So this is something I started a while back. Sometimes you want more Austen books after you have read all her books. There are variations on her stories, but sometimes you don’t want to read the same story. You want Austen-like works, but what to read or watch?
That’s why I started this series. I will review books that have the things we love about the Austen novels, but in something fresher than a retelling.
Suitors and Sabotage by Cindy Anstey
So we added this book to the library last July and I was very interested in reading it, but had too many books on my to-read list. I decided to read it at a later time, you know what I’m talking about.
I first became interested in the book because of the cover, I know-we aren’t supposed to, but it is so beautiful.
Then I looked at the back and saw:
“…Jane Austen spiced with action, suspense, and humor.”
“Jane Austen fans in need of a good book look no further.”
“It’s Jane Austen meets Jane Foster…”
After that I HAD to read it, if it is recommended for Austen fans-here we go.
Gracebridge Manor in Fotheringham, Kent -1817
Miss Imogene Chively has returned from her London season a success, or so her family believes. Imogene did not enjoy the parties, being on display, etc.
Hopefully, she will not have to go back as she has a suitor- a Mr. Ernest Steeple. He’s very, very interested in her and about to visit and stay a few weeks.
Imogene is a very shy and not looking forward to him coming, but at least she will be home.
She an her friend Miss Emily Beeswanger (what a name!) are relaxing outside the ruins of the nearby castle, when Imogene’s dog puts himself in danger. They try to get him back, but he won’t listen!
But in the end they are assisted by a handsome young man.
After he saves their dog, the man introduces himself as Benjamin “Ben” Steeple, the younger brother of Ernest. He has accompanied him, and the two arrived early. Mr. Chively, Imogene’s father, is monopolizing Ernest, so Ben decided to check out the castle ruins. Ben is studying to be an architect and could not pass up the opportunity.
Benjamin joins the ladies for a picnic and Emily sets her cap for the charming, flirtatious, dashing man. Emily went with Imogene for the London season, but did not have anyone interested in her. She’s feeling like a failure and this handsome man seems to be the answer to her wish to be married.
Imogene’s dog, Jasper, takes off into the old ruins, again, and Ben helps save him for Imogene. They end up bringing part of the castle down and destroying their clothes in the process (not like they are naked bit that those clothes can never be fixed to be in their previous condition ever again).
Ben goes to change before dinner and encourage his brother. Ernest is over the moon about Imogene but feels disheartened as he is trying to spend time with her, but has only been spending time with the dad. He’s worried he won’t have anything to converse with her, so Ben tells him to talk about Joseph Turner.
Uh, excuse me…his name is Joseph Mallard William Turner. Sorry if my art history is showing, but he did make beautiful paintings. They were large “romantic” pieces of art. We studied Slave Ship, Slavers Throwing Overboard the Dead and Dying, Typhoon Coming On, in my class but they wouldn’t have seen that painting as it wasn’t done until 1840.
Anyways…sorry for that derail.
So the brothers are some of the best parts of the book as it is fun to read their interactions as they mess with each other. For instance Ben tells Mr. Chively that Ernest likes economics and Mr. Chively spends the whole night talking his ear off about banking and interest.
Ben, however, spends the night talking to Imogene and Emily and enjoys conversing with both women. He’s a major flirt and loves charming the ladies.
Imogene finds herself feeling uncertain as she is in a place she has never been before. She knows that Ernest likes her…but all this attention-could Ben have feelings for her too? Are two brothers fighting over her?
But then Emily points out all the attention Ben has been giving her and the way he has been treating her. Could this be worse than she thought, could he like both Imogene and Emily?
After the two talk, Imogene becomes convinced that Ben is just flirting and charming both of them (very Frank Churchill). Imogene is a little saddened at that, but Emily will not give up. She wants Ben and practices her best flirtations in order to win his heart.
The next morning, Ernest is taken off by Imogene’s father to go fishing, while Ben gets to spend the morning with her. He is doing his best to extol his brother’s virtues, but finds himself holding her hands longer than necessary and thinking more about her than his brother.
Wow, Ben, really? Your brother’s girl! You know he’s into her. And he’s your BROTHER!!!!!
