Beth Pattillo’s third Jane Austen-themed novel is inspired by Sense and Sensibility and the relationship between Jane Austen and her sister, Cassandra. Mimi and Ellen Dodge (named for Sense and Sensibility sisters Marianne and Elinor Dashwood) are about as different as two sisters can be, except for the fact that they’re both single and thirty-something. Ellen is the practical and sensible one, while Mimi is more spontaneous and flighty.
The two American women travel to England to fulfill a wish their mother made on her deathbed. Their English mother – an obsessed Janeite – arranged for them to take a walking tour of Jane Austen’s Hampshire. Constantly at odds, Ellen and Mimi have doubts about accomplishing any sisterly bonding, which they believe to be their mother’s intention behind the trip.
But they have two other objectives besides forging a relationship. The sisters must find an appropriate place to scatter their mother’s ashes. Additionally, Ellen receives a mysterious gift from her mother – a diary that may or may not have been written by Cassandra Austen – with instructions for them to do with it as they see fit.
As the tour progresses, the sisters read through Cassandra’s diary, trying to determine its authenticity. They soon realize that the diary holds hidden clues – clues that hint at the existence and whereabouts of Jane’s diary. Meanwhile, a few of the tour participants know about the sisters’ possession of the diary and harbor possibly sinister intentions. Ellen and Mimi must team up to interpret Cassandra’s clues and find Jane’s diary, before both diaries end up in the wrong hands.
The Dashwood Sisters Tell All is a light, fun read with a dash of suspense, but there are some predictable moments. The sisters end up bonding, which is no surprise. And these two self-professed non-Janeites predictably discover a newfound appreciation for all things Austen. A little romantic drama is also thrown in for good measure. But in the spirit of Jane Austen, the novel ends exactly as the reader would expect.