This book review is from Hannah Reynolds, an editor and blogger at BookBub who loves romance novels, YA fantasy, chocolate, and lots of tea and coffee.
Luckily, New York Times bestselling author Jude Deveraux has a new release out today. It’s a contemporary retelling of Austen’s most famous novel, set at a grand Virginia estate on the edge of a charming, small town. The Girl from Summer Hill is a delightful, frothy read, and a perfect way to start your summer. So pour yourself a glass of lemonade and dive into a world of faulty first impressions, summer theater, delicious pies, steamy showers, and extremely troublesome peacocks wandering where they’re not wanted.
Meet Mr. Darcy
Tate Landers promised his mother he’d buy back their family’s ancestral home of Tattwell, but he wasn’t able to keep his word until after she passed away. Now a major Hollywood star, Tate is known for playing brooding, romantic heroes. However, he wouldn’t mind a chance at something less swoon-worthy because he can’t go out in public without mobs of women swarming him. When his distant cousin asks him to come to the small town of Summer Hill, Virginia, to read lines during auditions for a charity production of Pride and Prejudice, he comes along with his best friend, Jack
Tate cares more about his friends and family than being a celebrity, but try convincing the local girl on his property of that. At first, Tate thinks she’s just after photos, and by the time he realizes he likes her, they’ve had a few too many fraught encounters. Maybe he should stop being too proud to explain he only broke into her cottage because of a rogue peacock…
Meet Elizabeth Bennet
Casey Reddick’s spent the last six years as the head chef at a top DC restaurant, but after a bad breakup, she moves to Summer Hill, where her unexpected relatives live. I say “unexpected” because her biological father also had several other children, including the beautiful and surprisingly daring Gizzy Nolan.
Soon living in a guest house on an old plantation, Casey is happy to help out with the catering for a local production of Pride and Prejudice — but she’s less than pleased to find out the plantation actually belongs to an arrogant movie star with no respect for boundaries.
Of course, prejudice or not, it doesn’t stop her from noticing how attractive her new neighbor is…
Casey’s a bright, funny heroine who doesn’t stand for any nonsense, and she’s righteously indignant when Tate Landers eats her freshly baked berry custard pie. (I would be, too. Pie is nothing to joke about!)
Meet Summer Hill
As Deveraux mentions in the acknowledgments, it’s not easy to transcribe Pride and Prejudice into a modern setting. But she pulls it off, and Austen’s Meryton is transformed into a small Virginia town with an eclectic cast of characters who essentially follow the story arc of the original novel. Using the Jane Austen counterparts, chapter headings indicate where the story is headed; for example, Elizabeth doesn’t tempt Darcy/Georgiana persuades her brother/Lizzy and Darcy dance.
I also appreciate how Deveraux focuses on characters from multiple generations. While Casey and Tate are the heart of the story, the novel’s Mr. and Mrs. Bennett get plenty of page time, and their decades-old, unresolved love story is compelling. We also hear about Tate’s mother and Casey’s father — these characters don’t exist in a vacuum, but a fully-formed world.
The idea of a play is also delightful, possibly because I am easily won over by anything theater-related — Costumes! Fake romance! Dramatic scenes in front of large audiences! We have the added benefit of Jane Austen’s pithy lines being delivered by characters who often have the same emotions — because, to no one’s surprise, Tate agrees to play Darcy, and Casey’s roped into being Elizabeth. Something about life mimicking art, anyone?
All in all, The Girl from Summer Hill is a fresh, engaging tale perfect for both Pride and Prejudice fans and romantic comedy readers alike. I’m hoping we’ll get to read sequels about some of Casey’s half-siblings from Summer Hill, too!
The Girl from Summer Hill hits shelves on May 3. Do you plan on reading it?