First Impressions: A Novel of Old Books, Unexpected Love, and Jane Austen

In 2013, Charlie Lovett charmed scores of readers and bibliophiles with The Bookman's Tale, in which he posited that Shakespeare's plays weren't written by the Bard but by someone else. He also threw in a little love and romance. The formula worked admirably, and First Impressions follows in that novel's footsteps. Now the focus is on another famous author, old books, a mystery, young women searching for love and young men hoping to be found.

This is a tale of two women: Jane Austen and Sophie Collingwood. It's also a tale of two time periods, the late 18th century and the present day, as Lovett tells his story in alternating chapters set in Jane's Hampshire and Sophie's Oxfordshire. Jane is hard at work on a novel entitled Elinor and Marriage (which will become Sense and Sensibility). Sophie is trying to decide what to do after getting her graduate degree. Enter two key men: Richard Mansfield, an elderly cleric who becomes a close friend of Jane, and Uncle Bertram, a book collector whom Sophie adores.

When Uncle Bertram dies in mysterious circumstances, Sophie's father handles the sale of his substantial book collection. Hoping to earn enough money to buy back the books she believes should have been her inheritance, Sophie takes a job in an antiquarian bookshop. Two customers request an obscure book--the second edition of Little Book of Allegories by Richard Mansfield--and Sophie finds herself wrapped up in Jane Austen's world. Lovett's tale is a lovely and entertaining one that will involve any reader who relishes the charm (and the charming scent) of old books. --Tom Lavoie, former publisher

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