Are you a Jane Austen fan? (Seriously, who isn’t? 😉 ) Give this series a try!
Only With You by Cecilia Gray
(The Jane Austen Academy Series #5)
Publication date: May 2014
Genres: Romance, Young Adult
Dive into the fabulous, fun lives of six Academy girls as their friendships are tested, torn and ultimately triumph…
Emma has it all – looks, money, and luck. It’s not like she keeps it all to herself – she’s totally committed to helping those less fortunate. AKA, everyone. She invites her heartbroken friend to help with a weekend charity event with an eye to matchmake, but when that friend turns her eye toward the guy Emma wants for herself, how will she choose between friendship and her own feelings?* * *The last thing that the girls at the elite Jane Austen Academy need is hot guys to flirt with. But over the summer the school has been sold, and like it or not, the guys are coming. And it’s about to turn the Academy—and the lives of its students—totally upside down…
The Jane Austen Academy series are modern retellings of Jane Austen classics set at a beachside California boarding school.
Obviously, if you know your Austen novels at you can tell from the blurb that this novel is the Jane Austen Academy’s version of Emma
. It seemed appropriate that I should read it this year, since my latest NaNo
novel was based on the original (retold from Jane Fairfax’s POV–a character who, sadly, is not in Ms. Gray’s version) and I am enjoying the heck out of Pemberley Digital’s latest series, Emma Approved
. (Which is on hiatus right now. Again. Darn you, Hank Green and Bernie Su. Why must you be so cruel?) When the chance to read this one came up, it seemed like kismet.
I haven’t read the first four books in the series yet–though I do have the P&P
version (JAA #1 Fall for You
) and now that I’ve read this one the rest of the series is definitely bumped up the never-ending TBR pile. I’d love to have the rest finished before the Persuasion
(my favorite Austen) remake comes out (Always You
). Both Anne and Rick, the stars of that book, were in this one, doing their darnedest to make me want to read their HEA.
It totally worked. (Frantically checking the release date. Wait…December 2014? Oh harsh and loathsome day!)
But I digress…
If you haven’t read the other books in the series yet, you’ll probably do just fine here. Much of the background we need is explained–though if you already know the basic storylines of Austen’s works, that doesn’t hurt either. Ms. Gray has streamlined Austen’s plots, getting rid of some extraneous characters (including poor Marianne Dashwood!) and bringing the six heroines together as classmates and friends at the Academy. (I like the idea of Northanger Abbey‘s Catherine being in the drama department, but I’m not quite sure what to think about Mansfield Park‘s Fanny being an Olympic athlete in training. Though that could just be because she is the one Austen heroine I can’t stand…)
Unlike the original Emma Woodhouse, Emma Green’s mother is still very much alive–though it appears she manages to be “absent” for her daughter in another way–she’s a legend in the area of donations and fundraising, so much so that her young daughter already feels the pressure to be just as helpful and perfect as her mother. The one person who manages to keep Emma grounded and from being too overbearing–mainly by calling her on it when she gets too over-the-top in her matchmaking and other schemes–is Gregory Knight (Mr. Knightley, obviously), known pretty much just as Knight throughout the novel. He’s Emma’s right-hand guy, always there for her when she needs him and challenging her assumptions when she needs to be taken down a bit.
Those two are so clearly made for each other. If only they both realized it…
In Only with You, Emma has called together a select group of friends for spring break–the professed reason is to help her with a fundraiser for a local animal shelter, but really it’s an elaborate attempt to help her friend Anne get over Rick, her first love, once and for all. Her plan goes slightly awry (or does it?) when Knight ends up inviting Rick to the house party too.
Anne, the heroine of book six, ends up taking the place of the Harriet Smith character in the original Emma here–Emma tries to get to know her better (a commendable goal) while trying to improve her love life (also commendable, though naturally Emma goes about this part of the task with her trademark “I know best” attitude that does tend to ride a bit roughshod over the feelings and opinions of the other characters). Anne is a stronger character than the original Harriet, though, and manages to think more for herself and not be quite so easily led by Emma as her inspiration was–a plus, I thought.
Another plus? Knight walks around shirtless a time or two. Why didn’t Mr. Knightley do that? Oh, right, Regency England. Bummer. 😉
Only with You offers a fun take on the original, with some interesting modern twists. So far I like what Ms. Gray has done here in this series, playing around with Austen’s timeless plots and offering them up to a new generation of readers. Though she’s made them more simplistic (really, this novel at least could definitely have been more fully developed though it is a quick and entertaining read as is), the basic tenets are there–it’s just enough to make the heart of this English major give a few extra pitty-pats.
If this series could inspire just a small handful of readers to give the originals a chance as well, that’s an even bigger bonus. 🙂
And now, for your viewing pleasure, the series trailer that Mini Moe #2 gave two enthusiastic thumbs up:
Rating: 3 1/2 stars / B
I was given a complimentary copy in exchange for an honest review.
Follow the rest of the blog tour here.
Cecilia Gray lives in the San Francisco Bay Area where she reads, writes and breaks for food. She also pens her biographies in the third person. Like this. As if to trick you into thinking someone else wrote it because she is important. Alas, this is not the case.She’s rather enamored of being contacted by readers and hopes you’ll oblige.
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