Tag Archives: Mr Darcy

How do I Heart Thee: if Literary Heroes Wrote Candy Hearts

Yesterday, a friend of mine pointed me toward some late-afternoon amusement, sponsored, not surprisingly, by Twitter, that allowed me to coast my way through the final hour of the work day. It consisted of a series of tweets from the account of King Henry VIII, in which he humorously inscribed his own witticisms on candy hearts. Take a look:

Naturally, this got me thinking about what other famous figures might inscribe on candy hearts. So, in the spirit of Valentine’s Day, and because I’m a hopeless romantic and literary nerd with a soft spot for brooding Byronic heroes, immortal, forbidden love, and men with adorably dodgy taste in sweaters, my Twitter proudly presents to you, from the hearts of a few of my favorite heroes of literature: Literary Hero Candy Hearts. You’re welcome.

Mr Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet from the 1995 "Pride and Prejudice". Image credit: the BBC
Mr Darcy (Colin Firth) and Elizabeth Bennet (Jennifer Ehle), “Pride and Prejudice” (1995)

Mr Rochester and Jane Eyre in the 2011 "Jane Eyre". Image credit: Focus Features
Mr Rochester (Michael Fassbender) and Jane Eyre (Mia Wasikowska), “Jane Eyre” (2011)

Mr Knightley and Emma in the 2009 "Emma". Image credit: the BBC
Mr Knightley (Jonny Lee Miller) and Emma Woodhouse (Romola Garai), “Emma” (2009)

Mr Thornton and Margaret Hale in the 2004 "North and South". Image Credit: the BBC
Mr Thornton (Richard Armitage) and Margaret Hale (Daniela Denby-Ashe), “North and South” (2004)

Edward Cullen and Bella Swan in the 2008 "Twilight". Image credit: Warner Bros
Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) and Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart), “Twilight” (2008)

Heathcliff and Catherine Earnshaw in the 1992 "Wuthering Heights". Image credit: Paramount Pictures
Heathcliff (Ralph Fiennes) and Catherine Earnshaw (Juliette Binoche), “Wuthering Heights” (1992)

And last but not least:

Mark Darcy and Bridget Jones in the 2004 "Bridget Jones: the Edge of Reason". Image credit: Universal Pictures
Mark Darcy (Colin Firth) and Bridget Jones (Renee Zellweger), “Bridget Jones: the Edge of Reason” (2004)

If you can think of any others, please share them in the comments! Happy Valentine’s Day!

Whatever Their Souls are Made of, His and Hers are the same: Only Mr. Darcy Will Do by Kara Louise

Author’s Note: the following review may contain SPOILERS! Proceed with caution!

A year has passed since Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy’s ill-fated proposal to Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice. Since that time, Mr. Collins and his wife have come to claim Longbourn as their own following Mr. Bennet’s sudden death. With the estate entailed away and none of the Bennet girls comfortably married, Mrs. Bennet’s worst fears have been confirmed; she and her three younger daughters (Mary, Kitty, and Lydia) have moved into the near-by home of her sister, Mrs. Phillips. Jane has taken up residence with her Uncle and Aunt Gardener in London, where she cares for her young cousins, and the family’s circumstances have compelled Elizabeth to seek a position as a governess in the home of Mr. and Mrs. Willstone for their little girl, Emily.

When Mrs. Willstone’s sister Rosalind Matthews comes to stay at their home, Elizabeth discovers that not only are the Willstones acquainted with Mr. Darcy, but that Rosalind has set her eye upon Mr. Darcy as the only man in the world she could marry. When Mr. Darcy extends an invitation to the Willstones and Rosalind to visit Pemberley—an invitation that includes Elizabeth, so she can mind Emily, of course—she finds herself in the troubling yet tantalizing position of being a guest in the home of the last man in the world she could ever be prevailed on to marry. As Rosalind attempts to draw Elizabeth into her own schemes to win Mr. Darcy’s affection and Elizabeth’s position as governess makes her more keenly aware of her former suitor’s illustrious position in society, Elizabeth begins to discover, perhaps too late, just how wrong she was. With a reverent handling of some of Austen’s most beloved characters that readers and writers of fan-fiction will appreciate, Kara Louise’s Only Mr. Darcy Will Do turns Pride and Prejudice on its head in a “what If” scenario that will warm the heart and delight the imagination of romance readers and Austen fans alike.

