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Most Ardently

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Elisa Benitez is proud of who she is, from her bitingly sarcastic remarks, to her love of both pretty boys and pretty girls. If someone doesn’t like her, that’s their problem, and Elisa couldn’t care less. Particularly if that person is Darcy Fitzgerald, a snobby, socially awkward heiress with an attitude problem and more money than she knows what to do with.

From the moment they meet, Elisa and Darcy are at each other’s throats -- which is a bit unfortunate, since Darcy’s best friend is dating Elisa’s sister. It quickly becomes clear that fate intends to throw the two of them together, whether they like it or not. As hers and Darcy’s lives become more and more entwined, Elisa’s once-dull world quickly spirals into chaos in this story of pride, prejudice, and finding love with the people you least expect.

370 pages, Kindle Edition

First published October 21, 2019

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About the author

Susan Mesler-Evans

2 books31 followers
I'm Susie. I'm a college student, transplanted from Ohio to the Sunshine State. I write things sometimes.

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5 stars
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 115 reviews
Profile Image for Stacee.
2,694 reviews701 followers
October 22, 2019
I will legit read anything that references P+P and I loved the synopsis and that it was a f/f story. Sadly, it was so very disappointing.

My main hang up is that I just didn’t care about any of these characters. Elisa doesn’t have the spark Elizabeth does and the rest of the sisters could have been interchangeable. I didn’t see any sort of chemistry between Elisa and Darcy and the tension I was expecting was also missing.

Plot wise, it followed the original plot points, but they were moderately updated. There was a lot of telling and not showing and the addition of trans and non-binary characters felt like an afterthought. By the time we got to the ending, I was happy it was over instead of cheering for them having gotten together.

Overall, it was a great idea for an update, but the execution didn’t work for me.

FYI: talk of statutory rape and physical violence against women

**Huge thanks to Entangled for providing the arc free of charge**
Profile Image for Natasha.
495 reviews377 followers
October 5, 2019
I received an arc from the publisher via netgalley in exchange for an honest review

I personally like starting reviews of retellings by going through the significant changes so I'll do that.

Elizabeth: name is Elisa. She's Mexican-American and bisexual.

Darcy: still named Darcy, cis women lesbian as well as biracial (Black and white)

Kitty: her name's Camilla and she's a trans girl

Collin: is Darcy's cousin

Colonel Fitzwilliam: cis girl named Willow

I've read a lot of Pride and Prejudice retellings in my time. This is the second f/f one I've read as well (the first is called The Story of Lizzy and Darcy) and I'm honestly happy to see another one.

This one was really fun. I liked both Elisa and Darcy a lot. This felt like a retelling that can stand on its own while keeping the personalities of both Lizzie and Darcy.

Another element I thought was interesting was that Mr and Mrs Bennett were divorced in this. I thought that was an interesting change to the dynamic of things.

Another element I liked was during the scene of Collin's whole deceleration of love, Elisa rejected him to the level I could tell the author felt a certain way about Collin and had been wanting to get it out for years. It was honestly delightful.

This was a lot of fun and I'd recommend it whether or not you've read the source material.
Profile Image for Farah.
767 reviews91 followers
October 23, 2019
"Miss Elizabeth. I have struggled in vain and can't bear it no longer. These past months have been a torment. I came to Rosings only to see you. I have fought against judgment, my family’s expectation, the inferiority of your birth, my rank. I will put them aside and ask you to end my agony. I love you. Most ardently."
- Darcy Fitzwilliam

Ms.Austen wrote Pride and Prejudice in 1797, I have read it too many times and when Keira Knightley + Rosamund Pike joined forces to bring the characters to life, the disc received the same fate as my paperback. Since then, I have read a few other disappointing zombie versions and when I saw Most Ardently on my feed, I immediately clicked pre-order. Ms.Mesler-Evans gave plenty of newness to this beautiful old classic without pissing off a fanatic fan.

One of the things I love about Most Ardently is, the way the author portrays her characters. Her characters are nuts, real with flaws and insecurities. They are relatable and most of all they are endearing. Elisa is smart, quite funny, strong, a little nerdy and she loves to read, Darcy's a reader too - How to not love leads who enjoy reading? Even with their insecurities, they are not afraid to speak their minds, you have to admire leads who have this qualities. Overall, I found their characterizations to not only be lovable but refreshing as well.

The banters between them are intense but entertaining. See, the thing is that, if not for miscommunications and their stubborness in clearing the situations, they would have been together sooner. But then we wouldn't have the story, would we? So when I normally am not a fan of miscommunications, it worked here very well. The steam is low, but I don't care, not when the story is smart, the writing/dialogues is good and snort out loud.
Most part of the book is just crazy - thanks to Elisa's mum, with a great cast of side characters who each brought her/his own flair to the story, but there are a couple of heart-to-heart scenes between the leads with each other or others that hit me hard, like someone is stabbing at my heart with daggers - it could be my friends as I hide to read this and they had to seek me.

Why should you?
z. One of the leads is a - "It might sound crazy but it ain't no lie, she's a bi, bi, bi"
y. One lead is a Latina while the other is a mixed-race
x. One of the Benitez siblings is a transwoman
w. Great lines
- "Ah, karma. You’re a bitch."

- " Shut the hell up over there or I'll shut off your hot water."
Charlene rolled her eyes. "I live next door to the landlord, remember?"

- " But he's pretentious, and he talks too much and he's not a good listener and his mom is objectively, the worst. Sure he's smart, but not nearly as smart as he thinks he is, and, and, and.... And he listens to Nickleback...."

- " Now you know what to say if someone offers you drugs or alcohol, right?"
" Yes, I say. One at a time, please."

v. If you are a fan of Ms.Austen's Pride and Prejudice and would like to read a version between a bi and a lesbian.
u. Ms.Austen will not be rolling in her grave, I think she's high 5ying Ms.Mesler-Evans from 6 feet under.
t. It cost about 5 Dollars
s. Elisa and her family might remind you of your own family/friends where everyone wants to be heard/love to talk at the same time.

Trigger warning
Off-page sexual intercourse involving early teens with a very mature, wicked, bastard, Wickham.

For featuring an active Bi, Ms.Mesler-Evans deserve a 5⅛ for her debut.
Profile Image for Amy .
446 reviews11 followers
June 30, 2020


My full review:
Thank you, NetGalley and the publisher for the chance to read this book!

Rating: 2.75 stars
Rep: bi, Mexican, plus-size MC, lesbian & black love interest, F/F romance, trans side character.
Trigger warnings: divorce, talks on grooming and statutory rape, girl hate, sexism.

I first saw this book on Twitter and the cover drew me in, but then I read that it was a gay Pride and Prejudice retelling and I instantly added to my TBR and requested on NG. P&P is my favourite classic and I'm constantly on the lookout for diverse retellings, especially modern ones.

I desperately wanted to love this, it had so much potential and all the right ideas, but it missed the mark as a Pride and Prejudice retelling, for me personally.

This book follows P&P pretty well, but that was also my main issue because some of the scenes in P&P just don't work in a modern setting. For example, Julieta (Jane) gets a stomach bug while at Bobby's (Charles) house and ends up staying there close to a month? To get over this bug? With Elisa staying too for some reason? Another thing that didn't work was Mrs Bennet's characterisation. She is basically Mrs Bennett from the original P&P, but again this didn't really work because a modern-day mother shouldn't act this way, it's not normal. She lets her 14-year-old daughter go on holiday, ALONE, like it's no big deal, she constantly tells her daughters they have to marry rich and pressurises them and she is a borderline stalker. And finally, making George a paedophile/rapist was...a choice. I have lots more instances from the book that were just really unrealistic. It just didn't really work for me.

The chemistry between Darcy and Elisa is pretty much non-existent, I only started a feel it a little around the 85% mark. There is really no tension or build-up, which I was expecting lots of.

The writing was easy and fast-paced, and for a book of over 400 pages, I definitely flew through it! I adored how diverse this novel was, jam-packed full of positive representation with absolutely no homophobia or racism.

Overall I'm super happy I had the opportunity to read this one, unfortunately, it wasn't for me but I'll definitely be reading more by this author in the future!
Profile Image for Jess.
105 reviews10 followers
September 27, 2019
I am kind of bummed about this one. I love Pride and Prejudice and will read basically any retelling/variant I can find, and I was especially excited for a gay retelling, but as good as the author’s intentions clearly were, this one just did not work for me. I am not a P&P purist and don’t mind if a retelling deviates pretty significantly from the original, but this was kind of a confusing combination of the two. It followed the plot and characters pretty closely, but the tone and some of the outcomes were pretty different in a way that felt like it kind of... missed the point? The biggest example of this was Colin/Mr. Collins. Here, he turns out to be pretty likable and he and Charlotte/Charlene fall in love and are madly happy together. In the original, my take is that Charlotte’s choice to marry Mr. Collins even though he’s horrible is a social and feminist commentary on women’s limited options. I would have loved to see that concept explored in a modern way here rather than having them just become a bland side story with a standard-issue happy ending. Same with Elisa/Elizabeth and Darcy - I felt like they got reduced to just a standard issues enemies to lovers romantic comedy plot device instead of the societal commentary and exploration of, you know, pride and prejudice that they are in the original. I just somehow felt like maybe the author didn’t read up on Austen/dive into P&P lit crit before she wrote this? She clearly knew the plot very well but I didn’t get the sense that she’d given overly much consideration to the themes and messages of the book. She even referred to it as a “classic romantic comedy” in the acknowledgements, which... I mean, yes, that’s one element of it, but the original book is so much more than that (huh, maybe I’m more of a purist than I thought I was...). I just didn’t come away feeling like I understood WHY the author wanted to give a fresh take on the book, or what she was trying to bring to the story beyond making some of the characters queer.

