The Girl from Summer Hill is Jude Deveraux’s answer to the question: Does the world really need another Pride and Prejudice retelling? And that answer is: YES! YES! YES!
THE PLOT: In the small Virginia town of Summer Hill, Kit Montgomery is putting on a stage version of Pride and Prejudice. He’s enlisted one of his relatives, Hollywood star Tate Landers, to come and play Darcy. Through a misunderstanding, he gets off to a rocky start with chef Casey Reddick. (Well, she was watching him shower outdoors when he thought no one was looking, but she was also in her own house, so…) With all the town ladies mooning over Tate, no one can play a convincingly disdainful Elizabeth to his Darcy, except the girl on whom he made a really bad impression.
In the meantime, Tate’s ex-brother-in-law, TV actor Devlin Haines, shows up to play Wickham, and Casey finds his company preferable to Tate’s. But as she and Tate are thrown together, they begin to bond despite themselves. But Devlin’s lies and manipulations might drive Tate and Casey apart for good.
MY TWO CENTS: There are really three layers of Pride and Prejudice going on here. First, there’s the knowledge of the original that’s in the reader’s mind. (And seriously, if you don’t know the original story, just get off my blog.) Second, there’s the stage version the characters are practicing, which reminds readers of the nuances of the story and underlines the echoes of what’s going on with the characters in Summer Hill. Finally, there’s the version that the book characters are fulfilling throughout the course of the book.
It wasn’t long before I was grinning ear to ear. I LOVE Pride and Prejudice. I did my high school senior thesis on Mr. Collins many a long year ago, I love the definitive version with Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle, and liked the Keira Knightley version well enough (she was too giggly as Lizzie, but Matthew MacFadyen…tolerably dreamy). This novel does a fine job of retelling the story and capturing the essence in a modern way. (Yet it never overlaps into Bridget Jones territory, at all.)
The secondary characters are also interesting. Casey’s sister Gizzy and Tate’s friend Jack are a cute Jane and Bingley. Hopefully Casey’s family will be explored further in the next books. Then there’s Olivia, Kit’s lost love, who has a secret connection with the Montgomerys.
Finally, while this is a Montgomery book, it’s not overwhelmingly Montgomerys. You have Kit, who you met during Ever After (previously reviewed here), and whose back story is uncovered here. Tate is a Montgomery from his mother’s side, but there’s not a lot of explanation of how he connects to the family tree. Which is kind of nice; just opens the door for all kinds of Montgomerys and Taggerts to pop up in Summer Hill in the future.
BOTTOM LINE: A cleverly written retelling of Pride and Prejudice that still seems fresh and compelling. Lizzie is spunky, Darcy is hot and misunderstood, and Wickham is more deluded and devious than ever. Jude Deveraux continues the modern renaissance she started with the “Nantucket Brides” series.
TEACUP RATING: Five out of five teacups.
ON SALE DATE: Now available in hardcover and e-formats.
Note: Review is based on an ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.