Warleigh Hall Press (2021)
Reviewed by Ashley Hooker for Reader Views (09/2021)
Author Alice McVeigh considers herself a Jane Austen fanatic. She has read all her books multiple times. When she began thinking about writing a story that would reflect her love of Jane Austen, I think she made the right decision.
McVeigh’s story, simply entitled “Susan,” is a Jane Austen prequel to Austen’s novel, “Lady Susan.” Young Susan is in trouble at her school and promptly sent home. Because her parents are gone, Susan lives with her aunt and uncle. They have generously paid for an education that Susan doesn’t want. She has dreams of balls and concerts. Once returning home, Susan only finds a disappointed aunt and uncle.
Susan becomes the companion to the wealthy Lady Catherine in London. When she takes leave to holiday in the country, Susan goes with her. While in the country, Susan, and her beloved cousin Alicia, began planning a play with Mr. Collins, Mr. Churchill, and Mr. Johnson. This circle of friends meets regularly for play practice and flirtations develop. Susan plays a pivotal role in the relationships that are blossoming and the ones that will last forever.
The relationship between Susan and her cousin Alicia was the highlight of the story for me. Both girls had lost parents and were left with little dowry. They had resigned themselves to the fact that there was not much hope in marrying up. They loved one another dearly. These two were always there for each other. I relate to this, as I have a dear cousin who I cherish. She is always there to listen to me and me to her. We both have dealt with loss, heartache, and uncertainties.
For the Jane Austen fans, this story does not disappoint. In Austen’s novel, “Lady Susan,” readers will notice that Susan is a sort of femme fatale. She is cunning and manipulative. A far cry from the other characters Jane Austen writes about. Author Alice McVeigh has kept her story true to character. Young Susan is quite sneaky. She can come up with a perfect plan of deceit quickly. McVeigh uses the language, societal descriptions, and expectations of young men and women in London, just as Austen did. I appreciate how authentic McVeigh is in this novel. Readers cannot doubt her love for all things Jane Austen and her love of the written word. I hope that “Susan” will not be her last novel. Personally, I would love to read what she develops next.