Title: By A Lady: Being the Adventures of an Enlightened American in Jane Austen’s England
Author: Amanda Elyot
Year of Publication: 2006
Genre Keywords: drama, friendship, Georgian England, historical, Jane Austen, marriage, nineteenth century, romance, social mores, time travel.
Summary: Twenty-first-century aspiring actress C.J. Welles has never felt like she belonged in this time and place. But just as she’s on the verge of winning the on-Broadway role of her literary heroine Jane Austen, she finds herself transported through time and space to Bath, England, circa 1801. Despite her better-than-average knowledge of period social mores, she finds herself in dire straits almost immediately, until a chance meeting lands her in the role of a lifetime: posing as Lady Dalrymple’s unfortunate niece, Cassandra. Suddenly doors are opening for her, and she finds herself connecting with all the most important people in Bath, including the intriguing Earl of Darlington, Owen Percival, and his sharp-witted cousin – Jane Austen herself! Could this nineteenth-century world be where C.J. really belongs? And if that’s true, can she keep her liberated, modern self from humiliation when the rules of polite society tolerate no deviation from a moral code as strict as it is unfamiliar?
Who’ll Love It: Fans of Jane Austen and similar period literature will eat this up. The writing style is just the right combination of modern and old-fashioned to set the tone without becoming hard to follow, and the concept is creative and well-executed. But you don’t have to know Jane Austen to enjoy this as a dramatic and somewhat sultry romance novel. A few scenes are pretty racy, though – some readers may wind up reaching for the smelling salts before the end.
Fashion Backward: There’s a veritable cottage industry online for Jane Austen enthusiasts, and if you’re fascinated by any aspect of the story, information is just a Google search away. Personally, I recommend an image search for “Jane Austen dresses” or “Regency gowns” to get a firsthand look at the fashions, which play a fascinating role in the book. The author’s commentary on very revealing gowns designed to denote virginity (because they’re white!) really piqued my interest. And our time-traveling heroine eventually finds herself in a great deal of trouble when her enemies notice that she wears the same outfit all day long, never bothering to change from a morning gown to a tea dress!