Review by Allison T.
The continent of AustenLand grows daily larger. At the serene heart, of course, are the six novels, the fragments, juvenilia and letters. Far across the plains towards the East are the fell Misty Mountains, wherein Vampire Darcys (and Vampire Jane!) lurk. Somewhere to the West is the London/NewYorkCity/LosAngeles simalcrum, where all the modern Retellings sip super-low-fat-no-whip-double-shot lattes in fashionable cafés and exchange witty banter. The gentle, flower-studded prairies house the Christian Retellings, while mummies and zombies lurk on the edges of the continent, pouncing on unwary travelers. And, in one far part of AustenLand, where the land blurs into water that then pours off the edge of the World, are the ShadowLands, in which ShadowDarcy and ShadowLizzie—characters that resemble the originals only by virtue of their famous names—hover and whisper.
This is where Georgia Hill’s Pursued by Love lives.
Perdita Wyndham, a gorgeous actress nursing a broken heart after her married actor lover dumps her, is cast to play Elizabeth in yet another filming of P&P. En route to the snowy Peak District, where the filming will take place, the mini-van carrying Perdita, the director, the cameraman, and the new Mr. Darcy breaks down and the travelers seek shelter in an old B&B. To keep warm, Perdita and her handsome and arrogant co-star, Nick Wainright, chastely share a bed.
The filming continues, with Nick/Darcy striding around arrogantly and handsomely, and Perdita making friends with Briony, the lovely, foul-mouthed, sleeping-around-but-warm-hearted actress who plays Jane Bennet, which I deduce is supposed to be an amusing contrast in our expectations. Things happen, the director is arrested on charges of cocaine possession, and Perdita and Nick finally get together—until Perdita, still smarting over her previous affair, pushes Nick away. He says that he loves her and vows to pursue her.
Pursued by Love should appeal to readers who enjoy spicy romances set in modern England. The author seems to have some experience in the theater, especially with Shakespeare’s plays, which are invoked more often than Austen, although she translates “Perdita”—the heroine of A Winter’s Tale—as “the lonely one”: it is really “the lost one.” Our “Purdie” is compared several times to a frigid Snow Queen, and part of her transformation is learning to love and trust.
There’s not much meat here for Janeites, however. Perdita and Nick and their friends don’t represent any characters or even (with the possible exception of Briony/Jane) anti-characters from P&P; there is no discussion of the novel or the characters or their motivations. This is not meant to be a re-telling of P&P: there is no Lydia subplot, no Mr. Collins, etc. (An apparently arrogant hero and an apparently prejudiced heroine who meet cute is not , in my opinion, sufficient to make a story that can be called P&P.)The one interesting Jane-oriented question that Perdita makes of her co-star—“Were you daunted about playing Darcy when it’s been done so recently?”—is shrugged off by Nick, who answers that he’s just a different actor from the others. Fair enough, but I wished for a more insightful response.
In summation, the underlying film/novel on which Pursued by Love is built could have been any story—and, in fact, might have more interestingly been A Winter’s Tale rather than P&P. This book is a tie-in to Austen, but in name only, which is why Pursued by Love dwells in the ShadowLands.