Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Source: Review Copy from Author
What if a trip to the Jane Austen House and Museum and an impulse purchase of an Advent calendar at the gift shop led to an inexplicable and extraordinary phenomenon where you were brought back in time to 1811 and could meet Elizabeth Bennet, Mr. Darcy, and Jane Austen?!?
This is exactly what happens to Liz Benson. On a cold, snowy day she treks out to the village of Chawton and encounters a very rude and “cross-looking” young man and a bubbly and bustling matron in Regency attire. Liz is informed she must put on a costume, and before she can ask any questions she is instructed to open door one of the calendar and proceed to the drawing room. Not sure whether this is a special skit or if actors are paid to put on this “experience,” Liz complies and plays along. What she doesn’t know is that some magic is afoot and she has just slipped back in time to an alternate reality where Jane Austen is currently working on her manuscript, First Impressions, and the characters of that novel are “alive” and living in Chawton! But this version of First Impressions is very different from what we know as Pride and Prejudice. And it looks like Jane Austen might need some help finding her way with these characters.
What a clever and festive idea for a Jane Austen-Inspired holiday novella! It did take me a little bit of time to grasp the time slip phenomena, and at first I was wanting to try and understand the what/how/why with the Advent calendar. But then I realized this is a magical Christmas read, and you don’t ever question Christmas magic (it’s a rule!), especially Jane Austen Christmas magic!
My favorite part of this novel would have to be the Advent calendar. I grew up with several advent calendars in our family, some which were new each year and had chocolate behind the doors, and some which we saved and reused each year that had scripture or images behind the doors. The ones with images and verses were by far my favorite. 🙂 I loved hearing about and visualizing the images behind each door in Liz’s calendar. I felt the same excitement and wonder she did when opening a new door. The only thing that could have made this experience better was if there were illustrations in the book for the reader to see! Ms. Odiwe is a very talented artist and I’m a big fan of her artistic and detailed descriptions. I was thrilled to recognize some of the scenes and images described as ones I’ve seen created by Jane Odiwe’s own hand!
The other aspect of the story I greatly enjoyed was seeing Jane Austen at work on First Impressions. I think it is so much fun to speculate what Jane Austen’s first draft was like and the changes made along the way. Was Mr. Darcy there and established from the very beginning? Or did he come along many rewrites later? 😉 I enjoyed Jane Odiwe’s interpretation of Jane Austen’s manuscript, and of course, I loved seeing our beloved author interact with her characters and treat them as her playthings. 🙂
POSSIBLE SPOILER ALERT: While I loved the magic, calendar, time slip, and interaction with Jane Austen, I found myself feeling slightly disappointed with the romance in this novel. I’m not fond of fast-paced romances where characters have a few interactions, brief conversations, a lot of silence and separation, and end up declaring love to each other in last chapter. I thought Mr. Williams and Liz were lovely characters, but I would have loved for more to happen between them, their relationship felt very abrupt.
Despite my quibble, I found Mr. Darcy’s Christmas Calendar to be delightful, enchanting, and filled with Christmas magic. 🙂 Jane Odiwe brings readers along on a charming visit to the heart of Jane Austen’s world for the holiday season!