This review is part of the TLC Book Tour for The Austen Escape.
~ About the Book ~
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.
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Release date: 7 November 2017
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
~ Excerpt ~
“You should accept Isabel’s invitation.”
I felt my lips part and my body slump against the chair. “We already talked about this. You agreed with me.”
He wouldn’t meet my gaze.
“She called you, didn’t she?” I closed my eyes. I should have expected it.
Isabel, unquestionably my oldest friend, questionably my best, had called a couple months ago with an invitation for a “trip of a lifetime”—a costumed Austen-style adventure to Bath, England. And while aspects of it appealed to me, brought back pleasant memories rather than painful ones, I concocted a few excuses and politely declined.
When I’d told Dad about it, he’d agreed. Work comes first, two weeks is a long time for a vacation, having a new boss is a tough spot to be in . . .
What I hadn’t told either of them was the truth: I was tired, and on some level was easing my way out of my friendship with Isabel. Our relationship seemed to be stuck at age eight. The same dynamic charged between us—and that might have been fine, but somewhere in the last year it had darkened a shade. Taken on an even more competitive edge than it had acquired in high school—which started over an incident regarding Austen too. So despite the temptation to hop on my first plane, take my first true vacation, and finally see something beyond the ninety-mile radius of my world, I’d said no.
That Isabel had rejected my decision and gone around my back to Dad should not have surprised me. That was standard operating procedure. She loved my father almost as much as I did. While her dad traveled to oil rigs and refineries around the world, mine was the one who had attended her parent-teacher conferences, picked her up from field hockey practice when she broke her ankle, and was the name she wrote down as her emergency contact every year. And if you want something, that’s what you do: you ask your dad.
“She needs you.” Dad leaned across the table and rested his hand on top of mine.
I could feel the calluses on his fingertips. I slid my hand to my lap.
“I’m not saying she can’t be a challenge. She lays claims to things and no one else can touch them, but remember, Mary . . . We had our problems, and God knows it was tough, but that little girl had it even harder. Her mama left when she was only six. Think of her life in England, her father traveling all the time, then uprooting her to bring her to the States but still constantly gone. She went home to a live-in nanny most nights of her growing-up years. Can you imagine that? You had your mama, you had me. Who held her when she cried herself to sleep? Who paid attention? No wonder real and make-believe got blurred.”
As much as I wanted to protest, I couldn’t.
Taken from “The Austen Escape” by Katherine Reay Copyright © 2017 by Katherine Reay.
Used by permission of http://www.thomasnelson.com/
~ Review ~
This novel is such a treat for Austen lovers! Katherine Reay is one of those authors whose books I feel like I can relax into and enjoy at a leisurely pace—a surprisingly difficult feat for rabid readers such as myself, who tend to give themselves literary indigestion more often than not! I haven’t read all of her novels yet, but she seems to excel at bringing introverted characters to life; characters who would normally be quite happy in supporting roles, even in their own stories, but who have suddenly had the spotlight turned on them. And she makes them deeply interesting, at least to me, as she challenges them and brings them out of their comfort zone.
Rather than reimagining an Austen plot, Katherine Reay has based this novel on an idea explored in Mansfield Park: It is often in role playing that we reveal (or discover) our true selves. In a more subtle way, it also explores Jane Austen’s characters—not so much what they did as who they were; their personalities and their motivations. As Mary realizes at one point: “Jane Austen understood people . . . Across two hundred years, I recognized her characters in the here and now. She wrote about people I knew.” And all of this happens in a setting I could only dream about: A country estate in Bath where people are able to pay (quite a lot, mind you!) for the experience of pretending they are in a Jane Austen novel. Clothing, accommodation, entertainment, leisure, conversation, food, everything. I was in heaven!
Given the allusions to Jane Austen, this was a story rich in subtext, and I absolutely adore stories that have that kind of depth to them. And yet, I think this would still be an enjoyable read, even if you aren’t all that familiar with Austen’s works and the themes in them. Mary and Isabel have a complicated friendship that has played a large role in shaping Mary’s sense of who she is—as demonstrated by Isabel’s nickname for her: sidekick. Mary has also been struggling at work, both operating in the environment created by her new boss, and developing her pet project ‘Golightly’: self-contained augmented virtual reality glasses to rival Microsoft and Apple, but in a slimmer format. And to top it all off, she has a crush on Nathan, the business consultant who’s been working with their CEO over the last year; a man who will soon be leaving for the next consultancy job, and in whom she has seen no evidence of any regard for her beyond friendship.
She’s tired. She does want to escape. And ironically, it is in escaping that she is forced to confront these issues head on.
Although it isn’t the focus of the story, I can’t conclude this review without saying that the romance was deliciously sweet—in a ‘less is more’ kind of way. I could easily lose my heart to a guy like Nathan.
A thoroughly delightful read.
I received a copy of this novel from the publisher. This has not influenced the content of my review, which is my honest and unbiased opinion.
~ Other Books by Katherine Reay ~
Read my review for A Portrait of Emily Price.
~ About the Author ~
Katherine Reay is a writer, wife, mom, continually rehabbing runner, compulsive vacuumist and a horrific navigator…
She graduated from Northwestern University and earned an MS in Marketing from Northwestern as well. She then worked in marketing and development before returning to graduate school for a Masters of Theological Studies. Moves to Texas, England, Ireland and Washington left that degree unfinished as Katherine spent her time unpacking, raising kids, volunteering, writing, and exploring new storylines and new cities.
The Reay family (with a great sense of permanency) now resides outside Chicago, and Katherine pursues writing with more focus. She writes character-driven stories and non-fiction that focuses upon examining the past and how it influences our present experiences.