Dreaming of Mr. Darcy by Victoria Connelly is the second book in her Austen Addicts trilogy, and is a must have in any Austen fan’s collection for its unique set of characters and the clear references to Mr. Darcy, Captain Wentworth, and more. Starring Kay Ashton, who works in a dead end and thankless job, and she’s surrounded by a unique cast from her mother’s friend and fellow Janeite to the cast of actors that invade her new Bed and Breakfast in Lyme Regis. Kay finds herself playing Emma Woodhouse on one occasion, only to find her results end up much the same as Emma’s, but all the while, she’s looking for her own dashing hero and trying to rekindle the passion she has for painting. Beth is the prototypical actress diva who wants all of the attention for herself, and she surrounds herself with the rest of the cast, including the dreamy Oli Wade Owen. But Gemma is not the typical actress — she’s shy and often in the shadow of her mother, a famed television and movie actress whose career is practically non-existent until she weasels her way into the production of Persuasion, produced and written by Adam.
“It was funny that she should be dreaming about Mr. Darcy, because she’d been drawing Captain Wentworth for the last few weeks now. Darcy had been the main subject of her last book — a collection of drawings in pen, and watercolour paintings of scenes from Pride and Prejudice.” (page 5 ARC)
There are moments in the novel when Connelly tells the reader of the Austen connection, which could have been left up to the reader to discover, but that is not bothersome when readers are swept away by the antics of Beth to get Oli’s attention or when Kay is berating herself for falling for an actor like Oli when she knows she shouldn’t. Nana Craig, Adam’s granny, is a hot little ticket with her poking and prodding of Adam in the right direction to get his love life moving, and she has some choice advice for Kay as well. Living in Lyme is not as romantic as Kay imagined, but her imagination sometimes runs away with her and gets overblown in more ways than one. Readers will get the idea that she hasn’t lived much of her life outside the covers of an Austen novel the way she goes on, but its always in fun and helps liven up the interactions she has with her star guests.
“Kay settled back into her seat and adjusted the red hairpiece above her left temple. It felt like it was slipping. She looked in the wing mirror. She wasn’t all that sure about herself as a redhead. She’d had visions of being transformed into a beautiful pre-Raphaelite nymph, but she believed she looked more like a slightly baffled red Irish setter.” (page 174 ARC)
Connelly creates characters that are lively and fun, and readers will love hanging around with them as they gossip, maneuver, and fall flat on their faces looking for romance. While Austen characters and stories do play a role here, they aren’t necessary, as the novel and its characters could stand on their own. There is a mix of arts here from screenwriters to actors/actresses and painters, which is juggled well by Connelly. With the number of heroes, heroines, and secondary characters and subplots, it would be easy to get lost if it weren’t for the author’s ability to juggle those story lines and ensure that readers never miss a beat or feel bogged down by one story or another. On a deeper level, the novel is about making dreams come true, following your passions, and living life to the best of your ability even if it means making a giant leap of faith to do it. If you’re looking for fun, Lyme is the place for you and Dreaming of Mr. Darcy by Victoria Connelly is an excellent read to take you on an escape by the seaside.