As a work of fan-fiction, this novel delivers every promise you’d expect of the genre: romance, suspense, and a healthy indulgence in fantasy and wishful thinking. I’ve heard readers raise questions about some of the historical accuracy of Louise’s work in general, and while I had a few quibbles in that area, the key to enjoying this novel is to just accept it for what it is—the chocolate éclair of romance fiction: decadently sweet and all the more delightful for it. True, such details as Mr. Bingley and Georgiana attending a dinner party together when they are neither engaged nor married and have no intention of becoming so seems highly unlikely given the societal customs of the time. Readers get the impression at first that the couple is “dating” in the modern sense. Even considering that Bingley is a dear friend and that Darcy might well trust Georgiana with him, Darcy’s overprotective nature and Georgiana’s history (that unfortunate incident with Wickham) makes guarding her reputation all the more important. Couples didn’t exactly “date” during Austen’s time in the manner in which we do today, but as historical accuracy quibbles go, this one might easily slip under the reader’s radar because it isn’t drawn attention to in excessive detail. I only noticed it because I was looking for it, and never having read any of Louise’s other work, I was curious about this particular criticism.

The chess-match between Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy in the drawing-room probably also oversteps the boundaries of propriety given that Elizabeth’s place as a governess would make her presence in the drawing-room with her employers and the other guests unlikely. However, Louise uses such moments to remind us that, however badly Mr. Darcy communicated his feelings to Elizabeth, his own definition of a “lady” has nothing to do with wealth and position and everything to do with character.

With a wink and a nudge to her fellow Austen fans, Louise pays homage to the Austen Film Phenomenon and the various renderings of Mr. Darcy on screen. Most notably, in several scenes when Elizabeth accidentally encounters a wet and disheveled Darcy, readers cannot help but think of the now (in)famous encounter in the BBC’s “Pride and Prejudice” when Darcy (Colin Firth) encounters Elizabeth on the grounds of Pemberley after an impromptu dive into the lake to cool his passion. The chemistry in this novel between Elizabeth and Darcy is heart-poundingly palpable, straining at the boundaries that social convention has placed upon them. Every glance, every touch, every smile convinces the reader that when it comes to the tall, dark, and handsome hero of romance, only Mr. Darcy will do.

Click here to find the book on Amazon.

The Fondness of a Father: a Tribute to Jane Austen and Mr. Bennet

I stood in my closet, hands on hips, tapping my foot as I surveyed my wardrobe. The floor around me was a tangle of jeans, sweaters, and black leggings.
“Woman of substance. Inner poise,” I repeated. “You can do this. It’s just a department holiday party.”
“No, it’s not,” said the small voice of insecurity that generally likes to make its opinions heard when I’m least interested in hearing them. “It’s a holiday party with your new sweetie. The first holiday party you’ve ever attended with a date in your nearly 30 years on this planet.”
“Shut up!” I hissed. “That’s classified information.”
“It’s blog fodder,” said the voice.
“That too,” I conceded. “Now, if you’ve finished lowering my self-esteem, I’ve got a party to go to.”

After much deliberation (and quite possibly the first game of eeny-meeny-miny-moe I’ve played since grade school) I’d selected what I hoped would be the perfect outfit and was debating the merits of comfortable and sensible versus sexy and stylish in the footwear department, when my phone rang.
“So, what are you wearing to the party tonight?” (It was my dad.).
“I don’t know,” I answered, contemplating the potential danger of blind woman and high-heeled shoe versus hard wood floor.
“What? What do you mean you don’t know? You’re going to a holiday party with your new beau. This is an essential detail.”
“Thanks, Dad,” I said, endeavoring to calm my breathing that had quickened through a combination of nerves, frustration, and tight pants.
“So what are you wearing?” he continued. “You want to look nice. Something that straddles the line between ‘professional’ and… ‘available.'”
“I-what?” Christopher Columbus! I wasn’t having this conversation with my father. I have a very short list of things that I never want to hear in my lifetime; it includes cats caught in a garbage disposal and Colin Firth’s American accent. Now we’ll just add to that any conversation with my father that includes or in any way references the topic of sex or sexuality.
“I, um, Dad, I don’t…want to have this conversation.”
“Well, whatever you wear, just don’t look too sexy, and behave yourself.”
No, not the “Remember-your-catholic-morals” conversation. Please. I mean, if the fact that I’m not dating a catholic already means I’m shopping for a condo in Hell, we might as well just move in together and have done with it.
“Dad, I’m going to be late,” I hissed into the phone.
“OK, but just one more thing.”
I sighed. “Yes?”
“Have a good time. I’m sure you’ll be fine.”

