Holiday Mix Tape by Beau North and Brooke West
I was given this book in exchange for an honest review and as I started the month off with the modern Jane Austen Christmas adaption, Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe, I thought what better way to end the holidays than with a review of another modern Jane Austen Christmas adaption.
When I saw that this was a Persuasion adaption, I was jazzed, as Persuasion, Northanger Abbbey, and Mansfield Park are often ignored.
So I have read previous works by the two-Beau North’s “You Don’t Know Me” from The Darcy Monologues: Part II, Other Eras, “Fitzwilliam’s Folly” in Dangerous to Know, Jane Austen’s Rakes and Gentleman Rogues: MILD, and “Louisa by the Sea” from Rational Creatures: Anne Elliot, Mrs. Croft, Mrs. Clay, & Louisa Musgrove. All of which I really enjoyed.
With Brooke West I have read her “Last Letter to Mansfield” from Dangerous to Know, Jane Austen’r Rakes and Gentleman Rogues: MATURE and “The Meaning of Wife” from Rational Creatures: Fanny Price and Mary Crawford. I really enjoyed both of those as well- especially the Fanny Price one as it made me view Edmund Bertram in a new light.
So let’s move on to the book. Persuasion was published after Jane Austen died, along with Northanger Abbey. It is a truly romantic story as our main character Anne Elliot, became engaged to marry Fredrick Wentworth (who was about to go off to war), but was persuaded to refuse him after hearing the arguments of all that could go wrong-he could die and she be widowed, he could return injured and unable to work, they could be penniless, they are young maybe they aren’t right for each other-and so on. She ends their engagement and he leaves, and years pass and Anne still loves him. She grows older, her father loses a lot of their fortune with poor business sense, and they have to rent out their home. While they have nosedived, her old flame is now Captain Fredrick Wentworth-having nothing to hold him back he took a lot of risks, made quite a bit of money, and rose in the Navy. He reenters Anne’s life when his sister rents Anne’s family home. They interact frequently, with her still in love with him and he still VERY hurt and upset with her.
Besides the romance of it, (that letter *sigh*), there is a lot of other things to love in this book. The powerful and wonderful relationship of Captain Wentworth’s sister and husband, Admiral & Mrs. Croft; Jane really puts some zingers in there about the way the culture viewed women; and more. It is a great book, and if you haven’t read it, you should check it out.
So with our tale-the story is set in modern day, Portland Oregon. The book switches between the present holiday time (2019) when Wentworth arrives back into Anne’s life, with flashbacks as to what happened between them eight years prior (2011).
Anne is the middle daughter to a politician, Senator Walter Elliot, but very content at staying out of the spotlight. The only times she enjoys everyone’s attention on her is when she is DJing and mixing tunes. But that was so long ago, now she is a professor of Creative Writing at Portland State University and the author of the novel, Perpetual Engagement. Her wanting to stay out of the spotlight also seems long ago as her father is in every paper with the rumored scandal he’s engaged in an extramarital affair, he may have misused funds, and he just landed in the hospital with a heart attack.
And right at this stressful time, made even more so by the fact that it is the holidays, her ex-fiance walks right back into her life.
Eric’s (Captain Fredrik Wentworth) sister, Sophia, and brother-in-law, Henry Croft, are renting Senator Walter Elliot’s house while he and his oldest daughter hide out in Sonoma. They invite him to spend the holidays with them, and he wants to spend time with his sister and family, as his brother David also lives there, but is not happy to run into Anne.
He still is angry over her breaking up with him, his time served in the Marines didn’t help him get over it and he is now the West Regional correspondent for the Associate Press.
One thing that West and North added in this adaption, is that they made Wentworth African American. I personally love when I see biracial or multicultural romances as I am biracial and come from a multiracial family. I can’t help comparing this to Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe and how this book did it much better. Having Wentworth be a different race adds to the story, as he feels the reason Anne turned him down was not because she was afraid of what could happen-him dying, getting seriously injured, coming back a different person, meeting someone in his unit, being too young to know if she was really in love, etc (all valid concerns) and he believes it is his background and skin color that made her eventually turn him down (feeling the pressure from her father).
I felt that added to the tension, just like I believe in Austen’s work, that Captain Wentworth felt the same way-Anne said no because of his background not of her fear.
With Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe adding a twist of a gender swap did nothing to further the development of the characters or add to the story. There was no new avenue added other than Luke/Lizzie was a total jerk, the younger Bennet brothers/sisters were psychotic, and Darcy was so underdeveloped it was like when you buy those decorating kits that come with everything to decorate but have to buy/make the cookies separate, no substance at all.
So we travel back in time to 2011, when Eric and Anne met. So Eric’s brother David is in politics and interning with Senator Elliot, David drags Eric along with him to their holiday party. When he tries to escape the crowd that is not for him, he meets Anne- a beautiful curvy woman who loves junk food, music, and captures his heart.
So back in 2019, Anne is staying with her sister Mary as her plumbing is being taken care of…wait let’s stop a moment and talk about her sisters. In Austen’s book her sisters were awful narcissist-Elizabeth a spendthrift and bully to her sister and Mary a whiner and hypochondriac. Elizabeth isn’t really in this adaption, but North and West captured how I imagined a modern version of her to be, along with how Anne still cares for her.
“Anne loved her sister [Elizabeth] the way a woman might love a pair of beautiful but uncomfortable heels.”
So back to the story, Anne and Eric run into each other. And I really enjoyed that chapter. I think it was extremely well done in showing the character of Anne as in the previous one, which takes place in 2011, she is confident, assured, exclaims how she feels-and in this chapter, 2019, she can hardly speak to him and the way the authors described the feeling of heartbreak and how it affects the way you dress, eat, act, etc.-was perfect.
This chance meeting shocks both, more than they realize. With Anne, seeing how well Eric looked just magnified how much she had let herself disappear and slowly, in little steps does she find herself putting herself back together. With Eric-seeing how hurt, thin, sad-eyed, and broken Anne is doesn’t have him react in glee, but makes him reconsider the past and how maybe he was wrong in what he believed happened.
Meanwhile-reporters are harassing Anne trying to get a story, Sophie and David try their hand at matchmaking Anne and Eric, Charles’ younger sisters both make a play for Eric, and a Will Ellis starts going after Anne. Will Anne and Eric get their happily ever after? Or just remain two ships that bumped in the night and parted ways.
So I enjoyed this story. Being an adaption, I know they aren’t going to stray too far from the original plot-so I know the end-but they did add enough of their own style and twists that it kept my attention.
Being a modern adaption, there are changes from the original storyline-Sir Walter is a Senator, David is gay and a politician instead of a parson, they don’t do a big group vacation to Brighton or Bath, etc. But I think the authors did a good job trying to not stray too far from the original plot, but make it applicable to today.
I liked that we see more of Eric’s relationship with his siblings, and enjoyed their interactions.
They do change Captain Wentworth’s letter to Anne’s novel, which is cute-but I will always be partial to the letter.
I can’t help but compare this to Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe and how much better this is than that book. Both North and West paid attention to the family relationships in the original book, and even though some of the characters aren’t in it that long they give you the makeup of each family really well. You can tell that these authors love the original story and paid attention to the important parts of it.
Unlike Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe the characters all talk and act like real people and interact the way people do. I mean both took a story that spanned over a year, and condensed it into taking place in few weeks, but while in Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe where Darcy and Luke/Elizabeth have like three conversations with each other-mostly fighting and Darcy being I’m the best-with Holiday Mix Tape they did a great job developing the romance by showing us their interactions in the past (not just saying they have crushes in high school) which makes it believable them falling in love as we see they never fell out of love.
So I hated Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe and I think that if you are looking for a modern Jane Austen Christmas novel, you should check this out.
My only complaint about this book, is that every chapter starts with “Track __” as you know it is a holiday “mixtape” and Anne was a DJ, but the chapter titles are not real songs. I know, it bummed me out too as I thought it would be cute to add links to the Holiday Mix Tape playlist. If there was anything that I would want to be changed, that’s it.
For more Persuasion, go to Rational Creatures: Anne Elliot, Mrs. Croft, Mrs. Clay, & Louisa Musgrove
For more Anne Elliot, go to Austen Avengers Assemble!
For more on Captain Wentworth, go to Jane Austen Chinese Zodiac
For more Jane Austen adaptions, go to YULETIDE: A Jane Austen-inspired Collection of Stories Audiobook