“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:
Specifically Jane Austen
Anyways so she enters a contest to compete in a documetary about Austinites. Each contestant will live in a Regency-esque world where they will compete in answering Austen Triva. The winner recieving $100,000. Chloe really needs the money as her old-fashioned letterpress buisness 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 Austinites, but is a reality dating show, a sort of Bachelor-esque one.
Chloe is in shock and utter disbelief. She decides that she is through with it as 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. 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 contestents 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 Austinte expereience 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.
Now this is an area I thought the author should have changed. 39 is much too old for a woman to be man-catching in Regency times (unless she was a wealthy widow). If I was the author, Karen Doornebos, I would have made her younger. She could have still gone to college and had a child, you would just have to bend the years back. Let’s say she graduated at age 22, got married at 23, and then had a kid at 24. You could make her 30 years old with a 6 year old. 39 is much too old.
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 English 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 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, spetecle wearing, kind looking man rather than the tall, dark, and brooding Darcy-sque that she was expecting) she is happy to have made his aquaintance.
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 in this book. 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.
Don’t mess with me!
She also finds out that all the other girls in the house have been there for three weeks already and she was choosen 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 somethings I cannot live without and I don’t know if I could go weeks without them. I need my indoor plumbing, I hate it when I don’t have a proper bathroom. I also couldn’t do a bath only on Sundays. And I’m haf-Mexican, I need spice in my food! I can’t live on bland scrump.
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 competely 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 embarrasssed that he caught her she is rude to him. He warns her that she is on Darthworth property which are 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 sufferes 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. Fiona responds 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 inheritence (Very Mr. Tilney indeed). Chloe is horrified that she might have just lost her chance at Mr. Wrightman. Uber embarressment. Very reminiscent of the Sense & Sensibility Mr. Ferrars incident.
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 little about 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. For me it is always P&P 1940, then P&P (1995).
Chloe thoroughly enjoys Regency dances, but Grace tries to throw a wrench in her plan 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, wth 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, Abigal. Apparently Chloe’s ex, Winthrop, has met somebody, and is getting married, and wants to change the custody arrangement. Apparently 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.
What else could go wrong?
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 when women were having their time of the month they had a lying in time period and had to be away from all the others. 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. Washing and changing clothes were seen as unhealthy. 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 diiner at Dartworth Hall the next day too.
Later that day Chloe is out gathering ingrediants 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 Herny 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 forthwright, 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, paunting 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. I love libraries, I mean I have done all thise book posts. (The Important Things in Life, Surviving the Worst, They Change You, Hardest Decision of My Life, Me, Me & Me Again, Best Pickup Line Ever!, If Only, and Words to Live By.)
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 ceremoney (much like the rose ceremony in the Bachlor 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.
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 hre.
Sebastian makes plans to have a faux fox hunt for the girls. Everyone is excaiming over it when Mrs. Crescent screams out that
The BABY”S HERE!
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 falconing. The two share some tender moments. 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 oppurtunity of watching her audition video, check her facebook, twitter, and research her through the internet. He tells her they have a lot in common. He also takes a lock of her hair. Taking someone’s lock of hair meant you were very interested in them and were planning o 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 her 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 suprise 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 hosting 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 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.
I can be a dude. I’m a dude.
This Shakespearean twist isn’t completely crazy. There is no way Chloe could send him a letter, note, or talk to him priovately 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 takes off into the maze and Chloe follows, it begins to pour (hey its England). Instead of turning back she takes off after him to save him., Henry also goes. Fifi gets in a fight with a weasal 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.
Elinor Dashwood: Marianne, you must change. You will catch a cold.
Marianne: What care I for colds when there is such a man.
Elinor Dashwood: You will care very much when your nose swells up.
She has to return home, quite sad that she couldn’t stay 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 rooom. It’s just not her day.
What else could go wrong?
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 enojy 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 questioned whether Chloe is throwing away her oppurtunity 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! Ah, he’s perfect! He got her a mouser. Now Chloe thinks that Henry told Sebastian, but it is obvious that he sent it. I mean the guys titally in love with her. And I feel that he is a much better guy than Sebastian as he is real. Sebastian is to 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 us going well until Grace steps on her foot and causes her to miss, sending the arrow right ay Henry. Grace faints once again 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 givs him a drop of laudaum, and Sebastian really cuts loose. He starts saying all kinds of things and starts trying to get all over him. Charlotte ends up decking him as he as he tries to pull her dress off. Henry arrives 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.
Grace had been shooting a gun trying to ruin their date and Chloe is set on trying to prove that she is doing all kinds of illegal activities. She finds all kinds of things and even gets caught by Grace as Grace is trying to get down with a footman.
Later she is requested by Mrs. Crescent to help her when she has the baby and tries out some of the toys Henry got for Mrs. Crescent’s children. Chloe then has a very embarressing moment when the contraband she stole from Grace drops out of her bonnet. She leaves and goe 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 amd 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.
The 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 chaporones her, 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 Darcyian refrence, but one that Sebastian does not get. To cause further frown 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 oufit She runs into Henry. He tries to console her. It is then that she ercognizes sge is in the icehouse. When she triesto get rid of Henry as Sebastian is coming Henry is dissappointed (even worsethan angry) and tkes off.
When she meets up with Sebastian she realizes 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 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. Ad this dude clearly doesn’t take no for an aswer.
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 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 anounced 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 Dartwiorth Hall, but Henry is.
Henry comes after her on a white horse. A WHITE HORSE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Henry takes her out and explais 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,
museums, bird-watching, etc. 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 an 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 returns home, doesn’t want the money, and goes home.
So Chloe goes home. She gets a beatiful letter Henry and the cat, but that is all she takes from Henry.
I would have kept the money and Henry. Chloe is crazy.
So Chloe is back in the states. She has given up in tryingv to find a fary tale guy. She dates regular guys. The only Austen thing she does is watch the show she was on, Dating Mr. Darcy. In the last episode she see 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 Afgahnistan (the guy she was porking about behind his back). Mrs. Crescent’s son had a sucessful 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.
Not exactly the romantic ending one wants but is still quite sweet. So both guys were definitely not Mr. Darcy, but Henry turned out to be one great guy.
For more things based on Pride and Prejudice, go to On the 12th Day ‘Till Christmas: The 12 Men of Christmas (2009)
To read another Pride & Prejudice post go to Parental Favoritism
To read another Northanger Abbey post go to Storybook End