Jane of Austin
Jane of Austin falls somewhere in the middle of a Venn Diagram of Texas, tea, and Jane Austen, and since I consider all three of those interests of mine, I thought I would give it a chance. Sadly, I found it lacking on all three fronts, too slow, and overly long with little to say. There are quotes about tea and about Texas that are sort of charming, some recipes, and a lot of dialogue that doesn’t move the story forward, like a first draft that was striving to hit word count and never got revised.
This is a retelling of Sense and Sensibility, which, I’ll admit going in, I’m not as familiar with as some other Austen works, and I didn’t know until after reading that this was meant to be an Inspirational novel from a Christian publisher, which is not at all my cup of tea. However, Jane of Austin should’ve been able to stand on its own and be enjoyable as a story independent of whether I have a deep love of the source novel or not, and whether or not I went it wanting a religious story – which it really isn’t and I didn’t.
It’s usually a bad sign when a book gets off to a bumpy start timeline-wise. I’m a firm believer of starting a story where it needs to begin but unfortunately Jane of Austin opens with the three Woodward sisters, Jane, Celia, and Margot in San Francisco learning that their father has been involved in a huge business scandal and they’re losing all their family money – while he flees overseas. This means everything they know in life is going to change, including leaving the school they can’t afford, needing to make money to live on, and the older girls taking guardianship of Margot. They decide on a whim that the best money-making venture is to open a tea shop in San Francisco.
Then we hop forward again. Woe is me, hard times are befalling the girls again because their rent is going up and the (now) successful tea shop needs to move right before Christmas. Here’s the thing. The book could have opened here. I’ve barely learned the girls’ names but I’ve already been asked to watch them reinvent themselves and their lives twice, when I really had no reason to be invested in them as characters.
Anyway, for whatever reason they have family in Austin, Texas and relocating there without a business location set up makes more sense than finding a new place in their own city. They pack up in a hurry and drive across the country to reopen the tea shop in Texas.
Or so you’d think. Because that kind of takes a back seat to Jane basically becoming a doormat because before they can make it all the way to Austin, she meets musician Sean Willis (aka Willoughby) and by the time they’ve spent all of a couple weeks together and kissed a few times they’re madly in love. Sure, Jane and Celia do some business things here and there, and Jane essentially talks about nothing but tea or Sean for the entire book, but if you’re thinking this will be a story about a cute tea shop – you’d be wrong. The tea shop is packed up in a storage unit or something while Jane chases a philanderer who doesn’t care about her because she thinks true love happens in under a month, and that you should continue to chase a man who lies, cheats, and leaves you.
The book is billed as a romance, and maybe an Inspy – though it’s not overtly religious – but you’d be hard pressed to convince me this is an actual, genre romance. I think it falls more within the parameters of women’s fiction because Jane spends most of the book on a man she’s never getting her HEA with. Meanwhile, the good guy – Callum Beckett – gets ignored and pines after her. He’s really the only thing that saves the book from a more dismal rating, because Callum was sweet and a worthy hero. It’s just too bad Jane really doesn’t pay him half a mind.
As for setting the book in Texas…besides the Austin/Austen wordplay, I’m not sure what the author’s purpose was. It doesn’t feel Texan, and I think I’m safe saying that, seeing as I’m a native.
Should you read this book? Maybe if you’re a die-hard lover of Sense and Sensibility. My being unfamiliar with that book may have been what was lacking for me. If you think liking tea counts as a whole personality, you might care for Jane more than I did. I think anyone going in wanting a religious romance is going to be very let down, as will anyone wanting a book with actual Texas flair. Or anyone who wants a satisfying romance novel for that matter.