Jane Austen’s most serious and compelling work, Persuasion, is all about retribution, forgiveness and second chances. Her masterpiece begins seven years after the broken engagement between the young heiress, Anne Elliot, and a junior naval officer, Frederick Wentworth—when he is thrown back into her sphere and both must face the pain from their past. Karen M. Cox’s award winning novel, Find Wonder In All Things is a modern day homage to this Austen classic. The tale begins with a lakeside friendship in the Appalachian foothills of Kentucky between Laurel Elliott and James Marshall. As the two grow, childhood friendship turns to summer romance and halfway through Laurel’s first semester at the local college, James decides to move to Nashville to pursue his music dream. He assumes she will drop everything to join him. But at just eighteen and with a generous art scholarship, weighted by family expectations as well, who would fault her for refusing him and staying on the college track?
Eight years later, James, now rich and famous, returns to the lake to visit his sister, while Laurel has turned into a reclusive, starving artist. Ok, not quite starving but by no means a financial success story. And most definitely alone. “Unbidden, he came to mind: handsome, dashing and determined. The eight years of separation had softened any flaws she ever saw in him, and now he was almost larger than life to her. He had been right to believe in himself and in his ability to make his mark on the world. He had made it, too – perhaps not in the way he intended but still successful beyond his wildest dreams.” p.115. Captain Wentworth, I mean, James is determined to play it cool and aloof towards Anne. I mean Laurel! And Laurel’s regrets are freshly re-visited as she is keenly aware of her depraved status and jealously towards the younger woman James now bestows his attentions. But Laurel’s generous, self-assured spirit unearths old feelings he thought long buried and a companionable friendship blossoms. When a water skiing accident throws the two together, emotions come to the surface. “And he had whispered her name and called her beautiful and sweet. She could hear the words, and then ‘want…want…’ It had made her roar to life inside her lower belly. Yes, she thought, I want too.’ But then he left.” p 177. Maybe too much time and hurt had passed between them…
If you are looking for the cookie cutter formula of a Persuasion adaptation, this may not be it. For example, you might be surprised that Austen’s pretentious, preening Sir Walter Elliot has been transformed into a struggling but kind hearted marina owner. And Anne Elliot’s selfish, self-absorbed elder sister Elizabeth has morphed into an affectionate, married, and doting mother named Virginia. Although many of Austen’s key characters have also been re-named and undergone a modern makeover, they remain comfortably familiar to the Austen fan. I admit, some of my appreciation was in recognizing the subtle parallels. (Please note that although the prologue opens with Laurel and James as children, their tender love scenes later in years most assuredly rates this an adult read.) However, one need not have read Persuasion beforehand to enjoy this novel. Find Wonder In All Things stands on its own and no wonder at all, why it was awarded the GOLD MEDAL in the Romance category at the 2012 Independent Publisher Book Awards. Congratulations, Karen Cox on another lovely read!
4.5 out of 5 Stars
Find Wonder in All Things, by Karen M. Cox
Meryton Press (2012)
Trade paperback (254) pages
© 2012 Christina Boyd, Austenprose