I’ve read most of the other “Diary” books by Ms. Grange – Henry Tilney, Edmund Bertram, Captain Wentworth. . . . She has a way of capturing the story behind the story that is fun to read without monkeying with the original.
Here, we get to see the behind the scenes and into the thoughts of James Brandon, the Colonel of our dreams, if not (at least initially) Marianne Dashwood’s dreams. The book starts with the young Brandon coming home from school to Delaford, which is currently owned by his nasty father. Also living there is his drunken nasty brother, and Eliza, the love of his life. (I’m assuming you’ve read Sense & Sensibility – if you haven’t, then spoilers follow – but can a 100+ year old story really be spoiled?).
Brandon’s father foils their plans to marry, instead marrying Eliza to the drunken nasty brother – all to get Delaford out of hock. How exactly did Colonel Brandon turn out to be such a paragon when his family is so shitty? Anyway, the diary follows Brandon to India where he goes to get away from his family and his sadness. He hears from them intermittently, and after almost a decade, learns he has inherited Delaford (the decade goes by in just a few pages. Guess he was too busy to write in the diary).
Brandon returns to England, and after a few entries, he encounters the Dashwoods. The rest of the book parallels S&S, from Brandon’s point of view. It gives a slightly better reason for his falling for Marianne (other than she was the prettier of the sisters) and traces Brandon’s interactions with Willoughby as well.
These “Diary” books are quick and easy little reads, and not terribly offensive to the Austen diehards. If you like Austen and are looking for a little side trip, you could do a lot worse.