Title: Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe
Author: Melissa de la Cruz
Pub date: 2017
First impressions: A fun, frothy book perfect for curling up with a hot cup a tea, comfy clothes while a fire roars and snow falls.
When it comes to Pride and Prejudice variations, it’s not so much how true to the story the author remains but rather how do the characters “sound.” Are they funny? Witty? Do their behaviors match the time period they are in? Can we see the original characters within the variations? Can the author create characters that not only resemble their origins but most of all, are the characters fun?
These are all very serious questions that take hold in my mind when I read a variation. Whether or not I like a book is not so much how the setting is placed, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies anyone?, but rather can I see the traits within the characters are they were originally written and can I or do I give a damn about them? Make no mistake, most of the variations come under the unfairly genre umbrellaed as Chick Lit which usually gets pounced on by snobby lit reviewers but as someone, that would be me, who’s spent more than half their life somehow entrenched in books professionally, I thumb my nose at these assholes because what is important is that someone is reading and not what they are reading.
A bit of a rant there.
This brings me up to Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe. I am not afraid to say my opinion once lost is not lost forever as variations come in all shapes and sizes. What drew me, and eventually charmed me, about Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe is the following:
- Darcy Fitzwilliam is a female high powered hedge fund manager and not some simpering female character with no mind of her own
- She’s from Pemberly, Ohio. Any book where the setting is connected to the Midwest always appeals to me
- Darcy’s best friend, Bingley Charles, is gay
- Luke Bennet and his ideals and mores closely match Lizzie Bennet
- it is Darcy’s father that is the shrew and not her mother
- de la Cruz sets updates the book to current times so we easily relate to the characters
- Fitzwilliam Darcy came from money. Darcy Fitzwilliam was disinherited and made her own way in the world. This is important because Darcy does not need a man to make her happy or to save her. Her choices are very deliberate and show the expanse of the character’s emotional and mental worth.
- Darcy is not a female archetype that permeates through most of Chick Lit. You know the type: The heroine is wronged in love but she remains pure of any responsibility for her decisions and actions. One of the big reveals in these stories is the heroine suddenly “discovers” her faults and works to change them. Darcy, on the other hand, knows her faults form the get-go and her struggles are yes, the prejudices of what she is and what she is perceived to be.
- Also, Darcy says “shit” a lot which I really enjoyed.
Oh yes, the story:
Darcy Fitzwilliam is called home when she finds out her mother has cancer. Her relationship with her father is thin and much of Darcy’s interactions with her family, including her mother, have been strained for a number of years. During the family’s annual Christmas party, she comes across Luke Bennet who she has sworn to hate forever since he taunted and teased her all through school. There is one drunken night of did they or didn’t they which sets the course as Darcy and Luke battle it out over: is this the real deal, an infatuation, or some kind of revenge? There are almost marriages, break-ups, misunderstandings abound through the secondary characters. We know already where the story is heading so nothing is a big surprise here and de la Cruz is certainly not creating new ground but the book is a fun, a fast read, and enjoyable.
Even with this very positive review, I would be remiss in not mentioning the book is maligned over at Good Reads and LibraryThing even though it was given a positive review in Publisher’s Weekly which typically is a good indicator on how well a book sells.
What are the complaints?
- Bingly and his boyfriend contemplating moving in with a few days of meeting each other is “unbelievable” and “not realistic.” (Lydia and Wickham.)
- Darcy’s on and off relationship with her boyfriend since high school is also not plausible and how dare she drag him around. (No one has ever, ever been in a relationship that went off and on for years? Only me? Ok.)
- Luke’s younger brothers are terrors that destroy school property and Darcy swoops in to pay for it, and the complaint here is how DARE the principal take the money from Darcy. (Male Darcy tracking down Lydia and paying everyone off so she doesn’t lose her reputation.)
- Darcy and her dad having an acrimonious relationship for eight years? Also not believable or realistic. (My mom and I had an acrimonious relationship for most of my adult life. So why is this unrealistic again?)
- Darcy’s dad to push her to marry her high school boyfriend was also seen as “how can that really happen?” (Mrs. Bennet, anyone?)
Fans of Pride and Prejudice are the harshest critics when it comes to variations because if it is not on point, it’s worthless trash. This is frustrating because yes, it’s not Austen but it doesn’t make the story any less fun to read. I just don’t get this mentality when it comes to deviations of Austen’s work. For Pete’s sake, The Davinci Code is given nearly 4 stars and it reads as a misogynistic piece of trash written by a third grader.
Take all of that information as you will but I would give this a solid would recommend to fans of P+P variations and those looking for a fun read that won’t strain the brain too much.
P.S. The Hallmark Channel is releasing a movie of the same name for their holiday season titles. As I recall, Luke becomes a personal chef at the end of the book which doesn’t jive with his work as an award winning carpenter he’s touted to be through the book. In the movie, Luke is a personal chef who owns a restaurant so maybe a mistake in book editing is now a major plot point in the movie? Whose to say! Movie will be shown on November 23 on the Hallmark Channel.