Fresh from a Jane Austen tour in England, Maddie Cooper returns home to Texas, determined to bring a touch of "Austen to Austin." She dreams of opening an authentic English tea room and, like Austen's Emma, put into practice her self-proclaimed gift as a matchmaker. But an airport mishap with a cranky Englishman gets her off on the wrong foot (quite literally), especially when he moves into the university guest house across the street.
Tea with Emma
Moody, Diane. (2011). [Genre: Contemporary Fiction]
How I found it: A friend on Goodreads recommended it, then I picked it up as a freebie through KindleBuffet
I actually read Tea with Emma about a month ago now, but now seemed the perfect time to review it, as we're in the middle of Austen in August at Roof Beam Reader! and Austen in August at The Book Rat! It's a sweet novella, retelling Austen's Emma in modern Texas. There were aspects of it I really enjoyed and a few, not so much.
Things I loved
- The story. It's a clever retelling - Moody doesn't get to bogged down in the details, so while the bones of Emma are definitely there, they don't detract from the modern setting
- The alternating perspective. The story is told alternatively from the perspective of Maddie, our Emma sub, and Ian, the grumpy Englishman who stands in for Knightley. It was fun having some insight into the hero and some of his actions were certainly a lot more understandable/sympathetic because of it
- It's length. I'm so glad that Moody didn't try and force Tea with Emma into a full length novel. The characters are fun and deep enough for a novella, but I have a feeling they would have fallen apart with time. The length keeps this story cute when it could become cheesy.
- The framing device. The novella opens and closes with a framing story about a writer suffering block, until a teacup gives her the inspiration for Tea with Emma. Presumably this set up continues for the rest of Moody's series, but it seemed a little commercial (you must read the next one in the series to continue the framing story) and out of place with the rest of the story.
- The ending. Lots of great characters were introduced in Tea with Emma. Maddie and Ian make lovely leads and there are some intriguing supporting characters (Maddie's best friend Lanie, her grandmother) with well thought out subplots of their own. And then it all wraps itself up in a pretty box extremely quickly. It's not a bad ending. . . . just a little fast!
Overall: 3/5 stars. I have a feeling I'll re-read this one sometime when I'm in the mood for something light and cute. It's just the right length for a one-sitting read. But it's not the most polished Austen retelling out there.