Also, and I do feel bad saying this because the writer seems like a genuinely nice person (I checked her out on Twitter) but the writing in this book is just not very good. It’s not, like, secondhand embarrassing levels of poor, but it’s really not great. First of all, this sounds nitpicky but there was a ton of pronoun confusion in this book, not in the misgendering way but in the “can’t actually tell to whom the verb applies” kind of way because it’s oddly vague and the sentences aren’t tightly written enough to tell. The dialogue is stilted and there is a lot of telling instead of showing. For example, we keep hearing how incredibly boring Colin is when he talks, but we only see a few examples of that and... they aren’t actually boring? I totally thought that best man tidbit was fascinating! Maybe this means I’m as boring as he is, but it just felt like the author wasn’t quite able to render the characters the way she intended. Further, Elisa and Darcy didn’t have any chemistry or really anything building between them, despite the author’s best attempts, so I didn’t feel engaged in having them work things out.

I did appreciate the diversity throughout, including Cam/Kitty being trans, Elisa being fat, and Keegan using them/they pronouns, and even more so that those were just casually mentioned elements of who these people are rather than a focal point of the story. I did get a bit lost with the family being of Mexican heritage, though, because even though it’s mentioned a few times, we don’t actually see any evidence of it other than the terms Abuela and Abuelo. I always think it’s tough to write main characters of a different cultural background from your own, and that was clearly apparent here.

Overall, I really wanted to like this book and I really appreciate what the author was trying to do, but it just did not land well for me. Bummer.

Thanks to Entangled and NetGalley for the ARC.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Alyssa.
79 reviews20 followers
October 28, 2019
When I first heard about this book, I could not have jumped at the chance to review it any quicker. It was everything I could have wanted in a novel. Pride & Prejudice retelling? Check. Darcy is a woman aka an f/f romance? Check. Set in modern day? Check. What more could a girl ask for? Well, probably to actually have enjoyed the book.

The romance was not believable to me. I didn’t see the connection between Elisa and Darcy at all. It was obvious Darcy had a crush but actually loving Elisa? I didn’t see it. And I really didn’t see Elisa’s feelings. Mostly I’m just confused as to how Darcy managed to develop feelings for Elisa.

Elisa’s character was mean. Elizabeth Bennett was a smart woman who used her wit to her advantage and was at worst a little sarcastic and snarky. Elisa was straight up mean. I can’t believe these words are about to be said, but I actually felt bad for Colin when she turned him down. Yes he was dense, but my god. He didn’t deserve her nastiness in that way.

The thing about modern retellings of older stories is that not everything is going to translate into current day. Some things need to be changed in order for them to be believable and to work with the story. One example was some of the dialogue. I get that the author wanted to keep some of the speeches, but no one talks like that in 2019. Unless they’re Mark-Francis Vandelli on an episode of Celebrity Juice (seriously, that was all I could picture the entire time). A second example was when Bobby left Julieta after Darcy intervened. He just takes off without a word because Darcy said her opinion of “hey she might not like you as much as you like her” without any tangible proof to back it up? I just can’t see that in today’s world.

Maybe my expectations were too high, I don’t know, but unfortunately, this book just was not for me.
Profile Image for Naty.
668 reviews40 followers
October 10, 2019
Adorable, touching, incredibly sensitive and so sweet. I had a lot of fun with this book and I'm so glad to have picked it up! Really recommend if you're looking for a YA romcom, plus it's F/F! The hate/love tension between the two MCs was great, they're such IDIOTS, I love them.

I received a copy of this ebook via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. (See full review in http//natysbookshelf.wordpress.com )
Profile Image for Emma.
227 reviews
January 16, 2020

It took me some time to warm up to the characters because I hold dear love for the original Eliza and Darcy. But these two ladies... love them for all their drama and differences and love for their sisters.

Despite the Wickham plotline, which frankly disgusted me to the point of making me nauseous, I loved this story.

Pride and Prejudice was my first love, but as an English major I can safely say that this is true to it's core and Jane Austen would have been very proud of this :')
Profile Image for m.
349 reviews52 followers
September 26, 2019
modern pride and prejudice (follows the plot exactly with just a few tweaks) but darcy is a lesbian woc and elizabeth is a bisexual woc 👻👻👻👻

rep: Latina bisexual mc, half-Black lesbian li, f/f romance, side trans character
Profile Image for Lindsay.
1,247 reviews219 followers
April 27, 2020
The third and final of my early 2020 reads of contemporary retellings of Pride and Prejudice. This one sticks closest to the source material in terms of plotline and characterization, although with many of the obvious changes required to update the story to modern times. In terms of criticism my main one is that some elements of the story could have handled more updating and feel somewhat anachronistic in this setting.

Elisa Benitez and her four sisters live with their mother who's obsessed with marrying them off to wealthy spouses to avoid the difficulties she has to go through as a single mother. Elisa is the second eldest and the family "sensible one". When she has a difficult encounter with a classmate, the famously wealthy Darcy Fitzgerald, it all becomes even more embarrassing when Darcy turns out to be the best friend of the man that Elisa's elder sister Julieta is interested in.

There's certainly plenty of queer representation in this one, with Elisa being bi, Darcy being a lesbian and various other queer people and relationships sprinkled around. And overall, I think it mostly works, though certain elements really don't fit well into a modern setting, like Elisa's mother Alejandra's obsession with seeing her daughters married (the usual focus of mothers these days is to delay marriage not encourage it in teenagers). Darcy's characterization is also a bit weird, sometimes coming off as if she were speaking directly from the 18th century, and other times quite modern.

