Saturday, 7 December 2013

Review: A Weekend with Mr. Darcy (Austen Addicts #1) - Victoria Connelly

Of course she's obsessed with Jane Austen... Surrounded by appalling exes and fawning students, the only thing keeping professor Katherine Roberts sane is Jane Austen and her personal secret love for racy Regency romance novels. She thinks the Jane Austen Addicts conference in the English countryside is the perfect opportunity to escape her chaotic life and finally relax... But then she encounters a devilishly handsome man at the conference who seems determined to sweep her off her feet. Is he more fiction than fact? Or could he be the hero she didn't know she was looking for?

Although I don't profess to be Austen's biggest fan I like her as much as the next person, what I don't like is being beaten around the head with her. 

Connelly's novel has a fairly inoffensive plot, slow and steady with more than a smattering of Austen-esque situations. Some of the parallels Connelly draws between her plot and Austen's feel a little forced at times, but it was nothing that I didn't expect from a novel of this type. However, the constant quotations from Austen throughout the book, the sly mentions by each character, are just too much to handle. One would assume that someone picking up A Weekend with Darcy is fairly familiar with Austen's work and doesn't constantly need to be hit around the head with it.

Something else I didn't bargain for was the level of obsession that each character reaches. Katherine Roberts is an established English lecturer at Oxford who has a secret love for historical romance novels, after having two bad relationships she's sworn off men. Katherine is our Elizabeth Bennet and the mystery man at the conference is our Darcy; their story is fairly inevitable (as is often the case), perhaps slightly contrived, it also lacks any spark or interest. However, this was not the bad part of the book, if the book was just Katherine's story then it would definitely go up a star-rating in my head. The worst part was secondary character, Robyn.

Robyn is an obsessive, and I don't mean that in a sweet 'fangirling' way, I mean out and out obsessive. She ranks her need for Austen in her life right up there with her life's blood. I'm all for loving something, but you really can't survive on Austen alone. Jace, Robyn's partner is the accumulation of every bad boyfriend trait you've ever heard of. As such, their overly cliched plight is of no interest to the reader and I failed to feel any sympathy for Robyn and actually started to feel more for the somewhat hard done by Jace by the end of their ordeal. Dan, the focus of Robyn's affections over the course of the Austen conference, is perhaps the best character of the lot, but we learn so little about him that it's hard to really judge.

In the words of Connelly's own heros:
"I mean, for me, a story can have the most fascinating plot in the world but if the narrator's voice is dull, then the plot counts for nothing. For me, authorial charm is everything." 
Ironically this is where Connelly's book falls flat for me. Not only did I not care for the characters, but there wasn't any authorial charm to carry the novel. Unfortunately, I think that Connelly was so focused on suffusing her book with as many Austen-isms and factoids as humanly possible, the rest of the book falls woefully short. Connelly's standard plot could have been easily lifted by a toning down of the Austen fangirling with a little more detail paid to her characters and their development. The fact that the majority of the book takes place over one mere weekend doesn't really help matters either. If you love Jane Austen, and I do mean love, then this book is probably something that you might enjoy. If you're just after a little light read then there are definitely better books out there.

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