From the desk of Laurel Ann Nattress:
Happy Friday, dear readers. All Hallows Eve is this weekend. Have you chosen a costume and stocked up on candy yet? I don’t have trick or treaters visiting me in the country, however, that has never stopped me from celebrating the holiday by decorating with pumpkins and eating candy corn!
If you are seeking recommendations for great Jane Austen-inspired reading to put you in the mood for the spooky season, look no further. Here is a short list of six novels and one adaptation to help you become as addicted to Gothic fiction as heroine Catherine Morland in Austen’s Northanger Abbey. Remember, it’s never too late to seek adventure abroad!
JANE AUSTEN’S NORTHANGER ABBEY (MARVEL COMICS), adapted by Nancy Butler
This year my re-reading of Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey is the Marvel Comics edition. Firstly, the gorgeous cover by Julian Totino Tedesco is a stunning representation of Catherine Morland, the young, impressionable heroine of the novel. In the background towers the imposing Northanger Abbey looking foreboding, eerie, and atmospheric! Secondly, the inside is just as fun. The text has been skillfully adapted by Regency novelist Nancy Butler and illustrated by Janet Lee.
I adore Austen’s cheeky parody of the Gothic fiction so popular in her day. She cleverly subverts the tropes of the genre making me laugh out loud at her sense of humor. She also introduces us to her dishyest of her heroes, Henry Tilney.
Lovingly adapted from Jane Austen’s most humorous work, Marvel Comics is proud to present literature lover Catherine Morland’s quest to be the leading lady of her own great romance. Can real life prove the equal of the Gothic novels she finds so enchanting? Can Catherine find true love amid the fictions of others and her own wild imagination? And what dread secrets lie in wait in Northanger Abbey itself? Award-winning author Nancy Butler continues her quest to reinvent Jane Austen’s Regency world in the Mighty Marvel Manner. With exquisite illustrations from Janet Lee, 19th-century England comes alive like never before. Discover – along with Catherine Moreland – that while truth may not be stranger than fiction, it can be no less surprising!
MURDER AT NORTHANGER ABBEY: A SEQUEL TO JANE AUSTEN’S SPOOF ON THE GOTHIC NOVEL, by Shannon Winslow
It is a shame that there are so few Northanger Abbey sequels. Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet of Pride and Prejudice take the lion’s share of Jane Austen-inspired novels on the market. So, when a brave writer tackles one of Austen’s lesser popular novels, I applaud.
Winslow begins her story after the conclusion of Austen’s novel when newly wed Catherine and Henry Tilney return to Northanger Abbey, his family’s country estate in Gloucestershire where Catherine first imagined a murder in the original novel. This time it is real. Winslow does an excellent job extending the characters and tone that Austen began. It’s a fun read and perfect for the season.
Newly married to her beloved Henry, Catherine’s eyes are now open to the grownup pleasures of wedded life. Yet she still hasn’t quite given up her girlhood fascination with all things Gothic.
When she first visited Northanger Abbey, she only imagined dreadful events had occurred there. This time the horror is all too real. There’s been a murder, and Henry has fallen under suspicion.
Catherine is determined to clear her husband’s name, but at the same time, she’s afraid for her own safety, since there’s a very good chance the real murderer is still in the house.
This delightful sequel reprises the mischievous spirit of Austen’s original spoof on the Gothic novel, while giving Catherine a genuine murder mystery to unravel.
“With Murder at Northanger Abbey, Shannon Winslow beautifully blends together satire, sweet affection, and sinister events while skillfully capturing the essence of Jane Austen’s characters, tone, and playful style. I recommend for readers who enjoy encountering “dreadful situations and horrid scenes!”— Austenesque Reviews
MIDNIGHT IN AUSTENLAND: A NOVEL, by Shannon Hale
Who has seen the outrageously funny movie, Austenland? Did you know it was based on a novel of the same name by bestselling author Shannon Hale? Yep, it is and Midnight in Austenland is the follow up novel.
This time it is also set at a fantasy, all-immersive Austen holiday manor house where guests are treated to every aspect of the Regency life represented in Austen’s novels, including a fake happily-ever-after romance while you are there. Hale has incorporated many Gothic and mystery elements into the story resulting in campy, light, predictable fare, but of so much fun.
New York Times bestselling author Shannon Hale offers up mystery, romance, and a lot of fun in this follow-up to Austenland.
