Austenesque, Book Reviews, Contemporary Era

The Dashwood Sisters Tell All, by Beth Pattillo – A Review

The Dashwood Sisters Tell All, by Beth Pattillo (2011)This is my third selection in the Sense and Sensibility Bicentenary Challenge 2011, my year-long homage to Jane Austen’s first published novel, Sense and Sensibility. You can follow the event as I post reviews on the fourth Wednesday of every month and read all of the other participants contributions posted in the challenge review pages here.

Following Jane Austen Ruined My Life (2009) and Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart (2010), Austenesque author Beth Pattillo presents the third book in the “Formidables Series,” The Dashwood Sisters Tell All. If you are wondering what “Formidables” are, besides being the thread that binds all three of these modern Jane Austen themed novels together, it is a clever play on Jane’s own stern moniker for herself and her sister Cassandra in their later years, and, the appropriately named secret society of devoted Janeites safekeeping Austen manuscripts and letters thought to have been destroyed ages ago. Each of the novels involves an American heroine (or in this case heroines) thrown into the investigation of Austen documents held (or wanted) by the society while she is visiting England. They are Jane Austen meets the Da Vinci Code; light-hearted mysteries/Austenalia/romances that have become one of my favorite light, bright and sparkly indulgences to loose myself in with a cup of tea and a little fantasy.

Inspired by Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, the plot of The Dashwood Sisters Tell All parallels many elements in Austen original story. Any Janeite worthy of their set of The Oxford Illustrated Jane Austen will recognize siblings Ellen and Mimi Dodge as Austen’s divergent protagonists Elinor and Marianne Dashwood. These two modern thirty-something Dashwood’s don’t have much in common personality wise, nor do they like each other very much, but to honor their mother’s dying wish they travel to England for a walking tour of Hampshire. Taking the Jane Austen pilgrimage to Steventon Rectory, Chawton Cottage, and the Chawton Great House, their journey concludes at her final resting place, Winchester Cathedral. Along the way they must decide where they want to scatter their mother’s ashes and what to do with a diary she gave them that may have been written by Jane’s sister Cassandra. Each of the sisters reacts differently to the realization that the diary may be authentic and valuable. Shallow and vain Mimi smells money to fund her desire to open a fashion boutique in New York City, and practical and stoic Ellen wants to read, understand and discover if the diary is indeed authentic and if they want to sell it.

Mysteriously, others in the tour group, especially the Jane Austen expert Mrs. Gwendolyn Parrot, seem to know who the sisters are and why they are there, even though they have not shared any of the details with her. Also popping back into Ellen’s life after fifteen years, and into the tour group is Daniel, her college heartthrob and the only man she has ever loved, even though he never knew it. He is now an antiques dealer and Ellen assumes that her mother also sent him on the tour to help her daughters with the diary, and rekindle the unrequited love that Ellen never pursued. On the other hand, Mimi who fails in and out of love as quickly as the changing fashion season immediately hooks up with another enigmatic gentleman on the tour, the hunky Ethan Blakemore, a descendant of Jane Austen who has recently inherited a local estate. Ellen secretly questions why a local would take a walking tour in his own backyard? Mimi doesn’t wonder anything about Ethan, except when he will propose.

As the sisters travel through the countryside following in Austen’s path, they also read the diary revealing secrets in Jane and her sister Cassandra’s relationship that so tested their love and friendship for each other that it nearly tore them apart forever. While Ellen and Mimi have their own Elinor and Marianne Dashwood romantic entanglements and disappointments, they are drawn together when they question if the plot in Sense and Sensibility is based on the author’s real life experiences, and others in their group who are part of the “Formidables” go to great lengths to prevent them from discovering the truth.

Anyone eager for a vacation from the usual Austenesque fare inspired by Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy will appreciate the creative, unique, and intriguing contemporary theme and snap this novel up without a second thought. Pattillo has the clever knack of combining a romantic contemporary tale with historical connections centered around Austen lore. The Dashwood Sisters Tell All nourishes Jane Austen fans senses, and romance readers sensibilities! Come for the Austen travelogue and get lost in the romance and adventure.

P.S. – we are still patiently awaiting the invitation to become a Formidable.

