From the desk of Laurel Ann Nattress:
Please help me welcome author Elizabeth Kantor to the blog today. She is here to help celebrate the release of The Jane Austen Guide to Happily Ever After. This new Austen-inspired guide is a how-to find happiness and love using Austen philosophies and advice. Elizabeth has generously shared with us some insights on her inspiration for writing the book.
Have you stopped believing in happily ever after?
Women today are settling for less than we want when it comes to men, relationships, sex, and marriage.
But we don’t have to, argues Elizabeth Kantor. Jane Austen can show us how to find the love we really want.
In The Jane Austen Guide to Happily Ever After, Kantor reveals how the examples of Jane Austen heroines such as Elizabeth Bennett, Elinor Dashwood, and Anne Elliot can help us navigate the modern-day minefields of dating, love, relationships, and sex. By following in their footsteps—and steering clear of the sad endings suffered by characters such as Maria Bertram and Charlotte Lucas—modern women can discover the path to lifelong love and true happiness.
Charged with honesty and humor, Kantor’s book includes testimonies from modern women, pop culture parallels, the author’s personal experiences and, of course, a thorough examination of Austen’s beloved novels.
Featuring characters and situations from all of Jane Austen’s books (including unfinished novels, and stories not published in her lifetime), The Jane Austen Guide to Happily Ever After tackles the dating and relationship dilemmas that we face today, and equips modern women to approach our love lives with fresh insights distilled from the novels:
- Don’t be a tragic heroine
- Pursue Elizabeth Bennet’s “rational happiness” —learn what it is, and how you can find it
- Don’t let cynicism steal your happy ending
- Why it’s a mistake to look for your “soul mate”
- Jane Austen’s skeleton keys to a man’s potential
- How you should deal with men who are “afraid of commitment” (from Jane Austen’s eight case studies)
- Learn how to arrange your own marriage—by falling in love the Jane Austen way
The time: Nearly eight years ago.
The scene: Me, reading a Washington Post article on why women love Jane Austen.
The action: Me, yelling at the paper–“No, no, no! You’re getting it absolutely, perfectly, 180 degrees wrong. Women don’t love Jane Austen because her novels are so much like our own lives. Her world has everything we don’t have–and that we’re longing for!” (Or words to that effect.)
So I started writing an article about why women really love Jane Austen, and what we want from her, that we don’t have. Not just the gorgeous Regency dresses, and not just the beautiful grounds of Mr. Darcy’s Pemberley estate. Jane Austen heroines’ love lives have such dignity! And they seem to be so smart about men—not to mention, about what they themselves really want. Lizzy and Elinor and Emma (especially Emma) make mistakes, of course. But their whole conduct of their affairs just seems to be on a higher plane, one we wish we could get to!
As it happened, I was writing another piece at just around the same time–an article about the trials and tribulations of dating in the twenty-first century. And at some point along the way, it dawned on me: Jane Austen is the answer to all the complaints modern women have about our love lives—the solution to all the problems we have disentangling ourselves from the wrong guys, finding the right one, and getting to happily ever after. Her heroines follow rules that have gotten lost in the mists of time, kind of like “the Rules”—if you remember that self-help book from back in the ’90s—only they’re not tricks for manipulating men, they’re fundamental principles of relationships, based in Jane Austen’s keen insights into human nature.
So I started working on a book that would distill Jane Austen’s wisdom and apply it to modern love lives. In the process, several things became clear. As I read more first-person accounts of “modern mating rituals,” it became obvious that an awful lot of women (and men, too!) are really unhappy—bitter, angry, and distrustful of the opposite sex—because of how their love lives are going. And as I continued to read and reread Jane Austen over those eight years, it became increasingly clear that she understood a lot of important things that modern women simply don’t know—so that if I could only find a way to help women today apply her principles to their lives, they might start getting very different results from the ones that were making so many of them so unhappy.
In the process of trying to work that out, I also reviewed my own “past conduct,” as Jane Austen called it. And I can’t say I’ve always acted in accordance with her principles. But I can say that when I did, things sure worked out better than when I didn’t! There are some stories in The Jane Austen Guide from my experiences with guys–starting with the time during my freshman year in college when, Maria Bertram-like, I justified sticking with a man I really didn’t love, because of his status.
Though the book is meant to be a lot of fun to read, the process of writing and getting it published was quite painful! I actually wrote and published a completely different book during that time—partly because I knew it would make it easier for me to get a contract for The Jane Austen Guide. But when you think about the fact that Jane Austen herself published her first novel, Sense and Sensibility, about 25 years after she began writing, and about 15 years after she began writing that novel, then you can’t complain!
Especially in the last stages of writing the book, I didn’t have much time for reading anything that wasn’t directly relevant to whatever chapter I was working on at the time. But now that I’ve come out of my den and looked around the Jane-o-sphere a bit more, it seems impossible to overestimate women’s enthusiasm for Austen’s novels. If there’s one thing I hope my fellow Janeites will take away from The Jane Austen Guide, it’s that Jane Austen can change our real lives. Just this morning I saw a tweet from Yvette Hudson (@mrsdarcydreamer): “That awkward moment when you realize Pride and Prejudice is not your life story.” I know, right? But when things get awkward, relationships disappoint, and our lives seem to be in a mess, we don’t have to settle for escapist fantasies about Mr. Darcy’s smoldering good looks. If you put Jane Austen’s principles to work in your real life, she really can help transform you—in Laurel Ann’s beautiful phrase—into the heroine of your own life.
Elizabeth Kantor is the author of The Politically Incorrect Guide™ to English and American Literature and an editor for Regnery Publishing. She earned her Ph.D. in English from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and an M.A. in philosophy from the Catholic University of America. Kantor has taught English literature, served as the editor of a book club, and written for publications ranging from National Review Online to the Boston Globe. An avid Jane Austen fan, she is happily married and lives with her husband and son in Gaithersburg, Maryland. Visit Elizabeth at her on Twitter as @ElizabethKantor and on Facebook as Jane Austen Guide.
- The Jane Austen Guide to Happily Ever After, by Elizabeth Kantor
- Regnery Publishing (2012)
- Hardcover (304) pages
- ISBN: 978-1596987845
- Genre: Nonfiction, Self Help
We received a review copy of the book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Austenprose is an Amazon affiliate. Cover image, book description, guest blog, and author bio courtesy of Regnery Publishing © 2012; text Laurel Ann Nattress © 2012, austenprose.com. Updated 6 March 2022.