With what relatively little experience I’ve had playing the dating game, my father’s involvement can probably be best described as something between Steve Martin (think Father of the Bride here) and the Godfather. The thing is, my dad understands my taste in men about as much as he understands my taste in pineapple pizza. That being said, I have a long-cherished fantasy about the moment when I will some day announce my engagement to my father—a fantasy that is scripted along the lines of this conversation between Lizzie Bennet and her father about Mr. Darcy.

“Lizzie,” said her father, “I have given him my consent…I now give it to you, if you are resolved on having him. But let me advise you to think better of it. I know your disposition, Lizzie. I know that you could be neither happy nor respectable unless you truly esteemed your husband…Your lively talents would place you in the greatest danger in an unequal marriage…My child, let me not have the grief of seeing you unable to respect your partner in life.”

Elizabeth, Still more affected, was earnest and solemn in her reply; and at length, by repeated assurances that Mr. Darcy was really the object of her choice…and enumerating with energy all his good qualities, she did conquer her father’s incredulity and reconcile him to the match.

“Well, my dear,” said he when she had ceased speaking, “I have no more to say. If this be the case, he deserves you. I could not have parted with you, my Lizzie, to anyone less worthy.”

This passage echoed in my mind as, with one deep breath, I checked my purse for emergency cosmetics and headed out the door, and—literary geek that I am—I can’t help noting that I’m typing this on Jane Austen’s birthday; perhaps I’ve somehow managed to channel her spirit. I should try writing a historical novel set during Regency England, though I’ll leave out the zombies and seamonsters, thanks.
I might blame Jane Austen for enabling my romantic notions, but amidst the Darcy dreams, she taught me a valuable lesson: boyfriends come and go, but the fondness of a father is forever.

Happy 237th Birthday, Miss Austen.

Just a Little Smile is All it Takes: Happy Birthday Colin Firth

Winter, 2008: the near-end of my first semester as a PhD student. In the midst of end-of-semester insanity, I’d gone home for the Thanksgiving holiday to see my family. While everyone else in the family gathered in the living-room to decorate the Christmas tree, I sat curled on the sofa watching the BBC television adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice for a seminar paper due two weeks later. My father, as he so often does when I visit, wandered into the room at intervals to inquire about my progress and whether or not I needed anything (AKA another cup of coffee…or a tranquilizer). What he discovered probably made him suspect I’d require the latter. There I was, feverishly pecking at the keys on my laptop: pausing, rewinding, scribbling, rewatching, and—it goes without saying—occasionally attempting, without much success, to suppress a fangirlish squeal of delight.
“Research?” Dad asked delicately while I manufactured an expression of intense concentration.
“Yes, for my Jane Austen course.”
Dad’s gaze swiveled to the wet-shirted, dripping delight that was Colin firth and then settled back on me. “Well
, I’m glad your graduate studies are being put to good use.”
Just then, my mother joined him, took one look at the television, and declared, “So this is why you declared a specialization in nineteenth-century literature. Suddenly it all makes sense.”

My fascination with Colin Firth has been something of a family joke for as long as I can remember. One long-ago Christmas during my childhood, a distant relative I no longer remember sent me a gift that at the time, he or she had probably only picked out because it was the nearest to hand: a video of Hallmark’s 1987 television adaptation of The Secret Garden.

The day after Christmas, I sat curled on the rug in front of the television, the distant shouts of the neighborhood children trying their new bikes and roller-skates drifting in through the open window. At that moment, it didn’t matter that they never included me in their games—that I couldn’t ride or skate or run as quickly as the rest of them; I was far too engrossed in the story unfolding on the screen in front of me. At the time, I still had enough usable vision that if I sat close enough to the screen, I could still distinguish faces. Suddenly, in the final scene, I found myself scooting as close to the set as I could without actually pressing my face against the glass.
“This wasn’t in the book,” I thought as I watched, intrigued. A grown-up Mary Lennox was standing in her garden with Ben Weatherstaff, and suddenly from behind her came a voice, tender and caressing, and slightly crisp at the edges—a summer breeze with just a hint of fall: “Where you tend a rose, a thistle cannot grow.” I shivered as Mary turned and saw who it was, and as I caught a glimpse of his face, I thought, “That’s the most beautiful man I’ve ever seen.”

