Katherine Reay’s The Austen Escape introduced a story woven with a little bit of romance, a little bit of friendship, a little bit of self-discovery, and a little bit of Jane Austen. The novel was delightful—a light read with an intriguing plot—and a great summer read.
Mary Davies and Isabel Dwyer have been friends since childhood, but recently, they have not connected as well. Mary lives a quiet life in Austin, Texas, working as an engineer in a small company. Lately, she has been stuck on a project and the workings of the company are changing around her. So, when Isabel offers a trip to Bath, England and the chance to stay in a manor house for two weeks, Mary accepts. She soon finds this trip to be more than she bargained for when an incident causes Isabel to believe she really is in Regency England. With the help of some new friends, Mary wrestles with “rescuing” Isabel and understanding the complexities of her own life, especially when a particular man arrives in England. The questions of “will Mary be able to bring Isabel back to reality?” and “what will their friendship look like once she is back?” carry the reader through the novel.
I enjoyed this book for several reasons. First, it was a fresh story. I have read other novels by Ms. Reay, and though each one carries bits of classical works, they all have been unique tales. The Austen Escape was no exception. Secondly, the characters were very intriguing. The further I got into the book, the more I wanted to understand why some of them acted the way they did. The way Ms. Reay unearthed the pasts of Mary and Isabel helped to bring understanding to why these ladies behave the way they do. Lastly, I enjoyed this book because it was an easy-read. The mood of The Austen Escape, though dealing with complex issues, was very formal and light. It was the perfect novel to begin the summer with for sure. While I enjoyed the Jane Austen references and inclusion of her works, having not read anything aside from Pride and Prejudice, I felt I was missing out on a few key details. Nonetheless, Ms. Reay ensures the reader does not need to have read every Austen novel to understand this plot or its characters—though it may be helpful to do so.
If one enjoys stories of adventure, romance, and friendship, this novel is a perfect fit. If I had to award a rating to this book, I would give it 4 out of 5 stars—it really is a wonderful novel!