As a Jane Austen fan, I was fairly excited for this book, despite the fact that I think Jane Austen retellings are very overdone. Hillary Manton Lodge‘s Jane of Austin is a modernized version of Austen’s Sense and Sensibility with a few nods to other Austen works mixed in. Though the concept was exciting, the ultimate result– unfortunately– was not.
In this version, we follow Jane Woodward and her sisters Celia and Margot (Marianne, Elinor, and Margaret Dashwood, respectively) as they are forced to close their San Francisco tea shop and relocate to Austin, Texas (hence the title). In Austin, Jane meets her John Willoughby (known to her as musician Sean Willis) and the expected events of the story unfold. Interwoven with Jane’s story is retired Marine Callum Beckett’s (our Colonel Brandon), who instantly falls in love with Jane (emphasis on instantly).
The story strongly mirrors the original Sense and Sensibility, but adds a cozy modern flair. The tea shop, in particular, was my favorite addition. (Food is a huge driving force in this novel and Lodge kindly provided multiple recipes for the described food throughout the book.) The skeleton of the story is well planned and carefully adapted, but being that it’s a retelling, it falls prey to underwhelming predictability. I couldn’t invest myself in the story because I knew how things would pan out– and not just because I’ve read the original.
Not only was the story underwhelming, the characters were, too. I felt like I just got to know cardboard cutouts of them, maybe with the exception of Jane. Even more importantly, I felt like I missed out on a lot of character interaction and development through interaction. I couldn’t invest in the romances because I didn’t get enough growth from the characters. I love flawed characters but the only flawed ones in Jane of Austin were the “villians,” if you know what I mean.
Overall, this book just made me feel neutral. I didn’t love it or hate it. I’d recommend it to someone looking for a simple romantic read or a hardcore Jane Austen retelling fan. Or someone looking for some good Texas inspired recipes. This was simply not my cup of tea. (See what I did there?)
I received a free copy of Jane of Austin from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.