I had a lot of reasons I wanted to read this story when I picked it up: modern retelling of my favorite Jane Austen story, new to me author, southern small town setting. I didn’t pay close attention to the blurb or pay attention to the book chatter or even read the earlier books in the series so I got some extra surprises as a result. It was an interesting second chance romance with interracial and inspirational themes running through it. These were strong pluses to me. It’s a gentle, slower paced story and covered some tough moments, but it was also light and humorous at times too. Definitely a perfect storm of right mood, right time and right story.
First of all, yes this was the third book in a series, but it was a very loose connection so functions just fine as a standalone or out of order. Previous couples made appearances and there was a bit about them in one scene, but the story pretty much stuck to the current couple and their situation.
As I noted before, this is a retelling of Jane Austen’s Persuasion. I’ve read many retellings, but this is my first in regard to this story. I’ve always been a huge fan of the second chance romance storyline and the classic Persuasion tale was the first story I read and loved to give me that. Anyone who has read the story or seen the movies will recognize the characters and plot though there are some nice original pieces, the names are all new and the setting leaves Regency England for America’s Deep South. But, all that being said, this story is written in such a way that any contemporary romance reader, Austen fan or not, can enjoy and appreciate it.
The story is told in alternate perspectives of both the heroine and the hero. Lucy Crawford comes from an old, distinguished wealthy southern black family that can trace its ancestry back to the Civil War. The prestige and wealth ended the day her mother died because there was no one around to curb her daddy’s poor financial decisions or her younger sister’s spending habits. Lucy tried to economize, but it’s too little and none of the rest pay attention to her anyway. It has come down to either losing the fine old home and all they have or turn over part of the home to the charity clinic who wishes to rent space in the rear half of the house. If that hit to their pride weren’t enough, Lucy discovers that the new doctor joining the staff was once the boy whose heart she broke when she put family pride and opinion over love. Is this her chance to rectify the past even if the end result is just friendship?
Jeremiah had come a long way from the poor, trailer trash white boy with the single-unwed mother working two dead-end jobs just so they could have a few basic needs met. He had been so in love with a girl who saw past all that and shared poetry and friendship until the day she watched her family snub him and then told him they should see other people. The irony of their now reversed situations is not lost on him as he steps through the door of her family home as a doctor with lots of future prospect while her family is barely holding on. Jeremiah is angry and bitter when he sees Lucy, but he is also susceptible to the woman who still outshines all others to him. Ten years were apparently not long enough to bury the past, but they were long enough for him to see it from a different perspective. Dare he hope for a second chance? Or should he just let it all go and get out of his old home town the first chance he gets?
The plot on this one is very much character-driven. And this is significant because the main characters are not the usual types you get these days. These are not type-A, alpha personalities here. Both Lucy and Jeremiah are your rarer beta hero and heroine particularly Lucy. They don’t put themselves forward, they aren’t the most sparkling character or talker in the scene and they definitely waffle a lot over what they really want and spend a bit of time regretting.
I didn’t say all that to push people away from the story. Personally, I was okay with it for a bit of change-up. I mention it to give fair-warning I guess. There was a part of me that just wanted to grab them both by their ears and push them into the broom closet and lock them in until they got it all sorted, but I also recognized that the author was trying to not just introduce the readers to her characters, but re-introduce the characters to each other. Ten years is a long time and they aren’t the same people in many ways, but they have to deal with the past before they can even go there.
In the meantime, there was a lot of other entertaining bits that kept me occupied while the main couple worked their way through it all.
The backdrop was captivating for me. First of all its a Southern, small town community. I wanted a bit more of the small town element with the quirky characters, but I was well aware that it probably would have really bogged down the story.
A good Southern girl didn’t walk away from a crisis, especially one involving food and guests. Loc. 47% Lucy from Persuasion, Captain Wentworth and Cracklin’ Cornbread
Then there was the Civil War re-enactment stuff and Lucy’s friend’s Jane Austen wedding being planned. I get a bit obsessed with things too so I could laughingly relate to the characters and scenes with these elements in them.
I’m going to say something next and its coming from total respect, but I’m aware that I could be speaking out of ignorance or limited knowledge so I ask your forgiveness if it does. I found the ethnic reversal a fascinating choice that I enjoyed. Rich black girl from an impeccable family and poor white boy who doesn’t even know who his dad is. It was neat to see the clichés tossed aside. I loved it that Lucy’s mother was from the Cane River area as I’ve read so much of that history and that her ancestor fought in a Confederate Color Brigade. Lucy is a brilliant scholar and excels at poetry appreciation and local Civil War history as the museum curator. She cares about her family origins and is loyal to her family even when they don’t deserve it. She misses her mother and wants to honor her mother’s memory. This is seen most clearly when she cooks (and recipes are included behind the story- so cool!). The author did a lot of work on that and it showed.
I also loved the humorous stuff. Lucy’s stuck-up aunt and the clinic’s down to earth secretary squaring off, the fun camaraderie of Jeremiah and his friend, and then Lucy’s interactions with her own family at times. Lucy was this lovely, genteel Southern lady and her younger sisters and friends acted like ‘they didn’t get any raisin’ as her mother would have called it. Lucy’s sisters and their friends were bratty and stuck on themselves and quite clueless much of the time.
The romance is very understated because of all that these two have to work through plus there are several interfering others. Lucy always saw the potential in Jeremiah, but as a younger woman she wasn’t mature or strong enough to take a chance on potential. I’ve always thought that for some romances to succeed its timing and this story is definitely an example of that being true. Grown up Lucy is definitely more in a position to be the right partner for the man Jeremiah is now. And the reverse is true as well. Jeremiah is the only one who truly sees and appreciates the older Lucy’s quality and I could have fallen in love with him for that alone.
The inspirational elements ran to mentions of faith, little prayers, and the strong underlying theme of forgiveness. Jeremiah is so bitter and angry at the beginning and Lucy is just weighted down with regret and guilt. Both of them hang back and even misinterpret things because they are so caught up in their own troubles. I tried to be patient while they worked through things.
The grand gesture at the end was really cool. The story ended soon after that. The only niggle I had for the whole book was the abrupt ending. I wanted to be with Lucy and Jeremiah a bit when they weren’t on edge around each other and I had a few questions left about the future that went unanswered.
All in all, this was a lovely cozy quiet afternoon read that will appeal to those who like sweet Contemporary Romance and definitely to Austeneque fans. I am definitely going back for the other two stories and will be looking for more from the author.
My thanks to Net Galley for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for my honest review.