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Wednesday, August 8, 2018

FOR MYSELF ALONE by Shannon Winslow | review

Today I’m reviewing a book by an Austenesque author who has taken part in Austen in August a number of times in the past! You can find her past involvement here, and see my thoughts on her Austen-inspired original work, For Myself Alone, below!

For Myself Alone, Shannon Winslow, review, book review, Jane Austen, JAFF, Austenesque, Jane Austen sequels, Pride and Prejudice, Austen In August
For Myself Alone by Shannon Winslow
Historical Romance, 265 pages
Published April 2nd 2012 by Heather Ridge Arts
From the author of "The Darcys of Pemberley" comes a new story, straight out of the world of Jane Austen and told in a style strongly reminiscent of her classic novels.

Set in nineteenth century Hampshire and Bath, "For Myself Alone" is the tale of Josephine Walker, a bright, young woman whose life is turned upside-down by an unexpected inheritance. With a tempting fortune of twenty thousand pounds, she’s suddenly the most popular girl in town. Yet Jo longs to be valued for who she is, not for her attractive bank balance. She cannot respect the men who pursue her for her money, and the only one she does admire is considered the rightful property of her best friend. Now, even the motives of her new fiancĂ© are suspect. Does he truly love her for herself alone? There’s one sure, but extreme, way to find out… if Jo has the courage to take it.

"For Myself Alone" will appeal to those who long for more Jane Austen, for more stories like the ones she told written in the elegant language of her time. Just for fun, lines from Jane Austen's works have been sprinkled throughout the text for her fans to find.

For Myself Alone is not a direct Austen retelling or continuation, but is billed as being “in the style of” Jane Austen, and with that, I would definitely agree. That’s not to say that a modern voice or sentiments don’t intrude, because as is the case with most Austenesque works, they certainly do. But it does have a similar feel and makes a really good effort at capturing some of that style and feeling of Austen, which I commend Winslow for. She imitates Austen well in style, tone and subject, and while not pitch perfect, I don’t think the book is ever jarringly modern* in the way that some (if not most) JAFF can be.

[* Now, having said that it wasn’t jarringly modern, I’m gonna go ahead and contradict myself, because
there were some thing that did stick out a little bit as a) too modern, and b) as not quite Austenesue.  For the most part, I think these things stand out only because the rest mimicked a Regency style so well; in any other Jane Austen fanfic, I don't think any of it would have stood out as particularly modern sensibilities, turns of phrase, or breaches of propriety -- though the latter probably should have been better addressed, as it was a rather big deal. This could be a book chat, maybe; there’s a whole heck of a lot of impropriety happening in Austenesque fiction, and I can never tell how much is for story expediency/modern audience retention, and how much is just from truly not knowing how big a deal something would have been during the Regency period. Hmm…]

It reminds me most, perhaps, of Northanger Abby, which is a long-standing favorite of mine (and I will fight anyone who says NA is not as good as the rest of Austen,  I will fight you), and I don’t think it’s purely because a large chunk of the book takes place in Bath. There are themes and characters and deceptions that would be right at home in Northanger Abbey, and that bit of dramatic irony where the reader knows (or heavily suspects) what’s really going on, when the main character doesn’t, that helps make NA so delightful. It does occasionally feel a bit long (at times, I felt like I had been reading this forever), and sometimes overdone, but I still found myself really enjoying it, and what’s more, I find myself remembering it pretty well, which is honestly a sad rarity for me. (I guess when you read too much, too fast, it all tends to blend together and fade pretty quickly…)

There is one thing, and I don’t hold this against the book in any way – though I do wonder how realistic it is – but there is a money-based plot thread in this that in some ways has the main character occasionally seeming very modern and almost-revolutionary, while also being just… Too Good™.  Part of me has begun to chafe at martyr female characters. I should probably explore this more in a book chat, but I'm getting to a point where I don't want to wait for it to all come out right in the end for the good guy; I want the good guy to FIGHT. I suppose Jo does fight in her own way, and I suppose she does make the decisions that are most likely to lead to her own happiness, but given the time and the uncertainties for women (and the HIGH improbability of a chance at true independence for women of the time) even in the best of circumstances, some of the bigger things that happened in the book galled me a little bit. Again, I think it suits the story fine, it just doesn’t suit me, but I can’t really get into that without major spoilers.

All that said, I enjoyed it, and would read more from Shannon Winslow; I’d also be curious to see how she handles a straightforward Austen retelling or continuation, because I think she could both mimic the style well and take it in some interesting directions.

Disclosure: I purchased this book myself, and all thoughts and opinions are honest and my own.
Affiliate links are used in this post.

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  1. I have this one on the pile and I'm glad to know it has an Austen tone.
    Interesting discussion about the balance of modern vs authentic. I actually like it either way if the story is developed well just so long as it seems clear from the blurb what way the book is going to swing.

    1. I'd say the blurb is VERY accurate. Kinda gives too much away, actually.

  2. I love reading Shannon Winslow's stories and forgot about this one. I have it as an audio book and it is now next up on my TBL (To be listened to) list. I agree with Sophia that my main concern is that the story is well developed and the blurb is accurate.

    1. I'd say the blurb is VERY accurate. Kinda gives too much away, actually.


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