Austen’s Independence Day by Melissa Belle is a modern take on Pride & Prejudice with a twist. Long ago, the town of Austen, Texas, had a founder whose wife demanded he trap the ghost of Jane Austen in the town jail until true love could be found and set her free. This was his punishment for cheating on her with another. While the tall tale is far-fetched at best, it becomes the basis for a whole industry in the town, keeping its residents afloat financially and some pre-occupied with curses and romance beyond reason.
Macey Henwood has had a tough life, caring for her siblings, her alcoholic father, and her romance-obsessed and co-dependent mother, but through it all Morgan Thornbrush has been her rock. He’s helped her through the tough moments and shared some her best, and like him, she’s done the same for him. Set in Texas, there is a rough and tumble way about the townsfolk that seemed at odds with the romantic ghost tale. Macey and Morgan made a pact as teenagers to never marry or marry anyone else, and their on-again, off-again romance is a bit tough to take when readers learn how long it has been going on. Commitment issues abound, as Macey says she was never meant to marry.
Can Macey really blame the guy for wanting to move beyond some silly pact made as a teenager? When is she going to grow up and stop caring for everyone else and do what she wants to do — become an author?! It’s tough to say, as she sees how much she’s done but continues to devalue herself. Meanwhile, she insists she doesn’t need a man to make her whole like her mother, but her whining about Morgan after his engagement to a Manhattan rich girl makes it appear that she does.
“I think I’m going to throw up. But it figures, really. Morgan always went for rich girls. Except when he was slumming around with little old redneck me.”
Despite many of these issues, once the history between these characters unfolds, it becomes less of a surface relationship about sex and more about their support of one another through rough patches. They are more than friends, they are lovers who support each other’s dreams. Belle has a unique story compared to many in the Austenesque world, and with a bit of editing to reduce the instances of diary reading and repeated comments between Morgan and Macey (which were unnecessary), this would have been stellar.
Reading from her diary to Morgan seemed a bit forced in some places as he tried to get over her and marry someone else, but what’s worse is she was writing these detailed entries as early as age six. Not possible, unless she’s a genius, and her actions and behaviors suggest otherwise. Overall, Austen’s Independence Day by Melissa Belle is a fun read with interesting characters in an oddball town.
About the Author:
Melissa Belle loves to write steamy romance novels where the hero and heroine are passionate, independent, and good to each other. The first romance novel she read (and fell in love with) was Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Melissa wrote her first novel riding through Europe on the train, and she travels with her husband (her best friend and first reader of all her stories) as much as possible.
Melissa dances in a belly dance troupe. She is a professional tarot and oracle card reader. She also loves songwriting, hooping, and her two rescue kitties. And cupcakes.