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Tuesday, April 12

The Dashwood Sisters Tell All, by Beth Pattillo: A Review

The Dashwood Sisters Tell All is Beth Pattillo's third novel about the modern day world of Jane Austen. Three years ago, Beth's first novel, Jane Austen Ruined My Life, introduced us to Mrs. Parrot and the Formidables, the secret society that protected Jane Austen's private letters. Her second novel, Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart, followed the formula, as does this most recent book.

The Dashwood Sisters Tell All was obviously written to commemorate the 200th anniversary of Sense and Sensibility, for Mimi and Ellen Dodge are the modern counterparts to Marianne and Elinor Dashwood. At the time of their mother's death, they are estranged. Only the conditions of her will unite the two sisters, who are different in temperament and ambitions. They are to participate in a Jane Austen themed walking tour and agree on an appropriate place to scatter her ashes. Once this happens, the two sisters will receive their inheritance. This turns out to be Cassandra Austen's priceless diary, which had the following words written on the fly leaf:

Private property of Miss Cassandra Austen
Do Not Read.
That Means You, Jane.

As the Mimi and Ellen read the passages, they note that certain worlds are underlined, leading to riddles that the sisters feel they can solve. (Shades of Emma!) Then the diary goes missing, and the sisters immediately suspect Mrs. Parrot. Add to this mix a good description of the Jane Austen tour, three men who resemble Colonel Brandon, Willoughby, and Edward Ferrars, and you have a satisfying read.

My only quibble was how Beth used the first person point of view for both sisters, for I felt that their “voices” were too similar. The only clues as to who was telling the story were the events they thought about and their particular habits, for I did not realize for several chapters that Mimi and Ellen were both telling the story. I would have given the sisters unique vocabulary preferences and thought quirks to make their voices truly distinctive.

Beth Patillo fans will not be disappointed with this third Formidable tale. A newcomer to the series might be a bit confused, for the Formidables are not as well described as in her first two books. Still, the tale is well crafted. The mystery of the missing diary is finally solved (easily, for the culprit is obvious), but the twist at the very end came as a surprise.

I give The Dashwood Sisters Tell All three out of three Regency fans.Order the book here.

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