Audrey Bellezza and Emily Harding offer a delightful, modern twist on Jane Austen's Emma in their first co-written novel, Emma of 83rd Street. Firmly ensconced on New York's Upper East Side, Emma Woodhouse has lived a smooth, even charmed, life for 23 years. But when her sister gets married and her friends go abroad, Emma finds herself bored and hankering for a new project. Enter Nadine, a wide-eyed transplant from Ohio in Emma's grad school program. As Emma befriends (and helps transform) Nadine, she's quite pleased with her efforts--or she would be if her neighbor George Knightley didn't keep poking holes in her self-satisfied armor.
Bellezza and Harding hit all the familiar beats of Austen's classic story: Emma's close-knit but exasperating family, including her health-obsessed father; the young men whose advances Emma sometimes misinterprets; the chatty, slightly down-on-her-luck neighbor; and the complex, longstanding relationship between Emma and Knightley. This Knightley is a venture capitalist, trying to do some good with his money and thereby distance himself from his (deceased) father. The crackling tension between him and Emma drives the story, but as in Austen's original, the relationship also leads both characters to some critical self-examination. Bellezza and Harding balance the introspection with a healthy dose of New York glitz, including sumptuous Sunday dinners, trips to the Met, and lavish parties. The narrative may lead to a predictable ending, but as with all Austen adaptations, the joy--and there's plenty of it--is definitely in the journey. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams