It’s September, and the city of Bath is playing host to the annual Jane Austen Festival, a celebration of the famous author and her works.
Rose Wallace, Bath resident and avid Jane Austen fan, can’t wait for her friends to arrive and the Festival to start, unaware one of the recently arrived guests will turn her life upside down by sharing with her a secret that ultimately puts Jane Austen’s entire literary legacy at risk.
With the support of a displaced two hundred year old author and a charmed necklace, can Rose help to bring back some of the most beloved stories of all time and turn her own life around in the process?
The Particular Charm of Miss Jane Austen is a combination of so many aspects of literature that I find enjoyable. Most obvious is the “Austen factor”, with the bulk of the story being set in the city of Bath during the annual Jane Austen Festival, with numerous references to the celebrated author’s works and life history. Authors Ada Bright and Cass Grafton deftly transport their readers to this glorious city, making this reader even more desirous to travel abroad and attend the Festival. These women clearly have attended the event on at least one occasion—the level of detail surrounding it is quite deep, giving the reader a true inside view of what it would be like to attend. Bath, with its world-renowned Festival is most certainly the epicenter of all things Austen.
Set in the midst of this is the fantastical tale of Rose Wallace, Janeite and long-time admirer of a certain archaeologist who is an annual speaker at the festival. Through her employment at a local agency, not only does she reside in Bath, but she also enjoys assisting Dr. Aiden Trevellyan as he prepares for his annual lecture.
Within Rose’s story comes the next literary device that I delight in so much. While in the middle of the Festival, Rose meets a woman who turns out to be Jane Austen. Not just any woman named Jane Austen-- THE Jane Austen herself! How does this long-since-passed author come to be in the 21st century? Through the beauty of time travel, of course! Those of us who are time travel fans must always process the moment of this seemingly impossible event-- wherein we must suspend our disbelief and go along with the plot line. I must admit I found the method in which Austen is able to time travel to be a tad unbelievable, but it was easily surmountable, given my love for time travel stories. However, I can say that there comes a moment in which Jane finds herself in a bit of a quandary time travel-wise, and in that particular moment I found the change in plot to be a bit hard to swallow (pun intended, to those who know of which event I speak). That being said, the story is such fun, I moved on with the narrative, enjoying it quite a bit.
An unexpected aspect of Particular Charm that I found surprising was the amount of Harry Potter references within the book. Bright and Grafton are clearly fans of the J.K. Rowling series, and they manage to insert quite a few mentions of characters and Potter-related subjects within the tale. As someone who has read all of Rowling’s Potter books and has seen all of the movies (the latest Fantastic Beasts being a temporary exception), having those winks to that universe was a delight. However, there were times when I wondered if readers who are unfamiliar with Potter might find themselves a bit lost during those moments. Fortunately the Rowling references are largely inconsequential, so non-Potter fans need not worry too much about that factor.
Although I felt the plot pace slowed considerably during the last few chapters of the book, overall I highly enjoyed The Particular Charm of Miss Jane Austen. The characters were relatable, likeable, and I found myself rooting for them in a number of ways. Rose’s interest in Dr. Trevellyan was tantalizing, and I could very much see myself in Rose. There were many times during my days as a single girl that I pined away for men who seemed clearly out of my reach. I remember that ache. I also remember what it was like when one day, one of those crushes turned his attention toward me. It was almost unbelievable, and I remember the nervousness of those days quite well. Like Rose, I wasn’t always the most eloquent of ladies and frequently struggled with self-doubt and self esteem issues. This character is very true to life, and I enjoyed watching her journey through time and the minefield that romantic interests can bring.
A bit of a spoiler warning: I know there are some of you out there who enjoy reading the end of a book before beginning it in earnest. I would encourage you NOT do to this for Particular Charm. There is something that occurs in the final moments of the book that had me hooting with delight-- literally, out loud-- and I am so glad that I didn’t know about that moment from the outset. In some ways, it reminded me of the final scene of the first Back to the Future movie.
Do yourself a favor: Firstly, and most certainly, read Particular Charm, especially if you are a Janeite. And secondly, read it from beginning to end. This is a fun, family-friendly story that I can heartily recommend. Ada Bright and Cass Grafton could easily craft a sequel to this tale, and I'm glad to learn from Cass that this is indeed the plan. If The Particular Charm of Miss Jane Austen is any indication, we are in for more entertaining diversions with our time-traveling Regency author!
Ada and Cass have been so kind to offer a copy of the book up to one of our readers! The contest is open internationally, and ends at 12am EST on March 18, 2017. The winner may choose between a paperback copy or the Kindle edition. Just fill out the Rafflecopter widget below to enter. Good luck everyone!