Newsflash: I’ll pretty much read anything that is tangentially related to Jane Austen. Unofficial sequels. Modern retellings. Historical fiction. Whatever. Some of it works. A lot of it doesn’t. But I’m usually game to give it a go.
I really enjoyed the books that were part of The Austen Project a few years ago. There was Emma, driving around her little town in a Mini Cooper. Cat and Henry, with lots of references to Twilight. Liz and Darcyand a dating reality show in Cincinatti. And a social media fueled version of Sense & Sensibilitythat was fun but definitely a product of its time.
I’m gonna say that I liked this one, despite its faults, better than the official retelling by Joanna Trollope. And although that one was ridiculous, it really wasn’t half bad. But I just liked this one more. It was like a comfy sweater that has a few holes in it.
Jane and her older sister Celia run a tea salon in San Francisco, and are the legal guardians to their younger sister, Margot. For reasons. Blah, blah, blah, they lose their lease and have to move halfway across the country in order to try and start again. They have a distant cousin in Austin who offers them a guest house on his massive, Texas-sized property, but they are clearly fish out of water outside of San Francisco.
The set up of this, and the first third of the book are honestly pretty clunky. We know the plot, and she tries so hard to make everything fit where it should. And some of it is just awkward. The dialogue was messy. The situations were somewhat forced.
But once things got moving with the Jane/Sean/Callum (Marianne, Willoughby, and Brandon) love triangle, I was all in.
Callum is a veteran who lost his leg over in Iraq, and is still dealing with what happened over there. He is living with his friend’s family while he gets his life back on track, and of course, that friend just so happens to be Jane and Celia’s cousin.
Callum’s chapters are really interesting. He goes to therapy to talk about his experiences in the war. He talks about the family that pushed him away. There’s a lot to him that we don’t usually get in a standard Sense story, and I liked it. He was truly a good man. With a good dog.
Another interesting addition to this version was that it included recipes at the end of some chapters, explaining how to make some of the treats that Jane and Celia sold in their shop. I’m never going to make any of these things (seriously, they looked really difficult), but I liked the idea of having them included.
Bottom line: this was a cute story that I read in a day and in the end left me wanting more.
PS. I’m still waiting for the Austen Project to provide me with Mansfield Park and Persuasion. Wither thou, Captain Wentworth?