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Badly Done, Emma Lee: Irresistibly Joyful – You’ll Love It

(I received a free copy of  Badly Done, Emma Lee from the publisher, Lyrical Press, to write an honest review on The Silver Petticoat Review. I was not financially compensated for this post and all opinions are my own.)

Badly Done, Emma Lee Official Synopsis: Spoiled, stylish, socially connected Emma Lee Maxwell has spent her life in the idlest of pursuits—attending debutante balls, organizing sorority mixers, and acting as Charleston’s unofficial Gossip Queen.  But when her family’s fortune suddenly dwindles, Emma Lee realizes her days as a Lowcountry Princess are numbered.

When she discovers that she’s inherited her aunt’s cottage in the Cotswolds, she hightails it to England, nurturing fantasies of polo matches and jaunts to London. All that social organizing is going to come in handy—Emma Lee plans to take after her namesake and put her people-pleasing ways to good use by becoming the village’s very own matchmaker! And she’ll start with three local brothers . . .

There’s just one skeptical, handsome, charming challenge: the oldest brother, Knightley, is stubbornly insisting Emma Lee abandon her well-meaning ways and focus on making a match of her own—with him. . .

Badly Done, Emma Lee Review

Badly Done Emma Lee, Book Review, Romance, Old-Fashioned Romance, Jane Austen, EmmaSouthern charm and sass descend on Jane Austen’s beloved Emma in this winsome read from Leah Marie Brown. Filled with southern colloquialisms and an inner monologue that’s laugh out loud funny, you will smile and sigh your way through this romantic and sexy re-telling. What Badly Done, Emma Lee does so well is to infuse the story with modern humor while maintaining the old-fashioned romantic quality of the original story.

The “bones” of Jane Austen’s Emma is there along with a modern twist. The familiar characters of Harriet Smith, Jane Fairfax, and an interesting take on Mr. Woodhouse appear. New faces with familiar names round out a cast of likeable secondary characters. In particular, Knightley’s brother Bingley, like his namesake, is gregarious and extremely fun.

Related Post | For Darkness Shows the Stars: A Dystopian Retelling of Jane Austen’s Persuasion

As for Emma Lee, she is both Emma and not. Like her namesake, Emma Lee grew up coddled by her father after the death of her mother. Despite the pampering and spoiling, Emma Lee is not unkind or selfish. She is also mindful of her shortcomings. Plus, she is honest. Often, in romantic-comedies, we see characters that tell a “white lie” and the rest of the story are the antics of maintaining that lie. Brown avoids that trope by capitalizing on Emma Lee’s rueful admissions…..such as the fact she may be “the only woman on the planet not to have read a Jane Austen novel.”

Emma Lee’s honesty serves the story well. It keeps the focus on Emma Lee’s refusal to make a perfect match for herself. Thus, when she finds herself falling for Knightley, her honesty forces her to re-evaluate her own aversion to love. We read Emma Lee’s internal monologue as it relates to Knightley. Think of Jane Austen’s Emma and her conversations with Mrs. Weston. Those take place in Emma Lee’s thoughts and had me grinning at the back and forth. Seriously, this book is a rom-com just waiting to happen!

Knightley, Knightley, Knightley

Swoon! A truly swoon-worthy leading man with an appeal so delicious, you’ll re-read his first appearance in Badly Done, Emma Lee over and over and over…..you get my point! What makes him so swoon-worthy is Emma Lee’s reactions and thoughts whenever she’s around him. The flirting is wonderfully light but even better is the innuendo! And the moment their eyes meet before…..NO SPOILERS! Trust me, it’s magic and you will love it!

While Knightley carries the name of Emma’s leading man, Brown’s reimagining takes the story in a different direction. Emma Lee and Knightley don’t have the same history. Their first meeting is the beginning of their friendship and their romance. It’s fresh and exciting, with laughter punctuating the way. Their unexpected connection enhances the chemistry between them, especially when Emma captures Knightley off-guard with a quiet comment.

Adaptation Recommendation

I adore rom-coms. And, as I said above, Badly Done, Emma Lee is a romantic-comedy just begging to happen! I pictured Emma Thompson as Knightley’s mother during my read. I wavered between Kit Harrington (swoon!) and Theo James. At one point, I thought Dan Stevens. However, Bingley came along and that was a more perfect fit. I was all over the map with Emma Lee. Blake Lively, Amanda Seyfried, a young Reese Witherspoon….I could go on, but I think you get my point! The possibilities are endless!

Final Thoughts on Badly Done, Emma Lee

Obviously, the focus of the story is on Emma Lee. It’s about her journey to opening her heart. Yet, the exploration of why she is or has been, unwilling to take a risk and fall in love barely scratches the surface. I wanted a real breakthrough and felt a bit cheated at the end. I also wanted more of her relationship with her sisters. The few bits in the book were some of the best parts of the story. I did feel that the story was light on plot. Last, there was a joke or two that I found in poor taste.

Overall, though, Badly Done, Emma Lee is a charming read! It’s fun and heartwarming with just the right amount of southern grit! Fans of Bridget Jones’s Diary will love this take on a beloved Jane Austen classic.

Badly Done, Emma Lee will be available in bookstores on October 30, 2018. Reserve your copy today!

Do you enjoy re-imaginings of Jane Austen novels? What is your favorite retelling? Drop me a line in the comments below!


“Hello, Gorgeous.”


“In vain have I struggled. It will not do. My

feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me

to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.”

(Scroll down for the full Old-Fashioned Romance Breakdown!)

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By on September 13th, 2018

About Catherine

Catherine is an avid reader and a self-declared professional binge watcher. It's not uncommon to find her re-watching a series or movie for the umpteenth time and still be crying into a box of tissues. When she's not hiding in her closet to read or watch a show or movie, Catherine is a wife, mother, and, in her spare time, a lawyer.

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