Monday, 26 May 2014

Book Recommendation: "Jane Austen in Scarsdale"

I picked this up quickly at the library for two reasons:  it took the heroine from Jane Austen's Persuasion and updated her to a high school guidance counselor; I thought it was set in Toronto. I'm not sure why I thought that, since Scarsdale is in New York. However, there is a Scarsdale Road in Toronto, so maybe that's what I was thinking. Macht nichts aus.

It's a romance (for those who don't know the story of Persuasion) about a young woman who loves a man, but breaks off with him because an older, trusted woman convinces her that the relationship is unsuitable. The young woman comes to regret it, however, and years later, they meet up again.

This version of the story is a fast read and fun. What I enjoyed most about it was the issues that a high school guidance counselor faces as the senior students prepare their applications for college, causing great angst among their parents. In fact, it's the parents who care the most about what university their kids get into, and ancillary businesses take advantage of their fear. One of them is a marketer who helps put the right spin on the student. Another is an expert on preparing students to write their SATs; his five principal categories of the test are genius. The author, Paula Marantz Cohen, is an English professor at Drexel University in Philadelphia, so maybe she has had personal experience with high school applicants. 

The heroine, Anne Ehrlich, is a dear. She has a touch of seriousness and formality about her without being stiff, plus that deep heart and resignation about the foibles of her father and sister that Austen's Anne Elliot had, although this Anne is not a pushover. The author strikes a nice balance with her; harder to achieve now than it was during Austen's time, when the sacrifices of an unattached female without fortune were to be expected.

It's also a sweet romance, which means that there are no sex scenes, although it's obvious that the heroine is no virgin at thirty-four. Again, hard to do in this age of Fifty Shades of Grey, and something I'm struggling with in the contemporary romance I'm writing, so hats off to Ms. Marantz Cohen.

It's a fun, witty romance. Give it a whirl.

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