Jane Austen-Inspired Reads | Swoony Retellings

Jane Austen’s classic second-chance romance, Persuasion, gets a modern twist, and her Sense and Sensibility is the inspiration for a work with super-sexy scenes, deeply emotional storylines, and strong Black and Indigenous characters.

Edwards, Melodie. Once Persuaded, Twice Shy: A Modern Reimagining of Persuasion. Berkley. Feb. 2024. 352p. ISBN 9780593440797. pap. $18. CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE

Jane Austen’s classic second-chance romance gets a modern twist in Edwards’s (Jane & Edward) lovely new novel. Capable Anne Elliott reconnects with ex-boyfriend Ben Wentworth when his aunt and uncle purchase a winery near her home of Niagara-on-the-Lake in Ontario, Canada. They propose a project between their budding business and the theater company that Anne leads, entangling their professional lives and, increasingly, their personal lives too. Surrounding them is a whole host of quirky characters that will be familiar to anybody who has lived in a small town (or read a small-town rom-com), including a perpetually disgruntled goose who helps move the action along. The town, too, plays an important role and is lovingly described. Edwards is clever in the way she uses the main plot and themes of Persuasion to create her story without feeling like she must translate it directly to modern times, and she delivers a novel that deftly straddles the line between romance and relationship fiction. VERDICT This artful novel keeps to the core of the Jane Austen source material, while allowing the updated story to soar on its own.—Jenny Kobiela-Mondor

Payne, Nikki. Sex, Lies and Sensibility. Berkley. Feb. 2024. 432p. ISBN 9780593440964. pap. $18. CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE

At their father’s funeral, Nora and her sister learn the shocking and humiliating news that their mother was his mistress, and they were his hidden family. Their father’s other family spitefully gives them 30 days to vacate their lifelong home. Their only inheritance is an isolated house in rural Maine. But there’s a catch—they have to find a way to make it a profitable inn, and fast, or they’ll lose it. When they arrive, they find the house is beyond dilapidated and needs substantial work and money to be habitable. Luckily, Nora meets Ennis “Bear” Freeman, a local and member of the Abenaki tribe. Bear is struggling with financial woes of his own that threaten to ruin him and his entire community, yet he is still eager to help Nora reach her goal. However, shameful secrets from Nora’s and Bear’s pasts are now making it difficult for this budding relationship to become serious. VERDICT With super-sexy scenes, deeply emotional storylines, and strong Black and Indigenous characters, Payne’s (Pride and Protest) modern retelling of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility will appeal to readers who enjoy multicultural, smart, and highly entertaining contemporary romances.—Migdalia Jimenez

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