Where this novel takes the villainous Wickham here is actually quite disturbing. His interest in the youngest Benitiz sister is characterized as basically a form of pedophilia and for anyone concerned with that, these two do not end up together (unlike in the source material).
Profile Image for Pam Holzner.
649 reviews40 followers
October 24, 2019
This retelling of Pride and Prejudice takes place in modern times. It was fun watching the choices Mesler-Evans made to move the story to now.

Some of the updates worked well (instead of an Army regiment we have college students). Instead of the wayward Bennett daughter being "ruined," Mesler-Evans made Wickham into a sexual predator. That worked.

In other places more updates were needed. She kept the plot point where "Darcy's Aunt asks Elizabeth to promise to not get involved with Darcy" and it's crucial to the plot but I think it probably worked better in the original. But I don't think I could have come up with anything better (maybe she sends lawyers instead?) I don't know anyone in that social class to have an idea of what is more plausible.

Also the dialog definitely needed more work. As the book goes along, the it becomes more stilted. I think this is just due to the writer having too much of Austen's syntax in her brain.

Also, if you like this sort of thing, check out "The Story of Lizzy and Darcy" by Watson.

One more comment. I wish Mesler-Evans had spent more time at Pemberly showing our MCs interacting and having fun banter. I think the read would have been more enjoyable if we could have basked a bit in their new found rapport before advancing on to the Wickham crisis.
Profile Image for henri reads.
83 reviews13 followers
November 13, 2019
first things first: please heed the trigger warning for statutory rape, physical and emotional abuse and pedophilia as a character (aged 20+) has multiple relationships with minor girls (aged 13-15).

i have to admit i never read the original pride & prejudice and only saw the most recent movie. but i squealed when i saw there was a new modern sapphic version of it in which a bisexual latina and a black lesbian fall in love despite their pride and prejudices.

for the most part, this was just a very fun read and i think the author did a great job in transferring the story into a modern setting as best as possible while keeping the key events and conversations. a lot of the criticism i read in the reviews here i can't agree with and feel like people didn't give this book a chance. while it was a bit slow to get into at first maybe, this is, in the end, a retelling so there weren't any big surprises. but if you go in not expecting anything but a classic turned into a modern sapphic love story, it'll make you laugh, roll your eyes and squeal with the humor of it all and obliviousness of certain characters. i appreciated a lot of the changes that were made to give some characters more depth and incorporate them better into the story and sort of wish there was a sequel so i could read more about elisa and darcy's college life and also see wick get what he f**king deserves.
Profile Image for Iris.
543 reviews252 followers
Want to read
January 26, 2020
look I've never read, and probably never will read, Pride and Prejudice, but that said WHY DID NOBODY TELL ME THERE WAS A F/F PRIDE AND PREJUDICE RETELLING
Profile Image for lauraღ.
1,391 reviews58 followers
September 10, 2020
It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single woman in possession of a good fortune must be... difficult.

Pride and Prejudice was one of the books that I had to do for Literature in school that I actually really enjoyed, and it informed my thoughts on classic literature for a good long time. So... gay modern retelling? Sign me up! And well, I didn't end up loving this as much as I wanted to, but it was still pretty cute and entertaining. The fun part about retellings is seeing the callbacks and little moments that you remember translated into a different setting. I haven't read P&P in like... more than ten years, so a few things managed to surprise me. I liked this incarnation of Elisa a lot, and the author laced this with a lot of humour and family dynamics and cute moments.

I just wish more had been done with the characters and setting. P&P's plot isn't something that can be directed transplanted into a modern world, and don't get me wrong, the author changed and adjusted lots of things to make it fit, but for several plot points, I kept thinking, why is this character acting/reacting that way? I also really wish everyone was a few years older. Their youth had its place, and it's important for another facet of the plot, but something about everyone being 18/19/20 didn't really work for me. Also it was nice to have a Mexican-American Elisa and a black Darcy, but other than the moments when those facts were stated, it felt like their ethnicities were dropped by the wayside? I know some authors don't want to do commentaries on race etc in their books, and honestly, if you don't feel equipped to do it then you shouldn't, but man. Idk. I would have especially liked to see something about how Darcy navigated the seesaw of being black in America but also part of the upper echelon of society.

What was missing for me most of all was the character interaction. I don't know if it's because I read this so quickly, but Elisa didn't even think about Darcy as much as I'd have expected her to. And that was a bummer, because I just wasn't feeling the romance or the chemistry, and when it came time for the declarations, they weren't nearly as affecting as I'd have liked. I mean, that all important week at Pemberley! I was reeeeeeally hoping we'd get a lot of character interaction there at least, but imo what we got wasn't nearly enough.

Listened to the audiobook as ready by Chandra Skyye, which was all right. I don't know that her voices really fit a lot of the characters, but at least there were no egregious accents.

A cute retelling, all in all; like I said, it was pretty funny at times. But it needed a bit more to really stand out.

Content warnings:
Profile Image for Shan( Shans_Shelves) 💜.
899 reviews77 followers
October 22, 2019
*Thank you to Netgalley and Publisher for providing me with an advance copy in exchange for an honest review*

This is quite possibly my FAVORITE f/f romance ever. The slow burn, THE. SLOW. BURN.!!!!
The obliviousness!!!
The hate to love.
The pride and prejudice retelling!!!!!

