The Austen Playbook by Lucy Carter is the first romance I’ve picked up in ages. Years ago I was an avid Harlequin reader, a fact of which my friends made gentle fun. But I loved them. They were pure escapism, plus by that time they had transitioned from implication to full on doing it. Yay sex! My romances need to be physical as well as emotional. And luckily today’s romances fit the bill.
I wouldn’t have picked up a romance without the enthusiastic reviews of my fellow CBRers. And I’m so glad I did. I was reading another one of my heavy books, just slogging through what is actually a brilliant and funny, if not altogether pleasantly diverting, story. But my reading has slowed down to a crawl. I don’t want heavy, I want light. I want exciting mysteries. I want escape dammit, and not the type that makes me glum.
The Austen Playbook revolves around a fiery, effervescent woman and an outwardly icy, silent man. Very usual set up, but one I love, as I know many others do. It’s a reinforcement in some ways of stereotypical male/female behavioral expectations—the silent seemingly scary man drawn out of his protective shell by a sunny, smart woman, but I don’t care. It’s my favorite trope. In this story, the woman is an actress playing the role of Lydia Bennett in a stage show of different Austen books mixed together in a mystery story. The man is trying to keep his family’s estate from bankruptcy with a lot on his shoulders.
The thing I loved about this book is there isn’t a bunch of hostile dithering that goes on forever. There is almost immediate attraction, and the male protagonist is quite gentle from the start, despite his demeanor. He isn’t some quasi abusive jerk that sometimes show up in romances. He is real person with a story, and unguarded surprisingly quickly. The female protagonist is not simply a manic pixie dream girl, but a shaded character in her own right. I really liked the couple, as well as the romance.
Now that I’ve dived into romances again, I think I’ll be reading more in the future. My attraction to grim tomes not withstanding.