Will their childhood scars prevent Darcy and Elizabeth from building a future with each other?
Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5
Source: I received an ARC of this book from the publisher for a fair and honest review.
J.L. Ashton’s debut novel is a modern variation of “Pride and Prejudice” that takes place in the New England region of the United States, where Fitzwilliam Darcy, who’s as mysterious and brooding as Austen’s own hero, meets Elizabeth Bennet, during a football game at the University of Meryton. At this sporting event, Darcy’s friend, Charles Bingley, meets the striking Jane Bennet. Bingley and Jane quickly find themselves in a mutually exclusive romantic relationship. True to canon, Darcy and Elizabeth are also drawn to each other, yet both are unwilling to communicate any of their early attraction to one other.
As Bingley and Jane’s relationship evolves and Darcy and Elizabeth find themselves spending more time in each other’s company, Darcy and Elizabeth’s deepening physical attraction pulls them towards acting on their passions, and eventually, they both find themselves in an uncomfortable situation where they are both unwilling to pursue what’s deep within their hearts. Moving forward, misunderstandings occur between them leaving them both uncertain about each other’s characters and motives.
Ms. Ashton’s variation builds on several of Austen’s themes while at the same time developing a story that stands on its own as an emotionally intense romance novel featuring two complex and relatable main characters. Fitzwilliam Darcy is a wealthy businessman who appears to have everything he desires and yet when one scratches below the surface, there lies a sensitive and caring man grappling with the heartaches and misfortunes associated with suffering from an unfortunate tragedy. Elizabeth Bennet is a fiercely independent woman who is on the brink of publishing her first book, while her relationship with her mother has left her attempting to conquer a multitude of unresolved feelings. Is there a way that Darcy and Elizabeth can eventually come to trust one another and build a relationship that respects both of their needs?
The manner in which Ms. Ashton constructs the inner dialogues of her characters and develops their story arcs through these very emotional journeys allows her readers to feel connected to her characters. As a reader, it’s easy to relate to their struggles and fears, while at the same time admiring their courage and perseverance as they work through the various obstacles in their lives. I found the bantering between Darcy and Elizabeth to be lively and flirtatious while the chemistry between them was quite palpable from the very beginning of the story.
The way that Ms. Ashton reimagined Austen’s supporting characters within her modern setting was also well done. She gives us good reasons to dislike our typical antagonists in their fresh new roles. George Wickham’s role in this storyline is absolutely perfect. While Elizabeth is initially drawn to him and becomes professionally involved with him, his role in this storyline adds a nice plot twist within this story.
While I really enjoyed this story, I did find the pacing was a bit uneven. This was mainly because the pace seemed to significantly slow down once Darcy and Elizabeth came to an understanding about their relationship. However, this was one of my favorite modern JAFF variations and it’s one that I can definitely imagine myself rereading in the future.
From the pages of “A Searing Acquaintance.”
“I don’t know why I ever thought we made sense.”
Smart, educated people are fools in love, especially when they’re mired in denial and misunderstanding.
In this modern spin on Jane Austen’s classic tale, Elizabeth Bennet, a grad student with literary aspirations, has found her big career break—and broken up with yet another forgettable boyfriend. While grateful for the professional lifeline thrown by sports agent George Wickham, she is intrigued by the man she calls Mr. Noir.
Fitzwilliam Darcy, marked by tragedy, is a man accustomed to living his life in the spotlight even as his heart dwells on the dark side of loneliness. When he first meets Elizabeth, he thinks she looks like “a bloody pumpkin,” but he soon sees so much more. She, however, can’t even decide what to call him. Mr. Noir? Nurse Darcy? Sleazy British playboy? Ferdinand?
“So, it’s Fitzwilliam, right? That’s an amazing name, you know. Which came first—the name or the accent?”
He looked at her.
“Oh, come on. It’s like the name of a subdivision or a sofa at Pottery Barn. `Please note the extra firm cushions on The Fitzwilliam.’”
Can an accidental encounter that leads to shocking intimacy change the course they’ve both set and bring them into love’s light? Or will they stay mired in cold words and angry misunderstandings, overshadowing the deep connection they each feel? Getting beyond their own mistakes to find each other again is one thing; they also have to heal the wounds of their pasts. Can they do that together?
J.L. Ashton didn’t meet Jane Austen until she was in her late teens, but in a happy coincidence, she shares a similarity of name with the author and celebrates her birthday on the same day Pride & Prejudice was first published. Sadly, she’s yet to find any Darcy and Elizabeth candles on her cake, but she does own the action figures.
Like so many Austen fans, Jan was an early and avid reader with a vivid imagination and a well-used library card. Her family’s frequent moves in the U.S and abroad encouraged her to think of books and their authors as reliable friends. It took summers in London, a history degree, and another decade or two for her to start imagining variations on Pride & Prejudice, and another decade—filled with career, marriage, kids, and a menagerie of pets—to discover the world of JAFF. Today, in between writing Jane Austen variations, Jan lives and works in the Chicago area, where she volunteers far too often and is a member of the local and national chapters of the Jane Austen Society of North America.
A Searing Acquaintance is her first book.
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