Y’all… I requested this book with high hopes. I was really wanting it to be a good book that I would really enjoy. What it was… Well, let’s just say, I wasn’t a fan. So I’m going to give you the little blurb and then try to articulate without quotes (which is going to be a challenge) precisely why I felt this book was juvenile, repetitive, and unnecessarily and unrealistically complicated. It should be noted that I received this book as an ARC from Netgalley, but that obviously has no influence on my opinion or what I’m about to tell you here today, so… Let’s get started.
Darcy Fitzwilliam is 29, beautiful, successful, and brilliant. She dates hedge funders and basketball stars and is never without her three cellphones—one for work, one for play, and one to throw at her assistant (just kidding). Darcy’s never fallen in love, never has time for anyone else’s drama, and never goes home for Christmas if she can help it. But when her mother falls ill, she comes home to Pemberley, Ohio, to spend the season with her dad and little brother.
Her parents throw their annual Christmas bash, where she meets one Luke Bennet, the smart, sardonic slacker son of their neighbor. Luke is 32 and has never left home. He’s a carpenter and makes beautiful furniture, and is content with his simple life. He comes from a family of five brothers, each one less ambitious than the other. When Darcy and Luke fall into bed after too many eggnogs, Darcy thinks it’s just another one night stand. But why can’t she stop thinking of Luke? What is it about him? And can she fall in love, or will her pride and his prejudice against big-city girls stand in their way?
I chose to provide you with the Goodreads blurb because Lord knows if I had tried to blurb this, it would have been full of snarky asides because I rarely dislike a book like this so much. I have read an inordinate amount of trashy romance novels that are not well-written and I would never have given them a one star. This book just defied all… Sense to me. Maybe it’s because if you’re going to base a book on Pride and Prejudice, you don’t get to destroy every good thing about the book in the name of focusing on Darcy or maybe it’s because I need to stop trying to read Melissa de la Cruz’s books. I’m not sure, but I’m going to try to provide enough detail here so that you can decide for yourself if it’s a book you want to read. And it might be! The Goodreads reviews at the moment are largely positive, so this could easily just be a me thing! So absolutely no judgment if this book is amazing in your opinion. I’ll be happy for you.
Issue #1: The Writing Style
I felt like for the most part the writing style in this book was juvenile and repetitive when it didn’t need to be and had some weird continuity issues that I hope for the book’s sake are resolved before it goes to print. The example I chose to use in my Goodreads review involves a repeated line describing four men that gets built upon four chapters in a row. The first chapter introduces a man by saying something along the lines of Person X is catalog handsome and goes on to explain that he looks like he could be a model in fashion catalogs. The next chapter that introduces a man says, If Person X was catalog handsome, Person Y was movie-star handsome. And then it adds in the next chapter, If Person X was catalog handsome, Person Y was movie-star handsome, the Person Z was real-life handsome. This happens four times. Something about this line bothered me immensely.
I felt like the writing was heavy handed in spots where it seemed wildly unnecessary. For example, Darcy is a self-made rich woman and to make sure that we’re all clear on her being rich, it’s established that her luggage is Louis Vuitton and her shoes are Steve Madden or manalo blahnik. I just do not care. I’m also convinced that there had to be a more seamless, less name-drop sounding way of writing in brand names periodically to remind us that DARCY IS EXTREMELY WEALTHY.
These issues feel petty and small in a lot of ways, but even when I read paragraphs out loud to Sarah in the car, she was similarly baffled as to why the language was so juvenile. In one paragraph she got annoyed because of how often the word ‘she’ was used. But that’s enough griping about the writing style.
Issue #2: Darcy
I think that having unlikable women as heroines is extremely important, even if the character then is not my personal favorite. I tend to think this is true more when the heroine is unlikable because she portrays typically masculine traits or engages in morally grey behavior. So I always try not to dock points for an unlikable heroine and am actually likely to pick up a book if someone describes the heroine as unlikable. I say all of that to say that I hated Darcy’s character.
In the book, Darcy was cut off financially from her parents (for the dumbest reason) and then took NYC by storm and has become a very successful financier. She’s partner at a hedge fund or something, but she just… Nothing about the way that Darcy was portrayed gave me any impression of her overall competence. Not a thing. She’s in her head constantly and despite claiming to be extremely confident, came across as very insecure. Darcy is an extreme workaholic whose first vacation in eight years comes only because her mother had a heart attack. Being a workaholic is a totally fine trait if anything else about the character is consistent with such a characterization, but it was really just repeatedly stated that she was a workaholic. I think she takes three maybe four work calls the entire book?
Then there’s the fact that she’s apparently very close with the staff from her childhood home, but has made no effort to get to know her assistant, Millie, at her work. This too struck me as a huge inconsistency. What am I supposed to takeaway from these overall characterizations? I haven’t the slightest.
