by Charlotte Greene
Publisher: Bold Strokes Books
Publication Date: April 17, 2018
I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.My rating:
For Erin and Jen Bennet, growing up in craft-beer-obsessed Colorado made opening Bennet Sisters Brewing their only dream. Their beer is popular, but like any small business, their brewery is never far from closing forever.
When Boston brewer Charlie Betters and his friend Darcy Fitzwilliam ask for their help, the Bennet sisters are happy for the attractive distractions. Life, after all, is more than making beer. Still, while Charlie and Jen seem to be made for each other, Darcy’s pretentiousness and her cruel remarks make a bad first impression.
Despite this, and almost against her will, Erin finds herself attracted to Darcy, but events out of their control result in a misunderstanding that might ruin the chances for love for both couples.
I’m a humongous fan of Austen retellings, Pride & Prejudice especially, so I was extremely excited to see a modern lesbian P&P retelling set in a brewery. Unfortunately, while there was a lot of good things, it also fell short for me.
As with any retelling, we have most of the main characters. In this case, Jen and Erin are the two older Bennet sisters who own a brewery, while their younger sister Lydia is the black sheep of the family, more interested in hanging out with her friends than waitressing. They meet Charlie (heir to a Boston brewery empire) and his friend Darcy when they stop by on their months-long tour of Colorado breweries. These main characters mostly stay true to their P&P roots, with the same character flaws and motivations.
On a whole, I think this retelling works well. One major departure was Jen and Erin’s parents – their mother is dead, and Erin and her father aren’t close. While he took time off from his busy job (he owned and managed several restaurants) to spend time hiking and skiing with her as a child, they grew apart when she was a teen. When the book starts, they’re estranged, mainly because he disapproves of her “choice” to be a lesbian, though he also was highly critical of them opening a brewery. I liked watching the development of their relationship as the book progressed. The parts of the book dealing with the running of the brewery – talking about which brews needed to be ready when, the problems involved in expanding the brewery, the camaraderie among the brewers – were some of my favorites, and Ms. Greene’s love for the state shines through in her descriptions of Colorado and all its mountains and trails.
“Oh, Erin thought. I’m an idiot. She was obviously having problems being around Darcy because Darcy was incredibly hot. Darcy’s attractiveness simply drained all of Erin’s suave and cool. Being around Darcy made Erin act like an idiot—that was all.”
My main issue with the book was that there was no romance. There’s pretty much zero chemistry between Erin and Darcy. There’s a lot of Erin being awkward and embarrassed around her, and Darcy goes from being a complete jerk to being friendly, which all culminates in a secret affair. Besides some making out, all the sex scenes are behind closed doors, and described as impersonal and almost angry. While I’m certainly not opposed to some no-strings-attached sex, I want a deeper emotional connection to develop, some flirting, some gooey stuff – romance, you know? Otherwise, to me, it’s not really a romance novel. The romance between the secondary characters Jen and Charlie felt more pronounced than the one between Erin and Darcy. There’s also a sexual assault subplot with the family friend who’s taking over the restaurants (the Mr. Collins analog), who also becomes involved with Erin’s best friend, Lottie. I get that part of the book was Erin being isolated from her family and friends after Darcy leaves, but I didn’t think that particular subplot fit, and I was unimpressed by the resolution of it with Lottie.
One additional nitpicky note – I don’t usually comment on things like this, because I know I’m reading an advanced copy, but the book needed more editing. There were weird tense shifts in the middle of paragraphs (past to present tense), incorrect word usage (“notoriety” when they’re talking about a positive boost from winning a competition) and a few other oddly worded sentences that kicked me out of the story every time I ran into one. I’m hoping these are fixed in the final version.
Overall, while the retelling as a whole works, but the lack of romance between the two main characters lessened my enjoyment.