Turning Pages, by Tristi Pinkston – A Review

Turning Pages, by Tristi Pinkston (2012)From the desk of Lisa Galek. 

I really love a good Jane Austen contemporary update, especially one geared at teens. There’s something so refreshing and lovely about the idea that, 200 years later, young readers are still eating up the drama between Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy.

When college student and aspiring librarian, Addie Preston, meets Blake Hansen, they clash immediately over everything. They have different tastes in books, different ideas about love… and Blake just so happens to have stolen the job that Addie had been hoping for – Assistant Librarian. Not only is this guy insufferable (and pretty well filled with pride), but he’s now also Addie’s new boss.

But, this isn’t the only reason Addie has to be upset. She’s been through a lot in the last year. Her father died just a few months ago and her family is being forced to move from their home. Soon, she suffers another blow – her beloved library is closing. Cutbacks in staff and the need to move quickly into a new location force Blake and Addie to work together. Addie slowly realizes that Blake isn’t the uptight (if well-read) jerk she thought he was. Now, just one final thing stands in the way of their love – Blake’s fiancée.

Since most of Addie’s life revolves around the library, this setting really takes center stage in the novel and becomes kind of like a character in its own right. There are some really humorous scenes of Addie’s misguided attempts to protest the library’s closing (like when she accidentally assaults the mayor with a placard). But, otherwise, there’s almost too much going on in the library with no real purpose. We get information on cataloging books, screwing in shelves, discarding worn out titles, which (as much as I love a library) sort of detracts from the romance.

No sparks really fly between Addie and Blake until the very end of the novel, so there’s not a lot of the will-they-won’t-they drama that makes Pride and Prejudice so fantastic. This is mostly owing to the introduction of Blake’s fiancée, the Caroline Bingley-esque, Tara. Though she’s completely wrong for him, Blake is far too good of a guy to even consider ditching or cheating on Tara. (Darcy never would have gotten mixed up with her in the first place). For a while it looks like Blake is about to take a large Edward Ferrars-shaped bullet in the name of Love and Honor and Wedding China.

The author does have a really good ear for dialogue and the characters are always cracking jokes or having fun swooning over their favorite books. Just about every single person in the story is well-drawn and relatable and you’re truly rooting for it all to turn out right in the end. It was also nice to read a young adult novel featuring college-aged character, too (which is, surpsingly rare). It makes more sense, for this story at least, to have older characters contemplating life and love without worrying if they’re going to make it to fifth period geometry on time.

Overall, Turning Pages is a bit of fun for anyone who loves a sweet romance or a well-stocked library. Its ties to Austen’s original are slight — there’s some boy-and-girl-don’t-initially-get-along tension and a tiny Wickham-esque subplot – but the novel has enough other good traits to recommend it on its own.

4 out of 5 Stars

Turning Pages, by Tristi Pinkston
Walnut Springs Press (2012)
Trade paperback (240) pages
ISBN: 978-0983829362
 

© Lisa Galek, Austenprose

Echoes of Pemberley, by Cynthia Ingram Hensley – A Review

Echoes of Pemberley, by Cynthia Ingram Hensley (2011)Review by Christina Boyd

Debut author Cynthia Ingram Hensley presents Echoes of Pemberley, a contemporary Pride and Prejudice spin-off for young adults.

The modern day residents of Pemberley estate are the descendants of Jane Austen’s very own Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy.  A fatal plane crash eight years previous orphaned Catherine Elizabeth Darcy and left her in the guardianship of her older brother, Bennet.  Returning home from boarding school for summer vacation, sixteen year old Catie, having lived a sheltered life since the death of her parents, is ripe for a melodrama of her own.  Although she expects her break to be occupied with nothing more than riding her bicycle about her ancestral home and daydreaming in her romance novels, she finds her brother has employed a young, handsome Irish riding instructor to improve her equestrian skills.  And – her summer soon turns anything but dull.

