I Was Jane Austen’s Best Friend: A Secret Diary Reviewed By Amy Lignor of
Amy Lignor

Reviewer Amy Lignor: Amy is the author of a historical fiction novel entitled The Heart of a Legend, and Mind Made, a work of science fiction. Presently, she is writing an adventure series set in the New York Public Library, as well as a teen fiction series, The Angel Chronicles.  She is an avid traveler and has been fortunate to have journeyed across the USA, where she has met the most amazing people, who truly bring life and soul to her books.  She lives in the Land of Enchantment (for now) with her gorgeous daughter, Shelby, her wonderful Mom, Mary, and the greatest friend and critic in the entire world - her dog, Reuben

By Amy Lignor
Published on October 8, 2010
Author:  Cora Harrison
ISBN:  978-0-385-73940-5

Author:  Cora Harrison
Talk about putting the right title in the right hands.  I have always been a huge Jane Austen fan.  Literally, I go to the library and pull absolutely every book off the shelf that has anything to do with this – as far as I’m concerned – best author who ever lived.  I can’t tell you how excited I am that she is now infiltrating the young adult market.  I think all young adults should be allowed into the Austen world; it’s so much fun, they’ll wonder why they’ve wasted all their time on vampires.
This story is told through the eyes and journal of Jenny Cooper.  Jenny, (who was a real person named Jane Cooper), is Jane Austen’s best friend in the horrible boarding school they find themselves stuck in when our story begins.  Jane has a horrific fever and the headmistress, Mrs. Cawley, is a hideous human being who not only doesn’t provide real food and warmth to her girls, but simply doesn’t care that Jane Austen is incredibly ill.  So Jenny takes it upon herself to sneak out of the prison-like school in the dark of night to run through the town and mail a letter to Mrs. Austen, so that Jane’s mom will come and rescue her daughter from the evil school matron.  As we follow Jenny through the scary Southampton streets, we’re with her as she comes across a man named Captain Thomas Williams, who helps save Jenny from some truly loud, brash men.  Assisting her to mail the letter, they have a wonderful conversation along the way where Jenny learns about the Captain’s life on the Bonaventure that has just finished a tour of the East Indies.
Racing back to the school, she writes about her wonderful time with the Captain and proceeds to get as sick as her best friend, Jane.  Soon, thankfully, Mrs. Austen arrives and pulls the girls out of the horrific school, bringing them back home to the Austen parish/farm in Steventon.  Now, Jenny is an orphan, but her mother was Mrs. Austen’s sister so, as a relation to the large Austen clan, she’s welcome to stay in their home.
As readers are brought through the fantastic spring of 1791, we spend time with Jane and all her siblings.  We watch the creation of a romance between Jane’s sister Cassandra and the boy she loves, Tom Fowle – who is rich in affection but poor where money is concerned – which makes Mrs. Austen a little frightened for the union.  Mrs. Austen knows they’re not wealthy people and she wants rich matches for her daughters.  We also meet Jane’s brothers.  Her absolute favorite is Henry, and Jenny finds herself liking him, as well; he’s both handsome and charming.  Edward was the lucky Austen brother who was adopted by a rich cousin; and, James is a bit cold to his sister, wanting her to marry well and stop spending all her time writing stories.  There are others in the Austen clan who are truly witty and charming, as well as a secret brother named George that Jane reveals to Jenny.
There are balls held at the Vyne, which is the fancy home of the Chute family.  Tom Chute is a young man who laughs with Jane constantly, and will perhaps be the man that she will marry one day; while the oldest brother, William Chute, takes a liking to Jenny. 
This whole novel is an absolute joy to read.  Not only does Jenny get to spend time with this funny, loving family and see the twists and turns in their relationships, but we also get to see where and how Jane Austen put together her ideas for the fantastic tales that we all love to this day.  Not only is the writing perfect for ages twelve and up, but the book also has the best black and white drawings that really compliment the characters, the locations, and the world that belonged to Jane Austen.  This one has a place on my bookshelf for the rest of time.  Bravo!