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HIRING MR. DARCY by Valerie Bowman
I thoroughly enjoyed reading Hiring Mr. Darcy. It is the first contemporary romance by Regency romance writer Valerie Bowman.
Meg Knightly is a history professor with her life organized by lists and a planner that rarely leaves her side. Her boyfriend, who she hopes will soon be her fiancé (see planner), is also a history professor. They planned to compete in the Jane Austen Festival and Games. But right before they are set to leave, he decides it best for his career to take another woman to the event, a Hollywood star researching an Austen role.
Meg is competitive and also out for a little revenge. So she decides to find a new “Mr. Darcy.” Meg’s brother Luke finds someone at his poker game willing to do the job since Meg is offering $5,000 and to pay all expenses.
Jeremy Remington could use the money since he is trying to get his woodworking business started and needs some new equipment. And spending time with Meg, who he has known since high school, wouldn’t be so bad either.
In Hiring Mr. Darcy, there are so many wonderful references to Pride and Prejudice. And so many Regency references that were a joy to read as a fan of those romance novels.
I liked the banter between Meg and her brother Luke. Another character Mitchell, the tailor they use to create their costumes, was over the top entertaining. Bowman excels at creating family and friend camaraderie that comes across as genuine and shows real affection between her characters. Jeremy is such a dream book boyfriend. And Meg shows real growth in her realization that she shown too much prejudice and pride in her judgment of others and the rigidity of how she is living her life. She has become too much Darcy and not enough Elizabeth and vows to change for the better.
Hiring Mr. Darcy was a delight to read as a contemporary and historical romance fan. The best of both worlds in one charming book.
I received my copy from the author, Valerie Bowman, for an independent review. Thank you.
Excerpt of HIRING MR. DARCY by Valerie Bowman
“I found a Mr. Darcy for you.”
Those were the first words my brother said to me when I saw him in the kitchen the next morning, where I was fumbling around like a blind person in search of my Keurig.
“What?” I turned and blinked at him.
“I found a guy for you. He’s available and willing and everything. If you’re still willing to pay five thousand bucks and all the fees and whatever.”
I eyed Luke with the sort of skepticism inherent in the uncaffeinated. “Just fell out of a novel, did he?”
“Nah,” he replied, pouring himself a bowl of Cheerios. “It’s Jeremy.”
I rummaged in the cabinet above the coffee machine, grasped the little white plastic Keurig cup, and held it aloft as if I’d just won gold at the Olympics. I sighed with relief. What had Luke just said? Jeremy?
“Jeremy who?” My mind raced through the list of similar ne’er-do-wells with whom my brother associated. One of his band mates? None of those guys was Darcy material.
“Jeremy Remington, you dolt,” he garbled around a huge spoonful of Cheerios. “You know, one of my best friends? Known him since we were kids?”
I lifted the lid of the machine and pushed in the cup. Then lowered it again, lined up my mug underneath, and hit Brew. I turned back to face my brother.
“While I appreciate your use of the word ‘dolt’—”
“I learned it from you, of course.” He grinned at me. At least I think it was a grin. I needed to find my glasses. First coffee, then glasses. Obviously.
“Why would Jeremy Remington want to be Mr. Darcy?” I asked, suspicion lacing my tone.
Leaving my brother to ponder that question, I wandered to the living room in search of my glasses while simultaneously searching my cloudy memory for any information about this potential Mr. Darcy. Jeremy Remington was one of Luke’s oldest friends. I’d known him since I was ten or so. He had been a short, skinny kid, quiet and shy, who’d seemed less annoying than some of the others. Not much to remember, really. I hadn’t seen him in probably…ten years. But he was hardly the sort who would inspire jealousy in Harrison and Lacey, and I was highly skeptical as to how much he knew about the Regency era.
I wandered back into the kitchen, my glasses now firmly planted on my face.
“First of all,” Luke said in between bites of cereal, “Remington lost a bet with me last night and that was the forfeit.”
I groaned. “What?”
“I bet him that if he lost the hand of cards we were playing, he’d have to do you a big favor. I told him about the money after, of course.”
“And secondly?” I asked, already knowing this was a disastrous idea.
Luke shrugged. “He could use the money.”
