Susan: A Jane Austen Prequel

Written by Alice McVeigh⎮ Narrated by Heather Tracy

Author: Alice McVeigh
Narrator: Heather Tracy
Length: 11 hours 29 minutes
Series: Divine, Book 1
Publisher: Warleigh Hall Press Jane Austen, Book 1
Released: Sep. 22, 2021
Genre: Historical  Fiction


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Susan is a Jane Austen prequel (or Pride and Prejudice variation) brilliantly capturing Austen's own Lady Susan as a young girl. As the BookLife review put it for Publishers Weekly: "McVeigh's prose and plotting are pitch-perfect. Emma mingles with Pride and Prejudice in a delightful confrontation between the two books' worlds... This Austen-inspired novel echoes the master herself."

Familiar characters abound - Frank Churchill, Lady Catherine de Bourgh, Darcy himself - but Susan - mischievous and manipulative - is the star. This is Austen that even Austen might have loved, with a touch of Georgette Heyer in the romantic sections. Fans of Bridgerton will also relish this classic regency romance, the first in a six-book series.

Sixteen-year-old Susan Smithson - pretty but poor, clever but capricious - has just been expelled from a school for young ladies in London.At the mansion of the formidable Lady Catherine de Bourgh, she attracts a raffish young nobleman. But, at the first hint of scandal, her guardian dispatches her to her uncle Collins' rectory in Kent, where her sensible cousin Alicia lives and "where nothing ever happens." Here Susan mischievously inspires the local squire to put on a play, with consequences no one could possibly have foreseen. What with the unexpected arrival of Frank Churchill, Alicia's falling in love and a tumultuous elopement, rural Kent will surely never seem safe again....

Sophia's Review

5 Stars

This audiobook was provided by its author, Alice McVeigh, in exchange for an honest and unbiased review. Thanks, Alice!

Cunning, clever, and quite the charmer, young Susan Smithson, leads everyone on a merry adventure through the Regency world. Part Jane Austen prequel and all historical mischievous fun, I was eager to follow along for Susan’s escapades to a delightful finish.

Susan is a prequel story to Jane Austen’s Lady Susan, but also includes a character from Emma and a few from Pride & Prejudice to engage Austen’s fans and those who enjoy historical fiction with a dose of romance, alike. Written to the style of authentic Regency dialogue, manners, and settings, Susan opens when young, orphaned Susan Smithson is sent down from yet another school to reside with her aunt and uncle Collins in London. London is scrumptious paradise to a sixteen year old Susan and even her uncle and aunt’s tiresome rules on conduct are worth the price to be there. Unfortunately, Susan gets into new scrapes so must be shuffled off to her Uncle Collins older brother in Kent. There, Susan joins up with her cousin Alicia and gets up to play acting with a local wealthy family for a diversion. Along the way, she has taken the notice of the great Lady Catherine de Bourgh, an earl’s younger brother, a fun-loving Frank Churchill, and finds her wit and cunning are needed to circumvent disaster- and boredom.

Not long into this one, I was enchanted by the youthful Susan and her antics. Susan’s moral compass doesn’t always point due North and she has her own way of seeing the world and people around her. She wants wealth and consequence, but not only this as she proves when she doesn’t take up the interests of men who look on her beauty and vivacity with great interest. Susan is clever enough to see what people are about and even at a young age knows how to work them to her advantage even her staunch relations and the formidable Lady Catherine.
While Susan wasn’t very virtuous, she does have her own code and that includes doing what it takes to see her cousin Alicia find happiness even if it means outsmarting a snobbish acquaintance or two and launching a scandalous plan. I couldn’t wait to see what the daring Susan would do next.

Heather Tracy was a new to me narrator, but I thought she captured the youthful voices of Susan and her younger group as well as the older cast. She caught the right tone with Susan and the others as well as the overall feel of the book. The world of the book came alive with her narration and the production quality was excellent.

All in all, I found Susan as mischievous and enchanting as could be. The author did Austen’s character with an aplomb that Austen would give her sly wink of approval over. I dearly hope there is more to come for Susan and her merry adventures. Recommended to those who love stories set in the Regency world.

Meet the Author: Alice McVeigh

A Londoner, Alice has been an Austen obsessive since the age of fourteen. At 23, she became a life member of the Jane Austen Society – having memorised even her less famous and unfinished novels. The idea of writing a prequel to Austen’s Lady Susan occurred when she wondered what the lethally flirtatious Lady Susan – in her mid-thirties in Austen’s imagination – might have been like at just sixteen.

Alice was first published in contemporary fiction with Orion/Hachette. Both novels were extremely well-reviewed, and the film rights of the first sold to UK’s Channel 4. ("Characters rise and fall to McVeigh's superbly controlled conductor's baton… McVeigh succeeds in harmonising a supremely comic tone with much darker notes." - The Sunday Times.) At the time, she was working as a cellist with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra: the novels were marketed as describing "the secret life of a symphony orchestra.” She has also had a Kirkus-starred novel published by UK publishers Unbound (using a pen name, Spaulding Taylor), and worked as a ghost writer. Susan is the first in a series of six Austenesque novels.

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