The Jane Austen Project
By Kathleen A. Flynn
Paperback, 373 pages
Rachel and her colleague, Liam, are sent back to 1815 to befriend Jane Austen and steal her letters to her sister Cassandra and her unpublished work, The Watsons. Once immersed in the life of the Austen family, the two time-travelers find their mission harder to complete than they imagined. But they soon see the line between earning the trust of those who they mean to betray and not altering the course of history (and thus, the future) is a thin one.
Sweetbeeps bought me this book for my birthday last year and I can’t believe I didn’t read it right away (oh, wait, yes I can.) Thank gourd for Austen Month and Nicole’s urging that we buddy read this because I loved it!
The Jane Austen Project is the perfect mix of sci-fi, Austen tribute and historical fiction. It’s unique in that I’ve never come across an Austen sci-fi (if there are others out there, point me in their direction!) – I’ve read modern adaptations and paranormal ones, but nothing that comes close to this!
In a future where meat is non-existent after some sort of disaster referred to as The Collapse, most things are 3-d printed, and time travel is a fairly common occurrence, there’s a group of people who are desperate to get Austen’s letters to her sister Cassandra (most of which were actually burned after Austen’s death) and her last, unfinished manuscript, The Watsons. At first I was highly confused as to why this mission was a priority – don’t get me wrong, I love Austen and would love to read anything and everything by her, yet this seemed a bit frivolous. However, towards the end of the book and after some wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey happenings, it makes sense. Actually, maybe it makes sense before then and I just missed it.
All the characters are well done. Liam and Rachel have been extensively trained in order to successfully blend in during 1815, yet, understandably there are some tough times. No amount of acting classes and training scenarios can compare you for spontaneous human interaction. They are both doing their best to complete their mission while also internally fan-girling (or guy-ing) at being surrounded by Austen and her family. There’s also the added layer of their personalities being subtly similar to those of Lizzy and Darcy.
Jane Austen herself is just what I’d imagine she’d be like, from my limited readings about her life. Her brother Henry was my favorite of the Austen clan, however. He’s a gentleman, but unlike those in Austen’s novels, we get to see his more, realistic…er, manly side. Basically, he’s horny and flirty, ok? I was loving it! He falls somewhere in between the practiced manners of Bingley (or maybe even Tilney because of his sense of humor) and the saucy, flirtatiousness of Wickham and Willoughby.
Speaking of flirtatiousness, this book had more steamy scenes than I expected. In fact, I didn’t expect any steamy scenes! Henry isn’t the only one trying to heat things up. I was pleasantly surprised to find a few sexy times thrown in. You guys might be familiar with how I always harp on about Austen not letting her characters kiss. Little did I know how satisfying scenes that go beyond that would be! Scandalous!
The plot had me guessing what would happen up until the actual last page of the book. I was practically jumping out of my skin because the ending was going to decide whether I was going to give the book five stars or toss it out the window while swearing. Granted, I still would have recommended the book, had the ending gone differently, but it really would have dampened my satisfaction with the story up until that point.
I gave it five stars, by the way.
If you like Austen adaptations, historical fiction and time travel then I highly recommend The Jane Austen Project! It gives off low key Austenland vibes (except way more intense because the characters are living the real damn deal) with a hint of Dark Matter (multiple realities) and I’m now declaring historical sci-fi to be my new favorite totally made up genre. I sincerely hope Flynn puts out another book soon (and I hope it’s in the same universe – I have ideas!)