Contemporary Christian Fiction

Jane of Austin by Hillary Manton Lodge

JoAReview

Just a few years after their father’s business scandal shatters their lives, Jane and Celia Woodward find themselves forced out of their San Francisco tea shop. The last thing Jane wants is to leave their beloved shop on Valencia Street, but when Celia insists on a move to Austin, Texas, the sisters pack up their kid sister Margot and Jane’s tea plants, determined to start over yet again.

But life in Austin isn’t all sweet tea and breakfast tacos. Their unusual living situation is challenging and unspoken words begin to fester between Jane and Celia. When Jane meets and falls for up-and-coming musician Sean Willis, the chasm grows deeper.

While Sean seems to charm everyone in his path, one person is immune – retired Marine Captain Callum Beckett. Callum never meant to leave the military, but the twin losses of his father and his left leg have returned him to the place he least expected—Texas.

In this modern spin on the Austen classic, Sense and Sensibility, the Woodward sisters must contend with new ingredients in unfamiliar kitchens, a dash of heartbreak, and the fragile hope that maybe home isn’t so far away.

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My Thoughts

Jane Austen has some of the most loyal, dare I say, obsessive fans. I feel the need to disclose that I do not attain to such fandom. However, I have read and enjoyed most of her books, Sense and Sensibility among them. In my basic familiarity with the original I was able to make a few direct connections to Lodge’s work. For instance, I fully expected Sean Willis to be a cad and Jane to eventually turn her affections towards Callum. The author retains enough elements of Austen’s work to label her novel a re-telling while creating a totally modern, relatable, and witty story of her own. Though romance is not my go-to genre, I loved the “fall, heartbreak, and knight in shining armor” type rescue in this book.

I count Jane of Austin as my introduction to Hillary Manton Lodge and I’m impressed.  Her dialogue drew me into each conversation as if I were standing in the room. She also does a beautiful job of assigning her characters distinct personalities. While I’ve met people who are as calm and collected as Celia, I identified more closely with Jane’s focused, loyal, sarcastic, occasionally irritable, and totally introverted ways. She made me laugh! Furthermore, the book is peppered with recipes I am eager to try. Read eager as we drove to three grocery stores searching for frozen cranberries—eager.

It’s interesting to note that in a book labeled contemporary Christian by its publisher, you won’t read about these sisters going to church, praying through a crisis, or surrendering their lives to Jesus. Instead, you’ll find a fairly chaste romance and a story that celebrates the bond of sisterhood. I think you may also grow to admire the gregarious family members in Austin who abound in love and hospitality. I found that despite the lack of elements I usually associate with Christian fiction, Jane of Austin is definitely a book I will read again.

I received a copy of this book for free, a favorable review was not required of me. All opinions expressed are my own.

“If he’s worthy, we’ll go for tea.”

WMclub

Buy your copy and read Jane of Austin with The WaterBrook and Multnomah Summer Fiction Book Club in August.
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3 thoughts on “Jane of Austin by Hillary Manton Lodge

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