So this is something I started a while back. We all love Jane Austen and it is such a bummer that there isn’t more of her works to read.
Variations are a ton of fun, and there are great ones out there, but sometimes you don’t always want to read the same story. You want Austen-like works, but what to read?
That’s why I started this series. I will review books that have the things we love about the Austen novels, but is something fresher than a retelling.
Homespun Bride (The McKaslin Clan Historical #2) by Jillian Hart
Thad McKaslin has returned home after being away for eight years. He always wanted to live in Montana-dreaming of owning a plot of land and having a ranch for him and his wife-who he hoped to be Noelle Kramer. There was no happier day than when he proposed and she said yes.
But it was not to be as her father, the banker who owned the mortgage on Thad’s family farm, threatened to evict his family-including his sick mother-if he didn’t leave his daughter alone.
Choosing not to meet to elope with Noelle at their meeting place, he instead left for the West and cattle drives-planning to never return, but did when his family needed help-his younger brother (who got into trouble) has just been released from jail and his older brother widowed.
He expects Noelle to be married to her father’s choice, have children, and to never run into her. But as he is out running an errand, a runaway horse almost plunges two women and their carriage into a river. He helps them and is surprised to see they are Noelle and her Aunt Henrietta, and Noelle is blind!
Noelle was heartbroken when she went to meet Thad and he wasn’t there. When she returned him crying, she confessed to her father who assured her she was better off than to be with that cad-probably persuaded by the thrill of going out West and sowing oats than being married. Noelle had given up on love and planned on marrying her father’s choice as she didn’t care anymore…
But then Noelle was in an accident that killed her mother and father and left her permanently blind.
Her fiancé didn’t want “damaged goods” and left her-her aunt and uncle (and their four girls) moving from the East to take care of her. Noelle has never stopped loving Thad but having him back makes her anger come out-how could he have been persuaded by the Wild West, how could he have left her.
Thad realizes that Noelle doesn’t know the truth of what happened, but decides to not say anything as he knows how much she loved her father and he doesn’t want to taint her image of him. He decides to stay far away, but her matchmaking aunt who worries about all her girls being settled and her uncle Robert who has no horse sense and is in severe need of aid, keep him coming around.
After Robert has an incredibly dangerous fall, Thad joins the household by taking care of the ranch and spending more time with Noelle, his love reigniting. Will the two be able to move forward? Or be stuck in the past? Will each be able to overcome their insecurities of not being enough (Thad’s “lower class background” and Noelle’s blindness) or will they let that keep them far apart?
So the first reason why I recommend this for Austen fans is that it instantly made me think of Persuasion. Two people in love, separated by youthful persuasion, reuniting wiser and more experienced, a bad fall bringing them together, etc.
In this, Thad is like Anne Elliot- In Persuasion Anne wants to marry Frederick Wentworth, but is persuaded by the fear that he could die, she’d be left alone, etc outweigh her love and she refuses him-him thinking that it is because he is lower than her, not knowing really how Anne loved him. Thad is the same way as he knows the full reason why the engagement ended and has both hurt and pain, but not anger or bitterness.
Noelle is more like Frederick. Both have misunderstood the reason why the person they loved left and start the first half of the book angry and bitter, but then after a bad fall (for Noelle, her uncle Robert and Fredrick, Louisa Musgrove) they realize who they love and want to be with that person. While Frederick writes a letter of his love for Anne, Noelle anonymously sells the land she owns that Thad has been dreaming of buying to show her love for him.
Aunt Henreitta reminds me of a combination of Mrs. Bennet, Mrs. Jennings, and Aunt Gardiner. Aunt Henrietta is the mother of four girls and is constantly worrying about marrying them off, providing dowries, etc.
Hardly a page goes by when she isn’t plotting some sort of matchmaking, but unlike Mrs. Bennet she isn’t silly or has gauche behavior. Like Mrs. Jennings she wants to marry off any eligible man or woman she likes and has a forceful presence. Like Mrs. Jennings, Henrietta will back and protect anyone she cares for, so don’t mess with either one’s girls.
But unlike those two ladies, Henrietta is also very sensible and has a great relationship and love with her husband Robert. She reads the emotions of Thad and Noelle early and tries her best to get them together.
I thought it was a cute story and recommend it for Jane Austen fans.
For more Non-Austen Reads for Austen Readers, go to Non-Austen Reads for Austen Readers: The Unlikely Adventures of the Shergill Sisters
For more on Persuasion, go to You Ever Notice That The Gossip Girl TV Show is a Lot Like Persuasion?
For more Westerns, go to Will We Survive the Night?: Rawhide (1951)