When Charlotte Kinder treats herself to a two-week vacation at Austenland, she happily leaves behind her ex-husband and his delightful new wife, her ever-grateful children, and all the rest of her real life in America. She dons a bonnet and stays at a country manor house that provides an immersive Austen experience, complete with gentleman actors who cater to the guests’ Austen fantasies.
Everyone at Pembrook Park is playing a role, but increasingly, Charlotte isn’t sure where roles end and reality begins. And as the parlor games turn a little bit menacing, she finds she needs more than a good corset to keep herself safe. Is the brooding Mr. Mallery as sinister as he seems? What is Miss Gardenside’s mysterious ailment? Was that an actual dead body in the secret attic room? And-perhaps of the most lasting importance-could the stirrings in Charlotte’s heart be a sign of real-life love?
The follow-up to reader favorite Austenland provides the same perfectly plotted pleasures, with a feisty new heroine, plenty of fresh and frightening twists, and the possibility of a romance that might just go beyond the proper bounds of Austen’s world. How could it not turn out right in the end?
“Hale’s fans will be thrilled to revisit Pembrook Park and reunite with its regulars. Hale provides a welcome, witty glimpse of a side of Austen rarely explored in the many contemporary riffs on her work.”— Publisher’s Weekly
JANE AND THE GHOSTS OF NETLEY: BEING A JANE AUSTEN MYSTERY (BOOK 7), by Stephanie Barron
Don’t be afraid to jump into the seventh book in this fabulous mystery series featuring Jane Austen as a sleuth. Each novel is a stand-alone and can be read out of order.
This story is a particularly intriguing case for Jane. Seeped in a Gothic infused mystery with ghosts, it is set in and around Netley Abbey near Southampton, England. Built by the Cistercian monks in the 13th century, the abbey is a majestic ruin and the perfect spooky setting for clandestine encounters with French spies, murder, and treason.
I adore the Being a Jane Austen Mystery series and have reviewed all thirteen to date. Number fourteen, Jane and the Year without a Summer arrives shortly on February 8, 2022. Don’t’ miss it.
In her seventh captivating adventure, Jane Austen finds her crime-solving mettle put to the test in a confounding case of intrigue, murder, and high treason. Among the haunted ruins of an ancient abbey, Jane is drawn into a shadow world of dangerous secrets and traitorous hearts where not only her life is at stake—but the fate of England.
As Jane Austen stands before the abandoned ruins of Netley Abbey, she imagines that ghosts really do haunt the centuries-old monastery. But the green-cloaked figure who startles her is all too human and he bears an unexpected missive from Lord Harold Trowbridge, one of the British government’s most trusted advisers—and a man who holds a high place in Jane’s life. Trowbridge tells Jane about a suspected traitor in their midst—and the disastrous consequences if she succeeds. But is Sophia Challoner, a beautiful widow with rumored ties to Emperor Bonaparte, really an agent of the enemy?
Dispatched to Netley Lodge, Jane sets about gaining the confidence of the mysterious and intriguing lady even as Trowbridge’s grim prediction bears fruit: a British frigate is set afire and its shipwright found with his throat cut. It’s clear that someone is waging a clandestine war of terror and murder. But before Jane can follow the trail of conspiracy to its source and unmask a calculating killer, the cold hand of murder will fall mercilessly yet again—and suddenly Jane may find herself dying for her country.
Elegantly intriguing, Jane and the Ghosts of Netley is a beautifully crafted novel of wit, character, and suspense that transports Jane and her many fans into a mystery of truly historical proportions—and a case that will test the amateur sleuth’s true colors under fire.
“First-rate…Barron writes a lively adventure that puts warm flesh on historical bones. The nice thing is she does so in a literary style that would not put Jane Austen’s nose out of joint.”— The New York Times Book Review
PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES, by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith
Fair warning to Jane Austen’s purists. This is not the book for you.
Author Grahame-Smith has lifted 85% of Austen’s text and mixed in bone-crunching zombie mayhem into the genteel story. It’s technically a mashup. I found it equally eyebrow raising and hilarious.
What would Halloween be without zombies? They are everywhere, even in our Austen. I never quite understood why they are so popular. They are not accomplished, nor can they dance a reel. There is a movie too.
“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains.”
