Abigail Reynolds’ latest self-published offering, Morning Light, is all about second chances, (maybe even thirds). Escaping complicated city life, and all the muddled baggage that it entails, widow Annie Wright is finally living her dream of running her own art gallery on Cape Cod and free of any male persuasion. The locals let her keep her past life private, especially the details of her famous husband’s death, and that is how she likes it. Then one day, her past in the form of her dead husband’s college friend Jeremy, walks back into her present, setting Annie’s life into a whirlwind… or tailspin.
Annie first met Jeremy ten years prior on the eve of her wedding to Paul. Even though they felt an instant, almost cosmic connection, once Jeremy realized who the bride was, they did NOT act on their feelings. Rather than see Annie married to someone else, Jeremy left the country – and and walked out of her life.
Upon re-entry, Annie and Jeremy cannot but follow through on the inevitable, and a hot and heavy affair ensues. Just when it seems their stars are lining up, Annie discovers a secret about Jeremy – and rather than confront him, she breaks off any contact – only to discover she has become pregnant. Annie’s complications further increase as we are re-introduced to our hero and heroine from Book One in the Woods Hole series, The Man Who Loved Pride & Prejudice, Cassie and Calder Westing… and all the drama from their politically powerful family comes into play. (Regrettably as much as I lerved those characters in that first book, Calder seems to have been reduced to a rich Cape Cod hermit who wants nothing more from life than to be with his wife.
“Calder needed a lot of quiet time, and he was used to having his house to himself all day long. He ended up hiding out in his study frequently. He was accustomed to having Cassie to himself as well, and missed his time alone with her. (132)
But I digress…
Although it says right on the cover “inspired by Jane Austen’s Persuasion” – I believe it really has VERY LITTLE to do with Persuasion, its characters, or story. Sure, second chance at love. But that’s it. However, Reynolds readily defends that it…
“started out in my mind as a Persuasion story, but I ended up having to make changes because certain parts of the story – most importantly why Anne rejects Frederick the first time – really don’t update well. I don’t see modern families persuading girls that their choice of a man is beneath them unless it’s about religion or race, and I didn’t want to touch either of those. So I moved the Persuasion theme to Annie’s family where her father insists on breaking off ties with her stepmother. Also it’s hard to write a modern Frederick who would just accept Anne’s dismissal without trying to argue her out of it; hence Annie’s marriage to prevent Jeremy from pursuing her.”
Further Reynolds believes she…
“…kept the Persuasion themes fairly well, like the changing ideal of the gentleman – Annie moves from being attracted to men with artistic talent and fame to choosing a man for his personality. The theme of the missing mother fit in easily with Annie’s mother and then stepmother disappearing, leaving her to raise herself. I worked in class consciousness through the Westing connection.”
Also, Reynolds explains that “most readers look for a plot replay, not a replay of themes,” so she originally thought not to market it as a Persuasion-related book. However, after writing eight Pride and Prejudice variations, and after receiving feedback from various cold readers, she worried that readers would assume this one would be as well. Hence the clarification on the cover art of “inspired by Jane Austen’s Persuasion.”
Despite the questionable link to Persuasion (and Austen purist might easily argue that there isn’t one at all) Morning Light is still a page-turner that really deserves to stand on its own. It is this humble reviewer’s opinion and recommendation that readers discount the entire Persuasion reference, or better yet, ignore it all together. You will enjoy it so much more simply reading the story for what it is – a continuation of The Man Who Loved Pride and Prejudice (originally self-published as Pemberley by the Sea), and not confusing yourself by trying to connect the dots to Persuasion. Chocked full of complex themes that rival any Nicholas Sparks novel, Morning Light has plenty of romance and steam for a sizzling, summer read.
4 out of 5 Stars
Morning Light, by Abigail Reynolds
Intertidal Press (2011)
Trade paperback (280) pages
Cover image courtesy of Intertidal Press (2011); text Christina Boyd © 2011, Austenprose.com