By just looking at the cover, the reader can tell this is going to be a fun book. From her humorous one-liners and wit, to her portrayal of her characters, Nina Benneton offers a great diversion. With chapter titles such as “Two Men and a Baby,” “Escort Service,” and “What the Frick?” amongst others, I knew I was in for a real treat.
From the moment Darcy and Bingley enter the hospital in Vietnam, misunderstandings abound. It is during their first meeting, where Darcy’s need to control the situation and Bingley’s carefree attitude, lead Elizabeth to believe they are a couple. While this book is lighthearted and fun, Benneton keeps her readers’ attention with new conflicts. Elizabeth needs to let go of her past relationships while Darcy must realize that someone can love him for himself, neuroses and all. As Elizabeth and Darcy work through their baggage, Wickham is working behind the scenes causing mischief. At one point, Benneton had my heart aching for the couple, yet the story never lost that lighthearted feel. Continuing in the pleasure of the novel is the fate that befalls Wickham, Lady Catherine and Anne.
In addition to the entertaining plot, Benneton captures key characteristics from Austen’s characters, while giving them a modern spin. The capricious Charles Bingley suffers from ADHD, while the fastidious Fitzwilliam Darcy is plagued with OCD, both of which fit the gentlemen. Working at an orphanage in Vietnam seems to be the perfect job for Jane, who still sees the world as good and agreeable. On the other hand, Elizabeth has a propensity to judge on first impressions and is rather impulsive as a result. How appropriate that Caroline Bingley is a socialite whose only interests are Hollywood, Mr. Darcy, and tabloids.
While some do not like Austen or her characters to be tampered with, Benneton did an exceptional job in successfully transplanting them to Vietnam and the twenty-first century. I do not know much about that country, but after reading Benneton’s story, I feel like I have been to Vietnam myself on a mini vacation. I now know the beauty of China Beach and Marble Mountain. While reading, I could picture myself in a crowded street wandering from shop to shop as cyclo drivers pass by. Also as interesting as its panoramic sites is the Vietnamese culture and its strictures on how men and women are to behave.
For readers who enjoy modern Pride and Prejudice variations, lighthearted reads, or want a vacation, this book should be on the top of their to-be-read list.
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