So, If I was talking about Austen, I'd start with publishing order. However, as these are adaptations, I'm going to start with my lowest rated. This review contains spoilers.
*** Secret Schemes and Daring Dreams ***
An adaptation of Emma, this charming novel brings to the fore all the sentimentality and sarcastic dry wit that the original did. Like the original, Emma Woodhouse is a young, caring woman who is well aware of her luck, good fortune and status - and also well determined to ensure she passes that wealth on by pairing her friends. When her best friend George Knightley, needs help at his family's hotel over the summer, who is she to deny him, especially when there are certain individuals around - like Frank Churchill - to make life a little more interesting?
There was a lot I admired about this book. Emma had a certain naivety which her superior sophisticated attitude made all the more endearing, and George Knightley with his stoic charm and intelligence balanced out her foolishness rather well. The arguments and debates were well written and the twist involving Frank Churchill, while expected, was pleasing. Not many teen novels include 'gay' characters and the reveal was spectacular, and inkeeping with today's technology.
However, on saying this, I feel that the pacing was slightly off. Certain chapters were dull and unnecessary with characters acting, well, out of character! Secondary relationships suffered slightly in tis novel, also. While Emma and George were fantastic, the chemistry between others (including Emma and Frank) was a little forced, meaning that the romantic elements were quite drained, and even non-existent in some places. I think this had more to with the structure of the novel, as it followed extremely close to the book. The 'proposal' scene in the original is essentially the same in the adaptation (modern notions aside), so it lost something in translation. Cute, but not romantic. At the beginning, George was a great romantic figure, and remained so. However, in the end few scenes he seemed more like a carer than a boyfriend.
Overall, it was a funny tale of teenage misadventure, which focused more on the lies and drama than on the funny ideals of romance, losing a little in modernised translation. Three stars.
***The Secrets of Love***
This one also gets three stars, but I liked it a bit more than the previous one, based on Sense and Sensibility, this story tells the tale of sisters Ellie, Abby and Georgie as they deal with the loss of their father and their home, and of course new relationships. Ellie meets Blake (Edward Ferras) and Abby starts dating the devil-may-care Hunter, even as the georgeous drummer Nick sticks to her side no matter her attitude. And Georgie? She does her own thing... But when families and expectation collide, what will happen to them?
In some ways, I enjoyed this more than the original (my apologies to every Austen addict), as Sense and Sensibility is ridiculously worded in places, with dialogue being much different from all the others. This novel was full of teenage angst and hormonal frustration which made it extremely relatable. Unlike the above adaptation, the relationships were much better written and the story and characters were more consistent. However, as usual, I felt that poor Brandon (Nick) got pushed out again and it takes something massive (like a car crash) to make our character see hat a great guy he is. Know it isn't Rosie Rushton's fault, but it's one of the main issues of the original novel and could be sooooooo easily fixed.
***Echoes of Love***
This one gets 3.5 stars. Persuasion! Anna Elliot and Felix Wentworth were head over heels in love, only family got in the way. Two years later, Felix is back and seemingly determined to show Anna exactly how much he doesn't care.
Poor Anna! Talk about tough. You really feel for her. She has her best friend (not gonna spoil this for you, but I was extremely impressed) but no one else. Her sisters are spoiled to the core and self-centred and everyone else relies on her to fix everything. And Felix? Oh my goodness. He is bitchy. A sexy kind of bitchy, but still.
I'm not sure what to say about this book. It was very emotive and had some very wise thoughts - Felix's aunt was particularly brilliant and offered the audience a 'get out of novel free card' when times became too emotional - and the scenes and characters from the original were well adapted. I particularly love the 'half agony, half hope' admission of love letter in this book. It was modern, inkeeping with the 'Wentworth' honour, and ridiculously romantic. The teenage drama was there, also, which seems to be Rushton's forte and unlike the original gave us the couple's backstory, which was sweet and kind of heartbreaking at the same time. But at some points I think it felt a bit manic, with too much of everything in one place.
Overall though, this was a heartwarming novel which focused on trust and memory. I loved it. If only the pacing weren't so up and down, and some scenes not so hectic!
****Whatever Love Is****
Frankie being friend zoned. Frankie who wants to be a writer and who is always there for everyone. Mansfield Park all over again.
Frankie is the girl who was taken in by her mother's adoptive family. She's in love with her adoptive/step cousin Ned, who unfortunately won't give her the time of day because he's fallen for someone so inappropriate and shallow it's unreal. The more she tries to help him, the more hurt she gets. What's a girl to do? She certainly won't go anywhere near Henry, he's too much of a flirt...
This was a clever adaptation, even down to Frankie's brother working on a cruise liner as a photographer (instead of being in the navy). Mr Bertram is now a fashion designer, with the eldest brother falling out with him over production line issues and Young Ned wanting to be a social worker.
The two Betram sisters are much the same, but with young Julia's kind side highlighted with cookery skills. The romance was a strong component and the dialogue was amazing. Quick, sassy and realistic, each character had their own style and consistency. Plus, the interactions were fabulous, with the more intense scenes being the best - the reveal at the end was interesting to say the least, and Henry getting a slap was quite satisfying!
While I would have liked to see a darker side to Frankie's character, I understand that as an adaptation to Mansfield Park, she is essentially the consistent Angel. Still, it would have been nice to see her try and make Ned jealous! Overall however, this was a great book and I've read it lots of times.
****Love, Lies and Lizzie****
Another Pride and Prejudice adaptation... James and Lizzie, fighting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G... Mrs Bennet trying to get in with big-wigs, texting couples, Jane Bennet heart broken over a lost love, emails with scandalous confessions, George Wickham and drugs, a party addict Lydia... Need I say more?
*****Summer of Secrets*****
Summer gets an opportunity to go to Italy with her friend... And her friend's hot brother. Only, when she gets there, a secret needs to be revealed.
This is my favourite adaptation. Perhaps because it's my least favourite original novel, Northangar Abbey's adaptation, this book came as a pleasant surprise and offered great incite into psychological disorders. Thoughtful, fun and romantic. Summer is so dreamy, with her head stuck in magazines and her mind stuck in conspiracies and adventure, that her intelligence seems overshadowed by naivety. It's entirely endearing, Ludo tells her, and amusing too. Because she is caring and considerate, and just wants her friend to be happy, even if she has to upset people, to do it!
I have read and reread this. The gothic element has been brilliantly transferred into art and mystery, and the relationships have been translated really well. I was so surprised at this novel, and I thoroughly recommend it. Five stars.