By a Lady: Being the Adventures of an Enlightened American in Jane Austen’s England by Amanda Elyot

by a lady

I started this book when I was on my Jane Austen kick last year. The flap inside the book promised time travel. Check. Promised a Mr. Bingley type character and knocking back meals and drinks with THE Miss Jane Austen. Check. (Yeah, I was more a Bingley fan than Darcy fan…but I was also all about Illya Kuryakin on The Man From U.N.C.L.E. when I was a kid…color me different) UNCLE

What’s not to like (if you like this type of writing that is) so I eagerly dove in. Well, the author did deliver on all of those promises … but… there was just something (me scratching my head) that didn’t engage me. Actually, after reading this particular book I was cured of my momentary Austen Fever and reading all things by and/or about Jane as well as spin offs on Ms. Austen’s world.

The sorry plot: C.J. (Cassandra) is an aspiring actress and besotted with all things Jane Austen. She rehearses for a part in a play about Austen, steps offstage and goes through a door, finding herself in 19 century Bath England. C.J. is naturally confused but eventually realizes she time traveled. She’s hungry and grabs an apple off a cart which lands her a ticket to jail. During court proceedings she speaks up for herself, something not done in that day, and impresses the judge with her intelligence and verbal discourse. When a wealthy matron stands up and offers to take C.J. as a servant who will read to her (sort of a probationary sentence back in the day. I guess.) C.J. ends up in a household with a standing not much higher than a slave.

She gets beaten. She teaches another female servant to read. She gets taken in by an eccentric old woman who claims C.J. is her long lost niece (just for fun on the crazy old society woman’s part. I guess.) C.J. meets Jane Austen which is a thrill for our character but a disappointment for Austen lovers. Austen is written without character development; she is a mouthpiece of quotes from her novels and you don’t get a sense of who Jane is or what she’s about. Disappointing.

The second part of the book shifted abruptly in tone from the beginning of the novel. As if the author wrote the first part then put it aside for 6 months. You just can’t get the same rhythm with characters or story line (in my humble opinion) if you leave your characters to dwell on the pages and in your imagination. By part two, our main character C.J. was quite amorous. In a New York minute coy flirting turned to having sex on a bench in the middle of a garden party. The sex scenes just appeared and they were quite graphic. Now, I am not a prude and the scenes weren’t disgusting they were just…out of place. As I said, the second part of the book shifted to a very different writing style.

I have to say I am off my Austen kick and pleased I didn’t spend money on this book. For time travel I will stick to Outlander. No meal, no mas.


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