Reason and Romance
Debra White Smith
Harvest House, 2004
I remember getting super excited about this when it first came out freshman year, but didn't get a chance to read it for another year or so. At which point I devoured the whole series and thought they were really cool! Jane Austen rewritten as contemporary Christian fiction: it was mesmerizing. My first foray into 'Austenesque' literature, but decidedly not the last. When I realized Reason and Romance would count towards the Sense & Sensibility Bicentennial Challenge, I jumped at the chance to reread one of my first Austen-plus reads! It did not live up to the remembrances.
Reason and Romance takes the story Jane told in Sense & Sensibility and transposes it into 20th century living. Most of the details are 'the same' and it's easy to pick up on the original themes in the beginning. But Smith took some interesting liberties with the story itself - Ted (the 'Edward' of our tale) is a student in Elaina's (Elinor) graduate course and is much more involved with the Wood (Dashwood) ladies' lives than in the original. Other characters are tweaked around and storylines fuzzed a bit. I understand adjusting things to make them fit contemporary society, but some of the changes are just awkward. Maybe even a little weird.
I also had a seriously hard time with Ted's portrayal of Edward. Ted is in a (second) secret engagement with Lorna (Lucy), but has no qualms about making moves on Elaina - going so far as to consider how to get out of his engagement. Where Edward is sort of lovably oblivious, and determined to keep his word, Ted comes across as keenly aware of what he is doing and actually works out a plan to rid himself of Lorna. I found Ted rather distasteful as a hero. In an interesting contrast, Willis (Willoughby) was actually more believable an interest for Anna (Marianne) - he was the 'star' she'd joked with Elaina about marrying one day. Yeah, he turned out to be scum, just like his original, but there was a bit more foundation for his character than the Ted-Edward thing. Dr. Brixby (Col. Brandon) was endearing, as he should be, which was a relief. And I liked the sense of humor Elaina displayed.
I am much more familiar with the original Austen now than I was when I first read Reason and Romance, so maybe that's why I had a hard time getting into the story. For someone who's new to Austen, it's a good, clean, introduction to the story. It's not an overly preachy Christian fiction, and the God-talk doesn't take away from the story. I'd recommend it for 'beginners' for sure, but if you're already not a fan of Sense & Sensibility, I'd avoid this rewrite.
Book provided by my local library.