Issue #3: The Relationship
I don’t buy it. The relationship between Luke and Darcy is as unbelievable as Darcy’s overall characterization. Also somehow Luke goes from working on furniture (making it?) to being a chef randomly in the epilogue? That’s not a spoiler, unless you consider a throwaway line a spoiler. If you do, so sorry.
The two apparently didn’t like one another in high school, which is stated repeatedly, but never shown in any real way. It’s hardly even stated in any real way. They reconnect at Darcy’s parents Christmas party when they wind up under the mistletoe together. This isn’t Harry Potter fanfic with mistletoe that’s enchanted so you’re trapped until you kiss. If you don’t want to kiss someone, you’re an adult and no one else has noticed that you’re under the mistletoe together. But no, they kiss, actually they make out. This plot device happens at least twice? And also, this feels like the extent of their relationship development. They go caroling in between the two incidents and squabble without any sexual tension in between those two things.
You know how in the 2005 Pride and Prejudice movie with Kiera Knightley, the first proposal from Mr. Darcy seemingly comes out of nowhere? This is like that, but instead of happening in the 1800s when people got married for all kinds of stupid reasons, this book takes place in the present day and I have the (apparently unrealistic) expectation that my books (especially those marketed as a romance) are going to show actual relationship (and character) development. Not to mention, we’re in Darcy’s head! Which means that at the very least, we should have an understanding of why Darcy’s opinions on Luke have changed. If I’m seriously expected to believe that two make out sessions is all it takes, then I must not be the intended audience.
Issue #4: Nonsensical Conflict
Legitimately every conflict in this book is ridiculous and unrealistic. It made little to no sense and I can’t figure out why it was included? At least four of the plot devices never happened in Pride and Prejudice, so that’s annoying. There was no Mr. Wickham nefarious character (unless that’s who Charlotte was supposed to be, but that’s not really how this worked??). We’ll start with the least spoiler-y of these and I’ll just leave it at that.
Darcy hasn’t been home in eight years because her dad cut her off financially eight years ago because she wouldn’t marry Carl Donovan. If your eyes are also really huge and wide because WHAT THE HECK? Same. I couldn’t handle this concept because it defies logic to me. Also, the book is written so happy go lucky style, which does not match the concept of having a father so awful that he would cut you off because you won’t marry the person you want. AND THEN he explains his reasoning and… Y’all. It’s so dumb. I won’t spoil it, in case you want to read it, but, just, nope. All the nopes.
Issue #5: Utterly irrelevant girl hate?
I don’t even know if I would classify this as girl hate, so much as an extension of the nonsensical conflict with Charlotte being portrayed as a “crazy” ex-girlfriend. First, that trope should be beneath all women authors. Just genuinely. Are there really odd ex-girlfriend’s in the world who lie and manipulate to get what they want? Yes, absolutely. However, please focus on that instead of throwing it in as a quick explanation as to why the hero was a jerk to the heroine. If you’re not going to flesh out the “crazy” ex-girlfriend, just don’t do it. It feels cheap and demeaning, especially when you don’t really have any other female side characters. (As an aside, totally recommend Crazy Ex-Girlfriend on The CW. It’s excellent!)
Seriously, there are three women in the entire book, who get more than a quick paragraph of “plot”. There’s Darcy’s mother, who is both great and terrible simultaneously. She seems like a good mom, but at the same time, she’s let this utterly absurd conflict fester between her daughter and her husband without trying to do anything about it. I don’t know about you, but there is no matriarch in my family who would let that fly. If my dad ever tried to cut me off financially because I wouldn’t marry the person he chose, my mom would have that sorted before I even heard about it. If my grandpa had tried to do that to any of my aunts, Nanny would have put her foot down and Papa would have been sleeping on the couch until he figured out that he was not ruining his relationship with any of them over something so nonsensically stupid. (Not to mention, WHO DOES THAT? I know we already covered this, but seriously, who does that?!)
The third woman in the book is Millie, Darcy’s assistant, who is not at all fleshed out. We discover she likes to knit and has made Darcy scarves every year for Christmas, but Darcy didn’t know because she didn’t open her gifts. (Also, who doesn’t open their gifts? This is baffling. Like… I love presents.) Somehow, despite the fact that Darcy has made no effort to get to know Millie she (spoiler alert) names her child after Millie in the epilogue. But wait, it gets worse. Her reasoning for doing this is because she doesn’t know any other girl names. Like, what? I can’t.
Okay, I need to stop ranting because I could go on and on about this for days. And maybe I’m missing something, like maybe this book is meant to be satire? Or something? I have no idea. If you like this book, please come back and explain your feelings to me, because either I’m missing something, or this is actually not a good book.
In the spirit of fairness, I should mention that I did enjoy the addition of a m/m relationship based on Jane/Bingley. That was the highlight for me and yet was still almost ruined because Darcy is absurd. And Bingley shouldn’t have listened to her. (This obviously happens in the book too, but… Y’all.)