New Book: Jane Austen's First Love

My Review
Title: Jane Austen's First Love
Author: Syrie James
Paperback: 400 pages
Publisher: Berkley Trade (August 5, 2014)
ISBN-13: 978-0425271353

Fifteen-year-old Jane Austen dreams of three things: doing something useful, writing something worthy, and falling madly in love. When she visits her brother in Kent to celebrate his engagement to Miss Elizabeth Bridges, Jane meets wealthy, devilishly handsome Edward Taylor, heir to the nearby estate of Bifrons--a fascinating, highly accomplished young man who is truly worthy of Jane's affections. Jane knows a match between her and Edward is unlikely, but every moment she spends with him makes her heart race--and he seems to return her interest.

Much to her displeasure, however, there is another seeking his attention. Jane seeks distraction by attempting to correct the pairings of three other prospective couples. But when her matchmaking aspirations do not all turn out as anticipated, Jane discovers the danger of relying on first impressions.

Jane Austen's First Love takes you on a holiday to lovely Kent, with Jane Austen and her older sister, Cassandra. Mom isn’t around for part of the trip and Jane is experiencing a new freedom for the first time. The sisters are staying at Goodnestone Park where her brother Edward Austen’s fiancée, Elizabeth Bridges, lives with her sisters and parents.

The upcoming wedding between Elizabeth Bridges and Edward Austen has brought both families and friends together for a few weeks of celebrations and entertainments.

Jane and Cassandra meet Edward Taylor, a dashing young man of 17, and his cousin Mr. Payler on their way to the estate. Upon her first encounter, Jane experiences something totally new to her...but has yet to figure out just what it is.

The two gentlemen join their party and attend the festivities at Goodnestone Park. Jane soon discovers that Edward Taylor grew up on the continent, is incredibly worldly for his age, knows many languages, and is handsome on top of all that.

The story of Jane and Edward was interesting and I admit I was not a big fan of Edward Taylor at first. I must have more Cassandra in me than Jane! His character develops and we learn more about him and his past (and his future for that matter!) Jane gets the very fun opportunity to travel to Bifrons Park, the grand estate Edward is to inherit.

The whole book is a party (literally) and the other characters are really wonderful. Jane plays a matchmaker when it comes to the quirky Bridges sisters, who are my favorite characters, and they play right into her every plan. I really enjoyed the plotting Syrie James' young Jane came up with throughout the book to make sure everyone would have a happy ending.

There are some great twists and turns that will keep you reading. You will find yourself analyzing passages comparing Syrie James' characters and situations they experience to those from Jane Austen’s novels. A little Emma Woodhouse is evident with Jane’s matchmaking, but you might also recognize Jane Bennet and Mr. Bingley, as well as some other characters that might have inspired the young Jane Austen! Sometimes I thought I was reading into it too much- but it was fun the whole way.

The end of the book is almost my favorite part. Syrie talks about the characters and where they ended up in real life. So much of the book is based on actual events and people, so the follow up is fascinating!
Perhaps Jan van der Vaardt, 1647–1721. Bifrons Park, Kent. 1695-1705, oil on canvas. Yale Center for British Art.
Paul Sandby, 1731-1809, British, The Misses Sandby of Norwich, undated, Graphite and brown wash on medium, slightly textured, cream laid paper, Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection.
Circle of Henri-Pierre Danloux, Portrait de jeune homme en buste. c1753-1809, oil on canvas. Christies.
Reynolds, Joshua, The Ladies Waldegrave. 1780, oil on canvas. The Scottish National Galleries.

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