Though it bucks the fan-fiction trend of making Jane Austen a character (often of the undead variety), this cheery Regency fantasy qualifies as major homage.
The polio that killed her magic-working mother and sister left Lady Sophie nervous and self-conscious about her withered leg. At least she’s smartly clad for her first London season, thanks to a family friend’s intervention. (Sophie’s ditzy aunts have dreadful views on attire.) At her first ball, Sophie draws the attentions of handsome Peregrine, Lord Woodbridge, who rescues her father from a falling statue. Though her own magic’s been unreliable since her illness, Sophie recognizes its use—this was no accident. At ball after ball, befriended by Peregrine’s impetuous cousin Parthenope, Sophie witnesses “accidents” to War Office leaders tasked with defeating Napoleon, recently escaped from Elba. Overall, the tone is beach-read light. Prejudice upsets Sophie, but status and wealth shield her from disability’s harsher consequences. Peregrine’s rather dull, an amalgam of Austen heroes (Darcy with a dash of Captain Wentworth). Doyle’s gift, on display in earlier historical fantasies (Bewitching Season, 2008, etc.), lies in creating vivid female characters and the bonds between them.
It’s considerably more aristocratic and less nuanced than Austen’s middle-class world, but Austenites—especially those whose favorite scenes involve shopping and balls—won’t mind. (author’s note) (Historical fantasy romance. 12 & up)