Sensible Nicola James has had The Plan in place since she was 13. The Plan outlines her life for the rest of, well, her life and she intends to stick to it. So much for good intentions. Despite her plan and her scientific mind, Nic is still a fan of all things Jane Austen, so when a vintage journal catches her eye and reminds her of Austen, she’s hooked. But then craziest thing happens – the journal starts to write back! Propelled by her very own “Fairy Jane,” Nic starts to stray outside her carefully drawn box and once she does, all bets are off. Soon, sexy Scottish musician Sean MacInnes has charmed his way into her life and turned everything upside down. Nic is suddenly faced with clinging to the plan she’s known all her life – or jumping into the unknown, thanks to a mysterious and mischievous Jane Austen.
I’m always looking for new twists on Jane Austen and I somehow stumbled across Alyssa Goodnight’s Austentatious. Thank goodness for random searches! Austentatious is quirky, delightful, sexy, fun and above all, a heartfelt and humorous homage to Jane Austen. With quotes from her novels and several of her characters referenced, there is no denying Jane Austen’s influence over this novel. And yet, at the same time, Nic’s story is new and fresh. Jane Austen is simply the way Goodnight has chosen to draw readers in – and it works! The story is remarkably well-grounded. Nic’s skepticism serves as a good way to temper the far-fetched nature of the Fairy Jane journal, while the thread of magic and mystery is subtle enough that it doesn’t overwhelm the rest of the novel.
“There’s no avoiding the fact that this whole thing is a crazy-unbelievable fairy-tale miracle, so why no at least try for the happily-ever-after?”
I immediately identified with Nic. I, too, love plans and lists and having all the answers in front of me. That big scary concept – the unknown – terrifies me, so I understood all too well Nic’s reluctance to let go of everything familiar in order to embrace something spectacular. As much as she wanted to buy into the magic of the journal and its meddlesome advice, her practical and sensible mind kept getting in her way. The core of Austentatious is Nic’s struggle to learn to take chances, especially when you least expect it. I loved watching her try new things and open her heart and her life to someone new. I especially liked how Goodnight made a point of hinting that Nic’s life wasn’t incomplete before she met Sean; it was just better with him in it.
In a nice little play on words, Austentatious takes place in Austin, TX and the “Live Music Capital of the World” is clearly depicted in this novel. I’ve never even been to Austin, and yet I could easily imagine the city’s neighborhoods, the lively, music-filled clubs and restaurants and even Lady Bird Lake (which, I have since learned, is an actual place). I was even able to get a sense of Sean’s band and music, even though Goodnight doesn’t include any lyrics and the novel (obviously) didn’t come with a soundtrack. I could still imagine the sound of the music quite clearly.
Austentatious took me by surprise – I started reading expecting a cute contemporary romance with a bit of Jane Austen sprinkled in, but I was given a much richer story of a young woman learning to let go and let life surprise her. See what happens when you stop making plans? Let Alyssa Goodnight’s Austentatious surprise you as well. You never know. Maybe Fairy Jane will have some words of wisdom for you.
[Photo Credit: Goodreads]