It’s a particular pleasure today to be joining the blog tour and sharing my review of The Particular Charm of Miss Jane Austen by Ada Bright and Cass Grafton. Published in September by Canelo Escape, this lovely book is available for kindle via Amazon in the UK and US (an earlier edition is also available in paperback): it’s also available for Nook via Barnes & Noble, and for Kobo. My thanks to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for the invitation and support, and to publishers Canelo for providing my copy for review (via netgalley).
And why is it a particular pleasure? Well, this book has been on my “to read” list since, it seems, the beginning of time – Cass and Ada were my guests here on Being Anne way back in September 2016 (you’ll find the post here), when the book was available in its self-published format. I really did plan to read it that November – but life conspired, and I just couldn’t manage it. Later on, I even bought a hard copy – I think in an on-line charity auction – but that’s still sitting, unread, on my bookshelves (but in very good company). So, I was thoroughly delighted to see that the book was getting a new lease of life with Canelo – and the smallest prod from Rachel meant that I finally, at long last, got round to reading it….
When a time travelling Jane Austen gets stuck in modern-day Bath it’s up to avid Janeite Rose Wallace to save her… because she’s the only one who knows that Jane exists!
Rose Wallace’s world revolves around all things Austen, and with the annual festival in Bath – and the arrival of dishy archaeologist, Dr Aiden Trevellyan – just around the corner, all is well with the world…
But then a mysterious woman who bears more than a passing resemblance to the great author moves in upstairs, and things take a disastrous turn. Rose’s new neighbour is Jane Austen, whose time travel adventure has been sabotaged by a mischievous dog, trapping her in the twenty-first century.
Rose’s life is instantly changed – new home, new job, new friends – but she’s the only one who seems to have noticed! To right the world around her, she will have to do whatever it takes to help Jane get back home to write Rose’s beloved novels. Because a world without Mr Darcy? It’s not worth living in!
Well, this was a book well worth waiting for! I’ll admit that it might be forty years since I last read one of Jane Austen’s books, but it really wouldn’t matter if you’ve never been a fan – and I do remember being enchanted by her writing when I was younger (favourite book Emma, I think). I’ve never been such a fan of books that involve time travel, as this one does, but I do always enjoy a well-done time-slip – and if your tastes are similar, I suspect you’ll enjoy this one every bit as much as I did.
If you’re worried about the fact that the book was written by two authors, don’t give that a moment’s thought – you really can’t see the join. I did wonder though which of the authors had more of a hand in the characterisation of Morgan, the American friend visiting Rose in Bath for the Jane Austen Festival. I’ll admit I found her a tad difficult to take to at first – scatty, loud and overenthusiastic – but her edges do soften quite nicely as the book progresses, and I grew to really like her.
Rose, I found simply lovely – her life, her job, her passion for the unattainable Aiden, her enthusiasms, all beautifully captured. And as the book changes tack a little – a mysterious lady in Edwardian dress in the flat above, a feeling of “might it be possible…”, an incident that catapults the action into a different dimension – I was incredibly impressed by both the clever writing and the authors’ imagination.
Jane Austen herself (not a spoiler – it’s in the book’s blurb!) is just wonderfully drawn – her speech patterns, her wry wit, her observations, her connection with sister Cassandra – and I could entirely believe that a pad of post-its might just be her idea of heaven, and that she might find some enjoyment in reading JK Rowling.
This is a both a lovely romance (in two dimensions, and so cleverly brought together) and quite a gripping mystery/adventure, with the real possibility that the world might move on without the joy of Jane Austen’s writing. I do suspect that there might be rather more in the way of links and references to her writing and characters than I could appreciate with my meagre knowledge, but should you be a Janeite you might find even more opportunities for a smile of recognition than I did.
I’m not particularly familiar with Bath, but it’s a really well captured and drawn setting (and the authors’ love for it shines through) – and I’ve never been to the Festival, but it’s certainly something an event I’ll be adding to my bucket list. And for the animal lovers among you, there’s also a small dog that plays a pivotal role (yes, in a couple of time frames – loved that!), and a kitten called Mr Darcy who brings people together.
And I really did love the book’s ending – complete, but bringing a smile and full of promise of more to come. And it’s good to know, should you enjoy this one as much as I did, that there’s now a second book – The Unexpected Past of Miss Jane Austen, published by Canelo on 7th November – to ensure you won’t need to suffer from withdrawal symptoms.
Really different, beautifully done, and very much enjoyed – a definite recommendation from me!
About the authors
A proud bookworm since childhood, Cass writes the sort of stories she loves to read – heart-warming, character driven and strong on location. Having moved around extensively and lived in three countries, she finds places inspiring and the setting of her novels often becomes as much a part of the story as her characters.
She has an over-active imagination, is prone to crying with happiness as much as she is at sadness, but when it comes to her writing she leans heavily towards the upbeat and insists on a happy ever after. As one of her favourite authors, Jane Austen, once wrote, ‘let other pens dwell on guilt and misery’.
Cass loves travelling, words, cats and wine, and enjoys them in any combination. She currently splits her time between Switzerland, where she lives with her husband, and England, where she lives with her characters.
Ada has lived all her life in Southern California, which makes her intolerant to any weather above or below 72 degrees Fahrenheit. She grew up much more fond of reading than sports or socializing and still tends to ignore everyone she loves, all her responsibilities and basic life needs when she’s in the middle of a book.
She is luckily married to a handsome and funny man who doesn’t mind that the laundry never gets put away and she has three amazing children. Ada spent over a decade as a photographer before dedicating herself to writing, though she still believes that life should be documented well and often.
There is nothing she loves more than a good, subtle love story whether it be in real life, tv, movie, theatre or book form… well, except cake. She also really loves cake.