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Jan 7, 2013

The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen by Syrie James

Like an undiscovered treasure just waiting to be unwrapped!

The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen by Syrie James
Berkley Trade, December 31, 2012
Historical Fiction/Regency Time Flip
Paperback 432 pages
Review copy provided by the publisher, thank you!
Burton Book Review Rating: 4.5 stars

Samantha McDonough cannot believe her eyes--or her luck. Tucked in an uncut page of a two-hundred-year-old poetry book is a letter that she believes was written by Jane Austen, mentioning with regret a manuscript that "went missing at Greenbriar in Devonshire."
Could there really be an undiscovered Jane Austen novel waiting to be found? Could anyone resist the temptation to go looking for it?
Making her way to the beautiful, centuries-old Greenbriar estate, Samantha finds it no easy task to sell its owner, the handsome yet uncompromising Anthony Whitaker, on her wild idea of searching for a lost Austen work--until she mentions its possible multi-million dollar value.

After discovering the unattributed manuscript, Samantha and Anthony are immediately absorbed in the story of Rebecca Stanhope, daughter of a small-town rector, who is about to encounter some bittersweet truths about life and love. As they continue to read the newly discovered tale from the past, a new one unfolds in the present--a story that just might change both of their lives forever.

I had not read any of Syrie James' work before, but after reading her newest novel she has me sold on her writing skills. This novel comprises of a novel within a novel as we are treated to the contemporary story of Samantha who hunts down and discovers that there is an unpublished story written by Jane Austen. She then has to beg the sexy owner to do the right thing and allow the work to be published. (While fighting her attraction to him, she has to struggle to remember that she has a boyfriend, so it turns into an interesting romance story). But.. we are also treated to the (astutely imagined) unpublished work of the epic authoress herself, Jane Austen, called The Stanhopes.

All the prerequisites of an Austen novel are there.. from the whimsical heroine to the doting father, and misconceptions of characters and a quaint mix of everything we love about Austen. I was quite impressed with the Austenesque prose, and it has me wondering what I missed with a previous novel of Syrie James, The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen.

The author has done her Austen homework, and I recognized a character from the novel immediately, as she named a friend in the story Laurel Ann in honor of Laurel Ann Nattress of as she gave her expert advice to the author. I loved the plot line and how the present day plot sort of mirrored our own emotions as the characters read through the story the same time as we did. Very clever, and I can really imagine all of the story actually being true since the clues and facts (however imagined) seemed to really sell the mystery of the lost manuscript. Very well done!

Check Historical Fiction Connection on 1/9/2013 for a guest post and GIVEAWAY!