Non-Austen Reads for Austen Readers is something I started a while back for fans of Jane Austen who after reading all her works are looking for something else to read.
There are numerous variations of Jane Austen’s works, but while those adaptations are fun, sometimes you don’t always want to read the same story. Sometimes you want Austen-like works, but not exactly the same as Austen’s works. But what can you read instead?
That’s why I started this series. I will be reviewing books that have components of what we love about the Austen novels, but are not just another retelling, but their own unique story.
A Castaway in Cornwall by Julie Klassen
The book begins with our main character Laura Callaway once again feeling left out of her family and community. She was born and raised in London, but ended up moving to Cornwall when her parents died, having been sent to live with her aunt and uncle in Truro. When her aunt passed, her uncle Matthew moved them to the rural Cornwall seaside and remarried, Laura gaining a step-aunt and step-cousin.
Not having been raised in Cornwall, Laura often feels left out and alone; this further exacerbated by her aunt who treats her as a stranger and tries her best to exclude her. Laura has tried to form a bond with her step-cousin but her aunt tries to keep them separated.
Even in 1813, Cornwall practices the tradition of “wrecking”, taking goods from wrecked ships. This is seen as a way for many people to survive and a part of Cornwall life. For Laura, her conscience won’t let her partake in the same way, before she keeps or sells anything she tries to locate the owner; along with saving it for a year and a day. After that she does whatever she wants with the items.
Her days seem very much the same until one night she hears of a wreck and goes out to help with taking care of the dead (back in the early 19th century there was no coastguard and many did not know how to swim). While combing the beach she happens upon a man, alive but soaked through and doing poorly. She manages to save him and with help from her uncle and neighbors, nurse him back to health. But while this man, Alexander Lucas, introduces himself as a man from the island of Jersey trying to get home admits the war, something about him doesn’t quite ring true. What secrets could he be holding?
Alexander wants to trust this beautiful woman who saved his life, and she and her family seem to be ones he can rely on, but he’s still not sure. Alexander is plagued with a mission to save his brother, one he has risked his life, his reputation, and his freedom to accomplish. Every day he stays on English soil is another day that his brother may be lost to him forever. Alexander tries to recuperate, find the evidence needed to save his sibling and get home as quickly as he can.
When Laura discovers Alexander’s secret that he is a French soldier who escaped from imprisonment (for a good cause) will she be willing to help him? Or will her interference only harm him? Can romance bloom in the midst of a war?
Why do I recommend for fans of Jane Austen? First of all, this books brings another view of life in the Regency era. While the war with France is mentioned in several of Austen’s novels, and there are multiple soldiers in her works, we don’t see it’s effect on people like we do in this book. In this novel the characters live on the shores of England (much closer to France), have their fishing and trade affected by war, etc.; the war is very present in the daily lives of the people.
The other reasons I recommend this to Jane Austen fans is that Laura reminds me a bit of Anne Elliot from Persuasion and Fanny Price from Mansfield Park. Like Fanny, Laura is sent to be raised with family but often feels like she’s not really a part of them and lonely. Like Anne, Laura feels as if she doesn’t really belong with her family (although she does have a bond with her uncle) and often acquiesces what she wants to keep the peace. However Laura, like both of Austen’s women, stands up for what she believes in and will not be forced into doing something she does not agree with. While all three women are not the typical headstrong outspoken ladies, all have an iron backbone.
The character of Alexander and his relationship with former best friend Francois mimic Darcy’s relationship with Wickham. Darcy and Wickham were friends from childhood and grew up together. Darcy of course was the heir of Pemberley and Wickham was the steward’s son, but the elder Mr. Darcy treated him well and even prepared to pay for his schooling. Of course we know that Wickham housed some resentment against Darcy and over not being lord of the manor; later one trying to hurt Darcy and ruin his family and reputation. Francois is the same as his friendship turns to hate as it becomes twisted with jealousy of Alexander’s wealth and status; Francois doing everything he can to destroy the Alexander’s family name and spirit.
The end was a happy one but I do appreciate how it took a little while to get there instead of most historical fiction romances. At first I wasn’t sure if Laura would get TBE happy ending she wanted.
I really enjoyed this book as I after I started reading it, after a only few chapters I could not put it down.
For more Non-Austen Reads for Austen Readers, go to Non-Austen Reads for Austen Readers: Miss Abbott and the Doctor WEBTOON