Catie grudgingly accepts such high-handed management from Bennet but is irked by “Mister” Sean Kelley’s intolerable, no nonsense manners towards his spoiled student. “…she had resolved to be only as civil as necessary, and under no bloody circumstances was she going to stare at him like a moon-eyed, immature, fourth former again.  God, being sixteen must be purgatory.” p.53. While brooding at her bedroom window seat, Catie discovers a WWI-era diary and is swept away by the mystery and real life romance of her great Aunt.  “2 August, 1918.  He was waiting by the river again today.  He smiled when he saw me.  My heart is Arthur’s.  Taking my hand, he led me into the woods and kissed me tenderly, then harder… I would have run all the way to Scotland had he asked me.  ‘All the way to Scotland… how romantic.’ p.57.   But what she has unwittingly discovered may be the missing piece to save her brother and their inheritance from a modern day conspiracy of their own.

Buying into the fact that her fictional characters, Darcy and Elizabeth, were real, was not a difficult reach for this unabashed Austenesque fan.  Hensley cleverly mimics Austen’s original Darcy’s with her own new characters by assuming some of their essence without making them a parody.  As Catie is but an immature sixteen year old, she often bashes heads with her older, rather over protective sibling – sending both to retreat to their own corners and not communicating for the greater good. And we all must remember those vexatious teenage years, when we are no longer a child but not quite an adult? Hence much of their trouble.  “’Damn it, Catie, enough with the drama!’ slapping his hand hard against the door frame. “I can’t protect you if you don’t do as I say.  Now for once in your life behave prudently!’ ‘You’re not my father!’ She squared her shoulders, intending to strike a nerve. It appeared she succeeded, for Ben stared hard at her a moment, his mouth pressed into a thin line. He replied evenly, ‘No.  No I’m not, but I’m all the father you’ve got.’” p.113.

Echoes of Pemberley, a 2011 IPPY (Independent Publisher Book Awards) nominee, is an entirely original offshoot of Austen’s masterpiece.  Progressing at a leisurely pace until about page 200, it is peppered with the right amount of youthful angst, family drama and teenage romance. Pitch-perfect for young Austen enthusiasts, one need not have read Pride and Prejudice to relish this tale, but for those who have, they will discover an even greater enjoyment finding our beloved Darcys and Pemberley cleverly woven throughout this modern spin-off.

4 out of 5 Stars

Echoes of Pemberley, by Cynthia Ingram Hensley
Meryton Press (2011)
Trade paperback (286) pages
ISBN: 978-1936009190

Christina Boyd lives in the wilds of the Pacific Northwest with her dear Mr. B, two youngish children and a Chesapeake Bay Retriever named Bibi.  She studied Fine Art at Temple University’s Tyler School of Art and received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications from Salisbury University in Maryland. For the last nine years she has created and sold her own pottery line from her working studio. Albeit she read Jane Austen as a moody teenager, it wasn’t until Joe Wright’s 2005 movie of Pride & Prejudice that sparked her interest in all things Austen.  A life member of the Jane Austen Society of North America, visiting Jane Austen’s England remains on her bucket list.

© 2007 – 2012 Christina Boyd, Austenprose

Epic Fail, by Claire LaZebnik – Review

Epic Fail, by Claire Lazebnik (2011)Guest review by Kimberly Denny-Ryder of Reflections of a Book Addict

One of the greatest things about book blogging is the ability to spread the gift of reading to everyone that comes across my blog.  This is especially true with younger readers, who may have less exposure now to “the classics” than I might have had at their age.  So, any attempt to get younger readers engaged with great writers of the past is applauded by me.  Claire LaZebnik’s Epic Fail does just this by emulating the beloved Pride and Prejudice to be more accessible to young adult readers.

If you go to high school in Los Angeles, Coral Tree Prep is where you want to be.  And if you’re a guy that goes to Coral Tree, Derek Edwards is who you want to be.  As the son of famous Hollywood parents, Derek reigns over the school, not bothering to interact with most of the other lowly students around him.  One of said students is Elise Benton, who as the daughter of the school’s new principal isn’t the most popular girl in school.  She and Derek have an unlikely social collision; however, as her sister and Derek’s best friend become an item, bringing the two of them into the same social circle.  Refusing to fall for his charm, Elise instead opts to befriend Derek’s polar opposite, a likeable social outcast named Webster Grant.  Will Derek actually begin to want someone that he can’t have?  Or will Webster prove to be more than he appears?

