Pride and Modern Prejudice
I’m fascinated by contemporary takes on the classic Pride and Prejudice novel, especially those that don’t feel obligated to stick chapter by chapter to the book. For this reason, I was excited when I saw a gay romance version. If the classic could be changed to include sci-fi elements, why not an m/m take on it?
Closeted Pennsylvania college student Liam Bennett is happy for his brother Jamie, who’s been hired by the Bingley Corporation after grad student Charlie Bingley worked with Jamie doing some computer coding. Charlie and his partner William Darcy are co-owners of Nerve, a highly profitable multimedia social networking site.
When Liam and Jamie attend a gala at the Oakham Mount University campus’ Netherfield House, Liam is woefully and defiantly underdressed in a polo shirt and hoodie amid the other black tie guests. He gets to see first-hand Jamie’s attraction to Charlie, an attraction which seems reciprocated.
Liam also gets to meet the aloof and disagreeable Will who cold-shoulders him. When Liam does an Internet search on Will, he finds that the 23-year-old’s residence is Pemberley estate in Derbyshire, England. Liam also finds a number of paparazzi photos of Will and Violet de Bourgh, a British starlet and heiress.
Although Jamie is easy to get along with and liked by everyone, Liam is much too confrontational and bitingly clever to have many friends. His closest is Charlotte who’s been his best friend since childhood and with whom he shares an off-campus apartment.
After running into Will a few times, Liam meets musician George Wickham whose band has just kicked him out and who is looking for a new gig. Liam and George become friends, with the wily George spiriting away one of Liam’s younger brothers ostensibly to teach the teen how to play the guitar.
The story parallels Austen’s plot fairly closely, sometimes with success and sometimes not. The Wickham and Charlotte subplots start with promise and then seem to strain credulity.
The biggest problem with the book, however, is Liam. To like Pride and Prejudice, readers must like Elizabeth Bennet. It’s not enough just to like her older sister Jane or to think Mrs. Bennet is funny. Liam is no Elizabeth and nothing about him is attractive enough to spark a reader’s regard.
Without Liam as a strong linchpin, the story breaks down into a collection of often interesting scenes that mirror the original. Some of them are quite clever – Darcy emailing his sister while Caroline Bingley reads over his shoulder for example – but many more fall flat, including some of the dialog between Liam and Darcy which should sparkle.
All in all, this is a book for people who informally collect variations on Pride and Prejudice. Others, however, will be disappointed that an all-male cast of characters is so bland.