Tuesday, 29 July 2014




Book blurb

Fifteen-year-old Jane Austen dreams of three things: doing something useful, writing something worthy, and falling madly in love. When she visits her brother in Kent to celebrate his engagement, she meets wealthy, devilishly handsome Edward Taylor—a fascinating young man who is truly worthy of her affections. Jane knows a match between her and Edward is unlikely, but every moment she spends with him makes her heart race—and he seems to return her interest. Much to her displeasure, however, there is another seeking his attention

Unsure of her budding relationship, Jane seeks distraction by attempting to correct the pairings of three other prospective couples. But when her matchmaking aspirations do not all turn out as anticipated, Jane discovers the danger of relying on first impressions. The human heart cannot be easily deciphered, nor can it be directed or managed. And if others must be left to their own devices in matters of love and matrimony, can Jane even hope to satisfy her own heart?

My review

Syrie James confirms her skills as brilliant story-teller and creator of lively pictures of Regency life.  Well-researched historical novel as well as delightful summer read,  her  new Jane Austen’s First Love is based on an imaginative interpretation of Jane Austen’s  enigmatic  reference to a “Him, on whom I once fondly doated”    (from  one of Jane Austen’s  letters to her sister Cassandra).  Intriguing matter for a talented researcher and passionate Janeite like Syrie James. (1)

When we think about Jane Austen’s first love, Tom Lefroy’s name comes soon  to our minds. But Jane  was twenty at the time of her flirt with the handsome Irish young man. Instead, the events narrated in Jane Austen’s First Love,  date  back to  Jane’s  teenage, when she was only 15,  and the name of the boy whom she so fondly doated is Edward Taylor, heir to the Taylors of Bifrons. 

As she has already done in The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen and The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen
Syrie James manages to create relatable characters, to mingle history and fiction in a credible, pleasant  way, to remind us Austen’s  irony and witty  style without giving the impression of being mimicking. Her thorough research and deep respect for the authoress  transpires from the pages  of this lovely story of young love.

The two young protagonists  are so easy to love:  smart, brave and  witty teenage Jane – who is also the first-person narrator in the story -  is enchanting ,  while  devilishly handsome   Edward Taylor is temptingly irresistible .  He might well have been the inspiration for a Frank Churchill or a John Willoughby.

Syrie James blends all the most typical of Austen main features – from balls to home theatrical performances, from wrong first impressions to awkward attempts at match-making  - in a  fresh and engaging new story,  which is a real feast for any Austen fan.

This book can’t be missing on your Austenesque shelf and would be a very special gift to young readers you want to initiate into Jane Austen’s world.  It is a perfect YA read, since teenagers  could easily relate to the main characters  in the story.

(1)     “We went by Bifrons and I contemplated with melancholy pleasure the abode of Him, on whom I once fondly doated.” (Letter to Cassandra Austen, 1796)

Coming soon! Syrie James will be visiting with us at My Jane Austen Book Club on her blog tour on 14th August. Don’t miss her guest post and the chance to win in the giveaway contest!


Abigail Bok said...

Sounds delicious! Can't wait to read it!

junewilliams7 said...

the inspiration for a Frank Churchill or a John Willoughby

No, no, not them! Maybe Edward Taylor was the inspiration for a Knightley or Brandon?

Syrie James said...

Thank you so much, Maria, for this lovely review! I am delighted that you enjoyed the book. It was a thrill to uncover information about Edward Taylor that was previously unknown to biographers, and to bring him and his relationship with Jane Austen to life in this novel. He was, I believe, a truly remarkable and accomplished young man. I see why you might think of Willoughby or Frank Churchill, since Edward Taylor is charming, lively, and such a daredevil--but unlike those characters, Edward is very sincere and honest when sharing his thoughts and feelings. I admit, I prefer to think that he was, in some way, the inspiration for all the best qualities in Austen's heroes! :)

Maria Grazia said...

Thanks to you for another well-researched and delightful Austenesque read, Syrie.
Thanks also for visitint and commenting. And, thanks to June too, it sounds like we can have an interesting debate here, re Edward Taylor. I connected him to Willoughby or Frank Churchill (characters I like, especially because I find these "rogues" better written than some of the heroes) for his being rebellious, bold, reckless. He dares, challenges fate, risks his life and other people's lives. Then he is, of course, charming, handsome, intriguing. I couldn't envision any of the main Austen heroes in him, except maybe Captain Wentworth - since Edward dreamt of a military career (not in the Royal Navy, though).
I think it is good when readers see, perceive, interpret characters differently. It means the fictional personae are not flat, not types, but complex and well written. Looking forward to having you as my guest on August 14th, Syrie!
And , finally, to Abigail: many thanks for reading and commenting! I think you must read Syrie's new novel. I'm sure you'll love it!