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Melodie Edwards's ONCE PERSUADED, TWICE SHY - A Brilliant New PERSUASION Retelling

by Jen Moyers (@jen.loves.books)

Book cover of Melodie Edwards's Once Persuaded, Twice Shy

On our recent episode about books published before 1950 (for the Unabridged Reading Challenge), I mentioned a brilliant new retelling of Jane Austen's Persuasion, Melodie Edwards’s Once Persuaded, Twice Shy: A Modern Reimagining of Persuasion ( |

Most of you know that I spent 2022 and 2023 on a Jane Austen journey: I led buddy reads of the author’s six major novels during the first year (two months per novel) and then spent 2023 reading the author’s short works, diving into a biography, and then devoting our buddy reads to retellings of Austen’s books. Once Persuaded, Twice Shy ranks with the best of those retellings.

Melodie Edwards begins her novel with a note to the reader about the way she approached this modern reenvisioning of Anne Elliott’s story, about the challenges she faced because of modern conventions in comparison to those of Austen’s time. She navigated those beautifully, resulting in a compelling second-chance romance filled with humor (there’s a recurrent goose wreaking havoc in the town).

Anne Elliott has no work-life balance: she’s all work and obligation. After her dear mother convinced her, nearly a decade ago, to break up with Ben Wentworth because he wasn’t reliable and wouldn’t be a strong, supportive partner, Anne devoted herself to caring for her mother, soon stricken with cancer, and replacing her. She stepped in for her mother at work, as town councilor and executive director of her theater company, and at home, where she took care of her impulsive, irresponsible father and beautiful, selfish sister. She doesn’t date and has few friends, outside of Vidya, who works at the theater, and her assistant, Emmie, who is more mentee than friend.

Then, a new older couple moves to Niagara-on-the-Lake, purchasing Kellynch Winery, which used to belong to Anne’s family. And with them comes (of course) their nephew, Ben Wentworth, now a successful, conservative, straight-laced businessman.

Whether you’ve read Persuasion or not, I imagine you can see where this is going. What sets the story apart for me is the way Edwards takes the notes of Persuasion and recasts them—Wentworth’s romance with a young actress at the theater, Anne’s determination to show that she moved on from Ben, the extravagant carelessness of Anne’s family: it’s all there. It resonated for me, but I suspect it will also resonate even for those who have never read Austen because the story’s characters are so beautifully realized.

This is Edwards’s second novel—she also wrote Jane & Edward: A Modern Reimagining of Jane Eyre—and the strength of Once Persuaded, Twice Shy means that Jane & Edward is now waiting on my TBR.

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