4 out of 5 Regency Stars

A Grand Giveaway

Win one copy of The Dashwood Sisters Tell All, by Beth Pattillo by leaving a comment by midnight PT Wednesday, March 30, 2011 stating what intrigues you about this Sense and Sensibility inspired novel or who your favorite character was in Beth’s previous two novels in the series. Winners will be announced on Thursday, March 31, 2011. Shipment to US or Canadian addresses only.

The Dashwood Sisters Tell All: A Modern Day Novel of Jane Austen, by Beth Pattillo
Guideposts (2011)
Trade paperback (288) pages
ISBN: 978-0824948740

© 2007 – 2011 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

43 thoughts on “The Dashwood Sisters Tell All, by Beth Pattillo – A Review”

  1. “Pride & Prejudice” by Jane Austen has been my most favorite novel, and I really appreciate the classics, pointe blanke. But outside of the classics, I love the “mystery/thriller” genre. This book seems to combine BOTH the classics, and the mystery genre…so this book automatically finds itself in my “must-read” list. I really want to read the first two novels too (Mr. Darcy broke my heart seemed so very interesting as well) but this one takes the cake, for me.

    I’d love to win a copy. Thank you SO much for bringing this book to my attention, as well as for your generous giveaway! Thanks! :)

    Email: or Enamoredsoul(at)gmail(dot)com
    Twitter: @inluvwithbookz


  2. Please don’t enter me in the drawing, since I have a copy of this novel waiting at home on my TBR pile. I just wanted to say thanks for the great review!


  3. I’ve enjoyed Beth’s other books and am eagerly awaiting getting my hands on this one. I can’t wait to see how the two sisters handle the Formidables! Mrs. Parrot was my favorite in “Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart” and I can’t wait to see what she brings to “The Dashwood Sisters Tell All.”

    The information discovered about Jane Austen in these books is always intriguing. I hope that this one also has excerpts from Austen’s writing in it. That’s one of my favorite aspects of Beth’s novels.

    I hope I win the copy! :-)


  4. I love the premise of developing the story through a tour of Hampshire, and I’m intrigued by the diary, and it doesn’t hurt that a couple of men are involved to bring in a bit of romance. Sounds great. Thanks for the giveaway.


  5. Having read the two previous novels by Beth Pattillo, I know I am in for a very good time with The Dashwood Sisters. Sense and Sensibility is my second favorite Austen novel. I am glad Ms. Pattillo has included these wonderful characters in her gifts to her readers.


  6. This is on my list for the S&S Challenge this year too, so I can’t wait to read it. I practically devoured Pattillo’s other two Austen novels and I expect I’ll do the same with this one.

    I really love Mrs. Parrot and how she pops up mysteriously in each novel. She’s tough as nails and yet shrewd enough to get what she wants. Formidable indeed!

    (P.S. If you do ever get your invitation to join the Formidables, does that mean you’ll share it with the rest of us?!?)


  7. What interests me is the connection with Jane Austen–how this book tells some facts about her, without being completely a biography.


  8. What looks good about this is the interaction between the 2 sisters and the history of Jane Austen (as well as the beautiful cover!) :D


  9. I am interested in reading about the places that the 2 sisters visit. I would love to see all the places Jane went to but for now I live vicariously through other peoples’ descriptions of them. Thanks for the chance to win this book!


  10. I’ve enjoyed reading Beth Patillo’s previous two novels, which introduced us to the secret Formidables. And I can’t way to see how Col. Brandon comes into play with this one!


  11. Beautiful cover art and a wonderful review. I can’t believe I haven’t read or heard of Beth Pattillo’s other books before. I went back and read your reviews on those as well. They all sound great. Is it better to read them in order or publication, or can I just jump into the ‘Formidables’ with this one? If there’s any chance that they connect or follow a certain timeline, I’d rather read them in that order.


  12. I haven’t read any of her other books yet, but I have them on my wish list. They look like a fun read, and something that I hope she continues with something that is a modern update for MP, Emma and NA.
    I am taking a part of the S&S challenge, so would love to win this one to read as part of the challenge.


