Several media events have been planned this year to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen‘s masterpiece and literary darling Pride And Prejudice, from a set of commemorative stamps featuring her published work to several festivals and European tours of her hometown and film locations. Be it an accurate screen adaptation or a literary parody, scholars, screenwriters and novelists keep paying homage to this legendary forerunner of the romance genre: the British queen of the ‘happily-ever-after’ and unrivaled master of fictional match-making passes down her legacy and inspires modern takes of her most popular trope: the perils of misconceived romance.
In the second installment of the Jane Austen’s Diary series, romance author Alyssa Goodnight guides her young heroine in her quest for Mr. Right, with the help of a journal that can magically channel Jane Austen’s spirit and dispense troubled lovers with little relationship advises. The charming but mischievous Wickham, or the brooding and honest Mr. Darcy (Pride And Prejudice)? The handsome but shallow Churchill, or the solid and reliable Mr. Knightley (Emma)? The dilemma is always the same, even for a modern day high-school English teacher, whose obsession with British literature fictional characters impairs her judgement in matter of men and makes her blind to true love, “until [she catches] a flash of the man behind the charm and he’s not quite the gem [she] imagined.”
Bookish and “Darcy-obsessed” Cate Kendall leads a very tame and uneventful life: the highlights of her weeks are the Scrabble Sundays she has been spending, for the past two years, playing word games with her geeky friend and collegue, Ethan. Although a charismatic and “debatably sexy” guy, Foreign Languages teacher Ethan Chavez lacks the ‘Darcy factor’. He is rather a ‘Mr. Knightley’, a clean-cut and clever friend, their relationship is too much of a camaraderie to evolve into a romantic connection. How easily one person’s misconception about another can beguile a young and unexperienced heart…Ethan will prove to be ‘hero material’ more than Cate ever fathomed. He has more secrets up his sleeves and more charm under his computer geek looks than she ever imagined.
The Verdict : Not a conventional romance novel, Austensibly Ordinary features a twist of magic realism, comedic overtones, and a flourish of literary references that Austen’s fans may easily appreciate. I breezed my way through snappy dialogues, saucy plot, and lively pace of this 1st person POV narration: told by the perspective of our sassy heroine, Goodnight’s novel is a tantalizing friends-to-lovers tale, intriguing to the point of making me crave more of Cate and Ethan’s interactions. Minor subplots and secondary characters playing as foils in a comedy of manners, in fact, steal part of our lead couple’s thunder. It would be nice to revisit Cate and Ethan’s characters in the next installment of the series. All in all, a perfectly enjoyable, light-hearted, ‘austensibly ordinary’, modern love story.
ReleaseDate: January 29, 2013
Publisher: Kensington Books
Author: Alyssa Goodnight