When one sets out to write a romance novel based on/inspired by Pride & Prejudice and Bridget Jones’s Diary, one must read such works for “research.” What I noticed upon the re-watches and re-reads and the writing of my own version (Lady Bridget’s Diary) is that the love story between Elizabeth/Bridget and Darcy is a stark contrast to cultural stereotypes about courtship.
There are no roses. No wining and dining. There are no invitations to prom, no playing by The Rules. Invitations to dance are issued awkwardly, grudgingly. Dramatic confessions of true love and secret feelings are mingled with major insults. In a traditional courtship, the man pursues, the woman waits, and they all proceed pending permission from her male guardian.
In fact, in the P&P plot, Darcy and Elizabeth are almost never together (which makes it a tricky plot to revisit in a romance novel written these days, where the h/h are expected to spend a lot of time together on the page). When they are in the same scene, it is by happenstance—or some scheme of Mrs. Bennett—and not because Darcy has come calling with romantic intentions. Most of those encounters are not romantic by at stretch of the definition. Darcy is rude. Elizabeth is rude. The only exception is all those smoldering glances.
It is interesting to note the enduring appeal of this story when it romanticizes the breakdown of the rules of courtship. Darcy doesn’t pursue, he’s dragged toward love against all logic and reason. Elizabeth—or my Lady Bridget—isn’t passively waiting for him to come to his senses. She’s more likely to be avoiding him entirely. Above all, the courtship between them isn’t so much a physical ritual as a personal journey of discovery—both of the other and oneself.
Which reminds why we love these characters, this plot, this romance: because it doesn’t play by the rules of flowers, candy, permission, wine and candles. It isn’t about the trappings of courtship and romance but a deep love that comes from a transformation in heads, hearts and point of view. Instead of a courtship were everything is condensed into a mere routine, this is a love story that expands the characters and their feelings. No wonder it’s one we all come back to again and again.
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Maya Rodale began reading romance novels in college at her mother’s insistence. She is now the bestselling and award winning author of numerous smart and sassy romance novels. A champion of the genre and its readers, she is also the author of the non-fiction book Dangerous Books For Girls: The Bad Reputation Of Romance Novels, Explained and a co-founder of Lady Jane’s Salon, a national reading series devoted to romantic fiction. Maya lives in New York City with her darling dog and a rogue of her own. Her most recent romance novel is Lady Bridget’s Diary.