Jane of Austin

32143887
Jane of Austin
Hillary Manton Lodge
Waterbrook Press

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. 

     I was a little tentative picking up this book. I've had mixed reactions to this author's books before, and while I was intrigued at it being a modern retelling of Sense and Sensibility, it's told from the perspective of the Marianne character, and Marianne is the One Austen Heroine I Do Not Relate To. However, despite this, I was attracted to the bright cover, promise of Austen love, and the setting of a tea shop.

     One thing that I liked is that it's told from both Callum's (the Colonel Brandon character) and Jane's perspective (and there are chapter quotes! Ones about Texas on Callum's, and ones about tea on Jane's- including Doctor Who quotes and Caedmon's Call lyrics. This made me happy.) What I think this book did best, though, is managing to stand on its own as a story in its own right. It was definitely S&S, but nothing felt forced, like the author was trying to hard to make that story work into this one. It all flowed smoothly.

     For me, though, there are the usual things it's hard for me to get past in contemporary fiction, especially of the chick lit variety. The kissing, for one. And even things I don't normally think about- like the fact that Celia and Teddy had been dating for what, seven/eight years?-that reminded me that I just have such a different mindset and worldview that most twenty-somethings, even Christian ones. (I'm all for getting to know a person before marrying them, but gosh, seven years of dating? If you're not sure about marrying the guy by that point, you should probably move on- and I'm a cautious person.) Still, Jane of Austin is a HUGE improvement on the last Jane Austen rewrite I read (which was 4 years ago. How time flies). The plot points were worked in well, with some nods to the Austen story that particularly pleased me.

     Overall, it was a charming, easy read, though I will say if you're expecting a piece of traditional Christian fiction with overt spiritual themes you may be disappointed; Jane of Austin, though from a Christian publishing branch, is more of a secular (albeit clean) variety of novel.

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

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