Reviews for The Austen Escape
Reay (A Portrait of Emily Price) adds to the ever-expanding genre of Jane Austen–themed literature with her latest offering. Mary Davies, an industrial engineer from Texas, has been working on augmented reality glasses for years but her work has been for naught and she has been downgraded to working on batteries. She is also secretly enamored with Nathan Hillam, a consultant working at her engineering firm who will soon be moving on to his next assignment. Her father convinces her to leave it all temporarily behind and head to Bath, England, with her emotionally fragile best friend, Isabel Dwyer. There they will immerse themselves in Austen escapism for two weeks so that Isabel can do research for her doctoral dissertation. Mary and Isabel dress up in Regency clothes and act as characters from Austen’s books, and then things quickly get complicated: Isabel suffers memory loss and believes she really is part of the past. In this world of grown-up make-believe, Mary will discover much more than she ever expected about both Isabel and herself, including that Nathan is an important part of both their lives. When he hurries to Bath to help them both, will Mary make her feelings known?
Unlike many books written in homage to Austen, this is not a modern retelling of any of her stories, but rather a romp among contemporary Austen fanatics. Readers eager for anything Austen-related will enjoy this clean romance that explores the concept of escapism and what it may reveal about our real lives.
An engineer at a crossroads gains clarity about her past and information about her future on a Jane Austen–themed vacation in Bath, England.
Mary Davies is stymied in her professional and personal lives, which happen to be intertwined. A creative engineer at a tech hardware firm in Austin, Texas, she has failed to bring her most beloved project to fruition, calling her employment into question with the new boss. Though she receives encouragement and telling bits of attention from the interim CEO, Nathan, she insists that her project and obvious love for him are both dead in the water. The novel veers in a different direction, then, as Mary accompanies her childhood best friend, Isabel, on an immersive vacation at a manor house in Bath, where they dress in period garb, take on the personae of their chosen Austen characters, and mingle with other guests. The action in Bath is layered. Isabel suffers a kind of mental breakdown, retreating fully into her character, frightened by anything that threatens the fantasy. This sheds light, in intermittent beams, on the women’s troubled friendship, suggesting a reason for Mary’s defeatism. Nathan, learning of the situation, hops on a plane to England to provide assistance. Mary is slowly convinced of his love for her but is as easily spooked by this new development as Isabel is of cellphones. Meanwhile, her employment—and related self-esteem—hangs in the balance. Reay handles the Bath scenes with tenderness and a light touch, allowing the drama to come as much from internal conflict as external, rom-com–type misunderstandings. But while it’s laudable to put a woman in science at the center of a Regency romance, Mary’s professional life still feels forced. Thoughtful escapism.
Critically-acclaimed author Katherine Reay mixes a classic love of Jane Austen’s writing with a thread of humor and healing in her fifth novel, The Austen Escape (November 2017/ HarperCollins, Thomas Nelson). Two friends escape to Bath, England in search of relaxation and enjoyment, but end up on a topsy-turvey adventure. A common love interest, delusions of Austen-era life, and a string of pivotal events test the bonds of friendship and change both their lives in surprising ways.
Reviews for A Portrait of Emily Price
On a whim, a restoration artist marries a chef and moves to Italy, where she uncovers hidden artwork and family secrets.
Emily Price is restoring a fire-damaged house in Atlanta when she meets the handsome Vassallo brothers, Joseph and Ben, who are working to revitalize their aunt and uncle’s Italian restaurant. Although she’s tempted to say yes when Joseph offers her a better restoration gig, she can’t say no when Ben offers his hand in marriage. At first her relationship with Ben is bland in its perfection, but when she joins him at his parents’ restaurant in Italy, she’s caught in the middle of a dispute between Ben’s aging father and his disapproving mother. The constant tension does wonders for her personal art projects, which never earned her as much recognition as her restoration work. Even her thoughts are more painterly, which Reay captures in a lush yet modern style: “A blush on me was more of a blotchy oil-mixed-with-water affair, a discordant clash of color. I envied the whole cream-and-roses look,” Emily says of her new sister-in-law. Reay’s signature references to literary classics, in this case, Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew and Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, beautifully match the characters’ desires to break free from expectations and discover themselves in new surroundings, and her depiction of Rome is breathtaking. But there are so many broken things for Emily to fix—two restaurants, a mural in a church, multiple family feuds—that her eyes can’t rest on any one problem for too long.
Romance novelist Reay (Dear Mr. Knightley) crafts another engaging and sprightly page-turning bildungsroman. Emily Price is an art restorer and artist with underdeveloped talent and some personal blind spots. She works for an Italian expatriate based out of Atlanta, who has an exquisite art sensibility and a family that includes a handsome, sexy brother, Ben, who can cook and charm. After Emily falls for Ben, she acquires a set of Roman in-laws with secrets and another way of life. When Emily heads to Rome to meet the family, everybody has something to learn, not least the young American woman who discovers how to look at people and art with more care and consideration. The American-goes-to-Europe plot is a real chestnut, familiar but nicely revived by Reay who hits a sweet spot between adventure romance and artistic rumination; the novel finds a fantastic groove where chick lit meets Henry James. Reay’s well-realized characters enliven the formula, and the moral development of the heroine owes a lot to the Jane Austen novels that Reay has echoed in other works. Though not every detail of Italian culture rings quite true, on the whole this is another delight from Reay. Agent: Claudia Cross, Folio Literary Management.
