Saturday, July 12, 2014

Book Review: Emma, Mr. Knightley, and Chili-Slaw Dogs

Emma, Mr. Knightley and Chili-Slaw DogsAuthor: Mary Jane Hathaway
Publication Date: July 8, 2014
Publisher: Howard Books
Series: Jane Austen Takes The South # 2

From the bestselling author of Pride, Prejudice, and Cheese Grits comes a new and comical contemporary take on the perennial Jane Austen classic, Emma.

Caroline Ashley is a journalist on the rise at The Washington Post until the sudden death of her father brings her back to Thorny Hollow to care for her mentally fragile mother and their aging antebellum home. The only respite from the eternal rotation of bridge club meetings and garden parties is her longtime friend, Brooks Elliott. A professor of journalism, Brooks is the voice of sanity and reason in the land of pink lemonade and triple layer coconut cakes. But when she meets a fascinating, charismatic young man on the cusp of a brand new industry, she ignores Brooks’ misgivings and throws herself into the project. 

Brooks struggles to reconcile his parent’s very bitter marriage with his father’s devastating grief at the recent loss of his wife. Caroline is the only bright spot in the emotional wreckage of his family life. She’s a friend and he’s perfectly happy to keep her safely in that category. Marriage isn’t for men like Brooks and they both know it until a handsome newcomer wins her heart. Brooks discovers Caroline is much more than a friend, and always has been, but is it too late to win her back? 

Featuring a colorful cast of southern belles, Civil War re-enactors, and good Christian women with spunk to spare, Emma, Mr. Knightley, and Chili-Slaw Dogs brings the modern American South to light in a way only a contemporary Jane Austen could have imagined.

 Utter disaster on a cake platter.

Caroline stuck her head into the cold spray of water. No, she wasn’t ready for any kind of serious commitment. She wanted to have a good job and be professionally fulfilled before she vowed a lifetime of love to another person.

As for not working so hard, deep down he knew that no amount of vacation would fix what was happening in his heart.

“You love, completely, and everything is secondary. At least, that’s what happens with the best kind of love.”

I know that I have been reviewing a lot of books this summer and giving them pretty high ratings, but the fact is that they deserve it! This summer has just been full of really awesome books that deserve to be read and talked about. This book also deserves the five cupcake rating that it received. The second book in the Jane Austen Takes The South series is just as good, if not better, than the first which I read and reviewed just last month. The second installment is reminiscent of Jane’s Emma, but with its own twists added along the way. And of course, with a huge part of the South thrown in as well. The Southern Belle inside of me greatly approves of these books and cannot wait for the next to be released in November!

Do not mistake this series for an actual retelling of Jane’s books. I see this as a good thing, however, because Hathaway takes parts of Jane’s stories and writes obvious nods to them, but her books tell her stories too. There is an obvious influence of Jane Austen and I am not trying to discredit the fact that they are in fact looked at as retellings, but I enjoyed them more because they tell a different story, one that is new and fresh while still nodding to the literary classic that so many of us love and treasure.

Jane Austen would love these books! The characters are classic and have so many virtuous traits; they felt like friends. I could see this story playing out before me as I read the pages, almost as if I were watching a movie instead of reading a book. Everything felt so alive and real; the writing was better in this book than in the first one. Things felt more appropriately paced and only the ending felt a little rushed. Romance is not the first genre that I usually pick up, but if I were given more authors like Hathaway I certainly would!

***A free copy of this book was provided to me by the publishers at Howard Books in exchange for my honest review***

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