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Jane Austen: Teen Detective

Michaela MacColl’s latest, Secrets in the Snow, pits a fictional Jane Austen against family drama and a mysterious murder.

Jane Austen: Teen Detective

BOOK REPORT for Secrets in the Snow by Michaela MacColl

Cover Story: Turn Arrrrroooooound
BFF Charm: Maybe
Swoonworthy Scale: 2
Talky Talk: Fan Fic
Bonus Factor: Fictional Foreshadowing
Relationship Status: I’ll Look For You in the Bookstore

Cover Story: Turn Arrrrroooooound

We know it’s you, Jane. There’s no need to hide your face.

The Deal:

Jane Austen is one of the most famous writers of all time, and her books are classics of the highest caliber. But what would Jane have done when faced with a murder and a situation that could bring ruin to her entire family? Secrets in the Snow answers that question, albeit in a fictionalized format.

BFF Charm: Maybe

I really wanted to like Jane. (I mean, from the real Jane’s head came characters like Mr. Darcy, so there’s obviously a lot to like.) But the Jane in Secrets in the Snow isn’t really as interesting as I would have hoped. I understand and appreciate her preoccupation with keeping the Austen name out of the gutter, and her sharp retorts toward the men in her life that are constantly undermining or second-guessing her. But there just wasn’t a spark between us.

Swoonworthy Scale: 2

Secrets in the Snow takes another look at the relationship between Jane and her real-life kinda sorta maybe love interest Tom Lefroy. Their relationship in the book, however (unlike the super swoony one depicted in Becoming Jane) is, well … boring. Tom’s kind of a jerk, and he only gets slightly better by the end of the nove. I think Jane would have been right to stick with her initial inkling of not really liking him rather than allowing him to grow on her and then pining about what could have been.

Talky Talk: Fan Fic

This is the fourth (I think; see also Nobody’s Secret, Always Emily, and The Revelation of Louisa May) book in which Michaela MacColl has written a fictionalized account of a famous female writer when she was young and finds herself investigating a mystery. I found the historical bits about Jane’s life interesting, and learned quite a bit about her family that I hadn’t known previously. But the actual story, and the mystery within, lacked any real intrigue.

In fact, I wrote this in my review of The Revelation of Louisa May:

Unfortunately, the mystery at the heart of the plot left a little to be desired, and wrapped up a little too conveniently for my taste. The book isn’t very long, and the mysterious murder didn’t take place until more than halfway through. I would have liked less about life in Concord—as enjoyable as it was to read—and more investigation.

Replace “life in Concord” with “the minutiae of the Austen family” and the sentiment remains very true.

Bonus Factor: Fictional Foreshadowing

There was the occasional nod in Secrets in the Snow to Jane’s actual stories and possible avenues of inspiration which made me smile and nod in an “I see what you did there, MacColl” kind of way.

Casting Call:

Anne Hathaway as Jane

James McAvoy as Tom

Obvs.

Relationship Status: I’ll Look For You in the Bookstore

Although we didn’t really click, Book, you were cute. I don’t see anything serious blossoming from our time together, but I didn’t have a terrible time on our date. I can see us meeting up to chat books and literature at some point in the future, but just as friends.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Chronicle Books, but got neither a private dance party with Tom Hiddleston nor money in exchange for this review. Secrets in the Snow is available now.

Mandy Curtis's photo About the Author: Mandy is a small town girl living in a nerdy world, or—if you want to get literal—an editor/writer living in Austin, TX. In addition to yearning for YA books—the more dystopian or fantastical, the better—she can also be found swooning over superheroes, dreaming of The Doctor and grinning at GIFs.
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