The book is definitely written in a manner that will appeal to teens. Younger readers will be able to put themselves in the characters’ shoes, which I can only guess will make them enjoy the story further. I found myself remembering how annoying I thought my parents were when I was a teenager, with restrictive rules on cell phone time and curfews.  And who doesn’t remember their crush on the hottest boy in school, and their jealously over the girls who got his attention?

I REALLY enjoyed the route LaZebnik took for the “Lydia affair.”  Being peer pressured to drink, do drugs, or have sex are common problems that teens face, and I give her a lot of credit for dealing with it in the respectful manner that she did.  LaZebnik carefully construes the feuding parts of the characters’ minds in making the right decision.  She makes the right thing to do the cool thing to do.

I think parents will look at this as a great book for their teens to read, one that encourages them to make the right decisions regardless of what they’re being pressured to do.  It encourages independent thinking and individuality, traits that will make them better adults.  I heartily recommend this for teens in 8th grade and those entering high school.  (I recommend it so much, that I’m sending my copy to my teenage cousin!)

4 out of 5 Stars

Epic Fail, by Claire LaZebnik
HaperCollins (2011)
Trade paperback (304) pages
ISBN: 978-0061921261

Kimberly Denny-Ryderis the owner/moderator of Reflections of a Book Addict, a book blog dedicated to following her journey of reading 100 books a year, while attempting to keep a life! When not reading, Kim can be found volunteering as the co-chair of a 24hr cancer awareness event, as well as an active member of Quinnipiac University’s alumni association.  When not reading or volunteering, Kim can be found at her full-time job working in vehicle funding. She lives with her husband Todd and two cats, Belle and Sebastian, in Connecticut.

© 2007 – 2011 Kimberly Denny-Ryder, Austenprose

Sass & Serendipity, by Jennifer Ziegler – A Review

Sass and Serendipity, by Jennifer Ziegler (2011)Sisters Daphne and Gabby Rivera are as different as night and day! Older sis Gabriella is all “straight A’s and neat-freak genes,” according to younger, impulsively romantic sister “Daffy.” Sensible Gabby works part-time to help her single mom make ends meet while studying hard for a scholarship so she can get out of Barton, Texas. On the other hand, unsensible Daphne lives in a dream world, shopping for prom dresses instead of applying for jobs and literally falling head over heels in love with the new cute boy of the moment, Luke Pascal. Gabby is quite cynical about love, after witnessing her parents’ divorce. Who needs it? It only causes misery and pain. The sisters bicker and bark at each other, rarely agreeing on anything. The only stable person in their lives is dependable friend “Mule,” short for Samuel, who seems to always be there helping Gabby study and offering friendly advice.

While Daphne moons and dreams about her new heartthrob Luke, Gabby has reason to not believe in love. Sonny Hutchins, a young boy she connected romantically with one incredible brief afternoon died in a tragic accident which she is certain his rich, spoiled cousin Prentiss Applewhite is to blame for. Her deep affection for Sonny is her secret that she shares with no one, not even her best buddy Mule. Gabby is certain that the only one you can depend on life is yourself.

As Gabby retreats into her reclusive inner world of loneliness and grief, Daphne’s histrionics are abrasive and unproductive. She deals with her family’s emotional crisis’ by ignoring reality, worshiping her flake of a father and falling madly in love in a moment. Her mom tries to bring her back into reality…

“Real life, real love, isn’t the way you see it in movies or read about in books,” her mom went on. “I hate to see you risk yourself like this. I just wish you’d be more sensible.”

“Sensible.” It was one of those words Daphne hated. Something she apparently wasn’t – along with being “responsible” or “mature.”  “Sensible,” she repeated, considering the term. The opposite would be “foolish,” right? “Silly.” “Idiotic.” “Stupid.” “Do you mean sensible like Gabby, who’s never even been on a real date? Or sensible like you, who couldn’t make her marriage work?” pages 99-100

When late child support payments and a steep rent increase cause a crisis for the Rivera women, they must move in a hurry. Feeling fatalistic, Gabby is certain that they would be better off homeless. Life changes for the two sisters when Daphne’s unsensible way of dealing with life challenges results in more troubles than she ever dreamed of until help from an expected source saves the day and Gabby must face facts about her fond memories of Sonny and her feelings for his cousin Prentiss before the two sisters can find happiness.

