Pride, Prejudice and Cheese Grits
By Mary Jane Hathaway
E-book, 352 pages (in paperback)
2014, Howard Books
Publication Date: June 10, 2014
I received a free copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
I think it’s obvious from the title that this is a Pride and Prejudice retelling. The summary found on Netgalley reads: “Shelby Roswell, a Civil War historian and professor, is on the fast track to tenure—that is, until her new book is roasted by the famous historian Ransom Fielding in a national review. With her career stalled by a man she’s never met, Shelby struggles to maintain her composure when she discovers that Fielding has taken a visiting professorship at her small Southern college.”
What I liked:
Despite my intense love for Pride and Prejudice, I haven’t ventured far into the world of retellings and inspirations based on Austen’s book – I have one short story collection inspired by Pride and Prejudice and I also own a copy of Pride, Prejudice and Zombies. I know there are a lot of “sequels” out there and I’m sure they’re very clever, but I’m hesitant to read any because I feel they have a lot to live up to. A retelling felt like a nice place to start, as it wasn’t something written to continue the story of Elizabeth and Darcy, but rather tell it anew. Pride, Prejudice and Cheese Grits was a cute summer read, something I could see myself reading on the beach. The chapters were short, so it was easy to read several at a time. Each chapter starts with a quote from Austen’s work that essentially describes the events or tone of the chapter. It’s fairly light-hearted (though not without its darker moments) and Shelby was a fun main character. It was easy to see her similarities to Elizabeth Bennet, but with a Southern flair and a bit of religion thrown in. Shelby does pray pretty frequently and there are a few short discussions about religion between her and Ransom, and it made me realize how few books I read that mention any organized religion. For me, these parts stood out – simply because it’s content that I’m not used to – but they didn’t feel heavy-handed or preachy. It was simply something that I accepted as being part of who Shelby was. I suppose you could consider this to be a romance (with some cheesy comedy moments thrown in), but it’s not a bodice-ripper or anything. It’s definitely a love story centering primarily around two characters (as anyone who has read the original will be familiar with) but there aren’t any erotic scenes. Hathaway also included two recipes at the end – for Bayou Pie and Cheese Grits – and I thought that was a cute touch!
What I didn’t like:
I quickly tired of the constant reference to how attractive Shelby and Ransom found each other, along with Shelby’s fluttering heartbeat and the “electricity” that passed between the two whenever they were near each other. All the times where Shelby was thinking about how frustrating, yet maddeningly handsome Ransom was made me roll my eyes. I get it! But I also understand that this book has a different tone than the original, so I tried not to focus too much on that. Rebecca, Shelby’s roommate, and best friend, was the resident “Austen expert” and also happened to be obsessed with Pride and Prejudice. While this was a cute idea, I think Hathaway overdid it with the references – Rebecca was constantly comparing Ransom to Darcy so that it was annoyingly obvious he was supposed to be Hathaway’s version of Darcy – I wish there had been a little bit more left for the reader to figure out. I also felt that Ransom’s decisions to talk about his difficult past were so randomly placed that I couldn’t understand his motivation for wanting to talk about them and they felt almost inappropriate.
This book took me a little longer to get through than I expected, despite the short chapters. While I enjoyed what I was reading, it wasn’t gripping enough to keep me glued to my Kindle. But like I said, it’s fun, and you certainly don’t have to have read Pride and Prejudice to enjoy it!
*cover image from NetGalley