Jane of Austin: A Novel of Sweet Tea and SensibilityAuthor: Hillary Manton Lodge
Publisher: Waterbrook Press
Release date: June 13th 2017
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Retelling
I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
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“Know your own happiness. You want nothing but patience - or give it a more fascinating name, call it hope.”―Jane Austen, Sense and Sensibility
Just a few years after their father’s business scandal shatters their lives, Jane and Celia Woodward find themselves forced out of their San Francisco tea shop. The last thing Jane wants is to leave their beloved shop on Valencia Street, but when Celia insists on a move to Austin, Texas, the sisters pack up their kid sister Margot and Jane’s tea plants, determined to start over yet again.
But life in Austin isn’t all sweet tea and breakfast tacos. Their unusual living situation is challenging and unspoken words begin to fester between Jane and Celia. When Jane meets and falls for up-and-coming musician Sean Willis, the chasm grows deeper.
While Sean seems to charm everyone in his path, one person is immune – retired Marine Captain Callum Beckett. Callum never meant to leave the military, but the twin losses of his father and his left leg have returned him to the place he least expected—Texas.
In this modern spin on the Austen classic, Sense and Sensibility, the Woodward sisters must contend with new ingredients in unfamiliar kitchens, a dash of heartbreak, and the fragile hope that maybe home isn't so far away.
Truth be told, I knew there was basically no way I wasn’t going to like this book. It has all of my catnip: Jane Austen retelling, strong female friendship/sisterly bonds, and lots of scenes of people drinking tea.
The book is a retelling of Sense and Sensibility set in modern-day Austin, Texas. Jane Woodward and her sisters Celia and Margot have lived above their quaint tea shop in San Francisco for years, but after their elderly landlord dies, Celia breaks up with her boyfriend of forever, and they’re forced to leave their home, the girls make the move to Austin, Texas. Celia reconnects with a long-lost relation, Ian Vandermeide, who’s more than willing to put the girls up in his property’s casita in Austin while they get back on their feet. When they get to Austin, Jane and Celia realise it’s much harder to find a new space that matches the vibe of their old shop, but in the meantime, they stay busy with their online business and a lots of drama. Jane falls in love with musician Sean Willis, Celia stoically moves on from her break-up, Margot starts to settle into her new life, Jane develops a friendship with Ian’s friend Callum Beckett, and Jane and Celia’s bonds are tested when Celia’s new friendship with Lyndsay Stahl, Ian’s wife’s friend, makes Jane more than a bit jealous. During all of this, scones and cake are made and tea is consumed in abundance.
This is what most would term a ‘sweet, clean’ romance, since there is no nooky and only minimal making out. The book is actually published by a Christian publisher, though I only found this out after I’d finished the book, and I honestly couldn’t tell, since faith doesn’t play any role in the plot. I’ve not read many sweet and clean romances because I’ll be honest, the more sex scenes the better in my opinion, but I loved the slow-burn romance going on between Jane and Callum. He’s definitely the strong, silent type of hero, and there is a damsel-in-distress moment in the book when he saves Jane that gave me alllll the feels.
As far as the retelling aspect of the story goes, the author did an okay job. The storyline makes sense in the context of a modern-day setting, it stays true to the essence of the Sense and Sensibility plot, but a proposal between two of the characters happened way.too.fast. to be remotely believable. The characters are spot-on though; Sean Willis is just as slimy as John Willoughby and Lyndsay Stahl is just as awful as Anne and Lucy Steele in the original story.
My favourite parts of this book are the inclusion of Texas and tea-related quotes at the beginning of each chapter and the recipes. Tea plays a huge role in this book– obviously, the sisters own a tea business, but Jane also cultivates her own tea from tea plants that she tends to herself, and it is because of tea that Jane finds out what an absolute cad Sean Willis is. The book also includes mouth-watering recipes for scones, hand pies, frito pie, cake, and more, all of which I plan on trying out in my kitchen ASAP.
All in all, this was an enjoyable read, and I recommend it for one of those weeks where life feels insane and you just need to get lost in the deep South with tea by your side and a sweet, easy romance in your hand.
I would recommend this book to…
Lovers of Jane Austen retellings, foodie romance, Texas, and soft-spoken, rugged heroes