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Thursday, August 23, 2012

Review: Persuade Me by Juliet Archer

Persuade Me by Juliet Archer
Amazon | Goodreads
Contemporary/Retelling, 341 pages
Published September 15th 2011 by Choc Lit
When it comes to love, Anna Elliot is stuck in the past. No one can compare to Rick Wentworth, the man she gave up ten years ago at the insistence of her disapproving family. What if she's missed her only chance for real happiness? Since Anna broke his heart, Rick has moved on or so he thinks. Out in Australia, he's worked hard to build a successful career, and a solid wall around his feelings. The words 'forgive and forget' aren't in Rick's vocabulary. So, when they meet again on his book tour of England, it's an opportunity for closure. But memories intrude the pure sensuality of what they once shared, the pain of parting With Anna's image-obsessed family still ready to interfere and Rick poised to return to Australia, can she persuade him to risk his heart again? This contemporary retelling of Jane Austen's last completed novel is the second book in Juliet Archer's Darcy & Friends series, offering fresh insights into the hearts and minds of Austen's irresistible heroes.

Hmm. Okay, how do I say this without sounding kinda crazy? I accepted this for review, but I was really unsure of whether I was going to like it. That makes me sound like a jackass, so let me explain: it's contemporary and it has a gorgeous cover - those are 2 things that put my guard up, because contemporary (no matter how often I read excellent contemporary) translates to "fluff" in my stubborn mind, and I've been burned by the Pretty Cover Curse one too many times. But I liked Juliet's excerpt last year, and talking about her with the book, so I was willing to accept it and hope for the best (I mean...it's so pretty).  But me "hoping for the best" is kinda laughable, so I was still a little nervous when I picked this up that I was going to read it, not like it, and then have to be a jerkface to the sweet Juliet.

And Oh, me of little faith... This was so good. It's great chick lit without being fluffy or throw-away, and I was amazed at how, simultaneously, Juliet was able to be very contemporary and modern, and still very faithful to Persuasion. There are some changes that are more of a departure than others, but in a way that both worked for the story Juliet was telling, and as a logical modern extrapolation of the original. There were so many times that I found myself thinking, 'Huh, that was a clever use of _________'. And because of this, it provided another layer of enjoyment that I wasn't expecting: It works as a modern romance, it works as a Persuasion retelling, and it works as this sort of Easter-egg-filled nod to Jane and Janeites, with all of these little bits of really well-plotted parallels to the stories Jane told.

It's not just in plot points that Juliet was faithful, though. For all their modern sensibilities, and the way their habits, interests and tendencies would have to be adapted to fit the setting, Archer's characters remained true at their core to the characters they were based on. Take Mrs. Clay, for example - in Archer's version, she has wormed her way into the lives of Sir Walter and "Lisa" (aka Elizabeth) as a fake-French masseuse who flatters the vanity of both Elliots and makes herself indespensible to them. Her grasping, social climbing, using-her-wiles ways are a bit more bold than Mrs Clay, but all the more well-suited to a modern adaptation because of that. She's still very much Mrs Clay, and everyone can see through her except those who need to - it just works! Similarly, Rick's treatment of Anna in the beginning, and his spiteful little thrill of pleasure the first time he sees her and she's looking worn-down and messy - things like this were a great interpretation of Persuasion, done in a way that rings true to the modern reader. Twists like this were really clever and fun to me.

Now, I've talked a lot about how faithful this is, but I want to be clear, it's not just a regurgitation of Persuasion in a modern setting; Archer did adapt some things and completely change some things, but she did so in a really sensible way that I don't think would much bother even most ardent, faithful Janeites.  This is not the chaste love story of Austen's time (nor is that necessary or even very believable, in a modern setting). This is very modern, and very relatable to today's audience (even those who haven't read or, *gasp* didn't like, Austen), but most of all, it's just really readable. I have a habit of not picking books up until late into the night, when I should be sleeping. This book had me repeatedly questioning just how much sleep I really needed...
All told, I'm definitely going to be picking up Archer's The Importance of Being Emma for next year's Jane in June.

Click here to be taken to the Austen in August Main Page! Fab button artwork c/o Antique Fashionista!


  1. I guess some contemporaries are fluffy, but I've never really associated them with fluff.

  2. Sounds like a very interesting story... I LOVE Persuasion, and I really enjoy the variations of Austen's books - looks like I'll be adding this one to my to-read list ;)

  3. This is a fantastic book - I've read it and so enjoyed every page. Juliet's done a wonderful job with the characters and little touches like modernising the equivalent of Gowland's lotion really made me chuckle.

  4. I really enjoyed this, I think it's been really well modernised but still stays true to the characters and events of Persuasion. I liked it so much I even recommended it to my mum, who has much more high brow tastes than me and she enjoyed it too. The Emma updating is thoroughly enjoyable too.

  5. Misty, thank you so much for this wonderful review! It's made my day. Jane and Ceri, thank you for your endorsements. Liviania and Valerie, I hope you feel like reading it.
    Juliet x

  6. Thank YOU, Juliet, for writing it. =D

    And Liv - I don't know WHY my brain insists contemporary = fluff. I've read a lot of very un-fluffy contemp, both of the punch-you-in-the-gut tear-jerker variety and the lighter but still not fluffy variety. But MY BRAIN JUST WON'T LET IT GO.

  7. I have to admit I don't usually enjoy the modernized version as well as the others but I've had a change of heart regarding some stories and authors. I'd love to read this.

  8. "Persuasion" is my favorite Austen and this looks like a great take (Wentworth an author?? Yes, please!) I avoid contemporary retellings for the exact same reasons as you, Misty, and the fact that it's won your approval make me want to read it. Also there are very view retellings of Persuasion, sadly =(

  9. This sounds so good! I would love to read a great modern retelling of Persuasion.

  10. This sounds good! It passed the Misty-test with flying colours :)

    As for modern retellings of Persuasion, and you probably know it already, the second Bridget Jones book (Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason) is an adaptation/retelling of Persuasion. It's a bit silly, but I enjoyed it.

  11. I didn't realize that, Alessandra! I mean, I knew there WAS 2nd Bridget Jones book, but I just assumed it continued the story from the first one, still vaguely P&P, not that it took on Persuasion.

  12. Been having a weird craving for chick lit and Jane Austen so really this would fit the bill, sounds good. I wanna read it!! :)

  13. Persuasion is my favorite book not only from JA but favorite book of any author. This sounds like a really good modern version, can't wait to read it.

  14. I do love PERSUASION. I'm interested to see how it translates into a contemporary read. Thank you for your review.

  15. Persuasion is my favorite book-hands down! I tend to avoid the modern versions (no matter how much I like the author!), but I will check this out-thank you!

    PS Alessandra, I didn't know that either, thanks for the heads


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