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Thursday, October 11, 2012

Book Review: Imperfect Bliss by Susan Fales-Hill

Book cover of Imperfect Bliss by Susan Fales-Hill
Can the world really take another Jane Austen spin-off/retelling/reinterpretation/mash-up? Austen purists must shudder every time another one hits the shelves, but the books obviously sell well enough that publishers continue to churn them out. Personally, a retelling of Pride & Prejudice from Mr. Darcy’s perspective makes my heart hurt, but I don’t mind loose interpretation set in a different time period with reimagined characters. I adored the film "Clueless" and thought Bridget Jones’s Diary was cute and clever when it was first published.  If Austen isn't redone in an exceptionally fresh or interesting way, though, it begs the question – why bother?

Summary: Reality TVJane Austen Style Meet the Harcourts of Chevy Chase, Maryland. A respectable middle-class, middle-age, mixed-race couple, Harold and Forsythia have four eminently marriageable daughters—or so their mother believes. Forsythia named her girls after Windsor royals in the hopes that one day each would find her true prince. But princes are far from the mind of their second-born daughter, Elizabeth (AKA Bliss), who, in the aftermath of a messy divorce, has moved back home and thrown herself into earning her PhD. All that changes when a Bachelorette-style reality television show called The Virgin takes Bliss’s younger sister Diana as its star. Though she fights it at first, Bliss can’t help but be drawn into the romantic drama that ensues, forcing her to reconsider everything she thought she knew about love, her family, and herself. – Goodreads

My thoughts:  Imperfect Bliss is recognizable as Pride & Prejudice though Susan Fales-Hill has put a very different spin on things.  She transfers Meryton to Maryland and freshens things up for a modern audience.  In this version, the Bennets are a biracial family living in the Washington suburbs and Mr. Darcy is a reality TV producer of Latino descent.  Score one for multicultural chick lit.

Unfortunately, not much else about the book scored with me.  I couldn't connect with any of the characters and it felt as though Fales-Hill had to try too hard to blend Austen's plot with Bliss Harcourt's 21st-century world.  As a result, the narrative was choppy and even confusing at parts.  It was difficult to discern characters' motivations and rather than actually caring about the story, I found myself continually wondering how Fales-Hill would convert P&P's more important plot points to fit her tale. Again, I wonder if perhaps Fales-Hill would have been better off just telling a story rather than altering it to fit P&P.

Imperfect Bliss does have its charms.  Bliss' daughter Bella is cute and Forsythia (this book's Mrs. Bennet) runs a youth etiquette school that would make Hyacinth Bucket proud.  Bliss herself is a bit of a trainwreck, but she pulled herself together by the end of the book.  I wish we had seen more one-on-one interaction between her and her hero.   Fales-Hill's voice is good, but I think she would be best served by finding her own vehicle to tell her story.

Rating: C
Publisher: Atria Books
Publication Date: July 3, 2012
Length: 304 pages
Sensuality: Mild

Romance novel book reviews by Sarah the Brazen Bookworm


  1. Thanks for the honest review - I have this on my shelf to read. I like your reference to Hyacinth Bucket!

    1. I know lots of people who love it, so definitely give it a shot. I'm interested to hear what you think. Oh, and the Hyacinth similarities are pretty funny. :)


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