Jane Austen gets a little dusty in this outback retelling of a beloved story about a man who learns that first impressions can be wrong when you’re looking for Ms Right.
Wheat farmer Evan Bennet is happy being single until his brother falls for the new girl in town, wealthy hotel owner Claire Bingley. Suddenly finding a girl seems more appealing…unless you’re talking about Claire’s best friend, pretentious lawyer Darcy Fitzwilliam. Her cold manners have Evan seeing red, and when a cute girl with links to Darcy’s past catches his eye, he’s even more determined to dislike her.
When a startling revelation turns Evan’s world upside down and he unexpectedly crosses Darcy’s path again, he’s forced to reassess his opinion of her. But just as he starts to open his heart, a crisis engulfs his family, threatening to destroy any hope of a future with Darcy.
With a cloud hanging over his family, Evan knows his chance of winning Darcy’s heart is gone… until some surprising news and a generous gift leave him wondering if her heart might be his after all.
My ReviewI read an early draft of Evan and Darcy, and could tell at once that it was a great concept that would grab readers: a modern Australian retelling of the Jane Austen classic, Pride and Prejudice, but with the added twist of a gender swap.
Yes, Evan is now farmer Evan Bennet, the second of the five Bennet boys, and Darcy is now Ms Darcy Fitzwilliam, lawyer. The novel has all the other familiar P&P characters: the overbearing Mrs Bennet, the irritating younger Bennets (now brothers), the Bingleys, the de Burghs, Miss Collins, and Jemma Wickham. And none of them are any more likeable than Jane Austen's version.
This is probably the main failing of Evan and Darcy: too many characters are best described as cliche. But that's an unfair criticsm because it's also the strength of the novel: that the author has managed to capture the annoying essence of characters we know so well that they have become cliches, and recreate them in a modern setting.
The plot follows all the main high points of the original (including Darcy's cringeworthy proposal), but set in a farming community. Perfect Jamie Bennet is happy to remain on the family farm, but Evan's passion is wine—he'd love to own a vineyard and make wine (no, he's not a drunkard. He leaves that to his younger brothers). This works well.
Overall, this is a well-executed Pride and Prejudice variation, and I'll look forward to seeing what Melanie Coles can do with the rest of Jane Austen's novels.
Note: Evan and Darcy is a general market romance novel, and while it's true to the original and doesn't have any hot-and-heavy scenes, it does have occasional low-level language (what Aussie farmers would consider normal vocabulary, but which conservative Christians might not appreciate).
Thanks to NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review. And a big thank you to Melanie Coles for her kind words in the acknowledgements!
You can read the introduction to Evan and Darcy here: