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Die-hard romantic, Kay Ashton, uses her inheritance to open a B&B in the seaside town of Lyme Regis and is dumbstruck when the cast and crew of a new production of Persuasion descend, needing a place to stay. Kay can't believe her luck - especially when she realises that heart throb actor Oli Wade Owen will be sleeping under her very own roof! Meanwhile, co-star Gemma Reilly is worried that her acting isn't up to scratch, despite landing a plum role. She finds a sympathetic ear in shy producer, Adam Craig, who is as baffled by the film world as she is. Kay thinks the two are meant for each other and can't resist a spot of matchmaking. Then, when Oli turns his trademark charm on Kay, it seems that she has found her real-life hero. But do heroes really exist?
Up until this latest release, Victoria Connelly has only had two novels published in the UK, with a further three (or four, I can't remember) published in Germany. I've read both of her UK novels, the first being Molly's Millions so when I heard about her new Jane Austen-inspired trilogy, I was instantly intrigued and I devoured A Weekend With Mr Darcy last year. It was filled with warmth and humour and it was a cracking good story, so I was really looking forward to its companion novel (they're not sequels, they're companions) and I enjoyed The Perfect Hero just as much as Victoria's previous novels.
I adored the plot of The Perfect Hero. The book starts before Kay moves to Lyme Regis to open her B&B, giving us a bit of background info on her. The book then throws itself straight into the plot as Kay finds herself surrounded by actors as a new film of Jane Austen's novel Persuasion gets under way. I must admit, I am not a Jane Austen fan myself, as I haven't read any of her novels (blasphemy, I'm sure but I am planning to when I get my Kindle) but I do love modern takes on Jane Austen, and novels that revolve around Austen's own novels. I think Victoria Connelly knows Austen's novels well and the backdrop of Persuasion is a very good one.
What really brought the novel to life, for me, was the seaside town of Lyme Regis. Connelly really knows the town well, and brings it to life with flair. Her descriptions make it easy to visualise the place if you've never been (as I haven't) and I desperately wanted to walk along the Cobb. I loved the thought of staying at Wentworth House and seeing the Cobb from my bedroom window. It takes a lot for me to be able to visualise a place (even places I know!) so for me to crave Lyme Regis says a lot. Usually books don't focus too much on location, I mean the amount of novels set in London that only passingly mention streets, or the Thames, is plenty and I never feel as if I'm 'in' London when reading a novel set there. It's always just a backdrop. But with The Perfect Hero, Lyme Regis makes up a big part of the novel and it's abundantly clear from descriptions and constant references to the Cobb and what not.
I thoroughly enjoyed the cast of characters in The Perfect Hero. Kay is undoubtedly the main focus on the novel, but we get to know many of the people involved in Persuasion, particularly Gemma, an actress and Adam, the producer and writer. Then there's the other actors involved: the handsome Oli, Sophie and Beth. I liked Kay, but I didn't like her stupid fantasies featuring Oli. They were a bit fantastical, and undoubtedly in there for a reason, but for me, I found them a bit cringe-worthy. I adored Gemma, though, she seemed so sweet and shy and totally unlike any actress you've ever heard of. As for Adam, I admit, I had a total crush on him and found it amusing Kay was so oblivious to him all the time. As for Oli, the supposed heartthrob, I wasn't entirely taken with him at all. There just seemed something off about him for me, and I just couldn't take him seriously. Generally it was a well-rounded cast of characters, ones I was pleased to get to know.
Now I must admit, I knew Oli's secret. As soon as Kay made the comparison, it all became clear about Oli. It was disappointing for me to figure it out when Kay was clearly still utterly clueless (she seemed very naive, what with Adam and then Oli). So when it did all come out, and it all became clear to Kay and everyone else I wasn't surprised. But I did thoroughly enjoy the rest of the novel. It had all the warmth of Victoria's previous novels and I loved the nod to Lorna Warwick from A Weekend With Mr Darcy. I'm thoroughly looking forward to the third Austen-inspired novel which will be out in 2012. I don't think The Perfect Hero was as good as A Weekend With Mr Darcy, but it was a worthy companion with the only disappointment being Oli's secret. It's well worth reading though even if you haven't read A Weekend With Mr Darcy as, like I said, they aren't sequels to each other, just companion novels!