Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars
Source: Review Copy from Authors
In their latest collaboration, Ask Eleanor, authors Laura Briggs and Sarah Burgess pen a contemporary tale about two diverse sisters, inspired by Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility. The story focuses on Eleanor Darbish, a successful and nationally syndicated advice columnist (similar to Miss Darcy in Dear Miss Darcy). Practical, efficient Eleanor doling out common sense? (I could totally see that.) And Marianne? – she is an artist that attends poetry sessions and lives life passionately. (What else?) Both sisters currently live in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and as you might imagine (given what you know of Sense and Sensibility) they are about to experience some romance…and some heartache.
Even though it took awhile for me to get into the story (the business about the newspaper merger was a little uninteresting and took up too much page time), I found a lot of the new twists these authors created to be inventive and fun to explore. I loved being inside Eleanor’s head more and being privy to her private feelings and thoughts about Edward, and I thought it was hilarious that Lucy was Eleanor’s newly appointed, overly opinionated, and overbearing assistant. In addition, I felt the closer friendship between Eleanor and Brandon was a unique and interesting twist, but more about that later…
One aspect of this story I wasn’t too fond of was the relationship between Eleanor and Marianne. With no father passing away or forced relocation to a new city there didn’t seem to be anything to connect them to each other at the beginning of the novel. In fact, even before Marianne meets Willoughby and starts behaving recklessly, their relationship felt distant and stained. The relationship between Eleanor and Marianne definitely improves by the end of the novel, but it lacked warmth, mutual regard, and a shared history in the beginning. Moreover, because Marianne was often portrayed as egotistical and rude and Eleanor just a tad too severe and judgmental, I sometimes found these characters hard to like and often felt apathetic towards their plights.
SPOILER ALERT! Read at your own risk! (To read, highlight paragraphs with mouse)
What greatly disappointed me with this novel was Eleanor’s relationship with Edward, and then her relationship with Brandon…I don’t have an issue with Eleanor and Brandon together, it makes sense! I have an issue with how it happened. Eleanor spent the majority of the book thinking about Edward, feeling warm, happy, and excited around him, dating him, kissing him, etc. After Edward breaks up with Lucy and pursues Eleanor, all seems to be going well for them. (YAY! They deserve to be happy!) But Eleanor puts a stop to that when she determines that Edward is on the rebound and decides they should take a step back, and their relationship basically dissolves…
Meanwhile, for years Brandon has harbored a secret love for Eleanor (but apparently was never willing to act on these feelings???) and Eleanor eventually gets clued in but doesn’t do or say a thing with that information…until they run into each other eight months later and he declares his feelings and she simply states, “I know.” So disappointing! Even though I saw the hints about Brandon’s interest, I felt torn because Edward was a good, likable guy and I felt emotionally invested in his relationship with Eleanor. Add to all of this Marianne ends up with one of her former boyfriends who, while mentioned, was never in the story! This, regrettably, made the novel end on such a dissatisfying note for all the characters involved!
Sadly, this is one of those situations where the bad outweighs the good. I liked the creative, new approach the authors had to Jane Austen’s beloved Sense and Sensibility, but I would have appreciated and admired their new twists a great deal more if it was executed in a more persuasive manner.
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