Tue
Dec 3 2013 9:30am

First Look: Karen Doornebos’s Undressing Mr. Darcy (December 3, 2013)

Undressing Mr. Darcy by Karen Doornebos

Karen Doornebos
Undressing Mr. Darcy
Berkley Trade / December 3, 2013/ $9.49 print / $7.99 digital

Thirty-five-year-old American social media master Vanessa Roberts lives her thoroughly modern life with aplomb. So when her elderly Jane Austen–centric aunt needs her to take on the public relations for Julian Chancellor, a very private man from England who’s written a book called My Year as Mr. Darcy, Vanessa agrees. But she’s not “excessively diverted,” as Jane Austen would say.

Hardbound books, teacups, and quill pens fly in the face of her e-reader, coffee, and smartphone…

…Until she sees Julian take his tight breeches off for his Undressing Mr. Darcy show, an educational “striptease” down to his drawers to promote his book and help save his crumbling estate. The public relations expert suddenly realizes things have gotten…personal. But can this old-fashioned man claim her heart without so much as a GPS? It will take three festivals filled with Austen fans, a trip to England, an old frenemy, and a flirtatious pirate re-enactor to find out…Thirty-five-year-old American social media master Vanessa Roberts lives her thoroughly modern life with aplomb. So when her elderly Jane Austen–centric aunt needs her to take on the public relations for Julian Chancellor, a very private man from England who’s written a book called My Year as Mr. Darcy, Vanessa agrees. But she’s not “excessively diverted,” as Jane Austen would say.

Undressing Mr. Darcy by Karen Doornebos is a love story between the heroine, Vanessa Roberts, and...wait for it...Jane Austen. Yes, there's a hero and a not-so-much-a-hero in the book. There's the heroine's beloved aunt (a rabid Janeite, naturally) and her aunt's belated but true love. But this story is really about a modern woman who had deliberately eschewed learning about Jane Austen, learning to love her.

This is a book for Janeites. In many ways, it tends to be “inside baseball.”  Not that this is necessarily a bad thing. But it might be off-putting for those readers not familiar with the cult of Jane Austen. The early chapters take place at a Jane Austen Society of North America Annual General Meeting, and many of the activities in which the characters participate might be a trifle baffling to the unintiated. Indeed, one doesn't expect Dr. Cornel West to pop up in a love story.

She put her phone on vibrate while the current Chicago group resident welcomed everyone and introduced the opening speaker, Dr. Cornel West. ...
With passion and fervor, he leaned over his podium in his hipster glasses. Jane Austen didn't go to Oxford,“ he said to the crowd, who nodded and smiled. ”But two Oxfords went through her.“

You probably won't need much familiarity with the Jane Austen Society to appreciate the actual ”undressing Mr. Darcy“ portion of the event in which the Mr. Darcy impersonator describes the Regency gentleman's wardrobe as he disrobes.

”He put a hand on his hip, swooshed the tails, and slowly turned to face the audience. He had swagger in clothing that had been out of fashion for more than two hundred years, and Vanessa heard an audible sigh from the audience.

From Chicago, we get yet another Jane Austen festival in the U.S. and then travel to England with the heroine who is pursuing the Mr. Darcy impersonator. There the heroine and her two traveling companions attend the mother of Jane Austen festivals in Bath and the reader gets quite a nice guided tour through Jane Austen's life and environs in the guise of a scavenger hunt to win a dinner with Mr. Darcy. One of the clues:

Cassandra Austen drew her own conclusions about her sister. Where can one of these conclusions be found? You may find me there. Regardless you will need to write up a description of the item in less than 100 words to get your next clue.

And so we end up in the National Portrait Gallery. The reader gets to vicariously visit many Jane Austen-related locations in both London and Bath, learns a little bit about her life, and watches the heroine gradually fall in love with the author and her work, not to mention come to some important conclusions about the men in her life.

Learn more about or order a copy of Undressing Mr. Darcy by Karen Doornebos:

Buy at Amazon

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Myretta is the co-founder and current manager of The Republic of Pemberley, a pretty big Jane Austen web site. She is also a writer of Historical Romance. You can find her at her website,www.myrettarobens.com and on Twitter @Myretta.

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