18th century novelist Jane Austen penned one of the most famous romantic heroes of all time – Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy. Since 1938, beginning with Andrew Osborn’s portrayal of Mr. Darcy, numerous television and film adaptations have been filmed to retell the love story of Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet, a woman of inferior wealth and connections. Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart by Beth Pattillo is the most recent novel in popular literature to explore the nature of Mr. Darcy and explain why even 21st century women are still drawn to this aloof figure of classic literature.
Unmarried 30-something Claire Prescott is given the opportunity to reinvent herself when she agrees to take her sister’s place and present her final paper at a Jane Austen seminar at Oxford. Having just lost her job as an office manager at a doctors’ clinic, Claire desperately needs to regain her sense of self-worth. Since their parents’ death, Claire has been her younger sister Missy’s sole provider. Presenting Missy’s paper will allow Claire to feel as if she is still in control of her life and responsible for her sister’s well-being.
When Claire meets the mysterious elderly Harriet Dalrymple, she is entrusted with a spectacular secret: what just may be the original first draft of Pride and Prejudice, also known as First Impressions. Claire must decide for herself if her new friend is simply suffering from dementia, or if the manuscript in her possession is the real deal. If published, this manuscript will reveal a long-kept secret about Elizabeth’s real relationship with Mr. Darcy and Jane Austen’s difficulties in finding the perfect match for her beloved heroine.
Meanwhile, handsome publisher James Beaufort has his sights set on Claire, who can’t help but notice the similarities between him and Mr. Darcy. In his presence, sensible Claire starts to become a person she doesn’t recognize. Claire’s conflicting emotions rise when Neil, her stable and comfortable boyfriend, arrives unexpectedly at Oxford. Not unlike Elizabeth Bennet, Claire will have to make a choice between two men that both seem worthy of being her romantic lead.
Reading Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart required me to suspend my disbelief in order to consider the novel as a whole. Through Harriet, Claire gets the opportunity to read Jane Austen’s original manuscript, which would be over 200 years old. I cringed at how both Harriet and Claire handled this rare and precious document. Pages of this Austen original were stashed all around Harriet’s cozy cottage in the oddest of places, including the garden shed. In one scene, Claire must quickly hide the pages and thoughtlessly shoves them into her bag. It’s my personal belief, having worked in a library that housed rare and old documents, that anything so old treated in this manner wouldn’t survive. If these documents were repeatedly handled so roughly, they would have crumbled to their demise long before Claire was able to see them.
As a long time Mr. Darcy fan, this book was a true disappointment to me. I did not agree with Pattillo’s presentation of Fitzwilliam Darcy, believing instead that Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet were indeed the right match for one another. Even so, the idea that somewhere out there the original manuscript for First Impressions still exists is an enticing premise for a novel. Had Pattillo focused more on The Formidables (the secret society which was entrusted with protecting Austen’s original manuscript) instead of Claire’s pursuit for her own Mr. Darcy (or not), I would have enjoyed this novel quite a bit more. At 256 pages, the novel was too condensed and did not live up to its potential.
Jennifer graduated from the University of Utah with a BA in English. She occasionally dabbles with her own fiction writing, particularly with the Young Adult and Paranormal genres. She currently resides in Utah with her husband and daughter.
This book was provided free of any obligation by Phenix & Phenix Literary Publicists. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.