Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Source: Review Copy from Publisher
A literary adventure and bit of intrigue about Jane Austen and her early manuscript of Pride and Prejudice (earlier titled, First Impressions)! What if there were rumors and evidence that could shed some light on Jane Austen’s First Impressions, wouldn’t that be wonderful? But what if those rumors and evidence did nothing more than create doubt on the authorship of Pride and Prejudice? Could Jane Austen have stolen the idea for Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth from someone else??? *gasp!*
That is what Sophie Collingwood, Janeite, bibliophile, and antique bookseller is determined to find out!
With alternating chapters, First Impressions is two stories in one; one half of the book takes place in Jane Austen’s time – mostly during the years 1796 and 1797, the other half of the book takes place present-day with Sophie Collingwood. I love dual story-lines, and this book offers two stories that are equally fascinating and engaging. I often couldn’t decide which story-line I wanted to see continue more!
I was instantly drawn to the Jane Austen story-line where we see Jane Austen make an unexpected friendship with a retired clergyman, Richard Mansfield – a friendship that proves to be very significant in many ways. I adored Mr. Mansfield and found his relationship with young Jane to be everything that is charming and delightful. I loved seeing Jane bare her heart and soul to him and share her darkest secrets. And I thought the supposed realization of her greatest flaw and Mr. Mansfield’s suggested method of atonement to be very conceivable and satisfying. While some may be outraged by the suggestion of Jane Austen receiving assistance or promptings for her works and characters, I thought it a reasonable supposition and one that did little to take away from Jane Austen’s exceptional genius.
I found the other story-line with Sophie Collingwood was just as riveting. Sophie is a true bibliophile with a most reverent and fervent adoration and appreciation for books. Sophie’s love affair with books and reading was encouraged and enriched by her Uncle Bertram; and their special relationship and history together – which was shown through various flashbacks – was so heartwarming to witness. With her uncle’s death, her desire to restore her uncle’s library, and a commission to find a second edition of a very obscure book for two different customers, Sophie has much to occupy her time and thoughts. Add to that two men who seem interested in a romantic relationship with her, a nagging suspicion about her uncle’s death, and an understandably urgent desire to protect Jane Austen’s name! Quite a bit going on, wouldn’t you say?
Sophie is an extremely likable, sensitive, and intelligent character and her profound love of books and reading was evident in every chapter. Seeing her memories of her Uncle Bertram and the talks they shared was definitely one of my favorite parts. I also loved her interactions with Eric Hall, a quirky American who, at first, she thought was quite rude. 😉 And while I enjoyed the charming and enigmatic Winston Godfrey, I at times found myself thinking Sophie’s relationship and behavior towards him to be a little unlikely. Note: Due to some adult situations and language, I’d recommend this novel for readers over the age of fourteen.
With all its intrigue, danger, secrets, and romance – First Impressions by Charlie Lovett truly is a thrilling literary adventure! An adventure that skillfully fills the reader with eager anticipation to unravel the past and tempts them to believe they’ve finally discovered the truth about Jane Austen’s First Impressions! *sigh* If only!
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- This giveaway is open for US/CAN residents. Thank you, Penguin Group!
- This giveaway ends January 2nd!