Why? Why that man? Why that face? There wasn’t anything immediately remarkable about it; neutral in appearance, passive in expression, but with a hint of something rippling beneath the surface like a lake stirred by a light breeze. That was what intrigued me—that carefully modulated reserve, that passion kept in check. Then I watched him kiss her, and I think my heart spilled into his hand then and there.

That was the first time I saw Colin Firth, though it wasn’t until quite a few years later—after I’d become much more familiar with his work—that I made the connection. Since that moment, I’ve been mesmerized and a bit haunted by that face—a face I’ve never forgotten, though it’s been years (longer than I feel comfortable admitting) since I’ve actually seen it. Over the years, I’ve made (and have been the subject of) plenty of jokes about this…lifelong love affair, for lack of a better term: that Colin Firth is the reason I can’t walk past a fountain or make an omelet without smiling; that (according to my mother) I’ve taught so much of his work in my courses I should probably list him as a guest lecturer; that he’s the reason why I refuse, on principle, to accept a marriage proposal that does not begin with or contain the words, “You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.” Admittedly, in fairness to Mr. Firth, even though I can no longer reread Pride and Prejudice without hearing his voice, I really think the blame for that last one should be laid at the feet of Jane Austen, since she introduced me to Mr. Darcy long before I became acquainted with Colin.

The truth is, though, that I’ve cherished a long admiration of his work that has deepened as I’ve been given opportunities to study it more closely, both in my own work and with students. He reminds me daily that passion for one’s work is often more rewarding than recognition (though he’s certainly deserving of every accolade he’s received) and I love his obvious appreciation in so much of his work for the value and utility of literature. I cannot reiterate enough that I think the roles he’s had in literary adaptations are some of his best performances. (And before anyone asks, yes, I have had the privilege of listening to his recording of Graham Green’s novel The End of the Affair, and I was entranced).

I don’t know why I feel compelled to share this story; it isn’t a remarkable one by any means, but it’s one that never fails to make me smile. In my mind, I associate Colin firth with some of my last, and clearest visual memories. Over time that image, like so many of the others, has begun to fade, but whenever I hear his voice, if I close my eyes, I can just see that face—can just picture that tantalizing half-smile twitching at the corners of his mouth. Maybe I’m no longer the best judge, but that smile is still one of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen.

The happiest of birthdays to you, Mr. Firth, and many happy returns!

Help! Katie Couric Stole my Boyfriend!

Recently a friend of mine, thinking it would amuse me, shared this video with me:

Look at the way she’s stroking that photograph! It’s indecent, I tell you! That said, I must hand it to Katie Couric: she’s got excellent taste in men, albeit my man, who, for the record, she never asked permission to have.

Jealousy notwithstanding, I find the fact that Katie Couric keeps a picture of Colin Firth right beside a picture of her children oddly comforting. Suddenly listing his Birthday as an all-day event in my iCal seems like the act of a perfectly rational and sane individual. (Not, you know, that I’ve done this. I was merely offering a hypothetical illustration).

That said, I consider it my duty to inform Katie that her claim to be dating Mr. Darcy is entirely false—a fact that has absolutely nothing to do with his current marital status. Katie, honey, let me explain something to you. One of the joys of constructing your own fangirl universe is that you control all of the variables in that universe. Thus, if, in your fantasy world, Colin Firth is your boyfriend, he would naturally (and conveniently) not be married to a gorgeous Italian eco-fashionista who can rock an Armani gown made from recycled plastic bottles like nobody’s business.

All joking aside, really, I think Colin and Livia are the most adorable couple ever, and from one Italian to another, I really must congratulate her on her taste in a life partner. She does us credit.

But I digress, for now we come to the real grievance: what every respectable woman knows is number one in the crush code of conduct, the rule of first-come, first-serve. According to Katie, her relationship with Colin Firth has lasted approximately four years. According to my rough mental calculation (and note that my abysmal arithmetic does not apply here), Colin and I have been together since 1994. I loved him well before he made a splash on the BBC, and no man has ever come between us. (Fine, there was that brief recent flirtation with Benedict Cumberbatch, but given the long distance separating us at the moment, Colin and I have agreed that an open relationship is just more sensible). All this to say: kindly step aside, Katie.

Question: What’s the craziest thing you’ve done for a celebrity crush?