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

Title: First Impressions: A Novel of Old Books, Unexpected Love, and Jane Austen Oct 16

Author: Charlie Lovett

Rating: ★★

Provided Synopsis: Book lover and Austen enthusiast Sophie Collingwood has recently taken a job at an antiquarian bookshop in London when two different customers request a copy of the same obscure book: the second edition of Little Book of Allegories by Richard Mansfield.  Their queries draw Sophie into a mystery that will cast doubt on the true authorship of Pride and Prejudice—and ultimately threaten Sophie’s life.

In a dual narrative that alternates between Sophie’s quest to uncover the truth—while choosing between two suitors—and a young Jane Austen’s touching friendship with the aging cleric Richard Mansfield, Lovett weaves a romantic, suspenseful, and utterly compelling novel about love in all its forms and the joys of a life lived in books.

Review: Jane Austen is one of my favorite authors; therefore I can never resist giving a book dealing with her life a chance. In the case of First Impressions, the historical storyline (with fact mixing with fiction) has a young Jane form a friendship with an elderly clergyman who goes on to inspire and encourage her writing. I knew the friendship between Jane and Mr. Mansfield was not real, yet that did not hinder my enjoyment of their storyline at all. I liked beholding Jane brainstorm and revise numerous drafts of her early works, along with being presented with the idea that all she saw and knew in this world of Lovett’s was an inspiration for her literary classics.

That being said, it was the contemporary storyline of this book that failed me on nearly every level. Why, do you ask? Because the number of coincides in Sophie’s life truly jumped the shark. Her uncle unexpectedly dies, so she immediately falls to the conclusion he was murdered without evidence to suggest so. She can find all of the answers. The story exists more in dialogue rather than prose. Meanwhile, there is no character development allowed for Sophie or any of the other characters — all of them fall flat. When you have flat characters and then try to write romance between these characters there is also presented a problem because none of it is believable or engaging.

The only aspect of Sophie I enjoyed were her flashbacks to her time spent with her recently deceased uncle. Both of them are lovers of books, and it was there and only there that I could relate.

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