Fitzwilliam Darcy: Rock Star (Heather Lynn Rigaud)

When I picked this up from the sale rack at Hastings, I knew it would either be brilliant or terrible. But at 40% off, I was willing to take a chance. I can’t quite tell you why this book ended up in my basket after I panned at least a thousand other Austen tribute novels, other than the hope that this one promised not to take itself too seriously. Either that, or the idea of Darcy in leather pants was just too intriguing to pass up.


Back story: I have hated every other book I’ve read that attempts to play off of Jane’s classic stories, characters, or themes. (Correction: Katherine Reay’s novels are an exception; see our reviews for Lizzy & Jane and Dear Mr. Knightley.) But overall, Austen-inspired novels  seem to exhibit one or more of the following problematic elements:

a) terribly written stories and characters whose only hope of success is by association with Jane the Great
b) blatantly derivative plots disguised as “sequels” or “spinoffs”
c) pretentious authors actually trying to write in Austen style

I was pleasantly surprised to find that Fitzwilliam Darcy, Rock Star suffered from none of the above. In many ways, it was actually a successful adaptation of my beloved characters and story: original and clever in its modern setting, yet true to the essence of the characters and to the major plot points of Pride and Prejudice.

Fitzwilliam “Will” Darcy is the mysterious front man of rocker group Slurry, a trio comprised of Darcy, his cousin Richard Fitzwilliam, and his college friend Charles Bingley. Desperate for an opening act as they begin their fourth national tour, they book up-and-coming girl band Long Bourne Suffering, made up of the beautiful Bennet sisters and their pal Charlotte Lucas. The relationship between the three single rock stars and the three sexy single ladies is strictly business…until it’s not (which takes about three hot seconds). As the plot progresses, readers encounter lots of familiar characters: the girls’ sleazy agent Bill Collins, the overbearing label owner Catherine DeBourgh, the too-good-to-be-true music video director (and former Slurry member) George Wickham, Darcy’s sweet and sensible little sister Georgie. It all works surprisingly well.

But despite this promising beginning, I do NOT recommend this book.

I wasn’t naive enough to expect that the essential virtue of Jane and Elizabeth (and Charlotte…and Bingley…and DARCY, for that matter) would survive this modernization. Darcy is a rock-and-roll icon, after all, so I wouldn’t have expected him to smolder for four hundred pages before he dared to risk the intimacy of addressing Elizabeth by her first name.

BUT. The sex scenes in this book are so over-the-top and frequent that I had a major crisis of conscience about even finishing the book.  Instead of having the characters articulate their thoughts and resolve emotional conflict through self-reflection and conversation, they immediately fall into bed (or whatever surface might be even closer). At one point, Darcy even admits, “We communicate better through our music…or non-verbally.” News flash, Mr. Rock-and-Roll Star: relationships don’t work that way. And neither do plots; long pornographic scenes are just not a substitute for character development and dialogue.

A serious literary analysis could find plenty of other things to pick apart concerning the plot and characters, but this novel is unapologetically fan fiction, not literature. Some serious editing could have made this story a novel riff on a classic favorite, but as it is, the indulgent sexual scenes weigh down the effect. Sexy-Darcy fans who want to keep their consciences intact will just have to content themselves with watching Colin Firth dive into the lake at Pemberley…again.

 

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June Recap

June was a really fun month of reading for me. I started in a little bit of a slump, but once I got going on a couple of these, I just couldn’t stop reading!

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1. Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear

The first of a long series of books following Maisie Dobbs, a detective/private investigator/boss lady in the 1920’s. She is smart and totally lovable. This first book has a lot of flashbacks to set up Maisie’s back-story, but I hear that doesn’t continue much through the rest of the series. I really enjoyed Maisie and can’t wait to continue with the series!

2. Ready Player One by Earnest Cline

Full post here. Surprisingly enjoyable dystopian YA nerd novel. Ready Player One takes place in dystopian future America and follows an eighteen year old boy who is trying to win a video game contest for the hope of a better life.

3. Still Life by Louise Penny

Louise Penny’s first Chief Inspector Gamache novel. I read a different Louise Penny book that comes later in the series before I realized that it was a series, so I finally got around to starting at the beginning. I loved it. The crazy characters, the quaint small town, the quiet confidence of Gamache–I can’t wait for my library to get me book 2!

4. Daring Greatly by Brene Brown

True confession: I did not finish this book. I had it on my kindle from the library, and I didn’t know my time would expire so quickly. I really enjoyed the parts that I did read (I highlighted and took screenshots almost every time I read), but I found it hard to pick it up and read for very long. Someday I would like to come back and finish this book, but I probably won’t right now.

5. The Light of the World by Elizabeth Alexander

Beautiful memoir about Elizabeth Alexander’s husband who passed away suddenly. Alexander is a poet, so her descriptions of her Ficre (her husband) and their life together were really beautiful. Lindsey did a full review of The Light of the World here.

6. Little House on the Prairie, Little Town on the Prairie, and These Happy Golden Years by Laura Ingalls Wilder

These books are just so classic. I read these three in preparation for our trip to visit Laura and Almanzo’s house in Missouri, and I laughed and cried through them.

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All the heart eyes for Laurmanzo

7. The Knockoff by Lucy Sykes

SO FUN. This might be one of my favorite books that I’ve read this year. It takes place in the fashion world of New York City and follows a seasoned editor-in-chief of Glossy Magazine through a transition into the new world of social media. I loved all of the name-dropping of famous designers and the commentary on the bads (and goods) of our instagram-obsessed culture. It was fun, thought-provoking, and just overall very entertaining. Definitely a great summer read.

8. Lizzy and Jane by Katherine Reay

I really enjoyed this one! It is the story of two sisters (named for the Bennets) who struggle to connect after years of bitterness following their mother’s death. One is a chef, one is a stay-at-home mom battling cancer, but both have some serious emotional baggage to sort through. Even though that sounds heavy, the book is quite lighthearted and full of quotes and conversation about Jane Austen, other classic literature, and food.

9. Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Marie Semple

Where’d You Go, Bernadette? is one of my favorite books. I reread it this month for my book club (I got to choose the book, so of course I picked this on), and it was just as good on my fourth read. The story is told through a series of memos, emails, flyers, and newspaper clippings, so it is really quirky. I LOVE it.

Dear Mr. Knightley (Katherine Reay)

In a word: Cute

Dear Mr. Knightley

You will all be glad to know that this book is not trying to be Emma. It’s about a literature-loving girl who grew up on the streets and in the foster care system, writing letters to an anonymous benefactor who is paying for her to go to graduate school. Samantha quotes literary characters as a defense mechanism, a habit which all of her friends find annoying (As a reader, I felt ambivalent. Who doesn’t love literary quotes? But I also could see the friends’ point.)

I bought this book because the Kindle edition was 1.99, and I needed something light to read on an airplane. This was the way to get maximum enjoyment out of this book. The story is cute, and all the literary references are fun. But I think if you read too carefully or critically, you could get bogged down in the weak points of the narrative.

You’ll have to take the light approach on purpose. Samantha and many other characters bring a lot of baggage to the table, and you might be tempted to think deeply about orphan psychology, child abuse, the United States foster system, and dysfunctional family dynamics. Unfortunately, I don’t really think that the story line or the characters are strong enough to stand up to cross-examination.

Bottom line: if you can resist the temptation to read with your critic’s hat on, you can enjoy this as a light-hearted love story with lots of Jane Austen quotes.