Title: The Particular Charm of Miss Jane Austen
Authors: Ada Bright and Cass Grafton
Publication date: September 12, 2019
Genre: Fiction, Women’s Fiction
Summary: All Rose wants to do is enjoy the Jane Austen festival in Bath with her online friend from California, Morgan. All while longing for Dr. Aiden Trevallyn to notice her. Instead, she makes the acquaintance of a time traveling Jane Austen. Thanks to an accident with a dog, Rose and Jane end up in an alternate timeline where Jane had never written any of her novels, and they must figure out how to return to their own time to fix the timeline.
As a fan of Jane Austen’s books, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to read an ARC of this book. I was a little apprehensive about how the story would unfold and how the authors would make Jane Austen come alive for readers. But I loved the idea of a time traveling Jane, and would give anything to trade places with Rose. Overall, this was a delightful and charming story, but I wish more of Jane’s books had been discussed.
I really liked the characters, but, at the same time, I found them to be a little stagnant and, were it not for the alternate timeline, a little one note. Certainly, there was a bit of growth, particularly when it came to the romantic subplots, but it was so subtle it was almost missed. I loved that the main character, Rose, wasn’t an extroverted, feisty young lady. Instead, she’s a bit older, very British, quiet, reserved, and quite bookish. My kind of character! But, as much as I loved her characterization, she only seemed to change in response to her changing circumstances and then almost completely reverted back to her old self when the timeline was restored. As for Morgan, I found her to be the typical bubbly California girl in her early twenties, someone I might have actually known. As familiar as she felt, she was almost too perky almost all of the time. But she did add a nice touch of humor. My favorite character was Jane Austen herself. As apprehensive I was about how the authors would pull her off authentically, in the end, I didn’t really care. Jane was interesting and fun, and probably the most complex character presented. She was done so well that I believed she might have actually stepped out of the early 1800s.
One thing I hate about books that heavily rely on the setting to tell the story is how much of a tour guide it turns into. The narrative often gives us a street by street description of how to get anywhere, and it just weighs down the story. I was pleased when that wasn’t present here. Yes, there was a bit of describing where places were and what was around them, but it never stayed into being tour guidey and what was provided helped round out the story. I also loved how not different Bath was, except for the places associated with Jane Austen, in the alternate timeline. It was great to read how Rose did and didn’t adapt well to her lifelong home in a different time.
The only thing that bothered me about this book was that so much of the story’s concept revolved around the impact Jane Austen’s books had on Rose’s life, and Bath in general, but the story itself barely delved into Austen’s books, the impact they’ve had on society, and how much Rose’s life relied on the books. The whole idea was that the future would be altered if Austen had never written and published her novels. Rose was depicted to be such a fan that she chose her home to be in the basement apartment of a home the Austen family had lived in and her place of employment to be at another Austen-related building. The novel is set during a Jane Austen festival, during which Rose and Morgan participate and dress up for. There’s a huge amount of Jane Austen love going on, but, in comparison, very little discussion about Austen’s books take place. I would have loved more talk about the books and a larger connection between them and Rose and just how important they are to how she chose to shape her life. We get that it’s incredibly important for Rose to want to fix the timeline, but it feels more like it’s because that’s what’s more comfortable and familiar to her than because Jane Austen’s books have shaped that corner of the world.
Overall, though, this was a charming novel about relationships: the close friendship between Rose and Morgan, Rose’s longing for a romantic relationship with Aiden, and the friendship Rose and Jane forge. This didn’t hit me until about two-thirds of the way through the novel, when they were about to fix the timeline, but there was still a sizable chunk of the story left. While the timeline part was a major part of the story, it was only part. I was a little disappointed that the experience in an alternate time didn’t change Rose much, but it was just enough to make the end plausible. I loved that the romance was subtle, which somehow made it feel more powerful, and that the emphasis was on the lovely friendships the quiet, reserved Rose was able to nurture.
As a Jane Austen fan, this book was wonderful. I would have loved more about Austen’s books as just bits and pieces were peppered throughout the novel, but I really loved the idea of a time traveling Jane Austen.
How many cups of tea will you need?
A very excellent 4 cups.
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Thank you so much to NetGalley and Canelo for a free e-copy. All opinions expressed are my own.
See my review of the second book, The Unexpected Past of Miss Jane Austen.
Check out more of my book reviews over at the Bookshelf.