Borrowing the framework of Jane Austen’s unfinished work Lady Susan, this novel tells the story of Susan Vernon and her daughter Frederica. When Susan’s husband Frederick dies unexpectedly, his brother Charles inherits both his estate and his entire fortune. Charles is a grasping and selfish man, so although honor demands that he provide for Susan and her daughter, Charles refuses to do so. Susan and Frederica are therefore left virtually penniless, and soon their entire social circle is speculating about what Lady Vernon and her daughter will do next. Marriage is the subject that mainly occupies everyone’s minds, but both Susan and Frederica are determined not to marry men they do not love.
I have a weakness for Austen-themed fiction, but most of it doesn’t tend to be very good. So I was pleasantly surprised by this book; while the style is certainly not identical to Austen’s, it does have an authentic period feel. I don’t think I’ve ever read Austen’s Lady Susan – or if I did, it was years ago – so I wasn’t bothered by any deviations from the source material. I have the impression that Austen’s Lady Susan was much more cold and manipulative than the Susan Vernon in this book. However, since Susan is meant to be one of the heroines here, I can’t really blame the authors for the change! The romances in the book are satisfying enough, though they’re not given much depth. Rather, the novel’s focus seems to be on immersing its readers in an Austen-esque world, and on that basis I really enjoyed it. I’d recommend this to fans of Austen or 19th-century literature in general.