The Austen Escape by Katherine Reay (review)

theaustenescape_reay_thnelsonI had been going back and forth between wanting to read Katherine Reay’s newest novel and being sure that it wouldn’t be for me (I’ve found myself, lately, to be quite reticent about a number of plots, genres, etc., including anything having to do with Austen retellings) until the Fiction Guild sent me a copy and I let that be the deciding factor.  Though I had read and enjoyed a previous Austen-esque book by Reay, I was more than half expecting to find a lot to cringe about.  I was wrong, not one cringe was to be had. Not a one.  Instead, I thoroughly enjoyed the read, teared up once, and closed the book at the end with a smile.

Isabel and I had pushed and pulled for years.  Iron sharpening iron?  We were safe in each other, but never quite.  Maybe that’s what held us together.  Neither of us would have trusted the other had it come too easy. (pp.103-104)

Most importantly, the hero and secondary hero were splendid and the heroines were eventually a delight.  Having Mary, a very logical and math-minded engineer, as the narrator felt slightly odd at first but it did work well.  I enjoyed seeing the navigation of social encounters, the fluctuations of personal relationships, the awkwardness of the narrator finding her way to seeing things and people more clearly.  I also enjoyed the arc of the story of her relationship with Isabel, her best friend since second grade, go from her wanting to end their friendship to a place of understanding.

Austen really had a thing against Marys…We Marys weren’t a kind and gentle lot.  We didn’t grow.  We didn’t change.  We didn’t get redeemed. (p.101)

This was a quick, fun read that manages to be touching as well.  As I read, I’d begin to think it might be verging on chick-lit, then I’d come across a phrase or a small passage that would have me rereading it for the loveliness of the writing.  And that is what, beyond the storyline, has me very happy that I didn’t pass on reading this happily very Austen inspired and Austen filled book.  The role-playing portions, and the preparations around that role-playing, were also a high point.  I especially adored the older couple who, at first, take on the roles of Mrs. Jennings and Sir Walter Russell with loving dedication.

Give me time…Time.  Our timing was off.  How many times had I read that line?  Or heard it in the movies?  Time was never neutral and often felt dangerous.  Either we think we have all the time in the world, or time moves too fast or too slow; a shock can stop time; fear or impending pain can slow it.  Time never simply is…And no matter how much you want to hang on to it, time runs out. (p.160)

Whether you are familiar or, as is Mary at the start, not so familiar with Jane Austen, there is much to enjoy here.  The characters, the settings, and all that goes on at Braithwaite house make for a delightful read and you might just find yourself wishing you could book a stay during a costume weekend in hopes that it would transform the way you see things as well.

Recommended for those who enjoy clean romance with a bit of character development, a bit of humor, a bit of sadness, and a lot of fun.  Those looking for a clean read without evangelism will find that here as well.

The Austen Escape by Katherine Reay | Thomas Nelson, Nov. 2017 | paperback, 320 pages

This review refers to a finished copy I voluntarily received through Thomas Nelson and Zondervan’s Fiction Guild.  All opinions expressed are my own.

From the Publisher:

Falling into the past will change their futures forever.

Mary Davies finds safety in her ordered and productive life. Working as an engineer, she genuinely enjoys her job and her colleagues—particularly a certain adorable and intelligent consultant. But something is missing. When Mary’s estranged childhood friend, Isabel Dwyer offers her a two-week stay in a gorgeous manor house in England, she reluctantly agrees in hopes that the holiday will shake up her quiet life in just the right ways.

But Mary gets more than she bargained for when Isabel loses her memory and fully believes she lives in Jane Austen’s Bath. While Isabel rests and delights in the leisure of a Regency lady, attended by other costume-clad guests, Mary uncovers startling truths about their shared past, who Isabel was, who she seems to be, and the man who now stands between them.

Outings are undertaken, misunderstandings arise, and dancing ensues as this company of clever, well-informed people, who have a great deal of conversation, work out their lives and hearts.