Julianne Donaldson's debut novel, Edenbrooke, is billed as having "the Regency flavor of Jane Austen," which initially made me wary. So many authors try to mimic Austen and end up with stilted prose and awkward dialogue. Donaldson's debut, though, is fresh and engaging, and with just enough Austenesque details to make the novel work as a historical romance.
Synopsis: Marianne Daventry will do anything to escape the boredom of Bath and the amorous attentions of an unwanted suitor. So when an invitation arrives from her twin sister, Cecily, to join her at a sprawling country estate, she jumps at the chance. Thinking she’ll be able to relax and enjoy her beloved English countryside while her sister snags the handsome heir of Edenbrooke, Marianne finds that even the best laid plans can go awry.
From a terrifying run-in with a highwayman to a seemingly harmless flirtation, Marianne finds herself embroiled in an unexpected adventure filled with enough romance and intrigue to keep her mind racing. Will she be able to rein in her traitorous heart, or will a mysterious stranger sweep her off her feet? Fate had something other than a relaxing summer in mind when it sent Marianne to Edenbrooke.
My thoughts: What a lovely, sweet romance! It took me until about page 100 to get invested in Marianne's story, but after that I couldn't put Edenbrooke down. At 240 pages, it's a short read, but characters are engaging and the romance is charming. Donaldson has indeed written a romance that is in the flavor of Austen without being heavy-handed in its homage.
Poor Marianne Daventry struggles to be even the heroine of her own life. Still reeling from the death of her mother, she's been virtually abandoned by her father and neglected by her more popular twin sister. When she arrives at Edenbrooke, the estate of a family friend, Marianne finds comfort and laughter in the company of Philip Wyndham. With Philip, Marianne is her best self, and she opens up more than she ever has to anyone. Just when she begins to think she might find her own happiness, though, reality intrudes and Marianne retreats back into her protective shell.
At 17, Marianne was very young and a bit silly. It's easy to ignore or even excuse her silliness, though, when you see how much she still suffers from her mother's death and its consequences. If she seems almost willfully blind to Philip's admiration for her, it's because she's never known romantic love and few people outside her family have ever paid her any attention at all.
Though a bit high-handed sometimes, Philip was a wonderful hero, just as swoon-worthy as Mr. Darcy or Captain Wentworth. Donaldson has a very good ear for dialogue, and all Marianne and Philip's interactions were layered with myriad emotions. Philip's attempts to tell Marianne of his feelings were so sweet yet so passionate, and the reader may want to shake Marianne for being so obtuse.
In true Austen fashion, everything is tied up nicely in the end and everyone gets who or what they deserve. In her acknowledgements, Donaldson mentions that it took her nearly five years to produce Edenbrooke, but her patience paid off – fans of Austen and historical romance in general will enjoy this sweet, gentle romance.
Publisher: Shadow Mountain
Publication date: March 27, 2012
Length: 240 pages
Related post: Author Julianne Donaldson on why Americans are so fascinated by England
Other reviews of Edenbrooke:
The Allure of Books
Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in return for a fair and honest review.