I Return + Suit and Suitability by Kelsey Bryant

Hey, everyone! I return! 🙂

(And if you didn’t notice I was gone, well… that’s either excellent news or… not. I leave you to decide. XD)

There was no post last week due to a long series of conspiratorial circumstances such as being busy, having shoddy/unreliable internet (still the case, actually; thank goodness for cupcake shops with wifi! Yes, that is a picture from today of my yummy cupcake), and a villainous wasp stinging my hand and thereby rendering me unable to type for a few days — the horror! #writersworstfears

BUT I’m back now, at least for the moment. 🙂 So blogging shall happen! Hurray!

I have bookish thoughts for you today, and next week (June 1st) I’ll be sharing an exciting cover reveal here. So excited for both! ^_^ After that I will endeavor to return to a more regular blogging schedule for June… Hopefully.

Meanwhile, I have exciting news to share in the bookish world: there are now THREE Vintage Jane Austen books out! *trumpets and confetti*

Emmeline by Sarah Holman (Emma retelling) which I reviewed, Suit and Suitability by Kelsey Bryant (Sense and Sensibility retelling), and a collection of short stories by various authors, edited by Hannah Scheele, Second Impressions: A Collection of Fiction Inspired by Jane Austen.

I’ve read the two novels that are out so far and LOVED them, and I’m looking forward to reading the short stories! 😀 (You can learn more about the series HERE, or add these to your Goodreads TBR list HERE.)

Meanwhile, I’m here today to talk about Suit and Suitability by my dear author friend, Kelsey, and tell you why you should read it! ;D

Title: Suit and Suitability
Author: Kelsey Bryant
Date read: February 16, 2017
Rating: 5 stars
Genre: Historical Fiction (1930s) / Christian / Romance
Age: YA
Year pub: 2017
Series: Vintage Jane Austen, #2 (Standalone. Each book by a different author.)
Fave character: Everett
Source: From the author
Notes: I beta-read this before it was published

My Review

Firstly, I enjoyed this book SO MUCH! 😀 A retelling of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, this version is set in 1930s America during the Great Depression (mostly in Ohio, and parts in New York City), with a dash of mystery added to it, and it was an absolute delight to read. 🙂 It drew me in from the first chapter and kept me totally absorbed, despite historical fiction of this sort not being my usual reading fare—I loved it! ^_^

It was so fun getting to meet the characters (slightly familiar but also oh-so-new!), soak up the absolutely GORGEOUS description and brilliantly well-painted time period, connect parallels and suspect upcoming things with the retelling parts, be surprised by little twists, and enjoy the humor, dialog, spiritual bits, character interactions, and generally just bask in the excellent writing! 🙂

Retelling-wise, it’s definitely recognizable as a take on Sense and Sensibility (at times a little more like the movie, perhaps?), but also its own story. So much of the original story was woven in so interestingly in clever little ways, that I had great fun comparing the two, seeing the similar things and changes and tweaks, especially fitting so well into the new time period! I enjoyed the parallels and predicting things, but there were also enough surprises that it kept me on my toes and left me with some lovely “aha!” discovery moments, like an entirely new book… which in many ways it is. I was VERY pleased with this as a retelling and as a book in general. ^_^

The setting and writing, which I somehow think of together, were both AMAZING. I was in awe at how well the time-period and setting were painted! I don’t know a lot about the 1930s, but it was just set SO. WELL. The way people talked, the clothes, the houses, details, even their names… just all of it was so evocative of the ’30s. The attention to detail was phenomenal and absolutely stunned me. I avoid writing historical fiction largely because I would never be able to do the research well enough to plunge the reader so completely into the world like this book did for me. It helped that the writing was gorgeous (and sometimes amusing!), completely sucked me in, and held me spellbound. It’s quite a long book (largely to accommodate the stories of both sisters) but it didn’t feel that way at all. 🙂 (Also, references to Captain Blood, Agatha Christie, etc., was the best. :D)

