Modern Romance Meets Austen: Definitely, Maybe In Love by Ophelia London
Spring Honeycutt wants two things: to ace her sustainable living thesis and to save the environment. Both seem hopelessly unobtainable until her college professor suggests that with a new angle, her paper could be published. Spring swears she’ll do whatever it takes to ensure that happens.
“Whatever it takes,” however, means forming a partnership with the very hot, very privileged, very conceited Henry Knightly.
Henry is Spring's only hope at publication, but he's also the über-rich son of a land developer and cash-strapped Spring’s polar opposite. Too bad she can't help being attracted to the way he pushes her buttons, both politically and physically. As they work on her thesis, Spring finds there's more to Henry than his old money and argyle sweaters…but can she drop the loud-and-proud act long enough to let him in? Suddenly, choosing between what she wants and what she needs puts Spring at odds with everything she believes in.
Definitely, Maybe in Love is a modern take on Pride and Prejudice that proves true love is worth risking a little pride
Book Club Review:
When I started reading this book, I simply forgot that it was publicized as a modern adaptation of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. For me, it can truly stand on its own merit with its unique writing style and tone, the witty and bantering dialogues, the very modern set up of college and environmental vs capitalistic issues. But if you have read Pride and Prejudice, something would just be niggling at the back of your brain, saying this seems familiar. Oddly enough it was mostly the characters that was giving me that deja vu feeling. Which made me curious, what would die hard Austen fans make of this book? So gathering three said fans I asked them what they thought of it and of adaptations in general.
I dived into Definitely, Maybe in Love with high-ish expectations. Pride and Prejudice is perhaps my favorite Jane Austen book of all, and any book that claims to be adapted from it will definitely grab my attention. Liz and Darcy in a college setting? Battling it out in classrooms, labs, dorms and what not? What’s not to love about this? And hopefully the campus setting would also require campus style snogging! Woo-hoo!
Having said that, adaptations are a tricky path to follow. You want to be true to the essence of the story but not read like you’ve done a chapter and verse copy with different character names and dates/places. You need to have enough similarity for readers to not feel they were duped into thinking it was an adaptation. But you also don’t want to look like a pale copy of the original. It’s a tricky, tricky balance to maintain.
And I must say Ophelia London walks that tightrope beautifully. The book doesn’t waste any time in introducing the main characters, and their foibles to the reader. Ms London has very smartly not tried to drag every character from P&P kicking and screaming into the modern world. That would have been senseless and rather boring. Instead she has focused on the 2 key romances, Darcy/Liz to Henry Knightley/Spring Honeycutt (and don’t you just love that name!), Bingley/Jane to Dart/Julia and she has retained the dastardly Wickham in the form of campus creep Alex. But characters such as the embarrassing Bennet mother and sisters, or the obsequious Mr. Collins either don’t make an appearance or do so in a very minor fashion. And to be honest I’m delighted about that.
Ms London has a very engaging writing style, and her dialogues simply sparkle. You can’t help but laugh at the interactions between Henry and Spring. And though they have many bumps on the rocky road to happiness, they traverse them, in typical college style, with much laughter, kissing, dazzling highs, kissing, terrible lows, and did I mention the kissing? I also like this modern version of Darcy, who seems to be far more clued in to his feelings, and was willing to put them on the line over and over again. Sort of. And I like that Spring sees through creep Alex so very, very quickly. And that everyone gets their happy ending (or in Alex’s case his just desserts)
I started this book knowing it was a P&P adaptation, and my initial euphoria while reading it was very much due to my anticipation of the much loved and familiar storyline running its due course. But somewhere along the way Definitely, Maybe in love took on a life of its own. There was a certain degree of comfort in going down a beaten path, but there was no feeling of boredom or déjà vu. Liz and Darcy may have been the reason I started reading Definitely, Maybe in love, but Henry and Spring were the reason I continued reading it.
It is always exciting to read or watch an adaptation, a bit like meeting old friends or seeing a reincarnation of someone we are too familiar with. Pride and Prejudice is all vintage and as usually the case when things are brought to the modern light, as the case of Definitely, Maybe in Love, things become a bit brittle, daring and edgy if one can help it. The characters and the story have its rough edges with a few falling into stereotypes, its nuances sharp as the glass of realism.