“Great.” I curled my lip. “No offense, but I’m not really interested in taking one of your deadbeat friends to England with me.” The coffee machine beeped and I scrambled over to it. I’d already prepared my hazelnut-flavored cream, which I added liberally into the mug.
Luke rolled his eyes at me. “He’s not a deadbeat.”
I took my first deep delicious sip of coffee and sighed. “Needs money? Free to spend nearly a week in England on short notice? I assume he can get away or you wouldn’t have suggested him, which means he’s unemployed and—”
“Geez, Meg, you’re so judgmental.”
It wasn’t the first time I’d been called judgmental, either. Much like “curt,” it was another favorite.
“I’m not judgmental. I’m realistic and—”
“Jeremy’s trying to get his business off the ground. He needs capital to buy some sort of machine.”
“Machine?” I narrowed my eyes on Luke. “What’s his business? Tattoo artistry?”
He smirked at me. “No, Miss Judgeypants. And, by the way, I happen to know some frickin’ amazing tattoo artists.”
“I was only joking.” I took another swig of coffee, more willing to listen to this tale now that caffeine was involved. “What does he do?”
“Right now, he works construction. He’s a contractor, but he wants to open a business doing custom woodworking. Make furniture, built-ins, stuff like that.” Luke shoved more cereal into his craw. “You should see some of the things he’s made. Amazing stuff. He needs the money for some equipment. A band saw, I think he said.”
I leaned my back against the counter, hugging the warm mug to my chest. “Woodworking, eh? He’s not convicted of a felony or anything, is he?”
“Whaa? No.” Luke rolled his eyes at me. “Why would you think that?”
I shrugged. “A lot of people who open their own businesses are felons. They can’t get a decent employer to hire them.”
Luke rolled his eyes again. “Not everyone wants to work for the Man, Meggie. You’re cynical.”
“I’m realistic.” I took another sip of coffee.
“Well, Remington isn’t a felon and he’s not a deadbeat, either. He’s a hard worker. You should be thanking me for finding a male willing to dress up in fancy pants from two hundred years ago.”
“He’s willing to come to England for a week?” I ventured, tapping my fingers along the sides of the mug.
“As long as you foot the bill. His latest job ends next Friday, and he hasn’t agreed to another yet.”
“Does he have a valid passport?”
Luke leaned back in the chair, balancing it on two legs. “Really? Pretty sure he wouldn’t have agreed to it if he didn’t.”
I set down my mug and rubbed the spot between my eyes where a headache was rapidly forming. “You really expect me to teach a construction worker how to be Mr. Darcy in two weeks?”
Luke leaned forward again and dumped more cereal into his bowl. His cereal habit was alarming. He needed a twelve-step program. “Admittedly, he doesn’t know any more about it than I do, but he’s willing to learn.” He pointed his spoon at me. “Last night you said you could teach me in two weeks.”
“That’s different. You’re my brother. I can boss you around, and you know how nerdy I am.”
Luke splashed more milk into his bowl. “For five Gs, I’m positive Remington will let you be as bossy and nerdy as you want.”
My shoulders sagged and I blew out a sigh. “He’s a construction worker? What does he know about nineteenth-century England?”
“Uh, about as much as I do.” Luke scowled at me. “And he’s only a construction worker temporarily. Not everyone has had their whole life planned to the second since they were five years old, like you.”
“I was nine.”
“Not the point.”
I pressed my glasses up between my eyes with my pointer finger and drew a deep breath. My chest was tight. “I really appreciate you trying to help me, but it’s just not going to work. Harrison knows every dance step, every line, every card trick. I doubt Jeremy even knows who Jane Austen is.”
“You’re such a snob, Meg. Lots of people know who Jane Austen is. Just because he hasn’t read Pride and Prejudice five hundred times doesn’t mean—”
“I haven’t read it that many times,” I mumbled into my mug.
“But you have a copy of it in your purse as we speak. Am I right?”
“Maybe.” I sniffed. “But anyway, I thought about it more last night. Even if you’d agreed, I couldn’t train someone in two weeks. It’s just not enough time. I don’t know what I was thinking when I suggested it.”