—Publishers Weekly Starred Review (Nov.)
Art restorer Emily Price’s work schedule in Atlanta leaves little time for romance, until she meets chef Ben Vassallo. Charming and attractive, he weaves a spell around her. When Ben asks her to help restore his aunt and uncle’s pizzeria in Atlanta, she agrees, and before she knows it, she is in Italy as Ben’s wife. But Emily soon begins to think twice about her choices as she struggles to adjust to life in a new country. In the character of Emily, the author captures the free-spirited essence of a young woman reaching a crossroads in her life and following a path wherever it leads—sometimes with unexpected consequences. VERDICT Reay’s sensually evocative descriptions of Italian food and scenery makes this a delight for fans of Frances Mayes’s Under the Tuscan Sun. The author of The Brontë Plot writes novels that speak to the universal truths in the human heart, and her latest will appeal to readers of new adult fiction with its focus on the power of following a dream.
—Library Journal Starred Review
Reviews for The Bronte Plot
Katherine Reay is a remarkable author who has created her own sub-genre, wrapping classic fiction around contemporary stories. Her writing is flawless and smooth, her storytelling meaningful and poignant. You’re going to love The Bronte Plot.
—Debbie Macomber #1 NYT author
Lover and seller of rare books Lucy Alling likes to add a little something special to her treasured finds, in order to make the buying and selling of books and memorabilia more lucrative. When her boss begins to suspect Lucy is tampering with the inscriptions and provenance of the books, her unethical embellishments have consequences in her closest relationships. But even as her disillusioned boyfriend, James, retreats, his wealthy grandmother Helen unexpectedly hires Lucy as a literary consultant on a buying trip to London. The idea of visiting the home of the Brontë sisters particularly excites both of them. Once in London, Helen has a secret agenda that helps Lucy consider the morality of her actions, and both must confront their pasts in order to find peace with their decisions. Quotations and allusions flow freely in Reay’s (Lizzy & Jane) third tribute to the female giants of English literature. While some readers may miss the more obscure references, the finely drawn characters, flawed and authentic, dominate and ground the story emotionally. Lucy realizes that her beloved Brontë characters know more about God and grace than she ever suspected. Fans may find themselves unearthing their classic novels after savoring this skillfully written homage.
—Publisher’s Weekly Starred Review *
Great works of literature and other priceless antiques populate Reay’s (Lizzy & Jane, 2014, etc.) thoughtful tribute to the Brontë sisters. Lucy Alling has found her niche selling rare books inside the gallery of Chicago’s premier interior designer. She charms her client James Carmichael with a limited-edition Jane Eyre—and her latent talent for design—but when James catches Lucy in a lie, he exposes a secret that could end her career. Just when all hope is seemingly lost, Lucy peeks up at readers from the middle pages and assures us that her story is far from over: “All books have it…that time when you don’t know where you’ll be, but you can’t stay as you are.” Opportunity knocks when James’ grandmother Helen proposes an unusual trip to England’s literary landmarks with Lucy as her shopping consultant. James’ disapproval adds tension, and the shopping transforms Lucy’s soul-searching into something more tangible. Reay handles each souvenir as carefully with her prose as her interior designers do with their hands—creating the effect of walking through an expensive gallery without any pressure to buy—and with a discerning eye, she brings out the varying shades of emotion in her characters. Lucy, for example, compares Helen’s eyes to paint colors—they start out as “Benjamin Moore #810 Blue Dragon” and change with her mood. Confronting her past at the Brontë sisters’ home in Haworth, Lucy soon discovers how much she and Helen have in common. Although age brings wisdom, Helen suggests that even wisdom can come with a price. The moral ambiguity makes the story more modern than its premise would suggest—and proves how well its source material holds up over time.
Reviews for Lizzy & Jane
“Reay’s second Jane Austen-inspired tale is a layered and nuanced story of faith and hope, enriched by complex but relatable characters. Recommended for lovers of character-driven women’s fiction.”
Deeply moving and intensely meaningful, Reay’s latest gives readers an intimate look into the lives of sisters. Elizabeth’s character is raw and real —her desire to live a meaningful life, yet her authentic fear of rejection will help everyone identify closely with her journey. Delicious descriptions of food and the closeness that provides to others gives the novel even more depth.
—Romantic Times 4 1/2 Stars
“A Rising Star in Contemporary Fiction!”
Reviews and Awards for Dear Mr. Knightley
“Katherine Reay is an up-and-coming powerhouse of an author with a deft hand for crafting empathetic characters and telling their stories. I can hardly wait for her next novel.”
—Serena Chase, USA Today