By the Book by Julia Sonneborn
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

An English professor struggling for tenure discovers that her ex-fiancé has just become the president of her college—and her new boss—in this whip-smart modern retelling of Jane Austen’s classic Persuasion.

Anne Corey is about to get schooled.

An English professor in California, she’s determined to score a position on the coveted tenure track at her college. All she’s got to do is get a book deal, snag a promotion, and boom! She’s in. But then Adam Martinez—her first love and ex-fiancé—shows up as the college’s new president.
Anne should be able to keep herself distracted. After all, she’s got a book to write, an aging father to take care of, and a new romance developing with the college’s insanely hot writer-in-residence. But no matter where she turns, there’s Adam, as smart and sexy as ever. As the school year advances and her long-buried feelings begin to resurface, Anne begins to wonder whether she just might get a second chance at love.

Funny, smart, and full of heart, this modern ode to Jane Austen’s classic explores what happens when we run into the demons of our past…and when they turn out not to be so bad, after all.

 My Review

By the Book is a loose, modern retelling of Persuasion by Jane Austen, and for the most part, I enjoyed it quite a lot.

There were a lot of insights into professorship tenure track which I find really interesting. I really liked Anne, the heroine. She’s a struggling professor who just want to get tenure at the liberal college she teaches at and pay off her college loans. The problem was the path to tenureship isn’t as easy as Anne would’ve liked to be.

For one, she needs to be published before they can even consider giving her tenure. And no one seems interested in the book she’s writing.

Two, her ex-fiance, the one who got away, is back and he’s now the new president at her college. It threw Anne for a loop because there are still feelings, feelings she doesn’t quite know what to do with. Worse still, Adam seems to detest her. And how could he not, she broke it off with him in the first place and their relationship, even their friendship didn’t survive her rejection.

Third, her personal life is a mess. Her relationship with her father is still difficult. Anne has long suspect that her father was disappointed in her career of choice and although they never really talked about it, the tension between them coupled with Anne’s guilt hovers in the background throughout the book.

All of these elements held my attention throughout. In fact, this book was pleasantly readable. But there are some things that could’ve been handled better like Anne’s obviously gay professor best friend whose romantic entanglements was sort of a side plot in the book and didn’t really go anywhere.

But what really disappointed me was the lack of romance. Reading from the blurb, you’d think that the romance would be stronger but it’s not. The two main characters, Anne and Adam barely spent time together in the book. They see each other here and there but they never interacted in meaningful ways until the very end. There was no spark or intrigue.

In fact, Anne spent 80% of the book getting cozy with another man. Now I wouldn’t have minded if the man in question was a character that I at least liked but unfortunately, he’s the worst character in the book. I hated his smug face. I wanted Anne to spend more time with Adam but alas, that didn’t happen until 90% of the book and by then, the book was over.

I understand that it’s a modern retelling of a classic but I would’ve wanted more Adam and Anne pining for each other or loving each other from afar instead of her bestie’s side plot and the inordinate time she spends pining for another guy.

Overall, this was a good, well written novel. But if you’re looking for more romance, then you might be disappointed with this one.

An ARC was provided by the publisher

View all my reviews