Persuade Me is a contemporary re-telling of Jane Austen’s Persuasion. If you’ve read Persuasion then you will know the plot and characters. Very little has been changed apart from the modern setting and some characters get a modern makeover. Of course, being a Choc Lit publication, we also get to see into the heart of our male hero and see things from his perspective.
Frederick Wentworth is known as Rick in Persuade Me. He retains his connection with the sea but as a marine biologist. He comes back into Anna’s life through his book tour in England and through his sister Sophie. Sophie and husband Ed are opening a garden centre in Kellynch – the seat of Anna’s father, Sir Walter Elliot.
We start the story with a prologue where Rick is still in Australia and saying goodbye to model girlfriend Shelley. Rick has shouted out ‘Anna’ in his sleep but denies knowledge of anyone called Anna. There is an inference that Rick is not emotionally connected with Shelley.
Anna is living in Bath, renting a top floor flat from friend and work colleague Jenny. When she first met Rick she was all set for studying at Oxford for a PHD in Russian studies and now she is a lecturer of Russian Studies. Jenny has brought them both tickets to Rick’s book signing, having no knowledge of Anna and Rick’s past.
Next, we are introduced to Sir Walter Elliot, 8th Baronet of Kellynch who is pompous and vain. Anna has never met his expectations of her. We also get to meet Minty who is Anna’s godmother and also close friend to her late mother, Irina. Minty talked Anna out of moving to Australia as she knew Irina had married too young and regretted it. The Musgrove family also play a large part in the story – Anna’s sister Mona who married Charles because she fell pregnant and Charles’ sisters Louisa and Henrietta. Charles’ parents home is warm, open, generous and loving – the opposite of life for Charles and Mona!
Rick’s first sighting of Anna is when she is walking through the village. She is looking after her two nephews and is on the way to the harvest festival at the church when one of the children drops his basket. Rick is being driven through the village after spending the night with his sister Sophie. Rick thinks the children are hers and so begins many mistaken thoughts and crossed-wires between Rick and Anna. This is the friction that keeps us on our toes!
Rick is a very frustrating man! making judgements that bear no relation to reality. Everything he does we can tell is from a centre of hurt – of the pain that he still carries. We can see clearly that he’s denying his feelings and is still blaming Anna for their past. Even amidst these feelings, it is clear that he still feels protective towards her. Admired for his physique as much as for his marine expertise, he is our wounded hero.
I thought one particular scene was excruciating for Anna – when Rick and Lou are the other side of the hedgerow. Definitely in the wrong place at the wrong time! Absolute torture that she bore stoically.
Anna for me still came across as a lady of ‘breeding’. She is calm and centred but seems very accepting of what life throws her way... perhaps that’s because of the protection and safety net of her titled family.
As in Jane Austen’s Persuasion, there are sub-plots running alongside that of Rick and Anna. There is enough happening that your interest is held and with the modern spin, lots to keep you reading. The modern occupation of Mrs Clay and how this works with Sir Walter is genius!
I imagine that to undertake a writing project like this is very daunting. For it to come together in a contemporary world while keeping the basic premise the same is a skill and to do it so that it feels like a new journey to the reader is genius. For these reasons I am giving Persuade Me my highest rating.