In Sass & Serendipity, author Jennifer Ziegler has given us a boldly creative tribute to 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s classic novel, Sense and Sensibility. Her modern interpretation of the two sisters: one too sensible and the other not sensible enough mirrors Jane Austen’s Dashwood sisters beautifully. Even though the plot does not follow Austen’s storyline faithfully, the essence of the emotional dilemma that each of the sets of sisters face with life and love challenges is a great match. Ziegler reminds us that sisterly relationships are like no others, filled with friendship, rivalry, devotion, frustration, love and “strong family affection.” Read Sass & Serendipity to remember that incredible time in your life when you were on the cusp of adulthood and a sister or best friend in your life made all the difference.

Between Barton and Delaford, there was that constant communication which strong family affection would naturally dictate; and among the merits and the happiness of Elinor and Marianne, let it not be ranked as the least considerable, that though sisters, and living almost within sight of each other, they could live without disagreement between themselves, or producing coolness between their husbands. Sense and Sensibility, Chapter 50

4 out of 5 Stars

This is my seventh selection in the Sense and Sensibility Bicentenary Challenge 2011, my year-long homage to Jane Austen’s first published novel, Sense and Sensibility. You can follow the event as I post reviews on the fourth Wednesday of every month and read all of the other participants contributions posted in the challenge review pages here.

A Grand Giveaway

Enter a chance to win one copy of Sass & Serendipity by leaving a comment by midnight PT Wednesday, August 10, 2011 stating what intrigues you about reading a young adult retelling of Sense and Sensibility, or who your favorite character was in the original novel. Winners will be announced on Thursday, August 11 7, 2011. Shipment to US or Canadian addresses only.

Sass & Serendipity, by Jennifer Ziegler
Delacorte Press (2011)
Hardcover (384) pages
ISBN: 978-0385738989

© 2007 – 2011, Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

Echoes of Love: Jane Austen in 21st Century Book 5, by Rosie Rushton – A Review

Echoes of Love: Jane Austen in the 21st Century Book 5, by Rosie Rushton (2010)Guest review by Kimberly Denny-Ryder of Reflections of a Book Addict

Anna is the daughter of Walter Elliot, a washed up has-been TV personality. Walter has been out of work for over a year and has refused to curb his lifestyle, which has caused major financial difficulties for the Elliot’s. Family friend Marina has convinced Walter to move rent-free into an apartment near the marina where he can “house-sit” for her friends, while a nice couple pays to rent out the family estate. Marina begins telling Anna about the couple that is going to be renting out the house when Anna suddenly gets the feeling that she’s heard of them before. Turns out the couple renting the house are the aunt and uncle of Felix Wentworth, the love of Anna’s life. All would be well with their being there, except for the fact that Anna’s family came between her and Felix two years earlier, tearing them apart. Anna comes to learn that Felix is going to be visiting them for the summer while he is on leave from the military, and sees that she might have a chance to win him back if she can prove her love and remorse. Will she be able to convince him that there has never been anyone but him for her, and that her family will never make her decisions for her again?

Echoes of Love is the fifth book in the 21st Century Austen series by Rosie Rushton. The series takes Jane Austen’s novels and turns them into contemporary teen romance stories, with Echoes of Love being based on Persuasion. Rushton is also well known for her other teen series The Leehampton Series, Best Friends, and What a Week. Echoes of Love does a great job at making Persuasion relevant to the social issues of today. I think it was an interesting twist to make Felix black and Anna white. Bi-racial relationships are still sometimes tough sells to some people, and it was nice to see it accepted here. And what a great twist to make Felix a soldier in Afghanistan! So many people in today’s society are dating/engaged/married to a soldier and it was interesting to see it represented here. The personal struggle Anna had with saying goodbye to him when he left for training and boot camp and her response when she found out that he had been injured were definitely relatable for many today.

