Oct 242014

Jane Austen's First LoveJane Austen as a Teenager!!!

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Source: Review Copy from Publisher

TYPE OF AUSTENESQUE NOVEL: Austen-Inspired, Biographical Fiction

TIME FRAME: The summer of 1791, our beloved authoress is fifteen

MAIN CHARACTERS: Jane Austen, Cassandra Austen, Edward Taylor, Edward Austen, Elizabeth, Sophia, and Fanny Bridges

WHY I WANTED TO READ THIS NOVEL: So many reasons…but I’ll be brief – it is by Syrie James, an author who has written some of my most favorite novels including several magnificent gems about Jane Austen and her life.

SYNOPSIS: To celebrate the engagements of their two daughters – Fanny and Elizabeth, the Bridges family hosts a month-long house party and invite the Knights, the Austens, and other neighbors. Jane attends this house party with her older sister, Cassandra, younger brother, Charles, and their mother. It is there that Jane Austen has her first experience of love – not with Tom Lefroy, by the way!


  • Jane Austen at 15: Unlike other novels depicting Jane Austen’s life in her later years, this story shows us Jane Austen at the age of fifteen – a time where life was full of possibilities, romance, and pleasure. Like most fifteen-year-olds of her era, Jane Austen yearns to be out, to experience society, and attend all matter of parties, balls, and special outings. She does not have to face the many responsibilities, duties, or realities of her poor financial situation…just yet. I loved witnessing Jane Austen during this time period of her life. She had some silliness in her character, and is not as wise and proper as we see depicted in her later years, but I felt this portrayal accurate for an exuberant, romantic, and inexperienced young lady not yet out in society.
  • Brilliant Characters: With a large house party involving several families and their progeny, there are many characters and personalities to keep track of in this tale. I found, as usual for Ms. James, all the characters were well-drawn engaging, and in possession of an assortment of quirks, foibles, and charms. I especially loved seeing how some characters showed small resemblances to some of Jane Austen’s future characters – following the theory that some of Jane Austen’s characters are inspired by people she knew and met in her real life.
  • Full of Romance: Jane isn’t the only one falling in love in this tale. I loved seeing all the speculating, matchmaking, and flirtations. Of course, Jane and Edward’s were the most fun to witness! So many lovely scenes together, I can easily understand how Jane lost her heart to him so quickly. I also loved how Jane experimented with a little matchmaking! I really couldn’t predict how everything would turn out for all these young lovers!
  • A Midsummer’s Night Dream: As a fan of Shakespearean comedies you cannot imagine my delight when I saw that the characters were going to produce and perform a home theatrical of A Midsummer’s Night Dream! I loved hearing all about the casting, rehearsing, and unexpected results of everyone’s participation in the play. Ms. James chose the perfect play to outline and echo the important themes of this novel.
  • The Author’s Afterword: One of my favorite aspects about biographical fiction novels is learning how the author crafted the story from true events and people. Reading the Author’s Afterword for this novel made my jaw drop…I’m so very impressed and amazed with how much research, truths, and actual events/people were used as the foundation of this story. It is more than you would think! Big applause to you, Syrie James!


  • Part of the Conclusion: Definitely a minor quibble. Everything seemed to wrap-up and conclude rather quickly, and for me, the closure felt a little abrupt. However, that might be because I desperately did not want to see this story come to an end! 🙂


Imaginative, thoughtful, and expertly crafted – Syrie James has done it again! With her dexterous blend of truth, supposition, and fiction her stories creatively and beautifully render the life, romances, and secrets we all dearly wish Jane Austen to have had.

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***If you have yet to read anything by Syrie James and are curious what I’d recommend, here are some of my faves!

The Lost Memoir of Jane Austen a beautiful love story for our dear Jane!

The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte – just exquisite…

Dracula, My Love and Nocturne – if you like romantic, vampire tales!

The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen – what if another Jane Austen novel was discovered?!?

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  27 Responses to “Jane Austen’s First Love – Syrie James”


    This one has been on my to-read list since I heard about it; so glad to see your rave review! I must bump it up on the list.


    Lovely review Meredith! I just started reading this book and I am loving it so far!!:)


    I’m starting this book this weekend and really looking forward to it. I didn’t know about the Midsummer’s part but that just sounds like so much fun.

    Great review of what promises to be a fun read.


    Meredith, I would have to agree that Syrie James is a favourite of mine as well! I am so looking forward to reading this novel and do appreciate the research/work that goes into writing one. ‘The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte’ is an all time favourite of mine. I am currently awaiting the delivery of ‘The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen’. I would have to agree with your ‘quibble’ though. Sometimes they just end too quickly and I wish there was just that little bit more…


      Yes, The Secret Diaries of CB is a story that consumed me entirely when I read it! Hope you enjoy The Lost Memoirs of JA – that’s great that it is en route to you! 🙂


    Great review, Meredith. I have JA’s First Love on my to-be-read list; and with your 5 stars, it’s moving up the list. I’ve read The Lost Manuscript of JA and Memoir of JA and loved them. I’m putting of the Lost Diaries of Charlotte Bronte on my to-be-read list too. I really appreciate your in-depth reviews, Meredith!


      Thank you, Catherine! I hope you love both Jane Austen’s First Love and The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte! Don’t ask me which novel is my favorite – I don’t think I could decide!!


        I just ordered both books–JA’s First Love and the Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte. I couldn’t wait until later. I love it that Syrie does so much research. It adds to much!! Thank you, Syrie! I look forward reading both books.


    I love the idea that this one is set when she is so young. I’ve had it on the wish list. Now I really look forward to reading it.


    I read this book in August and loved it. Syrie gave a talk at the JASNA-SW fall meeting last month and I was able to attend. She gave a great presentation on the research she did for the book, including photographs of Edward Taylor’s actual home which she visited in person last year! I thought she was a very engaging speaker. Most exciting of all I got to speak with Syrie afterwards and she autographed my book! I’ve read her other JA books, and The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte is a definite favorite. I hope she continues to write for a long time to come. Thanks for the great review Meredith!


      Melissa! I’m so glad you loved the book (and my talk at JASNA-SW) and I’m thrilled that I had the opportunity to meet you. I hope to see you again at the JASNA-SW meeting on Dec 6 at USC, where I’ll be co-producing and performing (as that hussy Maria Bertram) in a staged reading of the play I co-wrote with Diana Birchall, “A Dangerous Intimacy: Behind the Scenes at Mansfield Park.” (Our world premiere was 2 weeks ago at the JASNA AGM in Montreal, and I’m happy to say it was a hit.)

      Just to note–I didn’t visit Edward Taylor’s actual home, Bifrons Park, because it was demolished in 1948! 🙂 I did show images and photos of that lovely estate, however. The manor home I visited in Kent last year was Goodnestone Park, which belonged to the Bridges family–and where most of my novel JANE AUSTEN’S FIRST LOVE is set.


      So happy to hear you loved this book as much as I did, Melissa…and you got to meet Syrie James and here her speak! That is indeed very exciting!! Your hope is the same as mine!! Even though she has given us so much already, I dearly hope Syrie James continues to write more!


    Thank you so much, Meredith, for the wonderful review! Writing and researching this book was a true labor of love. And thank you all for the lovely comments. You made my day!


      I should be thanking you, Syrie! Your books have brought me so much joy over the years, I am so proud to own them and look forward to rereading them many, many times!


    I really need to read this. I am a fan of syrie’s also.


    Wow it sounds really amazing! I’m going to check it out along with the other books you recommended, thank you! 🙂


    Excellent review, Meredith. I started this recently and could not stop until I was done. What a joyful reading experience. I’ve gotten into the habit of waiting to read a book until AFTER you review, but I just could not wait on this and I am so happy that I did not. I have not purchased another of her books yet as I am swamped. However, I am thinking of the Missing Manuscripts book.

    Syrie, at the end of the book I closed the cover and sighed. My first thought was, “she loves Jane Austen just like I do”. Fortunately, we are not alone. I very much look forward to reading more and hope you are typing away on your next one. Thanks for the great entertainment.


      Yay! I’m so happy to hear your enjoyment level matched my own, Joy! Syrie’s books are such a treat! I hope you enjoy your next one as much as you did this one! 🙂


    This one is on my bday list. I usually buy myself books for my birthday each year whose cost equal the age I’m turning. Silly, yes; my own personal tradition, yes! I was looking forward to reading it but after this review, doubly so! Thanks for your insight Meredith!!

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