cover image Emma: A Latter-day Tale

Emma: A Latter-day Tale

Rebecca H. Jamison. Cedar Fort, $16.99 (256p) ISBN 978-0-06-220046-4

In this funny, well-paced Mormon-themed take on Austen's often retold classic, by romance writer Jamison (Persuasion: A Latter-day Tale), Emma is a 23-year-old receptionist in modern-day Vienna, Va., who tries to parlay her penchant for meddling and doling advice into a career as a life coach. After welcoming pretty but insecure nanny Harri into the group of 20-somethings she knows from the local Mormon community, Emma misinterprets signals from Phil Elton and attempts to pair the two off%E2%80%94with disastrous results. Meanwhile, former classmate Jenna Farley, now a country music star, comes home for Christmas, making Emma reflect on her own lackluster accomplishments. She's briefly distracted by the arrival of Hank Weston, who seems perfect and appears to like her. Jamison's writing is engaging and full of vivid, amusing lines; a croissant is "the cotton candy version of bread," for instance. Jamison's religious perspective never comes off as awkward or didactic. The author only slips toward the end, when a saccharine resolution pales compared to the riveting angst that came before it. (Aug.) Brit author Trollope brings Austen's classic into the new millennium, with mixed results. After Henry Dashwood dies, the Dashwood sisters and their mother are given a house by kindly rich relatives John and Mary Middleton, while the estate that was the Dashwood home passes to the sisters' henpecked half-brother John and his status-conscious wife Fanny. Elinor, the responsible eldest Dashwood sister, is smitten with Fanny's brother Edward Ferrars, though she hasn't heard from him since the move, and he, unbeknownst to her, has been dating the daffy Lucy Steele. Delicate, dramatic, and gorgeous, middle sister Marianne falls for eye-candy John "Wills" Willoughby, though he treads on her heart by publicly rejecting her. All this is conveyed in formal prose with equally stiff dialogue, which makes Trollope's offhand mentions of laptops and Range Rovers somewhat jarring. And yet, Trollope's faithfulness to the tropes of this story keep her from letting the plot jibe with the modern world, though she does wink at that: "You're like those nineteenth-century novels where marriage is the only career option for a middle-class girl." The book's resolution for Marianne seems especially unlikely in this era, and could have benefitted from a more malleable adaptation. Agent: Joy Harris, Joy Harris Agency. (Nov.)