What could a small-town sports reporter and a highly paid professional basketball player have in common when her job is to report on the games and the scandals of the team?
Hara Isari is a biracial (African-American and Japanese-American) beat reporter at a small-town paper, dreaming of making it to the big leagues as a sportswriter. Thanks to her father, she has gained a love of sports, particularly, basketball, as well as a deep understanding of the ins and outs of the games and how to report on them. She knows she faces an uphill task being a woman in a man’s world — imagine, female reporters making their way into male locker rooms after the games for the chance of an off-the-cuff remark.
But Hara is made of stern stuff. Hara’s father has been incarcerated at the local penitentiary since her childhood. She loves him but he has also not been there for her every time she’s needed him the most. Over the years, she has learned “to keep her shoulders back, exude confidence without arrogance, and use witty banter to distract anyone trying to give her shit.”
Her relationship with her mother is strained because they don’t see eye-to-eye on many issues, including, continuing a relationship with her father. Her mother wants her to doll up to attract the attention and marriage proposal of a wealthy, well-situated man. Hara wants a boyfriend who respects her and thinks she is smart, but she could care less about how she dresses or whether she is attracting the “right” men.
Derek Darcy comes from a lot of money. While his father is not quite part of the old-monied class of Bostonians, he is right up there with his snootiness about what is due to his family and class. He despises Derek’s choice to play pro-basketball. He feels that instead of going into a prestigious job, he is falling into the clichéd profession of a black man in sports.
Derek is the close childhood friend of a basketball legend, and Hara and Derek meet when she wins a contest to interview the interview-shy legend. Derek thinks she’s a bloodthirsty reporter who is also hanging out for a star to warm her bed at night. She thinks he is sexist and has feet of clay, but he also oscillates between being thoughtful and courteous, and sullen and righteous. He, in turn, is conflicted about how he feels about her: on one hand are his suspicions about her purpose in being in Boston and his life, and on the other, are her acts of kindness and care of others and the intelligence and doggedness of a good reporter she displays, which he admires.
The authors do a wonderful job of showcasing two outwardly successful people who are inwardly very insecure of who they are and their place in the world. As a result of his bombastic, dominant father, Derek grew up shy and is uncomfortable in people gatherings. His low self-esteem makes him feel that people will find him boring or too serious if he tried approaching people and they’d rebuff him as a result. He also wonders whether he has the chops to move up into the world of basketball. She has always struggled with whether she made the right choice of career and if she is good enough to dream of becoming a sports reporter? What if she discovers that she is only good for a small-town rag? The authors show Hara and Derek gaining confidence as the story moves on, two independent souls who learn to occasionally lean on each other and trust the other will be there for them.
There is a delicious mystery as well about rigging games and laying bets and strong-armed shenanigans and evildoings that is very well foreshadowed and followed-through. The mystery adds external urgency to the storyline, which the authors skillfully use to further characterization and relationship-building.
The Wrong Mr. Darcy is a delightful Pride & Prejudice inspired story of two unlikely people discovering they love each other, and even if life is incredibly complicated for them, they have each other’s backs.