I received this book via Netgalley. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of this review.The Austen Escape by Katherine Reay
Published by Thomas Nelson on 2017-11-07
Length: 336 pages
Reviewing eARC from Netgalley
Reading Challenges: 2017 New Release Challenge
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.
I am admittedly a huge Jane Austen fan which in turn makes me a big fan of Katherine Reay. So far I have enjoyed all of her books! The Austen Escape is no exception. This is a fun, sweet read filled with some of my favorite Austen characters.
Mary Davies is a character that is in the midst of a life crisis. Her job is falling apart. Her love life is nonexistent. She’s in a rut, aimless so to say. At her father’s urging, she goes with her childhood friend on an all-expenses paid vacation to a manor house in Bath to live an Austen experience. To say I like Mary is an understatement. I identified so well with her. She’s shy, a bit backward, and the introvert of the friendship. While her friend Isabel is the outspoken, life of the party, extrovert. Unlike Mary, Isabel had a terrible childhood, a negligent father, and to make up for these things, she tends to be competitive with Mary. Mary however saw her friend as her friend growing up and nothing more. Now though she sees the one-sided friendship for what it is and sees this trip as the way to set things right or end them for good.
Once in Bath, Isabel has a (for lack of a better term) emotional breakdown and believes herself to be really from Regency England. Up to this point in the story, the pace was slow, building Mary’s character so the reader would understand her better. After this, it’s fast-moving and I found myself staying up til the wee hours of the morning to finish the book. Mary is a good friend, better than most would be if the situation was thrust on them. Mary learns an awful truth about Isabel before the breakdown and now she can’t be mad at her because her friend needs her. Truly I’m not sure how I would have felt if I was put in the same position.
What truly makes this book exceptional though is the theme of friendship. Reay explores the toxic friendship between the two characters Mary and Isabel. I liked how subtle it is as Mary recalls her childhood. As they say “hindsight is always 20/20.” It’s easy for Mary to spot the bad in her friendship, how Isabel has always relegated Mary to being the sidekick instead of seeing her as her equal. Isabel has to be in the spotlight and when she isn’t she tends to force Mary out of it. The exploration of the friendship leads Mary into exploring how it has affected other areas of her life and I found myself engaged to learn more and watch the character as she grew over the course of the book.
Overall I really enjoyed The Austen Escape. While it had a slow start, it picked up pace and finished beautifully. Mary’s progression through the book really makes it an excellent read. The love interest helps too 😉 If you enjoy Austen, Regency England, contemporary fiction, I highly recommend it.