Mounting stress at work has pushed engineer Mary Davies to reluctantly accept an invitation for a vacation from her childhood best friend, Isabel. The two friends are avid Jane Austen fans and will have the chance to participate in an Austen immersion experience. Part of the “experience” is to role-play as an Austen character. However, after receiving some devastating news, Isabel regresses into to role and believes that she truly is her Austen character! When Mary answers Isabel’s phone since she is not living in reality at the moment, she receives the surprising news that, Nathan, the man she has been pining for is also connected to Isabel. Accordingly, Mary finds herself battling past wounds between herself and Isabel that have never mended along with her current betrayal. When Nathan shows up in Bath, Mary’s mistrust and fragile heart are further challenged to rise above her insecurities and see Nathan’s feelings, Isabel’s betrayal, and herself for what they truly are instead of her clouded misconceptions.
I adore Jane Austen and can adamantly agree that Austen fans will delight in The Austen Experience! Reay’s use of the immersion experience, comparisons to Austen's characters, and quotes from Austen’s many works enhance the telling of the story by demonstrating a universality in the problems Austen’s characters faced over 200 years ago and Reay’s modern characters. Reay’s use of Elizabeth Bennett’s quote from Pride and Prejudice, “until this moment, I never knew myself”, aptly summarizes Mary’s growth from the beginning of the story to the end when she overcomes her own insecurities and sees things as they truly are. Lastly, a word on Nathan and Mary’s romance- wow! He crossed the big pond for her, people!! Personally, Nathan’s declaration about Mary not seeing him and his revelation about Boston (you’ll have to read it to know what I’m talking about) has to be one of the most romantic moves on a hero’s part that I’ve ever read! I'll enjoy reading this one over and over!
This review contains my own thoughts and opinions. I was provided a complimentary copy of this book by the publisher.
Katherine Reay has enjoyed a life-long affair with the works of Jane Austen and her contemporaries -- who provide constant inspiration both for writing and for life. Katherine’s first novel, Dear Mr. Knightley, was a 2014 Christy Award Finalist and winner of the 2014 INSPY Award for Best Debut as well as Carol Awards for both Best Debut and Best Contemporary. She is also the writer behind Lizzy & Jane and the The Bronte Plot – all contemporary stories with a bit of "classics" flair. Katherine holds a BA and MS from Northwestern University and is a wife, mother, runner, former marketer, avid chocolate consumer and, randomly, a tae kwon do black belt. After living all across the country and a few stops in Europe, Katherine and her family recently moved back to Chicago. For more information, visit http://katherinereay.com/.