My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Confession time, when I first started reading this book I hated it. Well maybe not quite hated but I did worry that it wasn’t for me. I was expecting a straight re telling of Pride and Prejudice (one of my favourite stories) and as a result was initially disappointed to find that What Would Lizzy Bennet Do? is not that. However, as I kept reading I realised that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.
There are a lot of similarities and a lot of references to Pride and Prejudice but there are a lot of differences as well. As soon as I accepted this wasn’t the story I knew I found it was actually a really good story in it’s own right.
Lizzy Bennet has lost her job in the city and is back at home staying with her two sisters (Emma and Charlotte) and her father while she tries to get back on her feet. She’s very excited to learn that the son of next door neighbours the Darcy’s is coming home for a visit as she has been in love with him for years and is hoping he’s realised he feels the same about her. Unfortunately she’s in for a bit of a disappointment as when Lizzy runs into Hugh Darcy it turns out he’s back to introduce his family to his new fiancée Holly James. Lizzy sets out to prove to Hugh what he’s missing and how much better she would be for him than Holly.
Meanwhile, Holly is meeting Hugh’s family for the first time and starts to realise she may not know him as well as she thought she did. His mother, Lady Darcy is less than welcoming and her ex, actor Ciaron, is back on the scene playing Wickham in a production of Pride and Prejudice filming at the family home. It all makes for a lot of tangled relationships, secrets coming to light and a lot of questions. Can Lizzy convince Hugh to ditch Holly and marry her? Does Holly really love Hugh and can she win his mother over? Why is Ciaron so interested in Lizzy’s youngest sister Charlotte and how much like Wickham is he really?
I have to admit to being a huge fan of Jane Austen and Pride and Prejudice. I’ve read the book a few times, read a few different re tellings, watched the dramas on TV and am currently watching the film with Keira Knightly as I type. It’s probably one of my favourite stories (although as an aside, part of me is suspicious of the fact Elizabeth only really changes her mind about Darcy when she sees his house)
I think therefore I was expecting this to be more of a straight re telling in a way similar to Bridget Jones or Pride, Prejudice and Jasmine Field. Initially when I found out it wasn’t I have to admit to being a little disappointed. The characters do have the same names and similar personalities but it is quite a different story. It is however a good story so as soon as I accepted the differences I found that I actually really enjoyed it.
I think part of my initial issues were that I didn’t particularly like either Lizzy or Hugh. Lizzy comes across kind of nasty and immature and Hugh is pretty boring and stuffy. Lizzy hasn’t seen Hugh in years but for some reason thinks when she bumps into him he’s going to declare his undying love and ask her to marry him. When that doesn’t happen she’s unreasonably upset and does all she can to make Holly look bad and steal Hugh away (not particularly nice in my view). Hugh isn’t a particularly attractive hero either. He’s quite distant with Holly, keeps secrets and seems to take everyone else’s side but hers. Definitely not who I’d want to marry.
I have to admit that my sympathy was mostly with Holly which initially seemed wrong as I figured she was the “other woman” of the piece. She is however very likeable and I found myself rooting for her and hoping she’d prove all of the doubters wrong. I was also a pretty big fan of Harry, Hugh’s younger brother. He was funny, charming and quick to defend all of the ladies in his life. For me, both Holly and Harry were the attractions in this book rather than Hugh and Lizzy.
The writing is pretty good throughout. The dialogue is pretty formal, polite and almost period (think Downton Abbey) which was unexpected but it does work and, once I got used to it, I kind of liked it. The plot ticks along at a good pace and there are a few twists, turns and big reveals which keep you reading. As there are so many differences from P&P you can’t be too sure what the final outcome will be.
There were a couple of things that niggled a little at me (the horse riding bits mainly) and one or two things are a little unbelievable but I still enjoyed it a lot. It is the first in a trilogy so I am kind of tempted to keep reading to see what happens with the Bennets. A lot of the characters, Emma and Mr Knightley from the next in the series, do feature briefly in this one so I’m interested to see how their stories play out.
Overall I’d say What Would Lizzie Bennet Do? is worth a read but don’t expect the same story or characters as the original.
Thanks to the publishers and NetGalley for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review.