Monday, April 02, 2007

Nouveau Jane Austen???

Indiscretion by Jude Morgan

No one can publish a book set in the Regency period featuring an independent heroine without getting compared to Jane Austen. It's just a law of nature. Reviewers see the ballrooms and costumes, think "Austen", and think no further. The problem is, most of the books that get this comparison don't even remotely deserve it - even the ones that want it so bad you can see it.

Indiscretion is different. It's the first Austen "wannabe" I've read that actually seems just as spirited and fun as Austen. Except for a few brief slips into modernity, Morgan gets the tone just right on this one. Some of her plot points and characters will seem familiar to Austen fans, but they never quite become derivative. On the whole, it just seems like the book Jane never got around to writing.

The story:

Caroline Fortune is understandably a little sensitive about people referring to her as "Miss Fortune". She's had an interesting childhood on the outskirts of society. After her mother's death, her weak-minded, ex-solider father turned to card games and the stage for a living - and took Caro right along for the ride. Sometimes he made enough money for the both of them to live off of, but most of the time he didn't. So, by the time Caro is of marriageable age, their credit is used up and their luck has run out.

To take herself off her father's hands, Caro finds employment as companion to a cantankerous old widow. Just about the time she's made a good start in a respectable country life, a ghost from her past shows up to upset everything. It's up to her whether to expose the rake - and, with him, her own background.

This is a fun romp through Bath, London and parts of the English countryside. I'd highly recommend it to all Austen fans... or anybody who wants to become one.

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