In a follow-up volume to the first Austen in Austin, Volume Two brings four more novellas giving homage to Jane Austen’s novels with these sweet, heartwarming romances. Four brand new lady teachers at the Austen Ladies’ Academy of Austin are ready to find their own paths to happiness and love with a bit of prayer and the courage to follow a new path.
Each novella retells a Jane Austen classic and I loved the creative blending of the historic Texas setting and the sweet inspirational romance with the classical tales.
The tales are separate, but weave together so they all feel part of the whole. The reader will recognize the appearance of past characters and embrace the new ones. What I thought was rather impressive was the way the four separate authors seemed to seamlessly utilize setting and characters in their own stories. My favorite example of this is the wise, gentle and understanding headmistress, Mrs. Collins.
Simply Lila by Suzie Johnson
I was pleasantly surprised to encounter a Lady Susan variation that brings a brighter ending than the original tale. Lila struggles under her mother’s verbal and emotional abuse so that she feels that she is lacking. The support of fellow teachers who are her dear friends at Austen Abbey and the gentle attention of a kind man make her see herself differently.
The story is touching and I give the author a tip of the hat for picking a minor work for the retelling. I appreciated that since this is a shorter story that the author made the progress of the romance plausible the ends on a happy for now, but is added to in the next author’s story. The ending wrapped things up abruptly and too well, but it was also neat to see an alternative ending that matched the tone of this collection.
Fully Persuaded by Niki Turner
Annie is forced to sell shares to the family ranch to keep it afloat and who should be the only offer? Ford, the man she rejected eight years before. Ford made good and it is she who is struggling now. Ford thought he knew what he wanted until he got one look at Annie. Plans are now changed and he has the task of persuading Annie to give him another chance.
A deeply emotional story about a woman who needs to heal on the inside and a man who must see the past and the present from a new perspective. They both struggle with guilt and the need for peace and forgiveness. Loved how the author developed the characters right along with the romance so that a couple of angry people can change and grow together.
Mansford Ranch by Dini Sleiman
Franny Sue Price is faced with discovering whether the man her guardian wishes her to marry is real or fake. Her old childhood friend, Eddie, already knows what to think and says so, but he is also behaving oddly. Hank is a polished and popular city gent whereas Eddie is a dusty cowboy with a wandering foot. Or so she thinks until the little tests she organizes reveal much about both me.
There was a lot of humor and fun to this one. It got silly and I found some elements improbable, but I did love the sparkle and connection between Franny and Eddie. The author wasn’t afraid to write a heroine who had things wrong and then let the potential suitors’ actions speak for themselves. Loved the set up.
Sense and Nonsense by Lisa Karon Richardson
Eva is set on becoming a missionary teacher in Ceylon both to fulfill her calling as a teacher and to get away from a situation that is breaking her heart. The man of her dreams is marrying her best friend. But then flighty Meghan loses the mission’s money that was set aside to send Eva to Ceylon and Eva is forced to partner up with James to help find the money. After several surprising events, Eva begins to see that Ceylon might not be her calling after all.
I felt the emotion of this one. My heart broke for Eva. A man she loves is marrying another. That woman is sometimes cruel in her self-absorption. The mystery was a nice touch. And the build to the ending was perfectly paced and full of great tension and denouement at the end.
So, all in all, this was a wonderful reading experience. It was full of gentle, heartwarming romance and character growth that I can heartily recommend to those who enjoy Inspirational Romance and Jane Austen.
My thanks to the authors for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.