An engineer at a crossroads gains clarity about her past and information about her future on a Jane Austen–themed vacation in Bath, England.
Mary Davies is stymied in her professional and personal lives, which happen to be intertwined. A creative engineer at a tech hardware firm in Austin, Texas, she has failed to bring her most beloved project to fruition, calling her employment into question with the new boss. Though she receives encouragement and telling bits of attention from the interim CEO, Nathan, she insists that her project and obvious love for him are both dead in the water. The novel veers in a different direction, then, as Mary accompanies her childhood best friend, Isabel, on an immersive vacation at a manor house in Bath, where they dress in period garb, take on the personae of their chosen Austen characters, and mingle with other guests. The action in Bath is layered. Isabel suffers a kind of mental breakdown, retreating fully into her character, frightened by anything that threatens the fantasy. This sheds light, in intermittent beams, on the women’s troubled friendship, suggesting a reason for Mary’s defeatism. Nathan, learning of the situation, hops on a plane to England to provide assistance. Mary is slowly convinced of his love for her but is as easily spooked by this new development as Isabel is of cellphones. Meanwhile, her employment—and related self-esteem—hangs in the balance. Reay handles the Bath scenes with tenderness and a light touch, allowing the drama to come as much from internal conflict as external, rom-com–type misunderstandings. But while it’s laudable to put a woman in science at the center of a Regency romance, Mary’s professional life still feels forced.