The author of Jane Austen Ruined My Life is back with another entertaining novel set in the Austen universe, this time featuring Claire Prescott, an American unemployed former office manager with a GED and seemingly no career or romantic prospects who finds herself in Oxford, England, to enroll in a seminar on Pride and Prejudice.
The truth is that Claire is no fan of Jane Austen; she is only there to take the place of her younger sister, Missy, who was prevented from attending the seminar due to pregnancy complications. Since Claire has spent her life taking care of Missy after their parents died young, she naturally steps in to attend the seminar in her sisterís place, take notes for Missy, and present Missyís paper in her stead.
At Oxford, when Claire finds herself confronted by her own Mr. Darcy - tall, dashing, successful publisher James Beaufort - she is flustered enough by her powerful attraction to him that she lies about being a successful doctor and omits to mention her boring if reliable and entirely too sports-obsessed boyfriend, Neil, back at home. After all, she suspects that someone as accomplished and desirable as James would want nothing to do with the real her.
To add to the complications of the more successful persona she has adopted in England, Claire finds herself becoming the confidante of a slightly senile older woman, Harriet, who may or may not be in possession of an original manuscript of Pride and Prejudice, then called First Impressions. But Claire is sworn to secrecy about the manuscript, which she is allowed to read only in bits and pieces.
As Claire begins to read the yellowed, hand-written pages strewn all over Harrietís cottage, she comes to suspect that she is in fact holding the original version of Austenís beloved novel, albeit one with a radically different plot and circumstances from the version made famous over the years. In this version, Elizabeth must make her way in the world on her own, and her choices in love are less clear.
When Neil shows up in England unexpectedly in search of her (she had believed him to be so uncaring as to have barely noticed that she had left for England), Claire must choose between the dashing if enigmatic James and stolid if reliable Neil. She finds herself attracted to both men and unable to choose between them. She seeks the advice of a long-dead author and a 200-year-old manuscript in making her choice: what would the Elizabeth Bennett in this early version of Pride and Prejudice do? And what must Claire do with the precious manuscript now entrusted to her care? Her new understanding of both Jane Austen and herself prompt Claire to reevaluate her life choices and forge a new path for herself, both romantically and in her career, and to use her heart to guide her unerringly through life.
Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart is an enjoyable romp through Austen-land and demonstrates the authorís love of and easy familiarity with Jane Austenís work and legacy. The novel provides a nice twist on the usual chick-lit formula, sustaining a sense of suspense and a fast pace while also being a relaxing and entertaining read. Recommended!