Kim’s Review of Undressing Mr. Darcy by Karen Doornebos

umrkdWith much of today’s media so dominated by all things electronic and instant, it’s sometimes interesting to think of the ever-growing differences in technology between Austen’s era and today.  A clash between these two worlds is the subject of Karen Doornebos’s latest work, Undressing Mr. Darcy.  I’m no stranger to Doornebos, having read Definitely Not Mr. Darcy previously and was eager to see how she tackled this interesting subject.

From Goodreads:

Thirty-five-year-old American social media master Vanessa Roberts lives her thoroughly modern life with aplomb. So when her elderly Jane Austencentric aunt needs her to take on the public relations for Julian Chancellor, a very private man from England who’s written a book called My Year as Mr. Darcy, Vanessa agrees. But she’s not “excessively diverted,” as Jane Austen would say.

Hardbound books, teacups, and quill pens fly in the face of her e-reader, coffee, and smartphone…

…Until she sees Julian take his tight breeches off for his Undressing Mr. Darcy show, an educational “striptease” down to his drawers to promote his book and help save his crumbling estate. The public relations expert suddenly realizes things have gotten …personal. But can this old-fashioned man claim her heart without so much as a GPS? It will take three festivals filled with Austen fans, a trip to England, an old frenemy, and a flirtatious pirate re-enactor to find out….

As expected, Doornebos writes yet another fabulously witty and adorable novel. I’m always impressed with the extent of growth her heroines show, and Vanessa in Undressing Mr. Darcy didn’t disappoint. Vanessa undergoes a total transformation in these pages, one that I believe was actually a long time coming. I’ve read many criticisms of the book claiming that Vanessa changes for a man, but I find that to be untrue. First: the facts.  1) Vanessa is not really a fan of Austen. When her parents got divorced she moved in with her aunt (the Austen-centric one) and found herself with a jealous sibling. Who was she jealous of you ask? Jane Austen. 2) She is GLUED to all things electronic/social media/etc. She cannot go anywhere without answering emails, tweeting, or texting. Her life has literally become all about her cell phone and laptop. There are other things too, but I really just want to discuss these two points, as they profoundly change over the course of the novel.

So, as to point 1 – the dislike of Austen. Vanessa’s enjoyment of the novel comes from her spending time at the JASNA (Jane Austen society of North America) conference. While she’s attending the event (both as a favor to her aunt and her pro-bono work on Julian’s book) she discovers all of these little hidden oddities in Austen’s works. She discovers the sexual attraction between the lines, the social restrictions of women, and the difficulties relationships faced back in the day. The sessions she sits in on help her discover all of the tongue-in-cheek writing Austen did. I don’t think her new appreciation for Austen was because of a man. I think it happened because she started maturing and growing to appreciate Austen as an author and a woman, not as a jealous sibling.

The 2nd point – her inability to live in the now. When Vanessa encounters Julian, he’s living practically like a Regency gentleman. He doesn’t write email and he hand writes letters. He doesn’t use a cell phone or text, he leaves handwritten notes. Through her dealings/budding friendship with Julian she begins to pay less attention to her tweeting and the like. She begins being present for conversations taking place around her. By the end of the book we discover Vanessa has taken a new approach to life: living. I don’t think she does this BECAUSE of anyone specifically, but because she is maturing and realizing that life is fleeting. Again, it’s due to maturity, not a man.

I truly enjoyed Vanessa’s transformation from young, naive, immature (to a point) workaholic to a confident, successful, endearing, witty woman. The friendships she rekindles and discovers along her journey only help her grow up. For a woman to develop without parents it’s not surprising that she’s a late bloomer. It makes her story more realistic and more understandable.  Doornebos’ writing is a definite stand-out from the crowd of other fiction writers out there. She’s a breath of fresh air, with a story full of twists, turns, and Mr. Darcy. I can’t wait to see what she does next!

5 out of 5 Stars

Undressing Mr. Darcy by Karen Doornebos
Penguin Books (2013)
Paperback: 368 pages
ISBN: 9780425261392

Special thanks to Penguin Books for my review copy!

What Are You Reading This December?

The holidays are always such a crazy time of the year: shopping for gifts, baking holiday treats, decorating the Christmas tree, etc. I feel as though I never have enough time to read and blog as much as I’d like. Instead, I run around like a chicken without its head! This year marks the first time I’ve ever been able to prep while working from home. Hopefully my usual stress level will be lowered and will allow me more reading time. With that dream in mind, here’s what I’m aiming to read this month:

First up is finishing Wedding Cake for Breakfast.  I’ve been reading it on and off throughout the year as I have time. The book, written by several authors, is comprised of short essays on the first year of marriage. I’ve really enjoyed the stories I’ve completed so far and am anxious to finally finish the book.

december

The River of No Return by Bee Ridgway was pitched to me as a book fans of Outlander would love. If you’ve been following the blog this year you know I’ve become obsessed with the Outlander series (reviews of book one, two, and three.) Therefore, it should come as no surprise that I’m PUMPED to start this.

And finally, Undressing Mr. Darcy by Karen Doornebos. Doornebos wrote Definitely Not Mr. Darcya book I really enjoyed last year. I’m a firm believer that you can never have too much Darcy, so I’m sure you can guess what my feelings are already about this book. 🙂

So folks, over to you. What are your plans for the holidays? What are you reading this December?

Happy holidays, and as always happy reading!

#89 A Review of Definitely Not Mr. Darcy by Karen Doornebos

Definitely Not Mr. DarcyWhat better way to honor Jane Austen’s 236th birthday, then with a review of a contemporary version of Pride and Prejudice?  Karen Doornebos’s Definitely Not Mr. Darcy is just this novel, complete with rakish gentleman, misconstrued personalities, mistaken identities, and a good dose of scandal!

Chloe Parker is in a slump.  She’s quite close to 40, divorced, and her antique letterpress business, which she started and runs herself, is failing.  Fearing that this loss will make the financial future for her and her daughter too unbearable, she must do something quickly to right their financial ship and save them.  Relying on her love for all things Jane Austen, Chloe decides to sign up for a Jane Austen inspired reality show set in England, for which she will be paid and have the chance to win a grand prize.  She’s in for a shock, however, when she discovers that what she thought was an innocuous documentary-style show is actually a dating contest set in 1812 a la The Bachelor style format.  The man of the hour is a Mr. Wrightman, and she must battle eight other women for his hand.  Upon arrival she finds 2 Mr. Wrightman’s and realizes quickly that she is falling for the wrong one.  Will she be able to win despite the numerous setbacks against her?  Will following her heart lead her down the wrong road?

If Doornebos’s debut novel is any indication of what she’s capable of as a writer, then we’re in for following her long career.  She creates characters that you can relate to.  Chloe is the epitome of an Austen fan.  She’s in love with Regency England, wishes (like most of the rest of us) that we could step back into that time of gentlemanly manners and courting.  While most of us would love to take a trip back in time, Doornebos does a god job at reminding us of how wonderful technology and progress is.  With the talk of chamber pots, chaperones, and the low social standing of women, Doornebos reminds us of how romanticized the period is.

While the ending of the novel isn’t really a surprise, the steps to conclude the story were as gratifying as I thought they would be.  The ending lived up to my expectations.  I’m excited to see what Doornebos comes up with in the future.  Regardless if she writes Jane Austen fan fiction or not, I think we’ll be intrigued by her stories and her funny and snarky characters.  If you’re looking for a fresh, contemporary take on the “Austen” genre, then look no further than Karen Doornebos.

4 out of 5 Stars

Definitely Not Mr. Darcy by Karen Doornebos
Penguin Group (2011)
Paperback  384 pages
ISBN: 9780425243824