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My Dear Charlotte: With the Assistance of Jane Austen's Letters [Paperback]

Hazel Holt

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Book Description

June 29 2009
A British Regency murder mystery/romance set in 1815, written "with the assistance of Jane Austen's letters." Balls, visits, courtships, gossip (and murder, of course!). Especially for readers who love Jane Austen, Sharon Lathan, Georgette Heyer and Barbara Pym.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 202 pages
  • Publisher: Coffeetown Press (June 29 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1603810404
  • ISBN-13: 978-1603810401
  • Product Dimensions: 22.9 x 15.2 x 1.2 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 249 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #381,402 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.9 out of 5 stars  31 reviews
23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars So well done you will forget it isn't the Austen sisters you are reading about. Oct. 20 2009
By J. Lesley - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Reading the description of this book made me interested in reading it. Once I actually held the book in my hands and could see how it was constructed made me even more interested in reading it. I have such admiration for Hazel Holt after finishing this very unusual novel she has written. What an imagination she has, what an innovative approach to the world Jane Austen would have lived in.

First, there should be no mistake on the part of anyone investigating this book. This is not a book about Jane Austen. Instead, this is a book of fiction where portions of letters written by Jane Austen have been inserted into letters written by our letter writer, Elinor Cowper (pronounced Cooper)to her elder sister Charlotte Cowper. The additions from the Austen letters are not notated in any way so it is possible to read this entire book without being certain which portions come directly from Jane Austen. I have never read the Austen letters, but I believe I could spot some of the insertions - in some cases because they did not fit the ongoing narrative completely smoothly.

The book is made up of letters written by Elinor to her sister Charlotte who is, naturally, away from home for the entire length of the novel. They begin as descriptions of everyday common occurrences regarding family, domestic subjects, and friends and acquaintances in the neighborhood in and around Lyme. As time passes there is a death in one of the homes nearby and this turns into a mysterious happening which becomes the focus of all those within the community.

Even though the two sisters are called by different names, the similarities to the life and novels of Jane Austen are strongly represented in this novel. After a while I actually began to see these two women as Jane and Cassandra, even though I knew better. The writing style is very, very well done to remind the reader of the Austen books but the author was able to have Elinor act in ways Jane Austen did not. I thoroughly enjoyed reading the book. Even though it moved slightly slowly to begin with because of establishing the settings and characters, by the time I was halfway through the book I was constantly telling myself that I had time to read just one more letter, then just one more letter again, and then again. There are no chapter breaks in the book, instead you will simply progress from one letter on to the next letter. As a mystery this particular vehicle of the novel written in letters did not allow for quite as much investigation as I would have liked, but it is a satisfactory mystery none the less.

I highly recommend this book to all lovers of the world and life of Jane Austen. I also think it is important to read the Introduction written by Jan Fergus because she explains the insertion of various portions of the Austen letters. Now I'm ready to find and read the Jane Austen letters. I've always known that I should read the letters, this book has made me anxious to read them.
13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic! Sept. 21 2009
By Paul B. - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
My Dear Charlotte is not just another Jane Austen sequel. First of all, it is based on the actual letters that Jane Austen wrote to her sister Cassandra. The letters in My Dear Charlotte quote Austens letters, using them as the foundation for th eplot. What this means is that the novel is a genuine Regency romance. The details about houses, balls, dresses, etc. are not made up but are historically genuine, and many of the perceptions and descriptions are those of Jane Austen herself. Second, it's a murder mystery! The novel really works. It's unique--you won't find another book like it anywhere. I love books like this--the author has truly done something new and important.
12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unique and enjoyable! March 30 2010
By A reader - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
It seems as if there has been quite a bit of Jane Austen-related and Jane Austen-inspired writing out there of late, but this clever epistolary novel is really a stand-out. The author has cleverly interspersed bits and pieces from the real correspondence of Jane Austen into this novel of letters from one sister (Elinor) to another (Charlotte) who is away visiting family. One certainly does not have to have read any of Miss Austen's letters to be able to enjoy this book but it is fun to try to pick out the bits put in by Hazel Holt. And I did find the insertions to fit in pretty seamlessly so as not to appear out of place or as an interruption to the narrative.

There is a good amount of Regency period detail included in the letters as well, but it is included conversationally and does not weigh the story down unnecessarily. There are tidbits about fashion, food, manners, literature of the day, etc so anyone with an interest in that time period would probably enjoy this work as well.

The plot itself is a bit of a murder mystery. A prominent lady in the Lyme social circle dies somewhat unexpectedly in spite of being a bit of a hypochondriac. Several characters are introduced who could have a motive for wanting her removed so the local justice of the peace is called upon by the deceased's brother to investigate the circumstances surrounding the death. The developments in the case are described to Charlotte by Elinor along with the details of everyday life during the Regency.

I would highly recommend this to anyone with an interest in Jane Austen, her letters, the Regency, and/or mysteries. It may also inspire those who haven't read her letters to do so.

I also found the painting of the two sisters used for the cover to be a lovely and fitting addition to this very cool book. Happy reading!
15 of 20 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Tedious minutiae overwhelms any story April 14 2012
By MamaSylvia - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I picked up this book free during an Amazon giveaway. A much-disliked woman dies unexpectedly and her physician brother suspects foul play.

Set in the Regency England of Jane Austen, the story is told completely in letters from a young woman living in Lyme to her sister Charlotte, who is visiting Bath. Unfortunately, Holt simply does not share Austen's genius at making the minutiae of the sisters' lives not only intriguing but relevant to the story. The first quarter of the book is tedious lead-in and it didn't become any more interesting after the woman's death. I quit a third of the way through the book. Kindle formatting was fine and there were minimal spelling/grammar errors.

I was puzzled as to why there were so many positive reviews of this uninteresting book. It looks like most of the glowing reviews referred to the difficulty of incorporating actual letters of Jane Austen into newly-written material, and I will readily concede that it would have been quite a challenge, technically. But that still doesn't make it readable; these were letters that Austen did NOT intend to be part of a book. Austen herself wrote one book as a series of letters, Lady Susan, which held my attention even though the narrator is thoroughly unlikable. But Austen focused on the storyline in Lady Susan, as Holt did not in this book.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Author knew Jane Austen's style Jan. 5 2014
By SArledge - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This is obviously a romance that lacks the cutting edge of Austen's wit, but it does well with Austen's characters. Everything is wrapped up a little too neatly at the end, which is part of the genre. I'm glad she focused on a minor character that we don't know very well because there were fewer expectations.
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