We can only imagine what life would have been like in the great Georgian resort town of Bath, England circa 1800. There are vintage illustrations of buildings, maps of the winding streets, and descriptions from travelers and writers of the time to help us visualize. And then there is the Bath that we know of from Jane Austen’s two novels: Persuasion and Northanger Abbey. Her characters visit the famous pump-room, dance at the Lower Assembly Rooms, climb that noble hill Beechen Cliff, and propose on the gravel walk. We can visit this enchanting town today and still see much of what Austen experienced, but what if there was a way to be magically transported back in time to discover that Jane Austen is your next door neighbor and her dashing younger brother, Lieutenant Charles Austen, is home on leave from his duties with the Royal Naval? Would you take that journey through time no matter what the unknown risk?
Sophie Elliot, the heroine of Jane Odiwe’s new Austen-inspired novel Searching for Captain Wentworth, unknowingly faces this dilemma the first time she is transported two hundred years into the past through a magical glove once owned by Lt. Austen. Sound fantastical? Well, yes it would to any skeptic, including myself. Recent movies such as Lost in Austen and the Austen Addict book series: Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict and Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict have softened my resolve. I enjoyed both the mini-series and the novels so much that “suspending my disbelief” and considering that anything is possible (in fiction and in life) opened up a whole new genre to me. Odiwe has created a clever combination of the past and present that took me on a journey through Jane Austen’s world, both familiar and fantastical.
Inspired by Austen’s Persuasion, we encounter many thematic elements in Searching for Captain Wentworth that Austen wanted us to experience in her own novel: love, heartbreak, friendship, snobbery and renewal; all through the eyes of young Sophie who is staying in the upper floor of a Bath townhouse owned by her family since the early 1800’s. She has aspirations to be a writer and hopes that by walking in Austen’s footsteps she will discover her talent and get over the painful loss of her boyfriend. Downstairs is occupied by the mysterious and handsome Josh Strafford who is working at the Holburne Museum on their next Regency exhibit. When Sophie sees him drop a white glove on the pavement outside their townhouse, she picks it up and follows him attempting to return it. When she passes through a white gate in Sydney Gardens she is transported back in time; a timeslip into another era, and her ancestor Sophia’s life.
I have long enjoyed Jane Odiwe’s Austen-inspired novels: Lydia Bennet’s Story, Willoughby’s Return and Mr. Darcy’s Secret. Her in-depth knowledge of Regency history and culture combined with her understanding of Jane Austen’s plots and characters results in a sensitive, engaging and romantic narrative that never disappoints. This time I was especially impressed with her character descriptions:
“All my feelings of self-doubt and of being an absolute failure at everything were returning. I just kept thinking how he’d probably tell the lovely Alison at the museum all about his narrow escape from the lecherous clutches of his neighbor who had delusions of becoming a writer.” – Sophie Elliot (p. 71)
“Every detail of his appearance sharpened into focus. Dark curls fell on the high collar of his black coat, cut to display a flash of white silk waistcoat with buttons faced in pearl, that led the eye to the swell of satin where breeches began…He looked beautiful if I can use that word to describe a man, I only knew I was not the only woman in the room who glanced his way or sat up in their chair.” – Sophia Elliot’s reaction to Lt. Austen, p. 91
As Sophie/Sophia’s romance with Lt. Austen parallel’s the romance in Persuasion, we are even treated to a letter that rivals the famous “You pierce my soul” love letter that Captain Wentworth gives to Anne Elliot. *swoon*
“I read it again and again committing to memory the words that thrilled every sense and awakened every feeling. How would I ever recover from such a letter?” – Sophia Elliot (p. 237)
Indeed! Odiwe has created the perfect reason to never want to recover from such feelings. Searching for Captain Wentworth will send you on a magical journey through time, and your heart, that you will not soon forget.
5 out of 5 Regency Stars
Searching for Captain Wentworth, by Jane Odiwe
Paintbox Publishing (2012)
Trade paperback (320) pages
© 2012 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose