I picked this up at a yard sale a couple of weeks ago, along with Colonel Brandon's Diary by the same author, and also Les Miserables. Good yard sale!
Anyway, I've read reviews of Grange's Mr. Darcy's Diary, but I didn't realize she's also written "diaries" for all Austen's other heroes too! Because the reviews I've read for Darcy's ranged from "it was okay" to "I liked it," I didn't expect a lot from this, and figured I'd read the first couple chapters, then quit if it was disappointing.
I finished the whole book in four days. Which, for my life right now, is like me staying up all night to finish a book. I loved it!
Partly, of course, that's because Persuasion is my favorite Austen novel. Anne Elliot is my favorite Austen heroine, and Captain Wentworth ties with Mr. Darcy for the title of my favorite Austen hero. But really, that meant that I was quite prepared to be disappointed by this, as I was pretty sure it would not live up to my expectations, to what I thought these characters deserved.
I don't read a lot of romances. I don't read "bodice-rippers" at all, never have, but a non-trashy book that is solely focused on a romance has to have engaging characters and above-average writing for me to like it. On the other hand, I love and adore slice-of-life books that just chronicle the daily experiences of the characters. I'm an odd duck, I know. Anyway, this is one of the most romantic books I've ever read, and I loved every minute of it. I felt like Captain Wentworth was excellently portrayed, starting out proud, ambitious, and careless. He grew gradually and believably into the proud, reserved, steadfast Wentworth I love from Persuasion. Anne herself was reserved, but also lively and engaging, someone it would be easy to fall in love with.
The first half of this book takes place when Wentworth first met Anne Elliot and gradually fell in love with her. The rest takes place eight years later, during the time frame of Persuasion and a little beyond. I think it was especially satisfying because Persuasion has so much backstory that is only hinted at and alluded to.
The one somewhat negative thing I have to say is that it's a little hard to believe that Wentworth would write such long, detailed diary entries. I mean, my own journal entries tend to run along the lines of, "Took kids to the playground after breakfast. Made creamed asparagus for supper. Watched an old ep of Castle after the kids went to bed." But almost all diaries-as-novels suffer from this stretching of reality, so if you're okay with that, this aspect of the book shouldn't bug you.
While I hope that Grange's other books in this style will be equally delightful, I suspect I may always like this one best. We shall see! I definitely intend to read more.
If this was a movie, I would rate it: G for Great! Clean as a whistle -- even the smoochy bits are only referred to by saying, "we embraced."