Monday, October 01, 2012

Review - By a Lady: Being The Adventures of an Enlightened American in Jane Austen’s England by Amanda Elyot

This time travel novel tells the tale of C.J. Welles, a New York City actress who is transported back to 1801 England when she steps backstage during an audition for a play about Jane Austen. There she meets with misfortune, from which she is rescued by a widowed countess who claims her as her niece. Throw in a handsome nobleman, his snobby aunt, and an appearance or two by Miss Austen herself, and the stage is set for romance and adventure.

While there is much to enjoy in this novel, including a tour of Georgian Bath and glimpses of future characters from Austen novels, I found the execution a little wanting. The point of view bounces from head to head, so often that at times I wasn’t sure who was telling the story. Add to that some kitchen sink plotting, more telling than showing, and a variety of historical inaccuracies. The latter were particularly frustrating, especially when the hero tells of his wife being sent to the Bastille in the 1790s – a little difficult, since it was destroyed during the summer of 1789.

C.J.’s hero, the Earl of Darlington, is likable enough, and it’s easy to understand their mutual attraction. The romance storyline works quite well, with enough believable conflict to make the reader root for the pair.

Despite its problems, I expect many readers will enjoy the world the author creates and appreciate the fish-out-of-water adventures of the 21st century heroine coping with early 19th century surroundings and attitudes. The story moves along at a good clip, the supporting cast is well-drawn, and there’s a fun twist at the end.

 © Teresa Eckford, 2006

This review first appeared in the May 2006 issue of The Historical Novels Review

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