Need I go on??

Reviewers, bookworms, sapphics, you all need this book in your LIFE.

More coherent review coming soon.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Liralen.
2,693 reviews146 followers
January 24, 2020
Pride and Prejudice and lesbians? And racial and gender diversity? Yes please. Sign me up.

Unfortunately, Pride and Prejudice retellings so rarely get it right, or even come close. I've read (more than) my fair share of clunkers, and this definitely isn't among the worst offenders (Mr. Darcy, Vampyre comes to mind). It's just not doing anywhere near what I'd hoped for.

Let's break it down:*

Some parts of Pride and Prejudice just don't translate well to the modern day. Take the multiple weeks(!) Julieta spends at Bobby's when she has the flu, and the weeks Elisa spends with them. This made sense in the 1800s, when travel was more arduous and medicine less reliable. But here it's just...odd. More so that Elisa keeps getting homesick and so on, and it occurs to no one that she could...like...go home. For an afternoon, or permanently. Between Bobby's and Darcy's many drivers and cars, she could be home and back in less than an hour. Julieta's happy to have her there, but it's not like she's glued to Julieta's side: she goes to class, she spends hours suffering through Darcy's company downstairs, et cetera.

Similarly, Elisa's community college class spends a week (spring break) visiting the Pemberley Museum of Art. Again, this makes sense in an Austen-era context; it makes less sense in a contemporary context. An entire week? At one museum? For a community college class? And student costs (including ravel and lodging) are only $100? I'm not knocking community colleges, but I doubt many would have the funds to make that week so affordable for students...or that would devote a whole week to one museum in the first place.

Both of these things could be easily solved: Give Julieta and Elisa's room at their flat a mould problem that has to be fixed before they can sleep there again, and bam, there's a reason to stay with Bobby. Send Elisa to Pemberley with a couple classmates for a long weekend to work on a final project, have them crash with a classmate's family, and oh hey look I think we're back in the realm of semi-realistic. Bringing Pride and Prejudice into the modern world requires some give and take.

There's also Lucia, of course, but we'll come back to her.

Meanwhile, Darcy is a hard sell here. There's not really any chemistry between her and Elisa, and she's not somebody that I can root for throughout the book. I've never been a huge fan of distant/aloof love interests, mind (I once used my dislike of alpha male heroes to illustrate a point in a job interview, and yes, I was offered the job), but this version of Darcy is less chilly and aloof than she is deeply socially awkward, and often out-and-out rude. Elisa isn't always much better—her meanness lacks Elizabeth Bennet's wit—but Darcy...oof. I might find her more interesting if there were some indication that neurodiversity is intended and she can't read standard social cues, but that doesn't seem to be the case. It's worth noting, too, that Darcy is the only character for whom an effort is made to retain some of Austen's style of language, and it...it doesn't land. (Also, a character with formal language and a seriously elitist chip on her shoulder probably isn't going to use 'that' when 'who' is correct, and she's probably not going to deign to start her higher ed at a community college. Again, nothing against community colleges, which can be a fantastic option for a number of reasons. Here, though, given what we know about these characters, I think it would have made more sense to send Elisa to a four-year college on a scholarship and have her meet Darcy there.)

While we're on the subject of language problems...the pronoun confusion in the book is something else. It's not an uncommon problem in queer romances (or other books where there are numerous characters of the same gender), but file under hoooooo boy (spoiler tag for length rather than real spoilers):

I know a lot of this review is 'this didn't work for me', but I do want to highlight some lines I particularly liked:

"Does anyone still say 'boo' when they mean 'boyfriend or girlfriend?' Maria asked.
"I do. It's cute, it's easy to say, it's gender-inclusive, and it reminds me of ghosts. Win-win-win-win."

"Being a pessimist rocks," Maria said dryly. "I'm always either right or pleasantly surprised."
The student commons coffee tasted more like boiled water that had had a brown crayon dipped in it than anything actually digestible by humans, but it was caffeinated and hot—good enough.
I also really appreciated the attempts at diversity. Elisa is Hispanic and curvy and poor and bisexual; Darcy is black and a lesbian; Camila is trans; other characters are queer/nonbinary/etc., and these are almost all nonissues. I really wish these parts of their identity had gone deeper than surface-level, though; I don't want these identities to define the characters, but I do want them to inform them, and we really don't see much of that.

But also, consider this line: "I'm Willow, by the way," the girl said. She indicated the other two players as she and Elisa sat down at the table—a tall girl with curly, dyed-red hair, and a smaller, skinnier person who had four piercings in each ear. She's Christina, they're Keegan." Gender inclusivity! Great! But...note that Keegan is the only character mentioned in the narration as a 'person' rather than with a gendered word—before Elisa is introduced. Now, Elisa is bi, and one of her sisters is trans, so maybe she's just mindful about assumptions—except this is the only time that a binary gender isn't assumed, which just reads as authorial insertion.

Alas and alack. Still, points for trying! I'd love to see more nonbinary characters casually inhabiting books.