So begins Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, an expanded edition of the beloved Jane Austen novel featuring all-new scenes of bone-crunching zombie mayhem. As our story opens, a mysterious plague has fallen upon the quiet English village of Meryton—and the dead are returning to life! Feisty heroine Elizabeth Bennet is determined to wipe out the zombie menace, but she’s soon distracted by the arrival of the haughty and arrogant Mr. Darcy. What ensues is a delightful comedy of manners with plenty of civilized sparring between the two young lovers—and even more violent sparring on the blood-soaked battlefield. Can Elizabeth vanquish the spawn of Satan? And overcome the social prejudices of the class-conscious landed gentry? Complete with romance, heartbreak, swordfights, cannibalism, and thousands of rotting corpses.
“It is, in short, utterly ridiculous…in a fantastic, hilarious way. Exactly what I was looking for.”— Book Smugglers
JANE BITES BACK: A NOVEL, by Michael Thomas Ford
Of course, Jane Austen is a vampire. It is the perfect solution to our quandary over her producing only six novels in her lifetime. What Janeite could possibly object to this premise if she writes more stories? Not I.
Ford gives us the best of possible continued life for his heroine in this contemporary tale of Austen living in upper-state New York as an unpublished author named Jane Fairfax running a book shop. There are many references to her past life and Janeite lore galore along with as much wit and irony to ice a birthday cake large enough to hold two hundred years of candles for our heroine who was born in 1775 and is totally undead. I laughed, I cried, and wanted more. Luckily, there are two additional books in the series.
Two hundred years after her death, Jane Austen is still surrounded by the literature she loves—but now it’s because she’s the owner of Flyleaf Books in a sleepy college town in Upstate New York. Every day she watches her novels fly off the shelves—along with dozens of unauthorized sequels, spin-offs, and adaptations. Jane may be undead, but her books have taken on a life of their own.
To make matters worse, the manuscript she finished just before being turned into a vampire has been rejected by publishers—116 times. Jane longs to let the world know who she is, but when a sudden twist of fate thrusts her back into the spotlight, she must hide her real identity—and fend off a dark man from her past while juggling two modern suitors. Will the inimitable Jane Austen be able to keep her cool in this comedy of manners, or will she show everyone what a woman with a sharp wit and an even sharper set of fangs can do?
“Ford’s Jane is a very fun and funny heroine to root for as she endures the indignities of publishing and bookselling, fends off danger and (perhaps) finds love. Her hilarious smack downs with Violet hint of more madness to come in this first of a series.”— Publisher’s Weekly
THE BRIDE OF NORTHANGER: A JANE AUSTEN VARIATION, by Diana Birchall
The Doyen of Austenesque fiction, Diana Birchall, delivers an enchanting and thoughtful continuation of the story of Catherine and Henry Tilney, Jane Austen’s endearing romantic couple. There are secrets, curses, and murder lurking at Northanger Abbey, the Tilney family estate, which serves to feed Catherine’s obsession with the “horrid” stories in her beloved Gothic fiction. She soon learns that reality is another thing altogether.
It was a delight to be back in the lives of the Tilneys and emersed in an eerie mystery with ghostly monks and other spooky Gothic elements. Birchall gives us all the “feels” and “frights” of the genre while remaining reverent to Austen’s original and contemporary authors of the genre such as Radcliffe and Walpole.
A happier heroine than Catherine Morland does not exist in England, for she is about to marry her beloved, the handsome, witty Henry Tilney. The night before the wedding, Henry reluctantly tells Catherine and her horrified parents a secret he has dreaded to share – that there is a terrible curse on his family and their home, Northanger Abbey. Henry is a clergyman, educated and rational, and after her year’s engagement Catherine is no longer the silly young girl who delighted in reading “horrid novels”; she has improved in both reading and rationality. This sensible young couple cannot believe curses are real…until a murder at the Abbey triggers events as horrid and Gothic as Jane Austen ever parodied – events that shake the young Tilneys’ certainties, but never their love for each other.
“While paying homage to Austen, Birchall writes in her own light and lovely style…This Austen variation is a perfect gift for a budding young Janeite (or yourself). After purchasing it, I recommend curling up on a sofa near a crackling fire for a few hours of blissful reading.”— Jane Austen’s World
This list was so much fun to compile. I had the opportunity to revisit many books in this genre that I have read over the years and curate them down to my favorites. Please share your own special reads too.
Wishing you all an atmospheric and Gothic-filled reading this Halloween season.
Best, Laurel Ann
We received one review copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review, or we purchased our own copy. Austenprose.com is an Amazon.com affiliate. We receive a modest remuneration when readers use our links and make a purchase.
Cover images and book descriptions courtesy of the respective publishers; text Laurel Ann Nattress © 2021, Austenprose.com