Well, there's no Mr. Collins and I wonder if that was a relief or a curiosity not satisfied. Lady Catherine's presence isn't felt either and her pivotal role at the end which gives Darcy hope for Lizzie would be plotted out differently here.
It is still enjoyable to read though there are times I wanna get out of Spring's head. Things actually pick up in the middle of the book. The author's one-liners and silent expressions actually crack me up. These fragmented sentences are like inserts of thoughts which sort of closes the distance between the book characters and readers.
Spring's best friend, Mel, reminiscent of Charlotte and Henry's cousin, Tyler, playing Coronel Fitzwilliam stole the spotlight for me. I find the on-again off-again couple quite charming and cute. It's a rather nice chance to put them both together. I actually like Mel's character; she's fun and a bit of a gossip (but don't we all) and still being a sensibly random voice in the story. Of course, there's much to like about Henry. He has his charms after all. He's true to his form although he's not too vain and doesn't mind getting dirt on his person (cue sweaty cowboy get-up) which I find ironic if compared to Spring, who seems to have don a mask with all her beliefs, beliefs that for me is more akin to walls she put up around herself.
As modern adaptations go, the story needs more than a little gossip or intrigue to spice it up. In this book, it sort of fell into the characters. I did mind a little that they combined Jane and Lydia's character scenes in Julia. We know the two couldn't be more opposite in the original. The thing is, with Jane, her heart is pure and her manners gentle. These traits are the ones that upheld her in high regard, despite of Darcy's claims against her. That Bingley is right in his assessment of her. Through the end, apart from her shyness, she remains innocent and unmarred of any mistake. That Julia's character has been party for a bit of manipulation and even went a little crazy at one point (the parallelism to elopement) couldn't seem to endear her after that to me nor to (Henry's best friend) if I were him. I had expected (the other room mate) to be the Lydia.
I am on the fence about the whole change thing in Spring's personality, making herself a symbol of something which in the end she lets go anyway. Lizzie is playful, a bit mischievous and sarcastic but in Spring, there's a sense of vindictiveness. As (her bestie says), she comes on too strong and I am sort of confused if the pride went to her and the prejudice to Henry. Also, the premise of Spring's doubt about Henry's feelings after the whole debacle of Julia and Sebastian left me wanting. It seemed more plausible in the original, there's much weight from which Lizzie based her doubts (that because of a possible scandal to the family, it will deem her absolutely unsuitable to even be with Darcy). Here, it boiled down to a little misunderstanding drawn from lesser words spoken or not spoken. However, there's a certain appeal of two opposites making a decision to be together. It is a romantic idea tinged with realism.
Overall, the author isn't afraid to push the buttons too far but I guess since it's modern day it seemed typical for the plot twists to go almost Gossip Girl-like. I think the book is a stand alone. Even if anyone isn't familiar with P & P, readers can still enjoy reading the book as a coming of age novel.
Modern adaptations of classic novels could be a hit or a miss – though a retelling of your favourite novel is a very tempting read. I had no expectations when I started to read Ophelia London’s Definitely, Maybe in Love which is a modern retelling of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice but it had me hooked right from the very start.
Our modern day Elizabeth Bennett is Spring Honeycutt - an environment loving, independent, college student at Stanford University. While working on her thesis for her Environmental Science subject, her professor notes that her thesis was missing something. She seeks help from her new neighbour, the dashing law student, Henry Edward Knightly III though they had started off at the wrong foot.
The two are complete opposites and they butt heads quite often. But when they work together, they mesh pretty well. And though they try to ignore their attraction towards each other, fate has other plans for them.
I absolutely loved reading this book. It was well-written, witty and an enjoyable read. And I adored Henry so much. Darcy has always been my favorite Jane Austen leading man (I may have a weakness for cold, brooding men) and Henry is just the perfect modern adaptation of Mr. Darcy.
This book is one of the hit modern retellings of a classic novel. I definitely recommend it – this fresh retelling of Jane Austen’s famous novel is definitely worth reading.
Book Club Rating: ♨♨♨♨ cups (It might not be Pride and Prejudice but this one can definitely stand on its own merit. A romantic, humorous love story of opposites attract)