More events couldn't go wrong for Lily Berry, whose dud of a boyfriend dumps her, her mom dies, and her dad is engaged. It's time to escape from her emotional rollercoaster of rough times.
Her bookish friend, Vera, invites her to a Jane Austen literary festival in England. This is Lily's chance to be around like-minded literary folks who will accept her. What could be better than practically living in a Jane Austen novel? It's the perfect solution for putting the puzzle pieces of her past and future into place.
Once in England, Lily sets about on her road to change. She meets an interesting cast of Janeites, fans of Jane Austen in period costume, and an engaging cast of actors for the festival, which she immediately gets involved in. An actor named Sixby asks her to do a one-act play with him at the follies. Later that day, English teacher Omar takes her on a tour of the house and grounds for the festival. He warns her to steer clear of Magda, a domineering woman who can smell fear, then chew you up and spit you out. No sooner does she hear this than sure enough she gets on Magda's bad side. A miffed Magda nixes Lily from acting in the festival by saying it only uses professional actors. Unlike living in a novel, poor Lily's real life still has problems.
Her trials and tribulations don't stop her. Along the way, she finds something she needs ---love. Like many period romance novels, she discovers him in the attic! Willis is studying the ministry and writing a vampire novel. While an unusual mix of a person, he shares Lily's intellectual curiosity, which is what initially connects them. It's a relationship with romance, bumps and twists.
The new Lily isn't a wallflower, and her determination to change her life for the better keeps her grounded. She learns to work around her nemesis, Magda, and inserts herself in the festival wherever she finds the gaps. She finds out that the festival is desperately in need of funds, so she creates a hugely successful teatime for the Jane Austen fans, which brings in much-needed money. Then she tells Vera that she took a business class back in college and she could write a business plan, part of which would involve tourists living in a novel.
Booklovers alike will relate to Lily's desire to live inside a book. Those readers who have thought they'd love to be a certain character and live in a story will sympathize with Lily wanting to escape into a novel. She imagines that Jane Austen is nearby listening to her, rooting for her and giving her guidance. It can be a great comfort and a nuisance. Her Jane Austen seems to have a will of her own and gets her into trouble too. You'll laugh out loud when Jane Austen channels through Lily during a one-act play; it's a scene that will make you laugh and cringe simultaneously.
This is an amazing debut for Cindy Jones. What I liked most about the book is Lily's resolve to change for the better. She has loads of obstacles in her way but keeps going. Her character is believable because her problems crop up like they would in real life, plus her quirky and humorous outlook kept me laughing. MY JANE AUSTEN SUMMER is worth every word on the page; I suggest you pick up a copy because you will love it.
Reviewed by Kathleen M. Purcell on April 18, 2011
My Jane Austen Summer: A Season in Mansfield Park