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Lizzie's a ballet dancer that may never dance again; Darcy's a doctor that helped save her leg.
A modern Pride and Prejudice variation romance exploring love and how it drives people to do some of the things they do.
I love when a new JAFF author takes me by surprise and creates a story that I love so much, that I want to share it with all of my JAFF friends! That’s exactly how I feel about Stephanie Bell’s new modern JAFF story, Love’s a Funny Thing, which also appeared on Amazon the same week as another story by this author, Dropping Kisses. Even though I’ve read a different modern JAFF story involving Darcy and Elizabeth in the dance world, this one had a very different storyline that I was curious to read more about.
Love’s a Funny Thing takes the major characters from Pride & Prejudice and spins them into the modern-day dance world of NYC, where prima ballerina, Elizabeth Bennet, lives with her famous sister, long-time model Jane Bennet, in a world where fame and success all come at a price. For Elizabeth, that price has been sacrificing the relationships she’s had with the men in her past because she only has room for one great love in her life; the demanding and fiercely competitive world of professional ballet.
Since she’s also been using ballet to escape the stresses of her childhood, including the divorce of her parents, the separation of living across the country from her father, and the escapades of her younger and wilder, twin sisters, Cat and Lydia, ballet has turned into the most important part of her life. Consumed by the need to be the best, her drive has enabled her to work as the prima ballerina of the NYCB, an opportunity coveted by none other than Caroline Bingley. So when Elizabeth meets Charles Bingley, Dr. William Darcy, Caroline, and Louisa after one of her performances, Elizabeth earns a certain amount of respect from them, even though Elizabeth overhears Dr. Darcy snub her.
Yet, fate isn’t about to allow Elizabeth Bennet to dance off into the sunset and eventually she finds her leg injured and permanently altered from an accident; the curtains seem to be closing on a career that’s been filled with ovations and bouquets of flowers. Will the surgical skills of William Darcy be enough to restore her hopes and dreams?
After Elizabeth’s injury much remains altered both physically and emotionally between her and Darcy. He grows to desire more than friendship from Elizabeth, but she can’t seem to commit to anything else except for ballet and making a comeback an injured ballerina is no easy feat. While she is determined to place all of her energies into regaining at least part of her former success, Elizabeth also finds herself thrown into Darcy’s company more than she could ever imagine. What is it about this man that starts to disarm her in his presence?
I just loved this Darcy!! He was such an enigma. Awkward and aloof in his initial meetings with Elizabeth; yet, once Elizabeth meets him on his own turf, he’s all confidence and charm. How could she have missed this side of him? Pair that side of him with his close relationship with his sister, Ana, and Ms. Bell has created one of my favorite modern Mr. Darcy characters. In his own domain, this Mr. Darcy reminds me in many ways of Austen’s character when he accidentally meets Elizabeth at Pemberley. Her depiction of Darcy was what made this such a swoon-worthy read for me.
I also loved the struggles Elizabeth faced as a modern woman throughout this story. I think many women can relate to working so hard at being successful in their careers, that they fear anything that may interfere with their abilities to stay focused on their work. Elizabeth’s dedication to ballet has also shaped her identity and when her success is threatened by her injury, she must face what she really is made of in order to find out who she truly is:
Mallory said she was doing unbelievably well, but it still wasn’t good enough. She needed to do better than well. She began going to ballet companies asking about the chances of her getting a job at this point, despite Mallory’s advice not to.
Lizzie should have listened.
Some of the very people that used to sing her praises were telling her that she would never dance again.
That there was no way she’d ever get a job with part of her calf muscle missing and a scar in its place. She sat in their too clean offices, staring at their various awards, nodding her head politely, fighting to keep the tears at bay.
Sadness smelled like artificial flowers in a room full of opinions. It smelled of blunt words followed by an apology, or an apology followed by blunt words, and advice that she didn’t want to hear.
On the floor, on her worst days, their so-called advice consumed her, and she believed they might be right. She knew her feet weren’t as fast as they used to be, her jetés weren’t as high, and her turns weren’t as graceful. Everything that had made her famous had somehow disappeared.
On the floor, on her worst days, she wanted to just curl up and give up.
