Seeking Mansfield by Kate Watson (2017)
YA Fiction | Contemporary | Romance
“Sixteen-year-old Finley Price has perfected two things: how to direct a world-class production, and how to fly way, way under the radar. The only person who ever seems to notice Finley is her best friend, the Bertram’s son Oliver. If she could just take Oliver’s constant encouragement to heart and step out of the shadows, she’d finally chase her dream of joining the prestigious Mansfield Theater.
When teen movie stars Emma and Harlan Crawford move next door to the Bertram’s, they immediately set their sights on Oliver and his cunning sister, Juliette, shaking up Finley and Oliver’s stable friendship. As Emma and Oliver grow closer, Harlan finds his attention shifting from Juliette to the quiet, enigmatic, and thoroughly unimpressed Finley. Out of boredom, Harlan decides to make her fall in love with him. Problem is, the harder he seeks to win her, the harder he falls for her.
But Finley doesn’t want to be won, and she doesn’t want to see Oliver with anyone else. To claim Oliver’s heart—and keep her own—she’ll have to find the courage to do what she fears most: step into the spotlight.”
Expected Publication Date: May 16, 2017
pooled ink Review:
Thank you to the publisher for sending me a copy to review!
Choosing Mansfield Park as inspiration for writing a contemporary adaptation of a classic is an interesting and refreshing choice. It’s far less overdone than some of Austen’s other works, namely the beloved Pride and Prejudice.
Told in two alternating POVs (Finley Price and Oliver Bertram) we’re presented with modern day Chicago and a family full of changes taking on the riveting plot of Mansfield Park and giving it all the freshness it needs and deserves. The result? Cute, witty, and the bearable amount of dramatic. I absolutely enjoyed reading this book from start to finish. Not once was I bored or hysterical. It was simply…a soft sort of perfect.
This was a cute romance indeed but it never failed to feel real. Alongside humor and tangled romantic webs worthy of Shakespeare, there were plenty dark realities explored within the story. Divorce, death, fame, disease, guilt, addiction, abuse,… It made this book more than mere fluff. It was charming with just the right amount of grit to make it feel grounded and realistic. And it’s not too much. It doesn’t overshadow the cute moments or the romance that is the thriving current of the plot.
I, as a theatre degree recipient, absolutely loved how this book chose to make Finley’s passion theatre, and film. I found myself able to relate to Finley on several levels which only succeeded to draw me in inescapably. She wasn’t annoying, she wasn’t stock, she wasn’t trying too hard, she was simply…Finley, a strong character whom I could easily see myself befriending.
In fact, all the characters are complex, thought out, and absolutely life like. It’s not just a solitary protagonist or leading couple that go through a developed character arc. More than that Watson really delves into the complicated truth that people are not black and white, good or bad. There’s a gray area that we humans struggle in and it’s important to take that into account. Good people make bad decisions and vice versa. Watson did an impressive job of staying subtly true to this and it’s what really pushed her characters into full dimensionality.
If I’m honest, this book was much…more than I expected. It elapsed over more time, delved into more characters, tackled more issues, was written with more life, and was simply…more. I loved it.
Despite the hundred and one traps Watson set for herself when embarking on writing a Young Adult romance novel, she managed to avoid just about all the dreaded clichés and tropes I shamefully expected from this book. I’m serious. It’s well done. It draws from the best elements of Austen’s work while simultaneously standing boldly and artistically on its own two feet. It’s not a fluff piece, it’s not a carbon copy, and it’s not a head-bashing heartache either. It’s…gosh, I just can’t seem to think of another adjective to use except real. It was funny, it was adorable, it was special, it was deep, and it felt very real.
The plot twists and turns with such natural grace through every surprise, yearning, kiss, and tragedy that strikes. There are overwhelming themes of family, love, and duty that are explored and examined from several different angles and perspectives. And the ending was perfect. Yes, I said it. It was perfect. It had me grinning like a Cheshire cat and glowing with a happy warmth.
Seeking Mansfield is an expertly crafted work full of romance, family, and life’s tough throws. But what makes this book stand particularly high on the scale is its unwavering and undeniable grounding in reality. From complex characters to twisting plot lines, this story is one that will captivate you with both its enchanting reaches and its gritty roots.
P.S. Just a random mention, but I appreciated Watson’s decision to include a character who suffers from fibromyalgia. It’s not a condition often mentioned or well known. My mom has fibromyalgia so it’s just another level on which I could relate to this book and, I dunno, I appreciate that.
Purchase here: Seeking Mansfield
Similar Recommended Reads: Rainbows and Raindrops by Kelley Lynn & Jenny S. Morris, Dream Factory by Brad Barkley & Heather Hepler, This Adventure Ends by Emma Mills, Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, In Place of Never by Julie Anne Lindsey, 100 Days of Cake by Shari Goldhagen, Revelations by T. Marie Alexander
Meet Kate Watson!
“Kate Watson is a young adult writer, wife, mother of two, and the tenth of thirteen children. Originally from Canada, she attended college in the States and holds a BA in Philosophy from Brigham Young University. A lover of travel, speaking in accents, and experiencing new cultures, she has studied in Israel and lived in Brazil, the American South, and now calls Arizona home.
Her first novel, SEEKING MANSFIELD, debuts in Spring 2017, with the companion novel to follow in 2018.”