I enjoyed reading Jane Austen's First Love. I admit I had my doubts at the beginning. On the one hand, after being so disappointed in Becoming Jane, I was hesitant to read anything giving Jane Austen a romance of her own. Also I wasn't wowed by The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen. On the other hand, several people I respect really did love Jane Austen's First Love. While I can't say that I loved, loved, LOVED Jane Austen's First Love, I did really enjoy it. More than I thought I would at any rate.
1791. Summer of 1791. Jane and Cassandra travel to meet their brother Edward's fiancee, Elizabeth Bridges, and her family. (Several other family members go as well. The mother, but, not the father. Another brother, Charles, I believe. But the focus is mostly on Jane and Cassandra). Jane is just fifteen, she's not "out" yet. Her sister is a year or two older and is. Part of what makes this trip special, is that Jane is to be allowed certain privileges. She'll be allowed to go to dances and balls. She'll be allowed to powder her hair, etc. Most--if not all--the events will be family and friends. (Bringing together multiple families. Several of the Bridges' sisters are engaged to be married. All the engagements are being celebrated. There will be plenty of people there.)
On their trip, they happen to meet--quite dramatically--a young man named Edward Taylor. (He happens to be a neighbor, I believe.) Jane becomes smitten with him. He enjoys being with her, but, there aren't any OBVIOUS signs that he's madly, deeply in forever-and-ever-love with her. She may hope that he is "the one." But he is sixteen and not anywhere close to proposing marriage to anyone, no matter how lively, witty, charming, talented, beautiful, etc. Does Jane hope he is the one? The fictional, Jane, I mean? Perhaps. Perhaps not. Without a doubt, Jane enjoys herself tremendously, and finds time with him thrilling.
Strawberry picking. Dances. Dinners. Walks. Riding horses. Play acting. Matchmaking. Such is the stuff of Jane Austen's First Love.
One of the main plots surrounds the Bridges' sisters: Fanny, Elizabeth, and Sophia. They are all older than Jane. They are all of the courting age. Elizabeth and Fanny are engaged. Sophia is close to an engagement as well. Jane is watching; watching carefully, closely, analyzing and taking notes. Jane's observations lead her to believe that the sisters are mismatched! Readers meet a young Jane, an opinionated Jane, who is enjoying the idea of love, of falling in love, of finding love. What does she know of LOVE? What does she know of what makes two people compatible? It's interesting!
I also enjoyed how readers get a behind-the-scenes glimpse of Jane writing The Three Sisters. I would say that readers should take the time to read this little story on their own before, during, or after the novel.
© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews