In the summer of 1791, fifteen-year-old Miss Jane Austen is determined to accomplish three things: to do something useful, write something worthy, and fall madly in love. While visiting at Goodnestone Park in Kent for a month of festivities in honor of her brother's engagement to Miss Elizabeth Bridges, Jane meets the boy-next-door—the wealthy, worldly, and devilishly handsome Edward Taylor, heir to Bifrons Park, and hopefully her heart! Like many of Jane’s future heroes and heroines, she soon realizes that there are obstacles—social, financial, and otherwise—blocking her path to love and marriage, one of them personified by her beautiful and sweet tempered rival, Charlotte Payler.
Unsure of her own budding romance, but confident in her powers of observation, Jane distracts herself by attempting to maneuver the affections of three other young couples. But when her well-intentioned matchmaking efforts turn into blundering misalliance, Jane must choose between following her own happily-ever-after, or repairing those relationships which, based on erroneous first impressions, she has misaligned.
In September 1796, Jane Austen wrote in a letter that she has passed by the estate of Bifrons, "the abode of him, on whom I once fondly doated." "Him" is Edward Taylor and Syrie James has taken this mysterious nugget and spun a tale of fifteen-year-old Jane Austen and her first crush in 1791.
Seventeen-year-old Edward Taylor, heir to Bifrons, makes a favorable impression on the young Jane when he and his friend Tom Payler stop to rescue Jane, Cassandra, and their brother Charles when their carriage becomes stuck in the mud. Edward is cosmopolitan, cultured, educated, good-natured, and handsome, all qualities perfectly designed to entrance an intelligent, ambitious, and sheltered young woman. Their paths cross frequently with all the fêtes, balls, and visits held in honor of Jane's brother and his fiancée (and her sister and that sister's fiancée, who got unexpectedly engaged....). Jane also sharpens her powers of observation (and her tongue) by observing the self-aggrandizing, unimaginative Lady Bridges and her daughters, the gregarious Sir Brook, various other neighbors, and, frustratingly, Miss Charlotte Payler - Tom Payler's younger sister and Jane's rival for Edward Taylor's affections.
Syrie James effortlessly captures the sweetness of teenage crushes - the uncertainty, the wish to impress, jealously, and the sudden certainty that, yes, this person above all others is destined to be your one-and-only. But readers know, simply by the introduction to the novel, that this teenage love is destined to be bittersweet. Jane herself tells us that she "once" was fond of Edward Taylor and James does a remarkable job giving the reader an engaging romantic plot while staying true to the biographical history of her very famous protagonist.
In addition to the marriage plot(s) Janeites and sharp readers will delight in picking out lines, scenes, and characters that James has borrowed from Austen's novels. Sir Brook is an analogue to Sir John Middleton, from Sense and Sensibility. Lady Bridges is a bit like a more-aware version of Lady Bertram from Mansfield Park. Jane horses around by climbing a high wall to impress Edward Taylor, much like Louisa does to impress Captain Wentworth in Persuasion (don't worry, Jane is quite all right). She even suffers from a combination of Elizabeth Bennet's prejudicial first impressions and Emma's blind but well-meant match-making. These are lovely distractions from the separation we know comes at the end of the novel.
Jane Austen's First Love by Syrie James is available now, wherever books are sold (Penguin and BN).
Syrie James, hailed as “the queen of nineteenth century re-imaginings” by Los Angeles Magazine, is the bestselling author of nine critically acclaimed novels that have been translated into 18 languages. Her books have been awarded the Audio Book Association Audie, designated as Editor’s Picks by Library Journal, named a Discover Great New Writer’s Selection by Barnes and Noble, a Great Group Read by the Women’s National Book Association, and Best Book of the Year by The Romance Reviews and Suspense Magazine. Syrie is a member of the WGA and lives in Los Angeles. Please visit her at syriejames.com, Facebook or say hello on Twitter @SyrieJames.
Grand Giveaway Contest
Win One of Five Fabulous Jane Austen-inspired Prize Packages
To celebrate the holidays and the release of Jane Austen's First Love, Syrie is giving away five prize packages filled with an amazing selection of Jane Austen-inspired gifts and books!
To enter the giveaway contest, simply leave a comment on any of the blog stops on the Jane Austen's First Love Holiday Blog Tour.
Increase your chances of winning by visiting multiple stops along the tour! Syrie's unique guest posts will be featured on a variety of subjects, along with fun interviews, spotlights, excerpts, and reviews of the novel. Contest closes at 11:59pm PT, December 21, 2014. Five lucky winners will be drawn at random from all of the comments on the tour, and announced on Syrie’s website on December 22, 2014. The giveaway contest is open to everyone, including international residents. Good luck to all!