NO, NO, NO, NO, NO!!!! Elizabeth would never act like that, Never!!!
I’m sooooooooo upset right now!!!!!!
Just argh!! Words cannot express how much I hate how they took a character I love and destroyed it so!!! And I get that the author is trying to present a radically different Austen novel and one that a younger Jane might write but I don’t care!!! I don’t like it!
And number two NO KISSING IN JANE AUSTEN NOVELS!!!! There is no way Jane Austen would write them kissing. That wasn’t done in Regency periods. You don’t go kissing until after marriage, unless you are a no good cad like Mr. Tilney’s older brother. So NO NO NO NO! Mr. Darcy would not be trifling with girls affections, no. And Jane would not put that in there.
No way! It is a FAKE!!!!!!
Elizabeth enjoys Colonel Fitzwilliam’s company, but she is in love with Darcy.
Although I don’t know why as apparently he is a cad.
As Claire leaves Harriet’s she sees someone following her.
It’s Mrs. Parrot who wants the manuscripts back.
The next morning, Claire heads out to Starbucks and on the way to class runs into James. James wants to apologize for how he was acting as he cares for her. He is about to confess something to Claire, and Claire is about to tell the truth on her not being a doctor, when who should appear? Neil.
What a cliché!
Neil introduces himself as Claire’s boyfriend, which upsets James. James asks if it is true, of which Claire says yes, causing James to become angry and stalk off. Neil realizes what has been happening and also becomes angry and takes off. Claire is just appalled at how quickly life was turned upside down.
James presents his paper on how Elizabeth wasn’t really in love with Darcy but just a gold-digger once she saw how awesome Pemberly was. Claire runs out, just wanting to be alone to deal with all the stuff that went down that morning. She runs to the nearby river to think, when Neil comes floating down on a boat. They talk about their relationship, with Neil admitting that he didn’t pay as much attention to her as he should have, but that Claire wasn’t giving him as much attention as she is too focused on her sister. Now I thought this was a very late development, as previously Claire had mentioned that she did a lot for her sister, but when Neil mentions it as almost an obsession. Who is right? We don’t know as the author is almost trying to rescind her earlier reasons for why Claire was unhappy in her relsationship and the whole character based on Neil. I don’t buy it.
Claire leaves Neil to think, and heads to Harriet’s who has found more pieces of the manuscript.
Elizabeth is walking in the park when she runs into Mr. Darcy. Mr. Darcy tells Elizabeth that he will not be victim to her game of trying to catch him. He tells her he loves her but that he could never marry a poor peon like her. If he was free from family control, maybe, but no. Elizabeth becomes angry, and says she never tried any such thing of “catching him”. And Darcy is free to do what he wishes.
Okay this is what I don’t like! They made Darcy the villian! They made him a pompus, jerk, pansy, mamma’s boy! No, NO, NO, NO. That is not how Darcy should be. And wouldn’t this Darcy make more sense after her fling with Tom LeFoy as she would have been angry with his lack of standing up for their love and releasing her anger in written form? Why would she change and make Darcy better after such a disappointing circumstance when her previous creations evoked a closer emotion. It doesn’t make sense to me. And Darcy cannot be the villain. NO!!!!
Elizabeth then travels to see Jane and pour out her miseries
Whatever! This book is going to have to do some major begging to get me to like it as it has sunk very, very low in my opinion.
So Claire and Neil meet at a pub to talk. It turns out that Neil is doubly upset as he was going to ask Claire to marry him.
They break up, and Neil heads to the airport.
Claire runs into James, who once he hears about the breakup, wants the two to start over fresh and build a life together. Claire appreciates his thoughts but tells him the truth about her not being a doctor. She also tells him that a part of her has been believing that he’s her Mr. Darcy.
Which he isn’t as he is totally jerky. Remember their dinner together, where he wouldn’t let her express her opinions?
Claire goes to sleep missing Neil and wondering why she thew him away.
Uh, Claire let me just remind you that the boy was taking you for granted and waited three days before calling or texting you! Three days! Find someone who really cares about you.
Missy calls Claire the next day and the two have a huge heart-to-heart. Missy tells her how she loves her sister, but truth is Claire has been sacrificing too much of her dreams and goals. Missy is grown now, Claire should be focusing on her own life, needs, desires, etc.
She later runs into Neil, who couldn’t catch a flight, which makes her regret everything even more. She believes that the man next to her is better than Mr. Darcy/James. Of which let me remind you James is nowhere near Mr. Darcy, and if Claire had actually read Pride & Prejudice she would know that.
Martin finally presents his topic and it is on courage, the courage that Elizabeth has to reexamine herself and understand her heart.
As she is leaving, James approaches Claire. He tells her that he originally pursued her not because he liked her but because Eleanor told him that she had a copy of the manuscript. He was the one who ransacked her room.
He fell in love with her along the way and hope that they can start completely new and fresh. Claire says thanks, but no thanks. Which good for you, you don’t need a Wickham in your life.
Claire then goes to the Bodleian Library and researches into Austen’s life, finding what she thinks is the key to the change in the Mr. Darcys.
Claire believes that Austen changed from the previous manuscrupt because she actually expereienced what it was like to be poor. She also believes that the Mr. Darcy we love today, was created as to give redemption to the man that broke her heart and fell short of her ideals. Harriet agrees and gives her the last page.
Elizabeth is visiting her Aunt and Uncle Gardiner in London, and enjoying their time together. She is trying to find a new job when a man arrives to see her, Colonel Fitzwilliam. He comes and tells her that he loves her and wishes to marry her, and that he is willing to stand up to the disagreements of his family. Elizabeth agrees to marry him. They take off to visit Darcy’s friend Bingley, taking along Jane. The End.
So all the author really did in this book was turn Darcy into a cad and reverse which Fitzwilliam had the guts. In the actual book, Colonel Fitzwilliam tells Elizabeth that he likes her but needs a woman with fortune, making sure that she has no hopes pinned on him. In this she has Darcy do it. Yawn.
Nothing about this book was revolutionary to me or that delightful, as Pattillo seemed to be trying to just make money off Jane Austen fans, by twisting one of her classics and taking the characters we adore turning them into strange creatures only seen in stupid low-quality romances.
By the way, Claire gives the papers to Harriet, and she returns home set on going to school, getting her degree, and gets back with Neil on the plane.
So I really, really did not enjoy this book. And I do not recommend it for any other Jane Austen fans
For more retellings of Pride & Prejudice, go to The Accidental Bride
For more on works inspired by Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice, go to Happy Birthday Pride & Prejudice
For more Pride & Prejudice, go to Cold-Hearted