Overall Grade: More than 5 ⭐️
“But it was where our lips were joined that I found salvation.”
“It is a truth universally acknowledged,” that a writer in possession of a skill commensurate with a master, would avoid writing a book inspired by the author Jane Austen. So many readers are familiar with her work that deciding to write books that reclaim them seems like writing suicide. Yet, Staci Hart in her current series about the Bennet family has shown herself time and time again to be ready for the task. And, as she has done with her past books, has eloquently crafted a story in Pride & Papercuts that would, I think, make Jane Austen proud. This newest book, the final book of her Bennet family, is INDEED saving the best for last.
I am not a Jane Austen scholar; however, I am a devoted fan. I have read every piece of work she’s written (even the unfinished works). I have read several reimaginings of her famous books, and I am familiar with her stories. I have also watched all of the movies, mini-series, etc., so I know a little bit about her. Here’s the thing. To fully recognize the true genius of Staci Hart’s Pride & Papercuts, you should know Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, but it isn’t necessary to love this book. Hart has this capacity, this talent, to create stories that are stylized, prose-driven, story-articulated, character-based romances. She can adapt a voice for a particular story, and it impresses this blogger immensely because there is difficulty in that task. Yet, even as she adopts a particular writing voice for a book, she is still decidedly Staci Hart in its creation. There is a style to her writing. Her graphic designer background finds purchase in all of her stories through her description building. You can see her places and people because she takes care in creating it. And it’s always so bracing. It feels foundational to her writing. Whether you’re reading her Austen-inspired books or her Gatsby/Gossip Girl, Fool Me Once, the design within the descriptions is Staci Hart’s signature. As a reader, I see her so clearly that it excites me because she’s unique and makes her romance distinctly her.
So, Pride & Papercuts. I have so much to say about this book, and I have to be fair because my thoughts are a jumble, and they are grounded in my pure love for Jane Austen and Staci Hart. I’ve decided to write out my notes from my reading of P&P here to illustrate my adoration for this book and its writer.
One thing that I find genius about this newest Bennet book is Hart’s ability to add layers, in a way, to the original Pride and Prejudice through this story. See, Jane Austen is amazing as a writer in her century. Many people don’t know that Austen died a single woman, having allegedly very little experience with romance in her own life. Yet, she wrote books that people still love to this day with love stories that feel ephemeral. However, there is, by her experience, a limitation to her love stories. This is where Staci Hart adds the complexity of feelings from Austen’s original to her own story. She allows us into the thoughts of the characters in a way that is missing from Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, making that story feel one-dimensional in contrast to Hart’s book. Hart stays true to the general sense of the characters, but she allows us to imagine more for Liam Darcy and Elaine Bennet (who are replicas of Mark Darcy and Elizabeth Bennett from the original). In doing so, they hold more dimension and their story feels deeper than the original could ever be. To me, this is the part of Pride & Papercuts that floored me, to be blunt. I could see and feel and know more because Hart crafted it as such. And I was falling into love, once again, with Staci Hart as a writer.
So let me get back to this book, Pride & Papercuts, and tell you why you should read it (and its predecessors):
✓ Liam and Laney are two sides of the same coin. They adore their families and will protect them at any cost by creating tough facades that protect their sensitive underbellies. They are distinctly mean to each other, especially Liam. But Hart makes it clear that it isn’t a positive for them to act as such. It is simply a protection, so you empathize with Liam and Laney as they struggle to express their feelings AND protect their loved ones.
✓Hart takes on the most favorite aspects of Pride and Prejudice, and she reflects them back into her story. If you’ve read the books or watched the movies, you see those moments played out in Liam and Laney’s story, and it feels fresh, not copied. Although if it feels copied, they say that “imitation is the highest form of flattery,” and Hart’s insistence on staying true to Austen just feels right in Pride & Papercuts.
✓Hart could have easily chosen Jett as the Elizabeth Bennet character. She has created characters in the early Bennet books where the male Bennets represent the different Bennett sisters of Pride and Prejudice. Instead, she ascribes that right to the only female in the Bennet family, thus giving her only female, by my estimation, the best story. This feels woman-positive. It’s possible that I’m reading into the astuteness of Hart’s series planning, but this feels intentional, making this book that much better.
✓Hart’s Liam Darcy is still dashing, but he reads darker than the original Darcy with less finesse. While he lives within his society’s rules, his arrogance breeds more problematic tendencies. I love that Hart crafted him to be so off-putting for much of the book because she ascribes him internal thinking in a way that Austen doesn’t do for her Darcy. Therefore, you can sympathize with Liam Darcy especially as he engages negatively with Laney. That psychology is one of the ways that Hart adds layers to the Austen story.
✓Pride & Papercuts is the second series I’ve read in two weeks that shows the careful plotting of its author. It isn’t just about his book. Instead, Pride & Papercuts is a culmination of many thoughts and plans. That excites me and shows Hart’s care as an author.
✓Throughout this story, Hart relies on beautifully-constructed metaphors to belie the tempest of emotions in her characters. They are carefully wrought and used in such a way that it places you squarely within her characters’ emotions. It creates a palpability so that you empathize with their plights.
✓I love that Longbourne is grounded in a matrilineal tradition. This book once again shows its woman-positivity through that notion since it is contrary to the world of Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.
✓With that, this book astutely illustrates Austen’s famous line in Pride and Prejudice, “you obstinate, headstrong girl” decidedly. It’s seen as a positive in Pride & Papercuts, just as it is in the original. Laney earns the rewards for her life because she isn’t “well-behaved” which stands as an admonishment to Hart’s readers. Well-behaved women make history and change lives through their obstinancy and independence.
✓I also love that Hart allows us to love the Mrs. Bennet of this series. She is her best in Pride & Papercuts, in my opinion.
✓Like the original, I love that this isn’t steamy like the other books of the series. There is a touch of it, but it takes on the essence of the original in its care of their first kiss and eventual coupling. Their first kiss is pure romance magic. From the build-up to the moment of impact, you, as the reader, feel breathless and overwhelmed by it. The same is true of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, and Hart captures that quality beautifully.
✓Staci Hart’s creation of the enemies-to-lovers trope is a master class in chemistry born in its opposing forces.
✓The prose of Pride & Papercuts overwhelms you in its beauty. There are so many passages throughout this book that cull together intense emotions. Of the books of this series, this one evokes Austen’s style, but it is done in a way that modern readers can grasp. Hart already has a stylized sense of her writing; this book indicates the zenith of that capacity.
After this very long review, it must be clear to you that Staci Hart has done Jane Austen and herself justice in its evocation. I loved each page of this book because it reminded me of the reasons for my adoration of Jane Austen. Liam Darcy and Laney Bennet along with Georgie Darcy and Jett Bennet have brought the best story for the end of this series. If you have yet to read Staci Hart’s Bennet series, set in a flower shop named Longbourne in New York’s Greenwich Village, then you must run right now and grab these books. It will be the best experience you’ve had in romancelandia in a while.
In love and romance,