I suppose there are two ways to look at Jane Austen: what she was and what she wasn't. A fairy tale way or a real way. I think, maybe before even reading one of her novels, it is important to know, not only a little of the history and customs of her time, but a little about the lady herself. These facts make up the real "meat" of her books.
I have just finished reading two books: Darcy's Story by Janet Aylmer and The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen by Syrie James. In all fairness, they were pretty good little books. Mr. Darcy perhaps came the closest to capturing the character she was portraying. We all are in love with him. Oddly enough, he will always resemble Colin Firth to me. But I'm such an Austen purist that I read it with difficulty. I am going to re-read it, though, and see what happens the second time. I did enjoy it.
I could not grab Lost Memoirs. Again, the purist in me came out. Anyone who reads Jane Austen should first read a TRUE account of her life. And a good history of the Regency period. Two of the best accounts of her life that I know of are A Memoir of Jane Austen by J.E. Austen-Leigh (her nephew) and Jane Austen's Letters collected by Deidre Le Faye (she is one of the best known Austen scholars). The letters are so revealing. Cassandra burned some of the letters after Jane's death. It's believed that they dealt with their mother's health and Cassandra felt they were too personal. Jane's personality comes out full force. It's delightful.
Too many people tend to "romanticize" Jane Austen. Poor Jane. She never married. She never had any children. She missed out on so much. Yada yada yada. I've always had the feeling that she was happy the way she was. She had opportunities to marry but she didn't. Some believe she would not marry unless it was for love. I don't think she wished to marry, period. She was a good aunt to her nieces (neices, to her) and nephews, but she wasn't a child person. I think she would have been very happy today, given the choices that women have now. She was happy in her relationship with Cassandra. She loved dancing. She hated Bath. She loved to take tea. She had the most wonderful, biting sense of humor. I don't think she missed a thing.
Take a careful look at her characters. She tended to "poke fun" at ministers. Men tended sometimes to be a little weak or indecisive or easily swayed. Mr. Bingley is a favorite " choice" of mine. Wimp. I couldn't be married to him. On the other hand, I like Mr. Gardner. Gentle giant. Old Mr. Woodhouse. What a jerk. But Mr. Martin. Patiently waited for Miss Smith. Jane Austen was a genius! What portraits she painted.