They spend time together, but then Imogene goes to give Emily’s sister, Harriet, her drawing lessons.
Afterwards, she finds Emily decked out in her most flattering gown, ready for Ben’s return-you know pulling a Sandy.
Besides the Beeswanger family, and the Steeples, the Tabards are also staying with the Chivelys. Mrs. Chively, Mrs. Beeswanger, and Mrs. Tabard were very close friends, and relatives. Mrs. Tabard passed away and since then Mr. Tabard has been a ghost of the man he once was. His son Jake has become an incorrigible prankster-pairing up with Imogene’s older brother Percy.
Ben has a horrible secret and admits it to Imogene. He wants to be an architect more than anything in the world, but he cannot draw! He begs her for lessons and to keep his secret. It makes Imogene feel special as her family doesn’t care about art and she begins lessons with him.
OKaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay! Red flag number 2!!! Liar, secret keeping, your only role is to make HIM better. Imogene, walk away-walk away!!!
That evening Ernest and Imogene finally have a chance to spend time together. Ernest tries to talk about Turner, but can’t. He admits he knows little of painting and that he is a…reader. Not of poems or essays…but…literature.
A handsome, kind, caring, rich man who loves to read?
He’s PERFECT!!! He’s the mythical unicorn!!!!!
Imogene begins to enjoy Ernest’s company just as much as Ben’s and finds herself in a real quandary. She likes Ernest and Ben, but she can’t have both so which brother will she choose?
But before Imogene’s heart can tell her the path to take-some strange things start happening. Her jewelry is found in Ben’s room, then a burr is under his saddle and almost kills him, the castle starts falling down as well, and more. Someone is after Ben, but who?
A MYSTERY!!! You know what that means…
To further complicate this midsummer nights comedy of errors; Ernest and Ben both like Imogene, Emily likes Ben, Jake seems to be interested in Emily, and Imogene doesn’t know which man she wants.
And who is doing all these mysterious things? Could it be Percy or Jake, taking their “jokes” too far? Could it be Emily, who is after Ben-maybe trying to dissuade him from Imogene? Or could it be Ernest who wants to take Ben out of the running for Imogene’s heart?
Thoughts After Reading:
This book was pretty enjoyable for the most part. I thought the beginning and middle were really good. The parts that kind of turned me off was when the story began to drag on with the constant back and forth of Imogene trying to decide on a guy.
It really bothered me too how both men laughed off Imogene’s fear. I mean come on guys, there is too much happening for it be an “accident”. Seriously dudes.
There is also a weird part when Imogene accuses Ernest of doing all these things to Ben and Ben becomes furious. She is in shock about how “unreasonable” he is and hopes to never see that “unreasonable” side again. Ugh, girl please-you just accused his brother of trying to kill him. If someone said that to me about my sister I would have flipped a table at them. How dare you!!!
But really, whether you will love or hate this book will boil down to one thing-which guy you like better. It is a tale as old as Fritz and Ernst (The Swiss Family Robinsons) or modern day-Dean and Sam (Supernatural). You have two guys who are amazing guys-both nice, brave, good people. One is more of an introvert, one more of an extrovert; one slightly more brawny, one slightly more brainy; etc. And you can only choose one!
Who would I pick? I really liked Ernest. I thought he was kind, caring, sweet-loved that he was a reader and found him to be like Mr. Tilney-comfortable, a novel reader, and just fun.
Ben, on the other hand, I could not stand. He made me think of Frank Churchill, a charmer-all fluff, and no substance. I really felt that Ben picked up on how Imogene feels ignored and not valued for her art and really played on that manipulating her into being with him so he can use her artistic ability to further his career. I hate charming flirts-they are such jerks so I didn’t want her with him, I wanted Ernest!!! But hey that’s just me-you might feel differently.
Plus, 100000000000000000000000000000000x points: Ernest has read all the Jane Austen novels.
For more non-Austen reads for Austen readers, Non-Austen Reads for Austen Readers: A Love for Keeps
For mysteries, go to Suspense & Sensibility (Or First Impressions Revisited)
For more Young Adult books, go to Prom & Prejudice