Mary Green / Melanie Kerr
Edmonton: Stonehouse Publishing, c2016.
I was intrigued by this novel, having discovered it on Stonehouse's website after reading another of their books recently (Kalyna). It's a Regency tale, fully inspired by Kerr's study of Austen - both academically, and via the tactile experience of creating and wearing Regency clothing & creating Regency events.
The novel does have a very Austen feel; it combines elements of Mansfield Park, Sense & Sensibility, and Emma; it also seems to reference Jane Eyre. The eponymous Mary Green is a young orphan two times over (her adoptive parents have died) taken in by her adopted mother's brother. This brother travels extensively, so Mary is left to the care of an aunt along with her two cousins, Dorothea and Augusta. Of course, in a Cinderella-like twist, Mary is treated badly, not even called by her real name by these tenuous relatives, instead called Polly.
But at 21, Mary finds out she is very rich and picks up and decamps to London with the solicitors the very same day. Her whirlwind life in London as a rich young woman is predictably head-turning -- but eventually Mary decides to head to her new estate in the country and live on a more even keel.
I was a little disappointed in this turn of events -- it's like Mary was another Fanny Price, too good and modest for fashionable life. I wanted to see Mary kick up her heels and enjoy herself for once, with all this newfound fortune! Instead she is sensible and goes in for good works, like supporting the orphanage where she herself started life.
She does, of course, get her happy ending. The romantic thread is the weakest element of this story, I felt; the story seems more focused on Mary herself, finding her way to selfhood. The romance is not 'romantic' or swoony, in fact, I thought it was really unexpected and not altogether satisfying. Fanny Price again! But if you are looking for a very Austen like novel that is much more convincing than many Austen-like 'sequels', this is a great choice. Kerr has the diction and daily details down.
You can also check out Melanie Kerr's blog for much more information on the Regency and for reviews and thoughts on other Regency retellings, both book and movie. There is info on her first book Follies Past, a P&P prequel, and videos of her reading from Mary Green, if you wish to avail yourself of the opportunity to learn more.