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Monday, 30 May 2016

Austen in Austin Volume 1 Anthology - My Review

Book cover: Austen in Austin by various authors
Recently Debra E. Marvin joined me for a guest post and giveaway of 'Austen in Austin', an anthology that Debra has contributed a story to. The giveaway of a paperback of the anthology for US entrants and an ebook, open to all entrants is open until the end of the day on Monday 30 May so please comment on the giveaway post to enter, and for a bonus entry, leave a comment on this review too.


‘Austen in Austen’ Volume 1 is an anthology of stories, each based on one of Jane Austen’s stories and each written by a different author. All of the stories are set in late 1800s Austin, in Texas. The stories are intertwined, so characters appear in more than one story, and the chapters have quotes from the Austen story that they are based on so that the part of the storyline that is being highlighted can be neatly linked to. Here’s a quick rundown of each story.


Book cover: If I Loved You Less by Gina Welborn from Austen in Austin‘If I Loved You Less’ by Gina Welborn is a story based on ‘Emma’. Emmeline Travis is very close to her sister’s brother in law, Noah Whitley. Emmeline is worried that her dear friend Noah is disappointed in love. Luckily Emmeline is very talented in the matchmaking line, or so she thinks.

She has two successful matches to her credit, and is currently working on finding a suitable husband for her protégé, Hattie Smith. However, this doesn’t mean that she neglects the care of her good friend Noah:
“You may deny all you wish,” she continued, “but your well-being speaks to me. And if you aren’t going to see to its care, then as your dearest friend and almost sister, I shall.”
He blinked several times.’
This was a very sweet story; I particularly liked the hints, right from the beginning, that both Noah and Emmeline had feelings for each other that they weren’t able to admit, even to themselves. There were a number of incidents in the story that mirrored events in Austen’s novel, though the way the relationships developed had a slightly different dynamic. I really enjoyed this story though, it was my favourite of the anthology, I loved their wilful blindness!

Book Cover: Romantic Refinements by Anita Mae Draper from Austen in Austin
'Romantic Refinements’ by Anita Mae Draper had a flavour of ‘Sense and Sensibility’; Marion McDermott has gone to stay at her Aunt Mattie’s ranch. Marion is hoping to find a husband to help out at her father’s ranch. She may have found a suitable candidate in cowboy Jeffrey Whelp, although, (unknown to Marion) he has a bit of an unsavoury reputation. Jeffrey is attractive and fit, and seems very keen on coming to an understanding with Marion. Marion likes Jeffrey very much, but as time goes on, it seems as though Jeffrey might not be the man Marion thought he was, and for some reason, she feels a draw toward Aunt Mattie’s foreman Brandon Tabor:
“But remember this...men who make good husbands aren’t always the ones who set your blood thrumming the first time you meet. Make sure he’s God’s choice as well as yours.”
I haven’t read ‘Sense & Sensibility’ in a long time and I’m due a re-read, but a part of the reason that it’s been so long is Marianne. When I read the story she got on my nerves with her self-absorption, and Marion got on my nerves too! She isn’t as dramatic as Marianne, but she is so determined to get a husband that she annoyed me a bit. Why not just enjoy the visit to her Aunt and just see what happens? Again, this story had some nice nods back to S&S which were enjoyable to see, and this story also had some really exciting moments. I enjoyed getting to know Brandon more – he was introduced in the first story in the anthology and from his name I’d supposed I’d be seeing him again later in the stories.

Book cover: One Word From You by Susanne Dietze from Austen in Austin anthology
‘One Word From You’ by Susanne Dietze is a nod to ‘Pride & Prejudice’, featuring Eliza Branch and William Delacourt, who get off on the wrong foot after he refuses to dance with her – due to his injured ribs, but he can’t admit that because then he’d have to admit to the indignity of falling off his horse! Eliza’s family have fallen on hard times financially. Her family is facing having to lose their ranch, and Eliza could save them by marrying a rich man – Mr Hezekiah Cray is desirous of marrying her, but Eliza really can’t face marrying for money. Her mother has this advice for her:
“If a marriage for money’s sake offends you, try to fall in love tonight. With someone rich, of course.”
Faced with rejection at the hands of the attractive Mr Delacourt, Eliza is happy enough to listen to Mr Jacob Wicks’ tales about him. This was a sweet story. I liked Mr Delacourt, and his belief in Eliza being a fortune hunter was quite understandable. Eliza was very likeable, but I found her to be more Jo March from ‘Little Women’ than Elizabeth Bennet.