Now, I promised that we'd come back to how the Lydia/Lucia story plays out in this book. This is particularly interesting to me, because the way the original story goes (Lydia running off with and marrying Wickham) doesn't translate well to contemporary...well, to contemporary anything, really. Modern adaptations have handled this in a number of ways: in Bride and Prejudice, Lakhi is found and returned to her family before anything untoward happens; in Pride and Prejudice: A Latter-Day Comedy (yes, I've seen it, and yes, it was as bad as you'd expect), Lydia and 'Jack' are stopped on the brink of a Vegas wedding; et cetera. The emphasis is often, though not always, on getting Lydia out before bad things (read: sex) happen.

Most Ardently takes a different route, and this time the spoiler tag is here because of spoilers rather than length:

So that's where we are: I want to love the book (see again re: sign me up for a queer Pride and Prejudice), and...I don't. The source material is really hard to beat, of course, and I'd be curious to see what Mesler-Evans does with a purely original story. Until then...well. The to-read list never does end.

*Tragically, the quotations here do not have page numbers. This is because I had to read my library e-copy on Overdrive, and Overdrive is sort of terrible. There would be page numbers if it had been possible!
Profile Image for charlotte,.
3,047 reviews805 followers
October 20, 2019
On my blog.

Rep: Latina bi mc, Black lesbian li, trans and nonbinary minor characters

CWs: statutory rape and mentions of domestic abuse

Galley provided by publisher

I should preface this review by saying that I have very high standards for Austen retellings (probably overly so, if we’re honest). So I try going in with lowered expectations.

That said, I don’t think my expectations could have been lower here and I was still hugely disappointed.

Most Ardently is almost a direct retelling of Pride and Prejudice (no bad thing in itself), but where Darcy is a woman (and various other diversifying changes are made, true). But it’s a fairly superficial retelling. Yes, it gets all the events (even those that don’t really work in a modern setting), but it misses out in a big way on the rest of it. As this review points out better than I ever could, Austen is full of social commentaries on top of the romance, and this book has clearly overlooked the former in favour of the latter. (Or perhaps not overlooked so much as failed to transplant them into a modern setting. Understandable given that some are uniquely Regency.)

But hey, you say. You’re just being a Jane Austen snob right now.

Which is fair enough. So what about if I took the fact that this is a retelling out of the equation.

Firstly, the writing was just awkward for me. Mainly the dialogue which felt entirely forced at some points, but also that bane of writers everywhere – ‘show don’t tell’. It’s trite, I know, but I felt like I was told a lot of aspects, particularly of characterisation, rather than being shown them. Couple that with the clunkiness of the writing and I was bored and skimming after about one chapter. If that.

Secondly, I didn’t really like either Elisa or Darcy as characters. The argument that sets them up as ‘enemies’ is so contrived (and also non-existent in the book, where Lizzie only overhears Darcy insulting her, but I promised to keep the retelling part out of it, didn’t I). And neither of them really improved throughout the book.

Then there were the interludes with the other characters’ POVs. No, I don’t wish to feel sorry for the Mr Collins character, thank you.

Finally (and I do have to go back to it being a retelling here), some events just don’t work transplanted into a modern setting – namely, everything with the Wickham character (Wick? I genuinely don’t remember any characters’ names but this and ‘Bobby’ and ‘Charlene’ felt so pointless as changes that they stuck). Not only is the timeframe too short for events to be so believable, but because what was unacceptable then doesn’t matter now (unmarried man and woman alone together), it’s clearly just been ramped up to make it worse (22 year-old running off with a 14 year-old, them having sex, and okay let’s throw some domestic violence in there too). I can’t believe I’m even remotely defending George Wickham right now, but he never felt this bad. He’s a cad, not a paedophile/child rapist (by the social norms of the time of course).

Ultimately, then, I was disappointed, but was I surprised about that? Not one bit.
Profile Image for Laura.
1,685 reviews46 followers
September 29, 2019
I received an advance copy from the publisher via Netgalley for reviewing purposes. This in no way influences my review; all words, thoughts, and opinions are my own.

Content notes:

So, uh, I started this expecting it to take a few days minimum cuz it’s 400 pages and uhhhhhh, I finished this in like 6 hours 😬

Most Ardently is a Pride and Prejudice retelling starring Elisa, a Mexican-American fat bisexual, and Darcy, a Black lesbian. I had so much fun reading this because the antagonism!! From the moment Elisa sees Darcy she’s drawn to her beauty but can’t get over how pretentious she seems and immediately hates her. I loved how everyone but Elisa can tell Darcy is smitten, and Darcy is an absolute disaster trying to talk to Elisa and fails so abysmally every time.

I adored the friendship between Darcy and Bobby, and between Elisa and Charlene. There’s also fantastic sibling relationships between Elisa and her four sisters, as well as Darcy with her younger sister and cousin who is practically a sister. This book is causally queer in many ways because Elisa’s bisexuality is labeled outright very early and her second-youngest sister is trans, Darcy is labeled lesbian on page, and there is a character who uses they/them pronouns. There are so many great friendships and familial bonds, and the development of the relationship between Elisa and Darcy made me swoon!!

