THE GIRL FROM SUMMER HILL: A P & P Equivalency Experiment



Summer Hill #1
by Jude Deveraux
Narrator: Emily Rankin
Category: Contemporary Romance | Women’s Fiction
Penguin Random House May 3, 2016
Audio (Random House Audio| CD | 720 minutes / Download | 711 minutes)
Hardcover & E-Book | Ballantine Books | 384 Pages
Large-Print Paperback | Random House Large Print | 496 pages

Audiofile provided by publisher for review. No remuneration was exchanged and all opinions presented herein are my own except as noted.

The first novel of New York Times bestselling author Jude Deveraux’s breathtaking new series set in Summer Hill, a small town where love takes center stage against the backdrop of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice
Enter Elizabeth Bennet. Chef Casey Reddick has had it up to here with men. When she arrives in the charming town of Summer Hill, Virginia, she leaves behind a demanding boss at a famous D.C. restaurant and a breakup with a boyfriend jealous of her success. Some peace and quiet on the picturesque Tattwell plantation is just what she needs to start fresh. But the tranquility is broken one misty morning when she sees a gorgeous naked man on the porch of her cottage.
Enter Mr. Darcy. What Tate Landers, Hollywood heartthrob and owner of Tattwell, doesn’t need on a bittersweet trip to his ancestral home is a woman spying on him from his guest cottage. Mistaking Casey for a reporter, Tate tries to run her out of her own house. His anger, which looks so good on the screen, makes a very bad first impression on Casey. Hollywood he may be, but he’s no sweetheart to Casey—and she lets him know it!
The plot thickens. Sparks fly—literally—when Casey is recruited to play Elizabeth Bennet opposite Tate’s Mr. Darcy in a stage adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. Just brushing past Tate makes Casey’s whole body hum. As they spar on and off stage, Casey begins to think she’s been too quick to judge. Tate is more down-to-earth than Casey expected, and she finds herself melting under his smoldering gaze. But then Tate’s handsome ex-brother-in-law, Devlin Haines, who is playing Wickham, tells Casey some horrifying stories about Tate. She is upset and confused as she tries to figure out who and what to believe. As she finds herself falling for Tate, Casey needs to know: Is the intense, undeniable chemistry between them real, or is this just a performance that ends when the curtain falls?

My Take Oblong Shaped

While there are some fun twists in this retelling of P & P (how many does that make this month?) there are not many surprises.  The Jane character falls for the Bingley-esque male character,  Jane’s facsimile and Darcy’s get together too. The setting is a bit different, and the decision points for the story line (arrival and role of the Collins character, Lady Catherine, Wickham’s convincing tales of woe, Darcy’s sister and such) are all updated in reasonable ways. Only Lydia presents an improved character through the character playing her character.

In a retelling of this nature of any classic (EMMA retold in CLUELESS, or BRIDGET JONES DIARY; or P & P in the recently reviewed ELIGIBLE, or the TV Show ELEMENTARY re-creating the Holmes and Watson characters) etc.) the remake usually ignores the existence of the original in both existence and cultural impact.  For example, in BRIDGET JONES DIARY no one notices the similarities between Mark Darcy and “Mr. Darcy” and in “Elementary” the Holmes-character never says “Elementary, my dear Watson – no pun intended!” The cultural impact of the entire world of the story must be ignored.

So, imagine my surprise when that is not only not how Deveraux handles it but almost reverses it through the characters’ blindness to the story repeating in “real life,” the play in which they are engaged. Even when the Wickham and Lydia story plays to it’s inevitable conclusion, no one says “Hey, those guys just did exactly what the characters they are playing did!”
Assuming we don’t have a huge cast of imbeciles running around the lovely vacation area of Summer Hill, Virginia (a real place, it seems) how is it possible.  How could one possibly not see it?  It’s worse than the woman running toward the masked guy with the chain saw in a movie!

But, then there is also some strange relationship or similarity to the Nantucket Brides series by the same author.  I could swear Kit Montgomery appeared in the last book by Jude Deveraux I read, but that could just be the family. Apparently Deveraux uses the Montgomery and Taggert families as a continuous element through connected series, and uses some kind of time travel as well.   I guess this is a fine idea if you have read several of her stories but it’s left me feeling a bit out of sorts with these two novels. If you don;t know this then the magical and mysterious devices have a little “deus ex machina” feel to them.  Everything seems quite normal and then this feeling of timeless enchantment pops up. In this book, perhaps, it is how the characters are blind to the parallels between their lives and Austen.

In any event, despite this deja vu aspect, the new series could offer a moderately steamy new series with interesting characters unwittingly living Austenian lives. If I hadn’t read any Deveraux at all before this one I probably wouldn’t even have seen anything strange about the Montgomery relationship at all. I wonder if the entire new series is to be Austen based.  It’s a good thing dead writers can’t collect royalties on their story-ideas.

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