Sophie Collingwood has just graduated from college when her uncle Bertram, with whom she shares an all-consuming love of books and literature, dies suddenly in a fall. He leaves his flat and library to Sophie, but when she comes to take possession, she finds the books were sold to settle his estate. She fixates on the manner of his death and the loss of his library as she takes a job in a rare book dealer’s shop.
When two men contact her, each searching for the 2nd edition of an obscure collection of moral allegories by a little known 18th century clergyman, things start to heat up. Does the book prove her favorite author, Jane Austen, plagiarized Pride and Prejudice? Sophie is determined to settle this question as well as prove her uncle did not die in an unfortunate accident. And what about the American professor on holiday and one of the book collectors – neither of whom she can dismiss from her thoughts and dreams?
A bit of literary history, modern day sleuthing, and romance all combine to make First Impressions fairly entertaining. Frankly, I expected better characterizations and a slightly more plausible story line from Lovett whose Bookman’s Tale (see July 2013) I really enjoyed. But the allusions to Austen and her works, as well as the historical sections, make up for many of the weaker points.