My BFF: A Friendly Romance by Ruth Phillips Oakland

I already miss reading this book.  I’m a little embarrassed to say so, given the somewhat salacious content of it, but I must be forthright with you, my faithful readers.

The flaws first. There are spelling and grammar mistakes. I’m not sure how, in our digital world, this keeps happening, but this book contains several errors that the writer should not have written and that the editor(s) should have caught before publication. Among them, a run-on sentence with “however” used in lieu of “but” (p. 32), a singular possessive instead of a plural (“Gardiner’s,” p. 66), the wrong “affect” (versus “effect,” p. 25), and a contracted “it’s” instead of possessive (“for it’s safekeeping,” p. 256). I found myself distracted from this juicy tale by errors. (By the way, the two sentence fragments in this paragraph are there by design, for purposes of style. It was not my sense that the errors that halted my enjoyment of scenes in this book were there for similar reasons.) In addition to errors in language, I found some of the situations awkward, uncomfortable, and creepy. Darcy’s playful teasing of Georgiana about her losing her virginity is among those situations, as is Mrs. Reynolds appearing in the dark to usher lovers into their bedroom. Problem #3 is the overuse of footnotes. While some were compelling and others just mildly interesting, they, like the grammar errors, distract from the story and became annoying. Do we really need a precise definition of “flatware” in the middle of the story? The most egregious flaw with this text involves over-the-top, hyperbolic, or clichéd expressions, including “This man was a studmuffin if ever there was one” (169), “dressed for battle” (p. 23), “could not help but fall to the floor with laughter” (p. 31), and “his eyes seemed to devour her soul” (30). Yuck.

Despite all its troubles, this book was hard to put down. It opens with young Darcy having been tricked by a scheming, clever woman and then being shamed by, and in front of, his family and his community. Though his father protects him as much as possible from Lady Catherine (who is trying to control them both), Darcy vows never to let that happen again. To prevent himself from falling in love and getting hurt, he turns to high-end prostitution in lieu of real relationships, and until he meets Elizabeth Bennet, thinks this arrangement is perfectly fulfilling.

By the time we meet him again in chapter 2, he has become rather a jerk, redeemed only by his love for his sister and his cousins. This is also when Elizabeth first meets him. She is an award-winning musician and professor with a body about which Darcy can’t stop fantasizing. She, too, has some pain and secrecy in her past, alluded to early on as a scandal with a “Billy Ray Collins,” who is now in jail.

Lest this review do anything but whet your appetite to read this book, suffice it to say that there are twists and turns in the plot that will surprise and delight and horrify any hot-blooded reader. As Oakland surprises us with parallel struggles in our hero and heroine, she gives us a lot of fun watching them become “BFF”s (best friends forever). She names characters after many Jane Austen characters (Thorpe is an errand boy, Harville and Benwick are bodyguards, Mr. Knightley is a doctor, Lucy Steele is a porn star, etc) and also some Bronte ones (Edward Rochester, Thornton), and she incorporates into this modern tale several Pride and Prejudice lines, often spoken by a different character and in a different context. Reading becomes a treasure hunt: what names or lines will appear next? What new significance will they assume? (ex: Mrs. Bennet’s exaggerated prediction in P&P that, if Elizabeth rejects Mr. Collins, Mrs. Bennet will never speak to her again, takes on new meaning here.) Oakland also gives us some memorable lines, including this one that occurs when Elizabeth is annoyed with the giddy Darcy and Mrs. Reynolds: “It looked like a Bingley convention.”

If you’re looking for gripping reading that will keep you turning pages (even when you wish to be doing other things), My BFF will be a good choice for you.

Published in: on January 4, 2010 at 5:52 pm  Leave a Comment  

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