Jun 252014

Ask EleanorInspired by Sense and Sensibility, But with Quite A Few Twists

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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  20 Responses to “Ask Eleanor – Laura Briggs and Sarah Burgess”


    I did read the spoiler part and would hope the authors might take your comments and make amends. Can a book be re-written…under a new name with new character names? Hate to have to think all their work at this attempt falls short.


    It must be so hard to write a review on a book that just didn’t do it for you. I find it hard to finish a book if I’m really not invested in the characters or story. Thank you for your honest review and opinion.


      It most definitely is, Carole! I struggle so much with my review when it is a book I didn’t like. :/ And I agree, if you don’t care or feel anything for the characters, why keep reading?


    Thanks for your review, Meredith. It is sad when a book doesn’t live up to the potential is could have. The premise sounds interesting. Maybe this team’s next book will be better! 🙂


    I understand you, Meredith, it´s a pity because sometimes authors try to be original but the plot doesn´t make sense and then readers get dissapointed. If Edward was the right guy, then Eleanor should have ended with him and if he wasn´t, then Eleanor should have told her feelings to Brandon but since the first time in the novel. And I agree with you in the subject of the relationship between the sisters because it´s the most important thing in the novel and they should have been together, sharing their feelings and thoughts.


      Thank you, Teresa! I don’t mind love-triangles or when the heroine has a change of heart about her love interest, those kinds of twists make a story interesting. But in this case it happened to late in the story to keep me on board. Even though Elinor and Marianne can be polar opposites, I like seeing them still have a connection though. You may think your family is crazy, but you still love them right? 😉 Thanks for sharing your thoughts on my review!


    Well I wasn’t going to read the spoiler but I am too curious so I had to! Hmmm. It’s a real shame there wasn’t much connection between Elinor and Marianne as that is one of the things I like best about S&S.


      There also wasn’t any Margaret or Mrs. Dashwood, so I definitely missed the familial theme that is present in Jane Austen’s novel. Thanks for reading my review, Ceri. I appreciate it!


    I think I’ll pass on this one. I’m all for the pairing you described in the spoiler box (I always thought they’d do well together), but this book sounds like it will disappoint me on a few levels. An S&S update that doesn’t do justice to changing a major character pairing AND doesn’t highlight the connection between the sisters misses the mark, in my opinion.

    Thanks for the review!


      As someone who in the past has not been a fan of Edward Ferrars in any book or adaption I’ve seen him in, I think I took it so hard because I really enjoyed THIS Edward more than I ever had before. Thank you for reading my review and sharing your thoughts, Heather! 🙂


    Interesting… I’m sorry this one was a bit disappointing. (I did read the spoiler part and I agree that it does seem odd; not necessarily the pairings but the details regarding them ). A nice, balanced review though, as always.


    Yikes! Yep, that has happened for me when the story is written in such a way that I don’t care after a while.


    I’m not a fan of modern takes in general so I’ll probably give it a pass. I would like to see an “alternate path” S&S done with the pairing you mentioned. That would be interesting reading! Thanks for you viewpoint, as always, it’s very helpful. I don’t know that the authors would change the existing novel given its shortcomings, but maybe it will be enlightening if they are to do another.


      I’m really glad to hear how many people are liking the different pairing! It would be awesome if there were some variations for S&S like there are for P&P! Oh yes, I’m just one small reviewer so, I’m sure it would take a lot more than my review to inspire the authors to change their existing novel, that is if they even desire to. 🙂


    For me, the theme of S&S is family! All families usually have an assortment of characters. I think the best part of S&S is the way in which Marianne and Eleanor are so different but love and support each other. Eleanor keeps her family bonded and held together. There is always a leader in a family, who takes more of the responsibility.
    I don’t care for modern versions, or for that matter variations, which keep the characters, but do stay true to JA’s characterizations, which are so strong. If a story doesn’t make me believe that her characters would do or say such a thing, it’s not for me.
    Thank you, Meredith, for your honest review.


      I agree, I always like how in the beginning of S&S Marianne is afraid of losing Elinor to Edward and how we see evidence of their sisterly love for each other. 🙂

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