“I don’t believe you.” Luke scooped a ginormous amount of Cheerios onto his spoon. “I saw how into it you were last night. You’re competitive as hell. You want to beat Harrison’s ass.”
He was right of course. “Yes, but—”
“It’s because Remington isn’t a snobby professor type with a Ph.D., isn’t it? You’re embarrassed to bring him around your history-nerd friends.”
“No, it’s—” I stopped and blinked. I had to admit my brother was a little right there, too. But if Jeremy was one of Luke’s old friends—from the trailer park—he’d probably be horribly uncomfortable around my sort of friends. I didn’t want the poor guy to be in way over his head. That would be embarrassing for both of us.
My brother let his spoon drop into his bowl. He gave me a hard stare. “You know what your problem is, Meg? You’re a snob. An intellectual snob.”
I scrubbed a hand through my messy hair, suddenly feeling oddly self-conscious. “I thought I was bossy and controlling and a perfectionist?”
I tugged on the end of my robe’s belt. “You can hardly call me a snob just because I don’t feel up to the monumental task of teaching one of your poker buddies how to be Mr. Darcy in two weeks. Besides, if Jeremy’s working until next Friday, when would we even have time for lessons?”
Luke raised his brows at me. “You were a tutor in high school and college, if I remember correctly. You seem to know how to teach people things after hours.”
“But that was Latin and History and English and—”
“Yeah. Sounds like a bunch of crap Mr. Darcy would need to know.”
I took another sip of coffee. Why was Luke making this so difficult for me? “Ugh. It’s not that simple. Look, I hate to sound shallow in addition to my intellectual snobbery, but Mr. Darcy is tall, dark, and handsome. I seem to remember Jeremy being a short skinny kid with acne and—”
Luke rolled his eyes and shook his head at me. “Oh, my God. That was in high school, you nut. When’s the last time you saw him?”
I shrugged. “I don’t know, sometime around college, maybe.”
“Haven’t you seen pictures of him on my Instagram feed? He’s—”
The doorbell rang. I spun around. The clock on the microwave read 8:30 a.m. “Who the hell is that at this hour on a Saturday?”
Luke pushed back his chair and stood. “I sorta told Remington to stop by this morning to say hello. You know…make the plan?”
“What? Without even discussing it with me?” I took a panicky gulp of coffee. It burned my throat.
“We’re discussing it now,” Luke said. “I thought you’d be happy. How was I supposed to know it would turn into a battle?”
“Gah.” Dramatically tossing my hair over my shoulder, I marched into the living room. “Great! Now I’m gonna have to tell this poor little guy thanks but no thanks.”
“Yeah, well, I thought you’d be thankful,” Luke called after me as I headed toward the front door.
I paused just long enough to run my free hand over my rat’s nest hair. I probably still had sleep in my eyes, and I hadn’t brushed my teeth yet that morning, but I took another fortifying swig of coffee as I marched. “Next time maybe check with me before you invite one of your ne’er-do-well friends over at the crack of dawn.”
The doorbell rang again right as I reached for the knob. Perfect. An impatient ne’er-do-well. Poor little Jeremy was just going to have to find another way to pay for his tattoo machine.
I wrenched open the door, prepared to be polite but firm. There was no way I was inviting this guy in for even so much as a cup of coffee. I would just have to explain to him that Luke should have checked with me first, and—
My mouth fell open. Standing in front of me was six foot two, two hundred pounds of lean, muscled…man. Dark hair peeked out from beneath the brim of a navy blue Remington Woodworking ball cap. Deep green eyes, long eyelashes, firmly molded lips, and the broadest, squarest shoulders I’d seen outside of the pages of a magazine.
Holy Mary, Mother of God.
A helpless, mildly hysterical giggle escaped my traitorous lips. This was poor little Jeremy?
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Reviewer: Christy is a school librarian in Central Ohio who loves books and those who read them. Julia’s Quinn’s The Girl with the Make-Believe Husband was her introduction to smart romance. She enjoys historical and contemporary romances with intelligent, capable, and sassy women. She also enjoys mysteries and thrillers along with children’s literature. Her husband and young daughter are both avid readers. They live with three rescue cats who are living their HEA all day, every day on the lap of a reader. You can follow Christy on Instagram.
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