Can Ava Elliot and Eric Wentworth make beautiful music together after being apart for the last eight years?
Rating: 5 stars out of 5
Modern Variation of Jane Austen’s “Persuasion”
Welcome back to my latest blog event, “Beyond “Pride & Prejudice,”: The Other Side of JAFF”, where I am sharing reviews and giveaways of variations and adaptations based on Austen’s other works. Today I am thrilled to review Melanie Stanford’s “Sway.”
The setting of this story may be the warm and sunny state of California, instead of Jane Austen’s England, and yet many of the themes of Austen’s “Persuasion” can be felt vibrating throughout the pages of this modern variation.
In Melanie Stanford’s debut novel, “Sway,” Ava Elliot and Eric Wentworth have both recently returned to their childhood hometown and in some ways, they are as familiar to each other as they were eight long years ago. They are both still passionate piano players who are as committed as ever to their music; Ava is now seeking a new path in her life after spending the past eight years at Juilliard in NYC. Eric, a talented musician who comes across as a dreamy mix of Michael Bublé and Frank Sinatra, is finally back home after coming straight off of the heels of a successful tour with his band. They are both spending time with their family and friends when they happen to meet up again with each other.
Yet, things are certainly also quite changed between them. Ever since Ava took the advice of her father and her Aunt Rose all those years ago and broke off her engagement to Eric, she’s not really certain how she feels about him being back in town. She’s pretty sure he despises her and will do everything in his power to flaunt his latest achievements in her face. She’s also pretty sure that she couldn’t care less about him and that he seems to have moved on with his life, which is fine by her!
But when her spendthrift father, a former soap opera star, and her extravagant sister, Beth, are forced to “downsize” to their Malibu home, it’s Mr. and Mrs. Croft, Eric’s sister and brother-in-law, who wind up renting Ava’s father’s home, the Kellynch Mansion. Now, against her wishes, Ava finds herself frequently thrown into Eric’s company. Thankfully, they have both moved on to make their own music; and yet, why do those old lyrics feel so raw and what do those long, awkward glances mean? Can a love that was drummed away in such a hurtful manner all of those years ago still be playing deep within the very depths of their hearts?
“Persuasion” isn’t one of my favorite stories by Jane Austen, and yet, each time I read a well-written and lovingly crafted variation on this story, such as this one by Ms. Stanford, I feel even more compelled to reread “Persuasion.” Ms. Stanford’s story told from Ava’s perspective, has been updated in essentials, while it also retains many of the characterizations and themes from Austen’s popular story. Her writing style is tight and the pacing of the story keeps the reader engaged throughout the entire book. The dialogue between her characters is also well done and does a good job conveying each character’s personality. I also enjoyed the flashbacks that helped me connect with Ava and Eric’s relationship from their earlier years together.
As a story of love lost and reexamined through a set of unanticipated circumstances, this story will resonate with many readers of romance stories. Yet, for Jane Austen fans, the magic here is in the details sprinkled throughout this story; the family dynamics that once again stir up those lingering feelings of doubt and regret and the slow-burning romantic tension that eventually peels away the hardened layers of hurt and anger that became an immovable barrier between Ava and Eric those many years ago.
As Ava slowly regains her self-confidence and finds her inner strength, readers will want to cheer alongside her and encourage her to seize the day to be with the only man that she has ever really been able to make beautiful music with. Through her willingness to be vulnerable in love once again, she also helps Eric regain a connection in his life that he too had said goodbye to with his mind, but clearly never really with his heart. “Sway” is an impressive debut novel by an author that I look forward to reading more stories from in the future!
Melanie Stanford reads too much, plays music too loud, is sometimes dancing, and always daydreaming. She would also like her very own TARDIS, but only to travel to the past. She lives outside Calgary, Alberta, Canada with her husband, four kids, and ridiculous amounts of snow.
I am thrilled to offer one Just Jane 1813 reader an autographed paperback copy of “Sway.” To enter this giveaway, please leave a comment on this post by June 9th and the winner will be announced on this blog on June 10, 2016. I’d love to hear your comments about this story, if you have read it, and/or your recommendations about any other another “Persuasion” variations that you have enjoyed. The winner must have a U.S. or Canadian mailing address.
I want to thank Melanie Stanford for writing such a moving and sensitive story based on Jane Austen’s “Persuasion,” and for collecting the songs that capture the essence of this story and sharing them here first as a Sway Spotify playlist. What a terrific collection of songs… Happy, soulful, and thought-provoking, this is a musical collection that will have you swaying day and night!
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