A PRIDE AND PREJUDICE Retelling with a Trans Protagonist

Most Ardently by Gabe Cole Novoa

In Most Ardently, Gabe Cole Novoa recasts Elizabeth Bennet’s character as Oliver Bennet, a trans boy who wants nothing more to live his life as his authentic self and who cringes at the thought of becoming someone’s “wife.” When he and his sisters first attend the ball at Meryton and meet newcomers Bingley and Darcy, Darcy doesn’t make a good impression on Oliver. He’s curt and rude, and shows no interest in being polite. But when Darcy meets Oliver as his true self the next day, Oliver is surprised to find a different side of Darcy. Rather than haughty and cruel, he realizes Darcy is shy and bookish, with little patience for social pomp. As Mrs. Bennet conspires to set up Jane and Bingley, Oliver finds himself more and more in Darcy’s presence, but as a girl, and realizes that he’s falling for a boy who doesn’t realize who he truly is.

I loved this reimagining of Pride & Prejudice, and I thought it was extremely clever how Novoa was able to retell the beloved original tale with a trans protagonist. The changes that he makes are really interesting—not just to the plot and character but also to the setting. Novoa situates Meryton on the outskirts of London, allowing Oliver to take part in aspects of London society and culture that are absent in the original market village: molly houses, coffee shops, gentlemen’s clubs, and more. The historical details strike the perfect balance of ringing true to the source material while also introducing readers to more aspects of Regency life beyond the drawing room. The romantic tension is exquisite, especially as Oliver longs to be his true self with Darcy, and the way that certain Austen characters pop up is both surprising and fun. Some deviations are to be expected, but every change Novoa makes honors his characters, and you can’t help but root for them. This is a must-read if you’re an Austen retelling fan!

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