Syrie James presents us with a story of Jane Austen as a teenager. Inspired by what is known about Austen’s life, James offers a tale of first love and delightful complications. Jane travels to Kent, to meet her brother’s fiancée and her family. Love is in the air as two couples celebrate their engagement and Jane gets swept up in the mood. The handsome Edward Taylor captures her attention and stirs her emotions. Jane’s possible happiness hits obstacles, including a rival for Mr. Taylor’s affections.
Jane’s keen observation of the people around her leads her to conclude that some of the couples are mismatched. She hatches a scheme to correct the love lives of those around her–regardless of whether the people involved want her interference. Her sister, Cassandra, stands by as the voice of reason and right.
I’ve read biographies of Jane Austen and the story line in Jane Austen’s First Love could have happened–though the existing sources leave us with little to go on, especially during this period of her life. I am intrigued by the idea that these events may have taken place and shaped the books I know and love.
James’ tale moves at a quick pace, drawing the reader into the England of long ago. Aspects of the plot echo bits of multiple Jane Austen novels, giving the reader the sense that they might know what happens next only to be surprised by the next plot twist. The readers can see Jane Austen, the writer, begin to emerge from the young girl.
The novel contains a large cast of secondary characters–few of which get developed. That was my one frustration with this novel. The secondary characters moved around the book without enough personality to distinguish them from each other. Only Jane and Edward Taylor had any depth. Even Cassandra remained two-dimensional despite her prominent role. I wanted more of an emotional connection with the young people Jane tried to be a matchmaker for so I could feel more interest in their story. Only, they remained vague characters rather than interesting people.
However, Jane as a character delighted. Her spirit and humor resonated through the book. Edward Taylor, while interesting, was not my “type” of man, so I found him less interesting than many fictional romantic interests. I did like the tales of his early life and I imagine the real world Mr. Taylor would have been fascinating to talk to over a cup of coffee (or tea).
All in all, I enjoyed this book. It was a quick read on a stormy evening! I recommend it for historical romance fans and Jane Austen readers. There is plenty in the book to enjoy and a few chuckles along the way.
Sara Drake has been an avid reader since a young age. She has both a Master’s in Mental Health Counseling and a Master’s in History.
Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Penguin Group. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.