Happily Ever Austen, Book 2
Heat Factor: The sex scenes come late, but I was legit fanning myself.
Character Chemistry: Believable best friends with confusing pants feelings.
Plot: Gender swapped Sense and Sensibility. But only the Marianne / Willoughby / Colonel Brandon bit.
Overall: The Official Austen Retelling Expert at The Smut Report Approves.
For those of you a bit hazy on the details of Sense and Sensibility, or those who want to approach this as a standalone read, here’s the basic premise: Marty is an incurable romantic. He desperately wants to be loved – and thinks of love as the meet-cute plus dates where he pulls out all the stops. When he meets Janeth Willows, he knows that she’s the one because she’s a beautiful unicorn AND they met when he rescued her from a mugger. Brandy, a tragic widow, is his coworker and best friend, and she is having some very confusing pants-feels for Marty.
Before I delve further into what really worked for me in this book, I do want to note that people looking for a close retelling of Sense and Sensibility won’t find it here. Austen focuses primarily on the relationship between the Dashwood sisters, and while Marty does have an older stick-in-the-mud brother who occasionally acts as his foil, the main impetus for the plot here is the slow unfolding of the changing relationship between Marty and Brandy from friends to lovers. On the plus side, that means there’s no Edward Ferrars to contend with (and he is the wooooooorst); it also means that Brandy’s journey to embracing love and letting go of her dead husband is much more fully fleshed out than anything about Colonel Brandon is. On the downside, there’s a lot of Marty, and he is exhausting. It’s a good thing Brandy loved him, because I frequently wanted to smack him. Then again, I am thoroughly an Eleanor.
My frustration with Marty is ultimately a strength of the book. Marty is, indeed, ridiculous – but his desire to be loved is palpable and relatable, if also infuriating to the people who already love him. And speaking of people who love Marty, Brandy is a wonderful character. She’s a young widow who thought her husband was her one-and-only, and is now trying to figure out where to take her life. We do have a case of “Holy Wow, this character could benefit from grief counseling!!!!” but I did appreciate that Brandy wasn’t “fixed” by finding love again, but rather that her healing process also involved opening herself up to the possibility of love, and that this process is confusing and difficult.
A note to romance readers who hate Other Woman drama: the entire plot of this book is premised on Other Woman drama.
And a quick note on the writing: there are a few minor details that were either introduced late in the book that seemed shoehorned in for plot reasons (apparently Marty has a photographic memory, which comes up at the very end when he really needs it) or were not really fleshed out (why is Brandy estranged from her parents and in-laws, to the point when her parents, who cut her off for marrying young, are still completely absent from her life now that she’s widowed?).
This however, was a minor blip in an otherwise highly enjoyable book.
PS: Brandy and Marty play a game where they take turns reading the first line from random pages in random books and making up a story, which sounds like an excellent party game for people who enjoy playing Fictionary or Picture-Caption. Easily transferable to Zoom meet-ups.
I voluntarily read and reviewed a complimentary copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own. We disclose this in accordance with 16 CFR §255.
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