Today I am THRILLED to participate in the blog tour celebrating the release of Syrie James's latest novel, Jane Austen's First Love! (I am less thrilled, however, that due to life and a lack of time management I have not yet finished the novel, so I am unable to give you my full review as scheduled today...hence, the "First Impressions" title.)
Syrie James's novels have been on my radar for quite some time thanks to glowing reviews -- a recommendation from Laurel Ann of Austenprose carries great weight! -- and intriguing subject matter (Charlotte Bronte's secret diaries? I am so there!), but until I was approached for this blog tour her novels had not yet made it to the top of my to-be-read stack.
Let me start by sharing a bit about Jane Austen's First Love:
About the book:
INSPIRED BY ACTUAL EVENTS
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, she meets wealthy, devilishly handsome Edward Taylor—a fascinating young man who is truly worthy of her 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
Unsure of her budding relationship, 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. The human heart cannot be easily deciphered, nor can it be directed or managed. And if others must be left to their own devices in matters of love and matrimony, can Jane even hope to satisfy her own heart?
I've long admired Austen's prose, her warmth, humor, and razor-sharp wit! And I am an avid fan of several of the numerous film and miniseries adaptations of her work. However, it wasn't until Becoming Jane was released that Austen began to come alive for me as more than an author's name on the cover of a beloved novel. That film details the author's possible relationship with one Tom Lefroy as the impetus behind the timeless romances in her writing. Around the time of Becoming Jane's release, the BBC released the tele-film Miss Austen Regrets, which tells the story of Jane's last years, a poignant retrospective that sees an older Austen revisiting her life choices and past romantic possibilities.
Both films are gorgeous glimpses into this intensely private and beloved author's life, but it wasn't until I started Jane Austen's First Love that she came alive for me with the energy and life I always found within the pages of her novels. If this is an example of Ms. James's writing, I can only regret the time it has taken me to explore her work!!
This is an exquisite portrait of a youthful, vibrant Jane, who at fifteen is eager to explore the possibility of romance while honing her writing craft. James knows Austen's world like few others, her prose saturated with the period's rhythm of speech and colorful descriptors that bring everyday existence in the early nineteenth century to vibrant, technicolor life on the page.
James's teenage Jane has the energy of a Lydia and the romantic imagination of a Marianne, wrapped up with an Elizabeth's penchant for sly humor or cutting social commentary. As Jane's relationships with family and friends are sketched on the page, it is easy to see little hints of the classic characters that will spill from her pen plant seeds of imaginative possibilities in her keenly-observant conscious.
I am SO intrigued by the possibility that a youthful Jane's first brush with romance may have been with this Edward Taylor, heretofore completely unknown to me, and yet such a fascinating potential hero template -- educated, well-traveled, and a future Member of Parliament! Like much of Jane's life, the true extent of any possible relationship between them may never be known, but it is a fascinating premise for this articulate, beautifully-rendered sketch of a young Jane's life. I cannot WAIT to finish this novel and share my full review with you!*
You can check out the full list of tour stops as well as the launch contest on Austenprose.
*My apologies to the author and publicity team for being late with my review post! My goal is to have it finished on or shortly after the book's official release on August 5th!