The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen
Samantha McDonough, frustrated scholar and Jane Austen fangirl, finds a letter written by Austen hinting at a lost manuscript hidden in a book of poetry. Convinced the manuscript might still be at the Devon manor house where it went missing, Sam travels to the estate and convinces Anthony, the house's young, handsome owner, to help her search. When they unearth the manuscript after a brief hunt, the two settle down to read it together.
Syrie James intrigues readers with the framing story of The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen (what fan wouldn't love to discover an unpublished novel by Jane?), but the heart of the book is the lost manuscript itself. James expertly blends Austen archetypes--bumbling suitors, lady friends both silly and sympathetic, bemused fathers--with her own narrative wit, infusing the story of The Stanhopes with charm and depth.
Austen devotees will recognize familiar plot threads and locations, and enjoy meeting characters reminiscent of the Bennets, the Woodhouses and their friends. Periodically, Sam and Anthony reappear, first discussing the manuscript and then disagreeing on what to do with it. Despite the friction caused by their differing opinions, readers will spot the budding romance before Sam does.
While both the framing story and the ending are a bit predictable, the story of Rebecca Stanhope, her family and her search for love make James's novel a sweet, enjoyable read for any Austen fan. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams