My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I discovered Teri Wilson’s Unleashing Mr. Darcy after it was turned into a movie for the Hallmark Channel and since it was made into a Hallmark movie, I was not expecting the book to be as steamy as it was. That’s not a complaint; there are plenty of those coming.
Unleashing Mr. Darcy is yet another modern take on Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice – this one set in the world of dog shows. I’m almost positive going that these retellings will only disappoint me but my love for Austen’s original masterpiece keeps me going back for more. Unleashing Mr. Darcy was not an exception. I’ve come to see that these retellings often disappoint in the same regard – the characterization of Mr. Darcy. Austen herself just danced a fine line to make him not seem like an arrogant jerk before showing him to be the honorable man he is. Modern writers attempt to remedy this by doing the one thing Austen didn’t do. They show the reader Darcy’s side of the story. Wilson’s attempt at this did not work. Donovan Darcy’s inner turmoil is even more aggravating than his hot and cold treatment of Elizabeth. And Mr. Darcy does not wink!
If the characterization of Mr. Darcy is flawed in Wilson’s adaptation, Elizabeth totally misses the mark. Sure she has a sharp tongue in her verbal sparring with Donovan, but Elizabeth has none of Lizzy Bennett’s confidence and intelligence. It is really difficult to see what Donovan sees in her apart from her looks.
What I did enjoy about Unleashing Mr. Darcy was the glimpse into the dog show world and the canine characters (and the cute shoutout to Keeping Up Appearances!). I enjoy watching dog shows and I love dogs but I think I’m just ignorant enough to find the dog show scenes entertaining. I have a feeling that Wilson took a few artistic licenses there. In short, like watching dog shows, Unleashing Mr. Darcy was a diverting bit of fluff that probably would have been enjoyed more by someone who doesn’t love Pride and Prejudice quite as much as I do.
If you enjoy reading modernized takes on classics, particularly Pride and Prejudice and would like to read a good (and very modern) retelling, I recommend Curtis Sittenfeld’s Eligible. The book was part of The Austen Project where some of today’s popular writers wrote modern versions of four of Austen’s novels. I’ve read three of them – Eligible, Sense & Sensibility by Joanna Trollope, and Emma by Alexander McCall Smith.