My biggest complaint with the book would probably have been the Wentworth “you pierce my soul” letter. It’s missing. Anyone who has read Persuasion knows that the letter is the standout part of the novel. I was all anticipation to find out whether or not Rushton was going to include it in her novel, and when I finally got to it I was a bit let down. I guess since it was a teen related book I shouldn’t have expected something as stunning and heartfelt as an adult’s love letter, but I hoped anyway!

I’m a huge fan of turning Austen’s novels into ones geared towards teens. Rushton does a great job at bringing Persuasion to a more mature teen audience. The book takes place in Europe, where the drinking age is 18, so many of the characters meet at bars and drink wine and beers. There are also some sexual innuendo’s made, which might make some parents uncomfortable about their younger teens reading the book. This young, hip, fresh take on Jane Austen’s Persuasion is sure to have the teen in your family clamoring for Austen’s originals.

4 out of 5 Regency Stars

Echoes of Love: Jane Austen in 21st Century Book 5, by Rosie Rushton
Piccadilly Press (2010)
Trade paperback (208) pages
ISBN: 978-1848120549

© 2007 – 2011 Kimberly Denny-Ryder, Austenprose

Prom and Prejudice, by Elizabeth Eulberg – A Review

Prom and Prejudice, by Elizabeth Eulberg (2011)Guest review by Kimberly Denny-Ryder of Reflections of a Book Addict

Young adult fiction author Elizabeth Eulberg is back with Prom and Prejudice, her teen driven homage to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Eulberg has quickly earned a name for herself in the world of teen romances due to the popularity of her debut novel The Lonely Hearts Club. Her novels have a flare for the comedic which this blogger believes is to her credit, as it shines as one of her strengths. She takes perhaps the most well known line that Austen ever wrote and adds her comedic flair to draw us in.

“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single girl of high standing at Longbourn Academy must be in want of a prom date.”

It is with this line that we enter the world of Longbourn Academy, an all-girls school filled with rich, privileged, boy-crazy teen girls who have fashion designers on speed dial and have never heard the word no before. Hoboken native Elizabeth Bennet is the new scholarship student who is tortured on a daily basis for her poor and meager background. Her roommate Jane, fellow scholarship student Charlotte Collins, and piano teacher Mrs. Gardiner are the only friends that Lizzie has at Longbourn. Lizzie understands that she’ll never be accepted into the society of her fellow students and thus throws herself into her academic studies and the piano, where she has incredible talent. Being friends with Jane however does thrust her into the company of Charles Bingley, Caroline Bingley, and Will Darcy. (Will and Charles attend Pemberley Academy, the all-boys school near Longbourn) There are some sparks between Lizzie and Darcy at first, but they quickly fizzle out once her scholarship status is found out. Unfortunately the two continue to be thrown into each other’s paths since their best friends Jane and Charles are dating. Unbeknownst to Jane and to Elizabeth, Charles’ sister begins putting a wedge in between Jane and Charles. Caroline is unimpressed with the company that Jane keeps and finds Jane an unsuitable match for her brother. Charles soon disappears from Jane’s life, causing Jane to have a major meltdown. With prom only weeks away and Vera Wang already beginning her designer prom gown, how will she show her face without a date?! Elizabeth tries to convince Jane that prom is not the most important thing in life, but to a Longbourn girl it’s the social event of the season. Will Jane and Charles get back together in time for Prom? Will Lizzie and Darcy ever get over themselves to see the other for what they truly are?

If you are a fan of Pride and Prejudice and have a younger girl in your family that has no interest in reading it, get them to try Prom and Prejudice. I can almost guarantee that after reading it they will be interested in trying Jane Austen. Elizabeth Eulberg has crafted an excellent teen drama with the characters from the novel we’ve come to know and love. Elizabeth Bennet is a spieited heroine who has amazing strength, tenacity, accomplished piano skills that could rival Georgiana Darcy’s in the original novel and some misdirected notions of the wealthy. Jane and Charles are kind, caring, and looking for the good in everyone. Wickham is still a womanizing jerk, always scheming for a way to discredit Darcy. Darcy is still always looking out for his friends and family with a fierceness in him that is sometimes misjudged for arrogance and conceit.