  13. I really enjoyed her other two Austen inspired books & I can’t wait to read this one! Please do not enter me in the contest because I just ordered this book last night :)


  14. Austen’s stories are timeless – It doesn’t matter how many times someone rehashes them or modernizes them, the plot never disappoints. By sprinkling Austen’s classic formula with the secretive Formidables, The Dashwood Sisters has a yummy two-pronged forkfull of romance and intrigue.


  15. This intrigues me because it incorporates a modern version of an Austen story and inludes England and oxford and how they changed so much due to going there and their experienes.

    I have read Beth Pattilo’s previous 2 books and enjoy them immensely! This is why I am looking forward to getting my own copy of her newest book as soon as easter break omes up and I am home.

    I will also be going to Oxford for a study abroad trip so anything that takes plae at Oxford I am interested in immensely.


  16. So excited to see a 3rd book with the Formidibles! When I read Jane Austen Ruined My Life, I wondered what the world would think if there were really a group who were the protectors of Austen writings, what excitement that would stir! I’ve recently purchased Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart…so happy to know there’s another treat waiting to be consumed.
    If any of us have sisters/girlfriends, we can see ourselves in Marianne and Elinor. We love one another deeply and from time to time despise one another just as intensely. It will be very interesting to see how the “puppet mistress” Mrs. Parrot uses that love/hate relationship to the benefit of the Formidibles!


  17. I have yet to read any of Beth Pattillo’s works, but I have been intrigued by them ever since reading about them in your blogs. I guess it’s time to pick this one up, especially for the S&S Bicentenary Challenge.

    Formidables… definitely intriguing! =)


  18. I enjoyed Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart! I enjoyed the scenes with Harriet Dalrymple. I am quite looking forward to The Dashwood Sisters Tell All and seeing how Gwendolyn Parrot fits into the story. I am anxous also to see how each sister falls in or out of love.


  19. Sounds interesting – and wouldn’t I love to get an
    invitation to be a Formidible. A Formidible in training
    perhaps …

    I’ve enjoyed Ms Patillo’s other works.

    Your review sparks my interest ; many thanks


  20. [dumb, I originally posted this under your review of “JA Ruined My Life”; let’s get this in the right spot …]

    While ‘The Formidables’ are a scream (do love them) Beth’s heroines are my favorite characters. They speak to me. These are wounded women who ultimately find the strength/power to remain true to themselves. (You must love yourself before you can love another.)

    Very much looking forward to taking this new journey and growing with her characters.


  21. I am intrigued by the idea of the Jane Austen tour group you described. I would be interested to follow them around the Janeite sites. I think this looks interesting.


  22. I read “Jane Austen Ruined My Life” awhile ago and really enjoyed it. I had no idea there were more books in this series. I’m going to the library today to pick up “Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart.” I’d love to win the third book!


  23. I loved the character of the old woman at Cambridge who had in her possession the letters… So interesting & complex. Can’t wait to read this installment!


  24. I enjoyed the protagonists finding out about the Formidibles in her previous novels, and look forward to reading this one.


  25. I am intrigued to see what the Formidables do in this next installment! I enjoyed Jane Austen Ruined My Life (which my local library has), but haven’t been able to get my hands on a copy of Ms. Pattillo’s other two books.


  26. The book sounds very interesting, I’ve only started reading novels that draw from Jane Austen, but I’ve yet to read one that directly touches on Sense and Sensibility. This seems to have a little light adventure too, a la Davinci Code.


  27. This is on my MUST READ list :)
    What intrigues me most is the contemporizing of the novel – I’ve read one or two other “retakes” of Sense & Sensibility, and felt like they mainly just updated the wording/costumes/etc – this sounds like it takes the idea & original story and really expands and explores what it’d be like today … Def must read this!!! :)


  28. I read and enjoyed “Jane Austen Ruined My Life,” but the other two are still in my TBR stack. Always good to have something to look forward to reading! “Too many books; too little time.”


  29. Why interested in this novel? Well, I enjoyed Jane Austen Ruined My Life, and as I actually have never read a Sense and Sensibility spinoff or sequel, I’m thinking this one will be fun.

    In Jane Austen Ruined My Life I enjoyed the character of Adam. Romance with someone who is/was your best friend is always yummy. I married mine.



  30. As others have said, it’s a gorgeous cover. I like the sound of the tour the sisters take. Any chance to travel vicariously to England!


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