The Austen Escape
Thomas Nelson, 2017
An engineer at a fast growing tech design company, Mary Davies feels like her world is out of control. Things are no longer going the way she pictured they would be, so when her childhood best friend Isabel invites Mary to accompany her on the ‘ultimate escape experience’, Mary decides a vacation is in order. The pair travels to Bath, England to stay in the luxurious, yet historically accurate Braithwaite House for two weeks of Austen-esque reenactment, including full period dress and assumed Jane Austen character names. Mary is determined to have a good time despite the old tensions that arise when she is around Isabel, until a traumatic experience sends Isabel into a state of altered reality where she genuinely believes that she is Emma living in Regency England.
As if things weren’t complicated enough, Mary finds herself in the middle of a love triangle with Isabel and the handsome, charming Nathan Hillum. But with Isabel cognitively incapacitated, Mary can’t even confront her about the situation. As she waits in frustration for Isabel to snap out of it she begins to realize that there is more going on between all of them than meets the eye. She is forced to take a close look at herself and her old friend and make some decisions about forgiveness and who to trust.
This post contains affiliate links. Read more about that here. Thanks to TLC Book Tours for providing this book for me to review.
I’m not sure what I was expecting to find in The Austen Escape, but I was very pleasantly surprised. It is an absolutely captivating book filled with charming characters and an abundance of Jane Austen references that will delight Austen fans. You don’t have to know your Austen inside and out to enjoy it, though. The author does a great job of framing the references in such a way that they still make sense and feel important even if you haven’t read that particular work, and I know this because I’ve only read three of Austen’s books but never felt lost in this one.
As you may or may not know, I am an avid fan of historical fiction, so the premise that they are traveling to Bath to essentially step back in time was enchanting to me. Isabel’s character is that of an Austen scholar working on her doctoral thesis. She wants to explore the idea of an ‘ultimate escape’, as in the way people behave in such an unfamiliar environment and why they would choose to submerge themselves in that type of experience. A quick Google search leads me to believe that Braithwaite House and it’s Austen escape are made up, but I’m sure there is someplace like it that one could go to have a similar experience.
I loved the way The Austen Escape merged present and past, and seamlessly wove a story around a modern day engineer enjoying wearing Regency ball gowns. The relationships are rich and full of misunderstandings, loyalty, and forgiveness. The characters are charming and endearing, including all the side characters that Mary and Isabel meet at Braithwaite House. I really enjoyed this whimsical read, and I will definitely be checking out more of Katherine Reay’s books in the future (and possibly re-reading some Austen, as well).