Jane Austen’s First Love by Syrie James

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If you know me at all, you already know that I am a HUGE Jane Austen fan. Sadly, she only has a few novels to choose from…But that doesn’t stop me from being a die-hard devotee, thanks to the many authors out there who love her as much as I do. One wonderful thing about the legacy of Jane Austen is that it opens up a world of spin-off literature. Tribute sequels to the novels are wildly popular, and authors enjoy speculating on the life of the author herself, too.

Fans of Jane Austen will already know that Jane never married in her lifetime, and spent most of her life acting as a companion to her father. Her many novels about Edwardian love send out the message that despite her celibacy, she may have had some idea of love, herself. We love to speculate that Jane might have had a lover once, too. Jane Austen’s First Love, by Syrie James, is a devoted follow-through on this very fantasy.

Jane Austen is 15 years old, one step behind her debutante sister and desperately hoping for love and adventure, despite being very much under her mother’s thumb. Enter Edward Taylor (Yes, Edward-if you read Austen, you will immediately think of Sense and Sensibility), a college-bound young man who saves Jane when her carriage gets stuck in the mud (sounds like Emma, doesn’t it?) The politics of marriage and courting are exhibited in Jane Austen’s First Love just as well as they are in the novels by Austen, herself, and fans will not be disappointed. Definitely worth picking up for your fellow Austen lover as a Christmas gift this year.

If you enjoy Jane Austen’s First Love, and other Austen spin-off literature, please also be sure pull up this Goodreads List of Jane Austen Spin-offs and check them out!

The Pursuit of Mary Bennet: A Pride & Prejudice Novel by Pamela Mingle

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Jane Austen lovers, you followed Elizabeth Bennet as she stumbled down the path to love with the stuffy Mr. Darcy, and maybe you even read one of the many “tribute-like” novels written in present day, telling the story of Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy’s life after marriage (The Pemberley Chronicles by Rebecca Ann Collins, Mr. Darcy Takes a Wife by Linda Berdoll….there are hundreds actually). Once you’ve had your fill of Elizabeth and Fitzwilliam, you may have even read a novel or two devoted to one of her other sisters- she had 4, if you recall-of all the sisters, however, one must wonder what would have become of Mary Bennet, the studious and unapproachable young lady who spent more time in her father’s library than looking for love.

I, personally, found myself drawn to this novel, because I am a booknerd, myself… Could someone like Mary Bennet find love? When reading Pride and Prejudice, you automatically assume that she will become a spinster (mostly because this seems to be what she wants). The Pursuit of Mary Bennet tells the story of a young lady who must decide what she wants to do with her life, whether it be in a governess position, or finally married off (which seems an unlikely option at first), and fortuitously, a handsome gentleman appears and turns the Bennet household upside down. Sibling rivalry being one of many issues that arise upon his arrival.

If you do love Jane Austen spinoff novels, this one is worth a read. If you haven’t read Jane Austen you may want to start at the beginning with Pride and Prejudice, however.

Rutherford Park by Elizabeth Cooke

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Downton Abbey lovers, don’t miss Rutherford Park, by Elizabeth Cooke! This novel takes place in 1913, when Lady Octavia Cavendish learns a painful secret about her own husband on the same night that a servant in the house attempts suicide. Rutherford Park will never be the same place again as the family struggles to stay together amid turmoil and changing times.

Will Lady Cavendish find happiness for once and for all, or will she settle for what she has always had and accept her fate? Will her son come clean to his parents about his own deep dark secrets? Will her daughter be allowed to marry for love? And what about the servants of the house-will they stay on at Rutherford as things change around them? If you love historical fiction, especially of the early 1900s era, you will adore Rutherford Park.

Mistress of My Fate by Hallie Rubenhold

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Henrietta Lightfoot was raised as a ward in the home of a gentleman, taught to be an accomplished and well-mannered young lady in 18th century England.  When she and the young mistress of the house reach marriageable age, things start to get a little difficult-unwanted suitors pile up around the ladies, and one suitor is desirable to both Henrietta and her “cousin”. Henrietta knows that her love will never come to fruition, for she has no birth status, no dowry, nothing an aristocratic young man could want in marriage. But the young lord seems drawn to her, and things begin to spiral out of control.

Soon Henrietta finds herself on the streets, forced to fend for herself and find a way to survive. She goes to her lover for a brief period, but she always knew that they were not to be together as man and wife, and she would always be his hidden secret. His secret doings take him from her and she must examine her future plans or die in the streets of London. She decides to use the resources that she possesses, her beauty, her charm, her body, and find a gentleman who will keep her safe, for a small price…

A proper young lady quickly becomes a harlot, a kept woman among scandalous libertines and the most despicable of human beings, people she wouldn’t have been allowed to speak with in the streets in her prior life.

This is a novel about surviving, using your wits and doing the best you can in harsh, unforgiving times. At times cynical, at times vulgar, this novel is not sweet and flowery. Readers who like Philippa Gregory’s novels of historical romance and intrigue (The Other Boleyn Girl) will enjoy Mistress of My Fate, by Hallie Rubenhold, which is, apparently, the first in a series about Henrietta Lightfoot. The audiobook version of this novel, by Hachette Audio, comes highly recommended, so if you like audiobooks be sure to give it a try.

Summerset Abbey by T.J. Brown

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Rowena, Victoria and Prudence are 3 young ladies with modern ideas, trapped in a world of strict, old-fashioned social requirements. They grew up relatively protected from the harsh class system, cozy together, despite the fact that Prudence was actually the daughter of the governess who raised Rowena and Victoria. When the master of the household passes away, the girls are left with only one protector in a world that frowned upon independent females-an enterprising uncle whose household is run with much more structure and discipline and awareness of social faux pas. When the girls are forced to move into his country home after he decides to let out the house to someone else to save expenses, the girls are forced to follow the rules of their new home.

Prudence, the friend and pseudo-sister to Rowena and Victoria, is suddenly forced into the position of ladies’ maid to the girls, due to her low birth in the social strata. With no other obvious options, she must suddenly explore the world of servitude, and finds that she doesn’t belong anywhere anymore. As the other girls settle into a new life with their uncle, despite reservations about their friend’s new situation, Prudence must set out to find out the truth about her own mother, the history of her family, and where she belongs in the world-and it is a journey filled with blood, sweat and tears, and scandal around every corner.

Summerset Abbey is the first in the Summerset Abbey Trilogy, written by T.J. Brown. If you love historical fiction of the Downton Abbey or Jane Austen variety, you will adore this novel immensely-and keep an eye out for the second novel in the series, A Bloom in Winter.