Characters! One of my favorite things… and these absolutely did not disappoint. I LOVED THEM! 😀 (I mean, except for a few, but we’ll get to that. *cough*) I loved their dialog and interactions and they had me laughing and quoting them a few times. So much fun! ^_^

  • Everett Shepherd is my favorite. 😀 The character he’s based on (Edward Ferrars, of course) wasn’t very present in the original book, so it was fantastic that he got a more “screen-time” in this retelling! I loved that. 😀 Everett was really well-written and I loved him. 😀 He was so awkward and sweet and quiet and nice and just… basically the best! ^_^
  • Ellen Dashiell, the main heroine of the story, was also so well-written and I really liked her. 🙂 She felt so REAL to me. I felt bad for a lot of her struggles and cheered her on, and she was just a great heroine—rather inspiring, actually!
  • Calvin Bradley is AWESOME. I do wish he could have been in it more, but I suppose part of the point is that he’s in the background being steady and faithful and kind and solid and grave and dependable, so… I guess that’s all right. 🙂 But he was fantastic! ^_^
  • I loved Frances! :O A very opinionated secretary who was not (I think?) based on anyone particular, she was such an unexpected character to steal my heart, and really claimed her own as a memorable person. She’s so blunt and fiery and just… the best. XD I was really surprised at how much I ended up liking her. 🙂
  • In contrast, I really disliked Leona. UGH. -_- I mean, we’re supposed to dislike her, so that means she was written well too. XD And one of the things about Jane Austen books seems to be that there’s always THAT character we love to hate. 😛
  • I’m not saying who, but I was taken off-guard by how CHARMING and likeable a certain character was (anyone who knows the Sense and Sensibility story will pick out who I’m talking about). He was well-written enough that I found myself liking him at first even though I knew who he would turn out to be! I did really dislike him as time progressed and as his situation dictated, but the fact that I liked him at all to start with… I was impressed with that.
  • On that note: yes, I will finally talk about the other heroine of the story, namely Marion Dashiell. It’s tricky here, because at times I liked her, and other times… I really, really didn’t. But I feel like that’s appropriate, because that’s exactly how I felt about Marianne Dashwood in Sense and Sensibility. A lot of people seem to like her but, really, I just DID. NOT. LIKE. MARIANNE. Ugh. So Marion in this version was very similar, which means I think she was written right. XD I did like her more than the original Marianne, I think, but they’re both so flighty and dramatic/passionate/un-reined-in, and while at times I connected with Marion Dashiell over loving books or thinking Ellen might be a little to nice or something (simply because I’m likely not as patient and kind as Ellen, so that’s one thing Marion and I have in common, unfortunately) I just on the whole didn’t like her, and I also didn’t understand her theater passion/obsession because I’m not an actor. 😛 (I’m a writer and an introvert, and the idea of acting on a stage terrifies and appalls me, which means I simply don’t understand her acting passion.) Much of the story is about Marion, and I just didn’t enjoy her parts as much, BUT they were still very interesting, and I suspect others would really enjoy reading those parts; I think it’s just a personality thing where I don’t really (personally!) like Marianne/Marion in either the original or this retelling. So that was just me. Hence, the fact that I loved this book so much despite that, shows how awesome it is. 😀

Also, I think it’s neat how, while Marion and Wilkie’s story was definitely very much there, it wasn’t the only thing that Marion was doing, since her focus is largely about acting too. Even if I didn’t care for her goals so much, it made it interesting that she had something going besides just a romance—and the same with Ellen. I liked how the plot had a lot more to it than just the romances—even though I loved those too. 🙂

There are many things I loved that I can’t directly address due to spoilers, but suffice it to say that the romances (not telling whose! ;)) were at times painful (as expected) but ultimately SO SWEET and rewarding and lovable. ^_^ Sooo many mixed emotions on the ride and I enjoyed it all so much! ^_^ My favorite pair of all, especially. They are the sweetest thing, poor darlings, and they go through so much but it’s all so worth it and their patience and quiet goodness is rewarded and it’s so SWEEEEET! ❤ I’m just really really happy with the entire plot related to them. 😀 JUST YES. Their parts were so fun and I just… I so enjoyed reading about them! I’m ever so pleased that they got more focus than their original counterparts, because they totally deserve some more focus and this time they get it! ^_^ But but but much cuteness of two sweet love stories. ^_^ BASICALLY THEY WERE PERFECT.

I was also very very pleased with how a lot of the plot turned out at the end! EEP. There was even a little sleuthing involved off-screen which made me think of the Hardy Boys and that time period, and it made me happy. 😀 Plus a couple of quite surprising twists, different than the original, which I absolutely LOVED in this! 😀 (Like how the stories of a couple of side-characters turned out, and the plot about Mr. Dashiell.)

Intriguingly, I felt like not only was this a good retelling of one of Austen’s books, but it seemed (to me) to hold true to the general worldview of what I feel like Jane Austen might have been trying to get across in some of her novels, about Christianity and morality, and perhaps about a peaceful rural life of contentment versus the rush and callousness of the city, etc. It all worked really well with this specifically Christian retelling. I quite liked the spiritual aspects of this book and thought they were well-done and inspiring. 🙂 I only recently picked up on those kinds of aspects Austen seemed to put in her books; it might have been reading Mansfield Park recently that helped me piece together this parallel connection. But somehow, some of the things in Suit and Suitability point to a deeper alignment with the (perhaps at times overlooked or forgotten) subtle hints in the original books, and just seemed to FIT with Jane Austen’s works. 🙂

Overall, I LOVE THESE CHARACTERS AND THIS STORY! ^_____^ *hugs it for always* Despite not reading much historical fiction or being particularly a fan of the ’30s, and almost not even liking (sometimes) one of the main characters (a.k.a. Marion) I just so enjoyed this! It’s definitely an excellent book (I kept being blown away by the writing—sooo good) and, what’s more, a fantastic retelling of Jane Austen’s original book! I just so enjoyed it! ^_^

I definitely recommend this book, to anyone who likes Jane Austen, Sense and Sensibility, the 1930s, well-researched Christian Historical Fiction, sweet YA romances, all of the above, or even just an excellently-written tale of charming (and sometimes funny) characters and their journeys in love and faith! 🙂

(Thanks to the author for the chance to beta-read this book before it was published. 🙂 I was not required to write a review and these are my honest opinions.)

About the Book

The mystery surrounding their father’s criminal accusations is almost as hard to solve as the many puzzles springing on their hearts.

Canton, Ohio, 1935. Ellen and Marion Dashiell’s world crumbles when their father is sent to prison. Forced to relocate to a small town, what is left of their family faces a new reality where survival overshadows dreams. Sensible Ellen, struggling to hold the family together, is parted from the man she’s just learning to love, while headstrong Marion fears she will never be the actress she aspires to be. When a dashing hero enters the scene, things only grow more complicated. But could a third man hold the key to the restoration and happiness of the Dashiell family?

Find the Book

Amazon • Goodreads

Author Bio

Since becoming an Austenite as a teenager, Kelsey has dreamed of writing a book in ode to Jane Austen. Sense and Sensibility is one of Kelsey’s favorite novels and Elinor Dashwood is her favorite book character, so it’s easy to imagine her ecstasy as she was writing Suit and Suitability. This is her first published historical fiction work; she has also published two YA contemporary novels.

Kelsey lives in Central Texas with her family, where she’s also a copy editor, a martial arts instructor, and an avid student of the Bible.

You can connect with her online here:

Blog • Website • Goodreads • Facebook

So what do you think? Have you read or watched Sense and Sensibility? Does Suit and Suitability intrigue you? And have you read any Jane Austen retellings you can recommend to me? Tell me aaaall in the comments! 🙂 Thanks for reading! ^_^