Manfield Ranch CoverJane Austin’s Mansfield Park is 200 years old this year, and in celebration I’m reading and reviewing as many spinoff tales and DVD’s as I can find, as well as tweeting quotes from the original book. This month it’s Mansfield Ranch, one of the Jane Austen Diaries by Jenni James.

The Austen Diaries are re-tellings of the Austen novels with the protagonists re-imagined as modern teenagers. If Mansfield Ranch is a good example, they are effectively high school romance – not a genre I normally read, and not one I particularly care for. That said, the story is well-written and well-edited, and the Kindle edition (the only one Amazon lists) is properly formatted.

The parallels with Mansfield Park are definitely present, though Mrs. Norris and Tom are missing. Lily (Fanny) is a foster child rather than a cousin, and the play (a high school play) is The Music Man rather than Lovers’ Vows.

I had a hard time getting into the book, largely because of a total disinterest on my part in high school doings. Two-thirds of the way through, when Lily is sent to live with her previously-unknown grandmother on the Reservation, I found my interest rising, but if I hadn’t promised myself to write this review I’d never have gotten that far. The ending was much better. But there are two points that bother me.

First is Princess Buttercup, the mare Sean gives Lily. Has Lily fallen in love with the horse from seeing her online? Could a 3-year-old possibly be as well trained as this horse is projected as being, or even a good mount for a 16-year-old’s first horse? If Lily is knowledgeable enough about horses to continue her training, would she challenge her cousin to an immediate race on a strange horse?

The second lies with the definition of incest.

Lily, the Benallys and Lily’s grandmother are all said to be Navajo. The Benallys (including Sean) may have assimilated to the point that Sean sees Lily, his foster sister, as too much a sister for romantic thoughts, but the grandmother, at least, is likely to be more concerned about Mrs. Benally’s clan affiliation. The point is that traditional Navajo society is matrilineal, and the definition of incest is based on not marrying someone of the same clan (which is determined by the clan of the mother) or of the same clan as one’s father.

Over all, however, I think it would be a decent read for someone who likes YA romance.

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