From the desk of Lisa Galek:
Little girls grow up on fairy tales. From a young age we’re inundated with stories about handsome princes who ride in on their white horses and sweep heroines off their feet. Everyone wants that happy ending. But, what if Prince Charming came by and you missed him? In Once Upon a Second Chance, Marian Vere explores what happens to a heroine after she lets her happily-ever-after slip through her fingers.
Ever since she was a little girl, Julia Basham dreamed of finding the guy of her dreams. When she meets Nick Kirkley, a college dropout with big plans for starting his own tech business, she thinks he might be the one. After a whirlwind romance, Nick pops the question and Julia finally sees a happily-ever-after in her future. Her older sister, Lisa, is less thrilled. Lisa convinces Julia to break off their engagement, which also breaks Nick’s heart. The two part ways, but Julia convinces herself that it’s for the best.
Fast forward to eight years. Julia’s dreams haven’t exactly come true. She works as a secretary for a financial consulting firm and still has yet to stumble across “the one.” Nick, on the other hand, is doing pretty well. The tech company he started has made him big money. 17.7 billion dollars to be exact. When Julia’s firm takes Nick on as a new client, she’s forced to come face to face with her biggest regret. Julia realizes that she let the love of her life get away all those years ago. Will she let it happen again? Or is it time for a second chance?
Once Upon a Second Chance is a modern retelling of Jane Austen’s Persuasion, but with a few little twists. Sure, it’s updated and told from the point of view of a modern-day woman living in New York City, but the author also sneaks in some fun references to folk tales and fantasy. Julia keeps waiting for a fairy godmother to come to take her hand and make her world magically better, but, sadly, that’s just not in the cards for her.
Julia is actually a really interesting character. Part of her emotional journey—like Anne Elliot’s—is discovering her inner strength, though there were times when I wished she would just figure it out already. Julia spends a whole lot of time and energy (and internal monologues) freaking out about Nick. She panics when he becomes a client for her firm. She panics when he walks into a room. She panics when he looks at her. And she panics when she even thinks about talking to him. It was a bit much at times.
Even though Julia could be overwhelming, the romance between her and Nick was really well developed and enjoyable. We get to see some flashbacks of their life together, how they met, and how things ended so badly between them. The moments that they shared in the present were pretty magical, too. Even when it was just a stolen glance across a room, I was getting butterflies in my stomach. I truly wanted these two crazy kids to just kiss and live happily-ever-after.
The story trimmed some of the subplots from Persuasion and simplified a lot. Mr. Elliot makes a brief appearance, but he doesn’t pose much danger to Julia. Lisa is obviously a variation on Lady Russell and Julia’s best friend and co-worker, Bree, has a bit of Louisa Musgrove in her. None of these characters feels as weighty or important as they did in the original. Julia and Nick are the main focus here and everyone else just seems to orbit around them. I didn’t mind much because the romance was so good, but the story did lose a bit of the complexity by slimming down these minor characters.
In the end, the novel really does pull off its goal. Not only is it a fun romance, but it’s a great critique of the ways that women are taught to be passive. Sometimes we’re told to ignore our instincts and listen to other people’s judgments. Other times we hear that we should just wait around for love and life to just happen to us. Julia has to learn to take charge of her own life and to figure out that she’s the only one with the power to make her dreams come true. No Fairy Godmothers necessary.
Once Upon a Second Chance is a light, bright, sparkling read. It’s well-written, funny, and very romantic, but it also has some interesting things to say about life and love. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
4 out of 5 Stars
Once Upon a Second Chance, by Marian Vere
Omnific Publishing (2012)
Trade paperback (210) pages
Cover image courtesy of Omnific Publishing © 2012; Text Lisa Galek © 2014, Austenprose.com
Disclosure of Material Connection: The reviewer purchased a copy of this book. We only review or recommend products we have read or used and believe will be a good match for our readers. We are disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”