Title: The Austen Escape
Author: Katherine Reay
Genre: Romance, Contemporary
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Date published: November 7, 2017
Page Count: 320
Source: ARC via Netgalley
After years of following her best friend’s lead, Mary Davies finds a whimsical trip back to Austen’s Regency England paves the way towards a new future.
Mary Davies lives and works in Austin, Texas, as an industrial engineer. She has an orderly and productive life, a job and colleagues that she enjoys—particularly a certain adorable, intelligent, and hilarious consultant. But something is missing for Mary. When her estranged and emotionally fragile childhood friend Isabel Dwyer offers Mary a two-week stay in a gorgeous manor house in Bath, Mary reluctantly agrees to come along, 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 that she lives in Regency England. Mary becomes dependent on a household of strangers to take care of Isabel until she wakes up.
With Mary in charge and surrounded by new friends, Isabel rests and enjoys the leisure of a Regency lady. But life gets even more complicated when Mary makes the discovery that her life and Isabel’s have intersected in more ways that she knew, and she finds herself caught between who Isabel was, who she seems to be, and the man who stands between them. Outings are undertaken, misunderstandings play out, and dancing ensues as this triangle works out their lives and hearts among a company of clever, well-informed people who have a great deal of conversation.
Let me start with how glad I am to have received this book. Anything Austenesque really catches my eye. And can I please applaud the cover? I just couldn’t pass this one up.
And the main character was an engineer!! Tech and Jane Austen? This was honestly my cup of tea.
The story is written through the eyes of Mary, a dedicated engineer at WATT, a company that she’s committed to for four years. However, like anything that’s promising, WATT is changing, no longer the small group of engineers that once started from a garage. Worse, Mary feels like she’s about to lose her job.
When she begins to question her future at WATT, Isabel Dwyer, Mary’s unquestionable longtime friend but questionable best friend, invites Mary to a two-week stay to Bath, England. With the encouragement of her father, Mary reluctantly agrees. However, the trip ends up bringing up their complicated relationship and lead to an even more complicated turn of events.
Isabel seemed like the go-to protagonist, as she does take up all the space in the room. When stepping back to look at the whole story, the whole narrative could have easily been written about her. During the book, Mary even mentioned how Isabel was often the centre of attention. But it was nice to see how the story is written when the side character is the narrator of the story. The lack of Mary’s initiative was irritating at times, but it made her character seem all the more authentic. Often, I reread to see that she is all of us: her fear of falling in love from her fear of rejection, her conflicted thoughts over complicated issues. The problems she faces can often be related back to our own lives.
The Braithwaite House definitely seemed wonderful. But it was nice to see how everything did stay in touch with reality. Mary was still dwelling on her issues, and the house had problems of their own. Despite Isabel insisting it as an escape from the world, it seemed to allow Mary to confront her problems by stepping away from them, or so to say 4000 miles away.
The romantic tensions in the story weren’t as serious as I expected there to be. Although it was one of the main themes in the story, Reay focused a lot on the complex relationship between Isabel and Mary as well. The mix of love and family element really made the book a refreshing read.
All in all, I loved how Katherine was able to bring together the Regency era with the modern day world. It was wonderful to see another love story blossoming in the Austen era. It was more interesting to see how the characters compared next to the characters in Austen. Although it wasn’t a full escapism experience, I believe anyone with a joy for Austen will enjoy this book.