I didn’t particularly care for surprises, unless they involved gifts…or cake. The discovery of a journal channeling the spirit of Jane Austen had been an exception, but I’d been reconsidering my position for days. Cake never gave me any trouble. Gypsy Jane, however, liked dishing it out on a regular basis.
(from Austensibly Ordinary, page 182)
Alyssa Goodnight’s latest novel, Austensibly Ordinary, is a sort of sequel to Austentatious, but it can be read on its own since it follows a different set of characters. As in Austentatious, the novel centers on a magical journal through which Jane Austen dispenses advice, rearranging the words poured out by the journal’s current owner into vague one-liners.
This time, the heroine is Cate Kendall, a high school English teacher who invents a sexy siren alter ego, Cat Kennedy, to add some excitement to her life. Much of her life revolves around teaching Jane Austen novels and playing Scrabble every Sunday night with her best friend and fellow teacher, Ethan. After finding the old journal in a picnic table, Cate’s life is suddenly chaotic as she tries to navigate two personas and have some fun with Jake, whom she met at a Halloween party while acting like Cat and thinks might be her Mr. Darcy.
Meanwhile, all the classroom talk about Jane Austen’s Emma has Cate believing that the Gypsy Jane of the journal is encouraging her to play matchmaker, a sort of modern-day Emma Woodhouse. She starts thinking of potential matches for all the single people in her life…but what about Ethan? He knows all of her secrets, but he won’t tell her any of his. When Gypsy Jane’s advice starts hitting too close to home, Cate’s more confused than ever. How does a girl choose between a Darcy and a Knightley?
Austensibly Ordinary is sexy and fun and a wonderful way to spend an afternoon immersed in a contemporary romance with Austen’s fingerprints all over it. I really hope Goodnight revisits the journal in another novel because I can’t get enough of Fairy Jane, Gypsy Jane, whatever kind of Jane! Her heroines are believable, best-friend material, and her heroes are just as charming and irresistible as Austen’s. I really enjoyed the first book, but I loved the characters in this one even more — and the Emma references made it hard to put down.
Goodnight’s books are perfect for Austen fans, especially those willing to believe that a wise yet playful matchmaker Jane Austen is out there somewhere working her magic. And today being the 200th anniversary of the publication of Pride and Prejudice makes it the perfect day to celebrate a beloved author who continues to delight readers with her insight into human relationships. Austensibly Ordinary proves that Austen’s stories are timeless, with relevance even in a society much changed from Austen’s time.
Disclosure: I received Austensibly Ordinary from the author for review.
© 2013 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.