Sadness smelled like a new morning. It smelled like morning air that she breathed in through her nose and out through her mouth as she went on her morning run. Sadness smelled like the start of every new day, but the continuation of this feeling of utter hopelessness that she just couldn’t seem to shake. Sadness smelled like hours, days, years of practice that she felt should have proved her immune to this. Sadness was realizing it didn’t. Sadness smelled like coppery, metallic, red blood. Blood on her toes and on her knees and on her hands and in her mouth; blood everywhere, reminding her that it was blood that started this whole mess.
Ms. Bell has included many of the characters from Pride & Prejudice and placed them within her own cast of characters. I think the way she updated each character in her modern setting was clever and in many ways, true to the essence of Austen’s own characterizations in canon. She also incorporates the same timeline from Austen’s story and makes it work well within her own story. As a JAFF reader, you have an idea about where the story is going but are happily waiting to see how Ms. Bell fits these elements in her own world.
Love’s a Funny Thing also contains great chemistry between Darcy and Elizabeth that builds gradually throughout the story. As Darcy and Elizabeth reveal more about each other, the walls start to crumble around them, allowing them both to feel things for each other that are surprising and new:
Lizzie stared at him, shocked and speechless. His words washed over her, and her brain worked quickly to dissect and analyze their meaning. However, it was the warmth and earnestness in his eyes that made her heart skip a beat.
“France was wrong too. You are an amazing dancer, Elizabeth,” he continued. “You leave me breathless, and I know that you will find success.”
“Thank you,” Lizzie whispered.
Her eyes felt uncomfortably wet, so she looked away and blinked rapidly to chase the unshed ears away, not wanting him to know how much his words affected her. Lizzie wasn’t sure how long they sat like that, her pretending she wasn’t teary and him pretending he didn’t notice. Finally, Will said, “I’ve made it awkward again.”
There was shifting on his end of the couch and she realized, with alarm, that he was moving closer to her. Lizzie sucked in a breath and held it. Both of them had their legs crossed under them Indian style, and now he was so close that their knees were touching. She felt his hand brush the side of her face as it moved some hair behind her ear.
“Won’t you look at me, Elizabeth?” he murmured. Still not breathing, she turned her head slightly towards him, but refused to look at him. “I’m sorry for making you cry.” His voice was deep and husky.
“I’m not crying,” she whispered. Lizzie began chewing on her thumbnail nervously when he didn’t take his hand away from her hair. “Oh,” he replied. “I’m making this more awkward for you.”
“Yeah.” He took his hand away from her face, thank god, and she could finally breathe again. The relief was short lived, however, because he leaned even closer to her and used his hand to gently turn her face to his so that they were only inches apart.
“It doesn’t feel awkward to me.”
The only time Lizzie could remember ever being this close to him was at Rosings when she’d shot him in the eye. It hadn’t been like this then. It had been so much simpler then. He was just a guy that was a jerk, and she was just some girl that he’d been a jerk to. Now, she knew she’d been wrong.
Now, he was a guy whose actions and intentions she’d misunderstood. He was a guy that clearly loved his sister, a guy that had such a sad past, a guy that wanted to save people by cutting them open and sewing them back up. He was a guy that said such beautiful words of encouragement to her. He was a guy with thick, dark lashes that framed eyes of the most amazing shade of gray Lizzie had ever seen, eyes that evoked an onslaught of emotions inside of her and caused her heart to thump painfully fast inside her chest.
And Lizzie? She was a girl that realized that she could fall for Will Darcy if she wasn’t very, very careful.
God, it had been so much simpler at Rosings.
Isn’t their attraction just palpable?
One of the signs for me that I love a story is my desire to start rereading passages from the book right after I finish the story. Love’s a Funny Thing is a story that I have not only reread numerous parts of already; I can also imagine rereading this entire story in the near future. I hope this story dances its way into many other JAFF readers’ hearts! ______________________________________________________________________________________
It’s Giveaway Time
I would like to offer an eBook of Love’s a Funny Thing to my Just Jane 1813 readers. Please comment on this post by July 15th. I’d love to hear the names of some JAFF books you’ve been enjoying lately too. The winner of this eBook will be announced on this blog on July 16, 2017.
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