Review: The Importance of Being Emma by Juliet Archer

being emmaReviewed by Carla F.

Our heroine: Emma Woodhouse is the new Marketing Director at Highbury Foods. She is embarrassed to remember the teenage crush she had on older family friend, now brother-in-law, Mark Knightley. Her father who is the head and owner of Highbury Foods wants Mark to be her mentor. Just what she doesn’t need is Mark telling her what to do (again)!

Our hero: Mark Knightley has recently returned from his job in Mumbai for the family owned Donwell Organics so that his father can go on an around-the-world cruise with his second wife. He has also taken his father’s place as a non-executive director at Highbury Foods. He gladly agrees to be Emma’s mentor. However, he surprised to see her all grown up with beautiful curves and great legs.

This retelling of Jane Austen’s Emma has all the romance of the original plus it has a very appealing modern heroine. She is still the Emma that we recognize who believes that no one is better at matchmaking than her. However, she is also a college graduate who is ready to inject some new life into the family business that has been run conservatively by her father. I also liked the fact that she has been sexually active and that her growing attraction to Mark is not just one of romantic feelings.

Besides Emma’s and Knightly’s story, what made the original novel so much fun was the cast of quirky characters. They are here as well. One that stood out for me was Emma’s temporary PA Harriet Smith who is definitely not one of the upper crust. Another one was Emma’s father who worries by his health and diet so much that he won’t eat anything made by his own company.

Archer has brought all the charm of the original, updated it, and made it into enjoyable friends-to-lovers story.

Rating: ★★★★½

Buy: The Importance of Being Emma (Darcy & Friends)

Review: Persuade Me by Juliet Archer

Reviewed by Carla F.

Persuasion is my favorite Jane Austen novel and so I grabbed this one as soon as I saw it. The appeal of the story for me is the thought that no matter how much time has passed nor how large the mistake, it can be fixed.

Summary: In this adaptation Rick Wentworth lives in Australia and is a famous marine biologist who has spent his career studying sea dragons. He is now headed back to England to promote his book which his publishers have fortunately for him decided to name Sex in the Sea. Ever since Anna Elliot refused to marry him and broke his heart, Rick has lived by the motto, “Never forgive, never forgot”. But after ten years, Rick is thinking that once he returns from his book tour, that he needs to finally forget Anna, perhaps marry his supermodel girlfriend and get on with his life.

Anna’s life has been busy with her work as a professor of Russian Literature. She regrets that she let her mother’s friend Lady Russell (or Minty as she is known to her friends) talk her in to rejecting Rick’s proposal. She has kept up with Rick’s career, and she even has a ticket to his Bath book signing, but she doesn’t know if she will have the guts to approach him.

Review: Archer captures perfectly the style and tone of the origin. You see and feel the melancholy. (The advantage this one has over the original is that you get to see it both in Anna and Rick.) There is also the sly humor. (The total cluelessness and self-absorption of Anna’s father Walter Elliot and her sister Lisa is a frequent target.)

I liked how that even though this Rick and Anna had a more intimate relationship than their Austen counterparts, the sexual detail is somewhat vague and left for the most part at the bedroom door. It feels the way that Austen might have written it if she were to do so today.

The fun for me with any adaptation of Austen’s is the way the author fits in all the important plot points and characters. For example, the “Letter” scene is a convincing variation. However, one problem that I had with the overall story is that the keeping Rick and Anna apart felt a little forced. Societal rules in Austen’s time meant that there was a more “natural” barrier in the fact that a woman had to wait for the man to approach her.

Things that made me chuckle: The Forward in the book by Will Darcy who met Rick when he and his sister Georgie were on holiday in Australia.

Any mention of name Dottie Dalrymple.

The thing that creeped me out: William, who is Walter Elliot’s heir, bears enough of a physical resemblance to Walter to make Anna uncomfortable. Her sister Lisa doesn’t even seem to see this and is eager to marry him.

Overall: An excellent version of Persuasion. The author captures perfectly the mood and humor of the original while telling a modern story.

Rating: ★★★★★

Buy: Persuade Me (Darcy & Friends)