Review by a Baja Janeite
“I will share the letters with you…if you meet my conditions.”
“Conditions?” This was the first I’d heard of conditions. Our correspondence had never hinted at anything like this.
“A series of tasks, really, more than conditions, per se.”
“So that you may prove yourself worthy.” (Jane Austen Ruined My Life, p. 23)
Professor Emma Grant, devastated by her husband’s unfaithfulness and his attempt to destroy her career, is easily tempted to accept a mysterious invitation to South Kensington. Mrs. Gwendolyn Parrot has promised Emma a glimpse of Jane Austen’s unpublished letters. With these letters, Emma could possibly salvage her reputation in the academic world.
Mrs. Parrot is a member of the Formidables, a secret Jane Austen organization. They are the sentinels of the three thousand unknown Austen letters. Mrs. Parrot challenges Emma to complete a number of tasks which include visiting Austen related places and discovering new information about the famous author. Only then will the Formidable permit Emma to see an original.
Adam, once a former fellow graduate student and long time admirer, receives a different type of invitation. Emma’s cousin invites him to England, hoping that he can finally win Emma’s heart.
Emma does not always cooperate with her cousin’s plan. Emma’s second goal is to revenge herself on Jane Austen whom she blames for her present unhappiness:
“So I’m going to England to get my revenge on Jane Austen. And my parents. Not to mention my cheating ex-husband. Most of all, I’m going to England to prove that there’s no such thing as a happy ending. And that I was a fool to think I could ever have one.” (Prelude)
There are several things that I liked about this book. It is an easy read–the kind you’d enjoy on a vacation to Los Cabos. (plug, plug) It has plenty of information about Jane Austen and her times. I delighted in creative descriptions such as “a gaggle of children” and “well-upholstered granny.”
There were two things that bothered me, however. Emma is supposed to have a doctorate in English literature- but neither her speech nor her writing are on that level.
Faithful Adam is obviously Emma’s “Mr. Knightley,” but Emma was married to a calculating “Mr. Willoughby” and is attracted to a fickle “Mr. Wickham.” The ending will not be satisfying to romantic-hearted readers.
This book has many of the elements of the film National Treasure: a secret society, a series of clues to follow and tasks to perform, lost documents, and a dose of romance. I think that most readers will enjoy this newest release by Beth Pattillo.