March 27, 2012

Book Review: MR. DARCY FOREVER by Victoria Connelly

BOOK DESCRIPTION:   The third in a trilogy of Jane Austen romantic comedies from UK author Victoria Connelly featuring characters obsessed with Jane Austen and set in Jane Austen locations (A Weekend with Mr. Darcy, Dreaming of Mr. Darcy).  

Sarah and Mia Castle, two estranged sisters (and Austen addicts) who have spent a lifetime fighting over the men in their lives, meet for the first time in three years during the annual Jane Austen Festival in Bath, the city where Anne Elliot (Persuasion) and Catherine Morland (Northanger Abbey) found their happy endings.  During the festival, the sisters realize that they can't bear to be apart, even though Mia fell in love with the man Sarah eventually married and settled with in beautiful Devon, another Jane Austen location (the filming of Emma Thompson's Sense and Sensibility).  They discover that their sisterhood forms a bond stronger than their mutual connection as Jane Austen addicts.  And in true Jane Austen fashion, they each begin to lose their hearts to dashing gentlemen.  A beautiful, fun and quirky story of sisterhood and romance.

My Review

I love this Austen Addicts series and must admit that I am disappointed this is the third and final book. Boo.  However, what a fun and (as Jane Austen would say) diverting entertainment!

As A Weekend with Mr. Darcy mirrored Pride and Prejudice and Dreaming of Mr. Darcy ran parallel to Persuasion, Mr. Darcy Forever has its roots in Sense and Sensibility, from focusing on two very different sisters (the almost maddeningly practical Sarah and the carefree Mia), the Devon location of Barton Cottage and to the more modern day counterparts to the caddish Willoughby, loyal Edward Ferrars and solid Colonel Brandon.  Sigh.  Okay, I admit it.  I was visualizing Emma Thompson, Kate Winslet, Alan Rickman, Hugh Grant and Greg Wise while reading, although the physical descriptions of characters in the book as written by Victoria Connelly are nothing like the actors themselves.

Regardless, this book was like going on a wonderful, all expenses paid vacation.  Maybe the Jane Austen Festival, as mentioned.  Author Victoria Connelly has the fortunate ability to draw the reader in right away, to brilliantly capture the spirit of Jane Austen's novels in present day settings.  I wanted to jump on the first plane across the pond, so strong was my desire to visit Bath - - heck, live in Bath! - - while reading this.

I was thrilled to see that many characters Ms. Connelly introduced us to previously, in the aforementioned A Weekend with Mr. Darcy and Dreaming of Mr. Darcy, make cameo appearances here.  It gives a very nice tie-in to the earlier books in the series as well as allowing us a brief glimpse into what may have happened to those characters after "their" book ended.

Interestingly, as I loved this book so much, I didn't care for Sarah until the last quarter or so.  I did try to see her as Elinor Dashwood, or at least a latter day version, but I just didn't get a sense of Sarah's heart right away, unlike Elinor's.  She was still a unique character and I was pleased that she got her happy ending.

I liked Mia much more, relating to her spunkiness easier than Sarah's sense of order.  I liked reading of her dismal bedsit in London, her desire to set the world stage on fire and her friendship with former classmate Shelley, who found happiness working at a daycare center in Bath, while sewing vintage costumes.  I could see her warm home, her scattered fabrics and ribbons, and her energetic dog, Bingley (you wouldn't expect anything less, would you?) - - as well as her strange roommate Pie.  Mia fit flawlessly into this British motley crew and, honestly, could have been an amusing and enjoyable book on its own.

I found Alec, Gabe and Lloyd all appealing characters, albeit for very different reasons!  I would have liked a bit more backstory on Gabe and Lloyd but, really, a minor point.

Deep cynics or non-obsessed Janeites may find the ending a bit too tidy and wrapped up.  If you are an Austen fan, you know that Jane gives her heroines happy endings and Victoria Connelly does Jane proud.  Perhaps the ending is a bit too pat but it works and I'm quite pleased with it.

This book is required reading for Austen fans and the perfect book to accompany your cup of tea, curled up in your favorite chair (or, like me, sitting outdoors and enjoying the sun).  You will not be disappointed.  Be warned, however, that basic things like housework and errands may be put on the back burner while you are accompanying Sarah and Mia to Bath.

Mr. Darcy Forever is available for pre-order at major booksellers, including Amazon.  It will be released on April 1.  I am an Amazon affiliate.  If you make a purchase through my link, I will receive a small commission.

Review copy of this book provided by Sourcebooks in exchange for a fair and honest review.  In no way did the provision of this book affect the outcome of my review.  

With thanks to NetGalley.

To read my review of A Weekend with Mr. Darcy, click here.  To read my review of Dreaming of Mr. Darcy, click here.

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