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Mary Jane Hathaway’s Emma, Mr. Knightley, and Chili-Slaw Dogs


Caroline Ashley is a journalist on the rise at The Washington Post until the sudden death of her father brings her back to Thorny Hollow to care for her mentally fragile mother and their aging antebellum home. The only respite from the eternal rotation of bridge club meetings and garden parties is her longtime friend, Brooks Elliott. A professor of journalism, Brooks is the voice of sanity and reason in the land of pink lemonade and triple layer coconut cakes. But when she meets a fascinating, charismatic young man on the cusp of a brand new industry, she ignores Brooks’s misgivings and throws herself into the project. 

Brooks struggles to reconcile his parents’ very bitter marriage with his father’s devastating grief at the recent loss of his wife. Caroline is the only bright spot in the emotional wreckage of his family life. She’s a friend and he’s perfectly happy to keep her safely in that category. Marriage isn’t for men like Brooks and they both know it… until a handsome newcomer wins her heart. Brooks discovers Caroline is much more than a friend, and always has been, but is it too late to win her back? 

Featuring a colorful cast of southern belles, Civil War re-enactors, and good Christian women with spunk to spare, Emma, Mr. Knightley, and Chili-Slaw Dogs brings the modern American South to light in a way only a contemporary Jane Austen could have imagined.


Though I enjoyed the first book in this series, I was hesitant to read the second one because Emma and Mr. Knightley are my favorite Jane Austen couple. But I really enjoyed this book. My thoughts:

What I liked:

Ms. Hathaway manages to capture the essence of the novel Emma. Clearly there are some differences (which I greatly appreciated), but Caroline reads as Emma and Brooks as Knightley.

Caroline. She’s got that rich, bored, let me invest in other people’s lives thing going the same as Emma. You can tell that she genuinely wants to help and be needed. She wants to be modern, but is still so very much tied to the old way of doing things. She is both very much likeable and sometimes annoying, but only in the way that Emma is. 

Brooks is Knightley. He is also wealthy, but quiet and smart. He watches out and takes care of Caroline and is never afraid of correcting her when she’s wrong. 

The romance. Obviously Brooks and Caroline are friends first. Really good friends who sacrifice for each other and only desire that the other be happy and make good decisions…even if that means they have disagreements. I loved watching them slowly fall in love and rarely do I comment on such a thing, but the kiss in this book was awesome. I had to go back and read that thing again.

The inclusion of the Civil War. Do people really take reenactments that seriously? If so, that’s kind of weird… and funny.

The secondary characters. It wasn’t exactly like Emma (again I’m very glad it was not), but I enjoyed that they secondary characters managed to encapsulate the same ideas as others in the Austen novel. 

Spiritually, it’s kind of light, and I’m not sure that there is a theme. We are just aware that Caroline and Brooks are Christians and often turn to God in prayer. 

What I didn’t like:

Sometimes I wanted to sit Caroline and Brooks down and make them communicate. Lack of communication can really throw off a book, and it didn’t here, but it is a minor annoyance. 

Romantic Scale: 9

Overall, so much fun to read and very cute!

**I received this book from Netgalley. My opinion was not affected in anyway.**

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