;Book cover Alarmingly Charming by Debra E. Marvin from the Austen in Austin Anthology
‘Alarmingly Charming’ by Debra E. Marvin finishes up the anthology with a story with echoes of ‘Northanger Abbey’. Poor Kathyrn Morton is accompanying her cousin to the Jeanette C Austen Finishing School for young ladies. Kathryn is only due to be there for a short time, but she soon attracts unwanted attention from a potential beau. She is far more drawn to another potential suitor, but she’s not sure how genuine his interest is. Kathryn is an interesting character; she isn’t extremely young like Catherine in NA, but she is quite innocent. She hasn’t experienced much of the world, having had a sheltered life, although she enjoys reading lurid novels:
‘Was he anything more than a flesh and blood link to a paperback hero? Kathryn needed to encounter life firsthand, not just through her imagination.’
Kathryn certainly has an active imagination. She is very interested in a story of a ghost in the graveyard that is scaring potential students away from the Finishing School. I thought this was a neat way of introducing a Gothic element to the story. Again the dynamic wasn’t quite the same as in Austen’s story, but I really enjoyed the story, and in particular, Kathryn, as she was such a sweet heroine, who really didn’t esteem herself highly.

This was such an enjoyable anthology of stories. As you may have gleaned from one of my quotes above, there is a Christian flavour to these stories, but it is more that the characters are Christian and may pray for guidance, etc, than the stories themselves having a Christian message. There are no scenes of a sexual nature. I liked the way that in each story there were quotes tying the events of the chapters back to the Austen stories. I was glad to see that each of the stories was interlinked, that was a really nice touch as you could spot potential major characters in the later stories early on, and catch up with characters we already knew later in the anthology. Although the stories were written by different authors there was a good sense of continuity – sometimes with anthologies there will be a story that doesn’t fit or seems weaker than the others but I thought the stories were of a very harmonious style, and of a very even quality. I’d rate each of the novellas as four star reads, and so the anthology as a whole also rates as four stars for me.

(As a side note, I’ll also say that the information on the kindle version in the UK says the anthology is 82 pages long, which seemed really short to me, however, according to Goodreads each of the four novellas is around that length so the book is longer than you'd expect from the description.)

4 star read

*I received an ebook of the ‘Austen in Austin’ anthology from one of the authors for my honest review.

8 comments:

  1. They sounds sweet and heartwarming. I like that they seem to have both nods to the original, but also a bit of their own originality. LOL, and see, Emma is my annoying heroine though Marianne does have her moments. :)
    Nice review and I appreciate that you took them one on one. Looking forward to these.

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    1. I hope you enjoy them, Sophia! I have always been quite fond of Emma because she means well even if she is seriously deluded sometimes, but Marianne was so self-absorbed that she annoyed me. However, as I found from rereading Northanger Abbey teenage Ceri was not as accepting of character traits as older Ceri so I am quite prepared to change my mind about Marianne on a reread! Thanks for commenting :)

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  2. Thanks for such a great review, Ceri! This anthology piqued my interested with its gorgeous cover and unique setting! I like that there are 4 different Austen novels discuss and that as you said in your review there is a slightly different dynamic to each story. That sounds real interesting to me.

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    1. Meredith, I know we shouldn't judge a book by its cover but the cover of these stories deserve a special mention because they are gorgeous, and the benefit of the four stories also being available separately is that there are five beautiful covers in all!

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  3. Wonderful review. I have had my eye on this!

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    1. Hi Becky, thanks for your comment. I hope you enjoy the anthology when you get to read it :)

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  4. This is a book I have been wanting to read...sigh...so little time, so many good stories. The stories do sound enticing.

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    1. I hope you get to read this anthology sometime Sheila, I think you'd probably enjoy it :)

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