Perfect for fans of Jane Austen, this engrossing debut novel offers an unusual twist on the legacy of one of the world's most celebrated and beloved authors: Two researchers from the future are sent back in time to meet Jane and recover a suspected unpublished novel.
London, 1815: Two travelers - Rachel Katzman and Liam Finucane - arrive in a field in rural England, disheveled and weighed down with hidden money. Turned away at a nearby inn, they are forced to travel by coach all night to London. They are not what they seem but rather colleagues who have come back in time from a technologically advanced future, posing as wealthy West Indies planters - a doctor and his spinster sister. While Rachel and Liam aren't the first team from the future to "go back", their mission is by far the most audacious: meet, befriend, and steal from Jane Austen herself.
Carefully selected and rigorously trained by The Royal Institute for Special Topics in Physics, disaster-relief doctor Rachel and actor-turned-scholar Liam have little in common besides the extraordinary circumstances they find themselves in. Circumstances that call for Rachel to stifle her independent nature and let Liam take the lead as they infiltrate Austen's circle via her favorite brother, Henry.
But diagnosing Jane's fatal illness and obtaining an unpublished novel hinted at in her letters pose enough of a challenge without the continuous convolutions of living a lie. While her friendship with Jane deepens and her relationship with Liam grows complicated, Rachel fights to reconcile the woman she is with the proper lady 19th-century society expects her to be. As their portal to the future prepares to close, Rachel and Liam struggle with their directive to leave history intact and exactly as they found it...however heartbreaking that may prove.
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Fun But Lacking Character Depth
The author clearly did significant research into the period, and did a good job of weaving historical factoids into the story. That gave it a certain richness in places that was quite enjoyable.
She did well giving personality to some characters that were otherwise a bit flat.
I chose this book for an extended car trip (6 hours each way). I wasn't enthralled by the story, but content enough that I was satisfied for the drive. It did it's job, but I don't know if I'll listen to it again.
Flynn's writing is solid, but the book never really pushes that far above mediocre. For me, the big thing holding the book back from excellent was lack of character development. The writer was never really able to make me care very much about her creations, and some of their decisions were simply baffling. SPOILER: For example, the main character's decision to have a sexual relationship with a man posing as her brother, despite the fact discovery would ruin everything she's supposed to care about most. It was not only extremely dumb, but also seemingly out of character for someone whose biggest character trait thus far was their devotion to saving Jane and not screwing up her job/the time continuum. There were other things like that which made the characters and their decision making seems shallow. END SPOILER.All that being said, it's still much better than a lot of the Austen-related books pumped out in recent years. It's a good beach read—just don't expect a lot more than that.
- E. Didi