As much fun I had reading this book, though, there is some heavy content that broke my heart and made me cry reading. There is a grown man who is a sexual predator who targets teen girls with his charm, and he targets two characters - one in the past, and one near the end of the book. It was hard reading those scenes, but it was kinda set up and there were allusions to what kind of “man” he is.

Overall, this book was fantastic! I had so much fun reading it and cannot recommend it enough. I’ve never read Pride & Prejudice but that in no way colored my reading experience, except to make me wanna give it a go. Darcy is a disaster lesbian and the barbs both she and Elisa throw at each other were wonderful to see! There’s definitely some scenes that hurt to read, but the ending made me so swoony~
88 reviews
January 12, 2020
P&P is one of my favorite books of all time, and this modern take on it was absolutely delightful. The changes made to the plot to adapt it to a modern audience were A+, and the author fleshed out secondary characters beyond just the one trait caricatures they were in the original (hello, Mr. Collins, I never thought I'd like you).

Overall, this was a quick, easy read, and Elisa and Darcy were wonderful and so was their romance (also, making Darcy into the world's most awkward gay was incredibly accurate, so thank-you).
Profile Image for Angie.
388 reviews14 followers
May 27, 2020
When I saw there was a Pride and Prejudice adaptation with two women in the Elizabeth and Darcy roles, I knew I would read this. Hell, I've been waiting forever for this. I wanted to write this. LOL. So I came in expecting to love this. And it's Pride and Prejudice, so there's really no way for me not to like this, right? Wrong.

I struggled to get into this book. Seriously, two three-week check out periods from the library and I still had not gotten past the 20% on this book. If it wasn't for sheer determination and stubbornness to finish (and a third check-out period that I came close to missing again), it wouldn't have happened. By contrast, when I was assigned Pride and Prejudice in high school, I read it in one night--the first night it was assigned because I couldn't put it down.

My primary issue is the portrayal of Elisa Benitez. Elizabeth Bennet is charming, witty, smart. I found Elisa none of those things. She was mostly just mean and judgmental and kind of stupid (and I'm referring here to her immediate belief of Wick's sob story, which just made no sense--not in the way he told it, just in that she was so willing to believe it). I didn't really like her. By contrast, I immediately loved Darcy. And I really didn't get why Elisa was so determined to hate her.

Another thing that threw me off is their ages. They're all so young. Elisa is 18 in this novel--still technically in high school, although she's taking courses in the local community college, having completed her high school credits early. And I don't care that she's 18 except that there's a lot of talk and expectation about finding The One, and it kind of made me uncomfortable in a novel set in the 21st century. And especially in a novel with the Wick/Lucia storyline.

There are definitely other issues with the novel, but once I broke over the 20% wall, the story did pick up. All the major moments in Pride and Prejudice happen here and I enjoyed a lot of the changes Mesler-Evans makes to adapt this story to a contemporary time. But one of the things that makes Pride and Prejudice so great is the way it critiques and comments on society, and none of that was here.

I realize this is a debut novel and that I've been a bit harsh. I do hope we get to see more from Mesler-Evans because there's a lot of promise here, including a really diverse cast of characters (Elisa is latina, Darcy is black, one of the Benitez sisters is transgender!). Adapting Pride and Prejudice just comes with added pressure and expectations.
Profile Image for Last Book Marauder.
279 reviews23 followers
October 4, 2019
So, for full disclosure, I have only read Pride and Prejudice once yearsssssss ago and I have never seen any of the movie adaptations. But I was unbelievable excited for this book.

Darcy Fitzgerald is such a hate to love character (much like her historical counterpart). She is cold, standoffish, meddling, and far too formal; but she is also sweet and sincere. Her fierce love and protectiveness of her sister was portrayed well and I am always a sucker for sibling bonds. Speaking of sibling bond - Elisa Benitez and her four sisters are pretty fantastic. I think it can be hard when the cast of characters is so large to make sure each person has their own distinct voice and mannerisms, but Mesler-Evans does a great job of really establishing all these characters.

I just really enjoyed all the different types of relationships that were represented here - the romantic ones, the friendships, strong (and sometimes very damaged) family connections. One of my favorite side relationships was Elisa's parents being divorced for years and still figuring their way around that.

And, the representation is this book is pretty fantastic. Elisa is a bi, fat, Mexican-American; Darcy is a lesbian and half black; Cam is trans, Keegan uses they/them pronouns. There was just a lot of queer rep that I was very happy to see.

A bit of a sensitivity warning - there is a fairly large portion of the plot surrounding statutory rape. So, there's that.

My one negative is that the writing and editing.... leaves a little to be desired. There are several typos and many times when it is not clear who the commentary is referring to.

Overall, I did really enjoy this story and it makes me want to read the source material again very soon. If you like classic retellings, need some queer rep in your books, and love complex family dynamics I would suggest picking this one up.

***Thank you to NetGalley and Entangled! Copy received in exchange for honest review.***
Profile Image for Becky.
2,967 reviews121 followers
October 29, 2019
Reviewed on my blog, Becky on Books, on 10/30/19.

Absolutely adorable P&P retelling with (several) modern twists!

