The Particular Charm of Miss Jane Austen
The Particular Charm of Miss Jane Austen is one of those shaggy dog books that everyone’s written and thought about sending out. The kind of drawer-fic where you and Jane Austen are super best friends and you and your internet pal are totally going to save the world with her help; also the hot professor you have a crush on is totally into you!
Letting agent Rosemary Wallace is your average Janeite, trying to rent out a room in the home where Austen once lived while planning to pick up her American friend Morgan at the airport. Morgan and Rosemary have a whole host of weekend plans ahead of them – it’s the annual Austen festival in Bath and they’re planning on seeing the sights, sipping every cup of tea and whirling through the day in empire-waisted dresses – but first Rosemary needs to get through the showing of the flat that lies where Jane’s home once stood. And the viewer happens to be television archeological paranormalist Dr. Aiden Trevellyan – the man on whom she has a massive crush she’s awful at hiding, bless her.
At the Austen festival, Rosemary begins to notice odd coincidences – a woman who looks like Jane Austen in the rose garden, letters written by Jane to her sister Cassandra that are brand new lying out on a desk. Then, at a formal tea dance, Morgan bumps into a woman who seems to be – but can’t possibly be! – Miss Jane Austen. Jane doesn’t comprehend she’s in the twenty-first century – at least not until Jane drops a necklace into the mouth of an elderly lady’s dog – which sends it back in time in her stead.
With Jane now displaced from the timestream and having been removed from it eight years before she wrote her first books, Jane’s work no longer exists in the modern world. Yep, it’s a universe with no Darcy, no Emma no Willoughby! With no Jane to drive her life, Rosemary’s world is quite different. She doesn’t live in the same building any more. And worse – as she was when Rosemary met her and before they moved together into the Austen fandom – Morgan’s still a Harry Potter fan! This more reserved Morgan is clearly not quite Rosemary’s best friend. Rosemary – the only person who remembers Jane – must convince Morgan to help her put together the mystery of Jane’s necklace and time travel itself to restore reality as they know it – while figuring out her feelings for Trevellyan along the way.
This is a doggedly cute little story, well-researched as only a devoted Janeite can do it. It’s a charming every-person comedy, and as such, it’s winning and worth a read.
Rosemary is your average everyday working Brit with a nerdy side. She’s a good detective and a better friend; while her romance with Trevellyan figures into the book, her friendship with Morgan feels twice as important to the plot, which was delightful. Jane Austen is woven well into the action – she grapples with the modern world in an absolutely realistic way.
My biggest complaint about the novel is that the front and back end of the story feel somewhat padded out. I would rather have met Jane earlier in the narrative, for instance, and the end of the novel – once Jane’s predicament has been somewhat solved – seems to go on for too long. The two stories don’t blend in the best way – it feels like Rosemary doesn’t develop very strongly from the start to the end of the book. Not that, in a story like this, light as air and quick as lightning, development has much of a point. So if you feel like something light and simple, The Particular Charm of Miss Jane Austen will fit the bill, in spite of its flaws.