I’m trying to do better about reviews. I wrote this up a few weeks ago but haven’t had time to post it until today. I really, really and very surprisingly loved this book. I give it 5 stars on Amazon and Goodreads.
This book has bewitched me. I can put it no other way. I read it a month ago and knew right away I had to do a review but got caught up with things. Still, in the few quiet moments of life I had I would daydream of scenes that were effortlessly etched in my memory. It’s not necessarily the sort of thing I would usually like but, this book has bewitched me. I hadn’t thought I would read it but read an excerpt on a blog and had to know what happened next. It pulled me in immediately with the opening scene and never let me go, I read it in one day.
I will start with what would be my usual turn off. I am really picky on the modern stories I read. I read the original characters and the conflict a certain way and find it doesn’t usually translate well to a modern story and mostly because of sex. Sex is a huuuuge part of this book and yet it absolutely totally works as a modern reinterpretation. I won’t share Darcy’s big number (really, really big) as I think every reader should experience the horror and disgust of that on their own, but it really should have turned me off. Yet, Ms. Kahler makes it work through the circumstances of his rearing which put him on that path and also later when he is with Elizabeth he really has an epiphany about it. Anyway, I found it very believable and somehow this repulsive bit mixed with what you later learn of the man. And that’s what love is isn’t it? You love an imperfect being and you accept their faults.
My next big turn off with moderns and sex is that dear Lord the sex complicates things. I’ve enjoyed quite a few but darn if there’s not usually a situation where Elizabeth freaks over something and winds up pregnant but unable or unwilling to inform Darcy. Or she just has fears of being used etc. And Darcy is, even in a modern world where women have sex without marriage all the time, by far and away the superior in experience. Elizabeth doesn’t come close to Darcy’s number here but Kahler presents it in such a strong way. She is not shameless, she does turn him down for a plain hook up. She has to at least like the guy and trust him and she has several rules. But she prefers no strings attached. She doesn’t do relationships…actually that’s a big deal in her non-sexual relationships too. And I think that’s actually really equal to Darcy’s experience. I find all kinds of parallels with them in Canon, so I love seeing that time and again in this book. But the sex they share is enlightening, powerful and beautiful. It gives them an anchor in their relationship- even when it seems hopeless. Kahler turned something that seems smutty on the surface- Darcy’s previous use of women is truly atrocious- and made it lovely and layered in emotion.
What I absolutely adored the most is that in all other ways this is exactly how I understand the original Darcy and the way he comes to understand his feelings for Elizabeth. Kahler really translates certain sentiments to a modern setting very well. He was trained to have a certain image, to think he needed to maintain a legacy, to do what he must to inherit his fortune etc. and he is so angry with the restrictions this has placed on him- and from a very young age. In the end he realizes his parents would have wanted him to be happy and to have freedom of choices in his life. He also realizes he did have a choice and had spent too long acting a part. At one point he begins to describe himself as a horrible person, but modifies it to having lived a horrible life. I see Canon Darcy as a bit less arrogant than most, but at the end of it all, whether he just hates Hertfordshire society because they’re not rich enough or he hates the Bennets because they behave so horribly, he has been judgmental and made himself superior. He has treated people badly and that is a horrible way to live.
I’m less certain about Elizabeth. I did like her a lot. She was way more obvious in her dislike than Canon Elizabeth was but the social rules are so different now. We do not get her point of view of things in this book, but I’m left to wonder if some of what I have disliked about other moderns is that they do make Elizabeth too wilting for a modern world. This Elizabeth is strong at each turn. Even when she finally cracks and is crying it is STRONG of her to allow someone else in her life. Darcy has to EARN his place. That is a Lizzy I can like and respect.
I love plots that put Darcy and Elizabeth on a path where they must rely on each other and in the process come to learn about each other. Whether it’s kidnapped by highwaymen, a secret marriage aboard a ship, pirates attacking a ship or, now, hiking the Appalachian Trail. Some of this is clearly just personal taste but I also think it’s a good shift from Canon. Darcy and Elizabeth both trust each other with secrets which would be very harmful to their way of life if revealed to others, or at least more difficult. Out on the AT they were forced to be there for each other.
There are some excellent minor characters. The characters of Isabella and John Thorpe just fit in perfectly from their Northanger Abbey selves. Marianne Dashwood and Christopher Brandon are an excellent translation as well. I have always said that I was Marianne as a teenager and grew up to be an Elizabeth so I really like that they were best friends here. They bicker but have their similarities. Extra points go to the brilliant use of contemporary references from the use of Twitter to other plugs like Futurama.
There is a surprising twist that I truly did not see coming but I think it makes perfect sense and I do not think it came from nowhere. This book is longer than most you’ll see but it didn’t feel too long. Each time it seemed like it might be on the verge of just being a very long epilogue it wrapped itself around to a main plot point. Truly, I only have one minor complaint and that is on the final timeline/scene point I think it could have been made to be more about Elizabeth’s professional life and choices as I think most of her concerns had been vanquished long ago. And I believe in a few more reads I will probably find this the best ending after all, just as has been the case with my other favorite. Favorite? Yes, favorite. This is hands down my favorite modern and probably my top 5 favorite JAFF entirely.
Bravo, Ms. Kahler. I hope you give us another one soon, but not too soon as I can tell the time you put into this one really paid off.