Elisa Benitez and Darcy Fitzgerald's story hits all the main plot points of Pride and Prejudice , but does so with plenty of modern touches that help to make the story Ms Mesler-Evans' own. Elisa is bisexual and of Hispanic heritage; Darcy is biracial and a lesbian. Camilla (the second youngest of Elisa's sisters) is trans, and Elisa's parents are divorced (I was especially interested that the author went there--I've read so many analyses re: the elder Bennets and their marriage, and they've been about a 50-50 split between they had a good marriage and their marriage was a disaster; though I'm not willing to commit 100% to one argument or the other, this worked here). I enjoyed noting the differences and seeing how the author made Jane Austen's period piece become more modern.

For the most part it really, really worked--I'd venture to say that even someone completely unfamiliar with the storyline would enjoy this book's plot and characters on their own merit. A few bits felt slightly forced (Lady Catherine's final scenes, I'm looking at you) and others were an improvement (Colin/Mr. Collins and Charlene/Charlotte's eventual relationship is so much more palatable here!) and I turned the final page of the story with a huge smile on my face. Final verdict? I'll get in line to read Ms Mesler-Evans's next book, even if it's not an Austen retelling :)

Rating: 4 stars / A-

I voluntarily reviewed an Advance Reader Copy of this book.
Profile Image for Laura.
476 reviews17 followers
October 5, 2019
I received an ARC of this title from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

"It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single woman in possession of a good fortune must be... difficult."

This is the polite-company word Elisa Benitez uses to describe Darcy Fitzgerald, the super-rich ice queen she has the misfortune of sharing an English class with. Unfortunately, the semester-long torment becomes even worse as Elisa's older sister Julieta becomes involved with Darcy's best friend, Bobby. No matter how much Elisa tries to keep her distance from Darcy, the two girls keep finding themselves thrown together (thanks a lot, universe). But the more Elisa learns about Darcy, she has to wonder: will she ever know the whole truth about her?

The LGBT retelling of Jane Austen's classic "Pride and Prejudice" that you didn't know you needed until it existed, "Most Ardently" is a fun wlw glow-up of the original that still hits on tough topics as hard as Austen did, such as poverty, class differences, and abusive predators. Even then, it's still a very fun, almost light-hearted book that brings a smile to your face. The witty dialogue would make Jane smile, all of the characters have been adapted and 'modernized' perfectly, and I most definitely approve of the Benitez' sisters willingness to ride-or-die for each other. An example of both: "Lucia, for the last time, property damage is not feminism." "Anything can be feminism if you play Beyonce in the background while you do it."

In short, you will love this book "Most Ardently".
Profile Image for currentlyreadingbynat.
536 reviews35 followers
June 14, 2021
Pride and Prejudice is my favourite book - so much so that I named my son Darcy and would've easily named my daughter Eliza if my wife hadn't stepped in and vetoed using both. Literally, love the book.

This is my very first ff retelling of Pride and Prejudice and it did not let me down. Although this took me a little to warm up to, I ended up really enjoying this novel. It follows a very similar story arc to the original, with all of the main characters and instances occurring, albeit in a more modern way. I loved the changes made to contemporise the story - for instance, Kitty is Carmilla, who is a trans girl.

The best part of this retelling is the way the story unfolds between Darcy and Elisa. This retelling still played that strong enemies-to-lovers trope that plays out so well in the original, with an amazing build up to the romance between the leads. It's my favourite part of Pride and Prejudice, as well as the witty conversations and this book still had those two integral parts.

I highly recommend reading this ff adaptation, especially if you are a huge Pride and Prejudice fan like I am. :)
Profile Image for Amanda Hanson.
Author 3 books51 followers
October 19, 2019
Oh my goodness. Okay, so, I’ve never read Pride and Prejudice (don’t shoot me), but this book was SO WONDERFUL that now I think I’m going to have to? I stayed up basically all night finishing it. I absolutely loved the characters and the plot and everything. Everything. I can’t wait to write a more complete review for this one. So freaking good. ❤️
Profile Image for dani.
570 reviews37 followers
November 3, 2019
did i like it? yes. did i love it? no.
i've never read retellings this imitated before. i've read retellings with certain pieces of the original work but, most ardently felt like an exact copy of pride and prejudice. the only differences were that it's based on current days and that it's a love story between girls, everything else was the same; which made it weird. p&p it's on the 1800s and its characteristics are of that specific era of time whereas most ardently, we are in the 2010s!!! having situations that match another era?? it was a bizarre experience to say at least.
overall, it was heartwarming and adorable yet i feel it could have been way better.
Profile Image for Grace W.
826 reviews8 followers
December 7, 2020
(c/p from my review on TheStoryGraph) 2.5 Ooof. Maybe I read this too close to finishing Written in the Stars, a different P&P wlw retelling but this was just not it for me. The characters were too flat, the writing itself was subpar, it just wasn't a hit with me. I didn't root for the romance the way I'm supposed to, I didn't think way it was updated was particularly interesting other than making both of the leads women of color. It just felt bland, like a book that had all of the ingredients right but just didn't mix well in the baking. Really a let down, tbh. Skip this and go read Written in the Stars which does it a lot better.
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