Review: The Jane Austen Marriage Manual by Kim Izzo

Publication Date: May 22nd, 2012
HarperCollins Canada
Format: ARC, 336 pages
RATING: 4 out of 5 Stars
Katherine Shaw—Kate— is happy with her life. She has supportive friends, a glamorous magazine career, and a love of all things Jane Austen. But when she loses her job, her beloved grandmother falls ill and a financial disaster forces a sale on the family home, Kate finds herself facing a crisis that would test even the most stalwart of Austen heroines.
Friends rally round, connecting her to freelance gigs, and presenting her with a birthday gift— title to land in Scotland—that’s about to come in very handy. Turns out that Kate’s first freelance assignment is to test an Austen-inspired theory: in the toughest economic times is a wealthy man the only must-have accessory? What begins as an article turns into an opportunity as Kate—now Lady Kate—jet-sets to Palm Beach, St Moritz and London where, in keeping company with the elite, she meets prospects who make Mr. Darcy look like an amateur. But will rubbing shoulders with men of good fortune ever actually lead her to love? And will Kate be able to choose between Mr. Rich and Mr. Right?
If Elizabeth Bennett were thirty and seven, having just lost her employment, and rights to the Longbourn house, would she be so quick to return Darcy’s scorn?
If Elizabeth Bennett were facing the biggest financial ruin of her life, crisis of epic proportions, would she be so quick to turn down Collins’ marriage proposal?
The Jane Austen Marriage Manual is far from a Pride and Prejudice re-telling. Here, you will meet Katherine Shaw; a woman who’d test your patience, will get your blood pressure rising because she made the most questionable decisions numerous times. But then you delve into the book further; you start to understand that sometimes, you deal with what life dealt you in the best possible way you know how. It may not be the wisest decisions, but at the end of the day, you alone are responsible for your actions and you face the consequences. Really, this was the lesson I walked away from after reading this book…and some incredible insights on how to hook a rich man if I were to divorce mine and decide to go on the prowl for a richer one.
A woman can only take so much and Katherine Shaw reached the point where she would forgo her principles for the purpose of living the life. But are times really that desperate as to succumb to losing everything you stood for? She wasn’t destitute and at times I could only shake my head out of disbelief and frustration. I couldn’t reach into her character deep enough to understand why she did what she did.
In the backdrop is the struggling worldwide economy. I was hoping that Kim would pursue this alley – how it would affect gold diggers everywhere. She did but not too much. It was subtle. And in any case, I may be the only person who’d be interested at such an angle. 
Kim Izzo’s writing gave Katherine Shaw a genuine voice that added to the pragmatism of her character. Love her or hate her, she showed strength even if her principles were a bit messed up. She was perfectly flawed and as real as it gets. I’m straddling the line of admiration and mild distaste but at the end of the day, I couldn’t help but hold her in high esteem.
VERDICT: The Jane Austen Marriage Manual is a thought-provoking, realistic contemporary romance that will teach us – women a valuable lesson: that there is a source of strength within us that enable us to do the wrong things in order to find the right ones. Finding a Mr. Darcy among a number of Wickhams is a reality we must accept. 

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