Book Review

Jane of Austin by Hillary Manton Lodge – Sisters and Sweet Tea, Novel Re-Tells ‘Sense and Sensibility’

A B O U T THE B O O K
Author: Hillary Manton Lodge
Publisher: Waterbrook Press
Source: Publisher provided
Publication Date: 2017
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E L S E W H E R E
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Genre: Fiction; Contemporary, Family
Rating: ★★★★½

“Smart, sassy and sensational, Jane of Austin is a classic in its own right; a book worthy of placing next to its Austen inspired tome.”

REVIEW | Change is threatening to sweep the Woodward sister’s into its vicious cycle. In the wake of their father’s scandal, the sisters reinvent their life by opening a tea shop. Now, their landlord has died and his family no longer believe they’re good tenants. Forced to leave behind their home and business, the three sisters pack up and make the move from California to Texas, where distant relatives await.

Jane is the most impetuous of the three whereas Celia is the voice of reason and then there’s Margot. A high school senior, Margot has had plenty of change in her life, but she also settles into their new life with little fuss. You see Jane detests the idea of leaving their home (and wonders at the real reason for it), while Celia has just had her heart broken by the man she thought was “the one.” As the sisters navigate their new life, they must learn how to adapt to change, new friends, broken hearts and possibilities.

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Reading this book was a unique experience. Not only did I have a read along with a fellow book blogger (#BookBesties), my primary reading medium was also unusual. Part of this experience included the audio book. Time and again I’ve said I wouldn’t like audio books, but as I was participating in a read along, I wanted a way (if needed) to continue to “read” this book even when the day didn’t allow for normal reading time. Walking away from this experience was, I’m happy to report, a very good one. (As an aside, the audio is fantastic; the female narrator gives each character a little different “voice,” and Margot in particular is a spot-on interpretation.) Mixing the traditional “old fashioned” way of reading (print book) with audio enhanced the experience, and if you’re wondering what I thought of Jane of Austin, let’s talk about it.

It’s been weeks since reading this book, and still I didn’t sit down to pen a review. Why? It’s one of those books that impacts its reader (because it’s so classy) and stays with its reader long after the final page. These kind of novels are impossible to accurately put into words. The sisters are each well written, and each personality reads a little differently than the other. This is a book that’s memorable in all the right ways. Though contemporized and brought into the 21st century, Jane of Austin retells Sense & Sensibility really well. Of course, Hillary had to adjust some of the key elements because what was relevant in Austen’s world is no longer a barrier in ours. All are changes that work in the flow without sacrificing the heart of this story.

Each of the personalities is well represented. Jane (Marianne) is as one would expect a contemporary Marianne to be, only her “passionate” emotions are tamed, which I appreciated. Though some parts of her original character being carried over into this story really surprised me, each are handled well. Celia is, unfortunately, pushed to the background because of the first-person POV switch off (between Jane and a male character, Callum), but what’s there is very like Elinor. Margot (Margaret) is perhaps the funniest character in the entire novel, though all of the eccentric characters we know from Sense & Sensibility are present.

“I didn’t respond on account of having a severe case of the heart flutters.” – Hillary Manton Lodge

Reading this novel is like the warm, welcoming smell of freshly baked cookies (perfect since this book continues Hillary’s signature addition of recipes) or the enveloping comfort of a favorite sweater. It’s full of beautiful quotes, and lovely characters. The bond of sisterhood is depicted as genuine with bumps and bruises, and the journey towards love is full of heartbreak and swoony smiles. If there is a flaw I have with the book, it’s that we don’t see enough of the girl’s with their loves. I understand the “why,” I just wish we’d had more page time with them, and furthermore, that this book hadn’t ended. A reader can appreciate the simple and quiet moments that bond two characters (saying who would be all about the spoilers!), but again, because these characters are so dynamic, they’re missed when it’s time to say goodbye.

Smart, sassy and sensational, Jane of Austin is a classic in its own right; a book worthy of placing next to its Austen inspired tome.♥

Synopsis: Just a few years after their father’s business scandal shatters their lives, Jane and Celia Woodward find themselves forced out of their San Francisco tea shop. The last thing Jane wants is to leave their beloved shop on Valencia Street, but when Celia insists on a move to Austin, Texas, the sisters pack up their kid sister Margot and Jane’s tea plants, determined to start over yet again.

But life in Austin isn’t all sweet tea and breakfast tacos. Their unusual living situation is challenging and unspoken words begin to fester between Jane and Celia. When Jane meets and falls for up-and-coming musician Sean Willis, the chasm grows deeper.

While Sean seems to charm everyone in his path, one person is immune – retired Marine Captain Callum Beckett. Callum never meant to leave the military, but the twin losses of his father and his left leg have returned him to the place he least expected—Texas.

In this modern spin on the Austen classic, Sense and Sensibility, the Woodward sisters must contend with new ingredients in unfamiliar kitchens, a dash of heartbreak, and the fragile hope that maybe home isn’t so far away. – Goodreads

Sincere thanks to the publisher for providing a complimentary copy of this book.

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