Novella Collection Review: Austen in Austin, Volume 1

Austen in Austin 1

Austen in Austin, Volume 1 (WhiteFire Publishing, January 2016)

Discover four heroines in historical Austin, TX, as they find love–Jane Austen style. Volume 1 includes:

If I Loved You Less by Gina Welborn, based on Emma
A prideful matchmaker examines her own heart when her protégé falls for the wrong suitor.

Romantic Refinements by Anita Mae Draper, based on Sense and Sensibility
A misguided academy graduate spends the summer falling in love… twice.

One Word from You by Susanne Dietze, based on Pride and Prejudice
A down-on-her-luck journalist finds the story of her dreams, but her prejudice may cost her true love . . . and her career.

Alarmingly Charming by Debra E. Marvin, based on Northanger Abbey
A timid gothic dime-novel enthusiast tries to solve the mystery of a haunted cemetery and, even more shocking, why two equally charming suitors compete for her attentions.

Review:
Novellas based upon Jane Austen novels and set within a completely unique framework of Texas-based stories. A collection with a cover designed by Roseanna White Designs and published by WhiteFire Publishing. What more could a Austen enthusiast ask for when deciding which renditions to read out of the myriad selection available based upon one of British literature’s most beloved authors? While the west is not my favorite setting (either in person or in fiction), between the authors, editor, publisher, and cover designer, I was so excited to see that WhiteFire Publishing was compiling two volumes for the Austen in Austin collection.

It was love at first page, readers. This collection, comprised of four novellas from established authors of Christian fiction, is a delight to behold. Each novella stands alone in writing style and voice, but all four are comprised of the elements of solid fiction: good story, endearing characters, and strong writing. I knew of two of the authors before reading Austen in Austin, Volume 1, but without a doubt I will be watching for the work of all of these authors in the coming years.

If I Loved You Less, by Gina Welborn, is a retelling of Austen’s EmmaEmma is one of my favorite novels, and Welborn’s novella can count itself as a favorite of mine now, as well. The most complex of the novellas in the collection, If I Loved You Less is a superb retelling in which Welborn demonstrates her ability to write strong stories with numerous characters and compelling dialog.

Romantic Refinements, by Anita Mae Draper, is based upon Austen’s Sense and Sensibility. A fun romp into a Texas cattle ranch, Romantic Refinements beholds an endearing cast of characters that bring the novella to life. I missed the second sister that makes Sense and Sensibility a favorite of Austen readers; nevertheless, I admire Draper’s ability to pare down Austen’s first novel into an enjoyable Western novella. This one was enjoyable read that drew me into the world of late 1800s Texas.

Susanne Dietze’s Pride and Prejudice rendition, One Word From You, is my favorite novella in this collection. With a clever twist on the most beloved Austen novel, One Word From You dropped me right into the world of misperceptions, prejudice, pride, and heartwarming romance. This novella stays close to its originator, for which I am wholeheartedly grateful since I love Pride and Prejudice, with all its charming charming characters and humorous takes on society.

Bonus: One Word From You won the Genesis Award in 2013! Yes, it’s that good!

Alarmingly Charming, based upon Austen’s Northanger Abbey, is a creative retelling of a satirical gothic story that does not get as much attention as it deserves. I admit I was unsure of how Debra E. Marvin would retell Northanger Abbey–it’s such a unique story–and readers, I was so surprised in such a good way! I enjoyed Alarmingly Charming much more than I expected–not because I doubted Marvin’s writing skills, but because I literally could not imagine one way to retell Northanger Abbey. (This is why I am an editor, not an author. I just don’t have those creative genes.) With a lovable heroine who learns self confidence, a hero who learns forgiveness, and secondary characters who teach lessons of faith and love, Alarmingly Charming charmed me out my world and into the pages of this novella.

Collection rating: 4 stars

Be sure to visit the authors at their group writing blog, Inkwell Inspirations! You’ll also come across the authors who are part of the second Austen in Austin collection.