Thanks to partners NetGalley, Putnam Books, and @lovearctually for the digital ARC of Vanessa King’s A Certain Appeal in exchange for an honest review. The book will be published on November 2!
I love retellings of Jane Austen novels, so when I saw that there was a Pride and Prejudice retelling coming, set in the world of New York burlesque shows, I was so excited!
Vanessa King’s A Certain Appeal met all of my expectations. Liz Bennet (called Bennet by her friends) is stage kitten at Meryton, a burlesque venue where she works with her best friends, including Jane (here, he’s her best friend and roommate and a singer in the burlesque). The performers find out that Meryton is up for sale and have high hopes that one of their own can buy it . . . with the help of a kind man named Charles. But some people are more skeptical than supportive, including Charles’s best friend Will Darcy.
Just the premise demonstrates the creativity with which King takes the building blocks of Austen’s novel and shifts them—just a bit—to our contemporary world and this setting, in particular. She ramps up the steam and the chemistry between Bennet and Darcy and modifies the subplot with Wickham to suit the modern situation, too.
I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about the burlesque element, but I absolutely loved it. Every moment of the burlesque is a celebration of individual women, of their joy in their bodies, and of their power over their own sexiness. There’s tons of banter, too, which I also enjoyed, and then King deepens that element, too, showing how banter can be both inviting and standoffish.
Bennet herself is clever and confident, but she’s also still recovering from a betrayal related to her work as a designer. She sees, in the changes at Meryton, a chance to recapture her passion for her career, but she’s also fragile in a way that’s masked by her onstage presence and her quick wittedness.
Will Darcy is completely fabulous, and I loved the secondary characters so much (the relationship between Jane and Charles is just dreamy). Fans of Pride and Prejudice will love this, but I’d also recommend Vanessa King’s A Certain Appeal to anyone who just loves a good, super-steamy romance.
I'm Jen Moyers, co-host of the Unabridged Podcast and an English teacher.