I really enjoyed this fun retelling of Pride and Prejudice. Eulberg did a fantastic job in creating a new story to bring to a younger audience and adults too. I’ve read quite a few Austen inspired novels (as chronicled here of course) and I wasn’t bored with it at any point. It was refreshing to read not only a modern adaptation of Austen’s work, but one that adapted it to a time that we all experience in our lives, our teen years. You can definitely relate to the main characters as they struggle with finding a date for prom, trying to get through finals, first loves, broken friendships, etc.

My only disappointment was in its length. At 288 pages it was a tad short and could have benefited from a longer conclusion to the story. I’m hoping that Eulberg will continue writing more about Lizzie and Darcy inspired novels in the future. It’s a nice change to read about their teenage versions, and I think it provides a new audience an entrance into the world of Jane Austen.

4 out of 5 Regency Stars

Prom and Prejudice, by Elizabeth Eulberg
Scholastic, Inc. (2011)
Hardcover (288) pages
ISBN:  978-0545240772

© 2007 – 2010 Kimberly Denny-Ryder, Austenprose

Prada & Prejudice, by Mandy Hubbard – A Review

Prada and Prejudice, by Mandy Hubbard (2009)When fifteen year old heroine Callie Montgomery purchases a pair of red Prada pumps with sky-high heels she thinks her life will change from high school geek to A-list fashionista in one smooth step. She’s out to impress her savvy classmates while traveling on a school trip in London. Not only is Callie socially awkward, she is an admitted klutz. It only takes her three steps out of the Prada shop in her new shoes to trip and hit her head. When she wakes up, her surroundings have changed from city street, to country lane. She is taken in at Harksbury, a palatial country manor house where she is mistaken for an American cousin Rebecca Vaughn. Rebecca’s first visit to England is highly anticipated by Emily Thorton-Hawke, who warmly greets the cousin she has never met with open arms, and in full Regency era attire. Thinking that British people are very odd, Callie asks to use the telephone, but only gets blank looks. She plays along with impersonating Cousin Rebecca and gradually begins to realize that somehow she has traveled back in time to 1815. Her twenty-first century manners and memory of Regency history hamper her ruse, especially with the arrogant but dishy Lord Alexander Thorton-Hawke, Duke of Harksbury.  He thinks she is outspoken and ill-mannered; she thinks if he wasn’t such a complete jerk, he’d be a great catch. 

A high-concept time travel fantasy, Mandy Hubbard’s debut novel Prada & Prejudice reminds us how far we have evolved socially pitting twenty-first century personal freedoms against early nineteenth-century social stricture. Hubbard’s first person writing style is direct and engaging. Her heroine Callie/Rebecca is endearingly angst ridden and insecure, struggling to find herself in a teenage world flooded with designer clothes and confusing priorities. She cleverly contrasts her heroine’s modern sensibilities against the double standard for women in Regency times. By Callie/Rebecca’s motivation to help Emily break her engagement to a man thirty years her senior she does not love, and influencing Alex, the Duke of Harksbury to change his views on out of wedlock children, arranged marriages, and of course being an arrogant aristocrat, she directly addresses issues like primogeniture and feminism without even knowing it. She is just being herself, outspoken and direct. In addition, being Rebecca changes Callie’s perspective as she gradually realizes that by traveling thousands of miles to England, or back two hundred years into the past, she can not escape who she is. Wherever you go there you are! Like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, her red shoes are not her ticket to happiness. It was there all along, waiting to be discovered, in herself. 

Light, bright, and sparkly, Prada & Prejudice has made a grand entrance into the emerging Young Adult fiction genre. It is not a Jane Austen sequel per se, but gently nods with reverence at Pride and Prejudice, presenting a hero and heroine whose relationship and characteristics readers will recognize from Austen’s famous literary couple Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy. With Austen being the grandmother of chick-lit, we have seen this premise used many times before in modern novels; Bridget Jones’ Diary, Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict and Twilight, and in the movies You’ve Got Mail and Lost in Austen to name a few. If Prada & Prejudice represents the next generation in Austen inspired fiction geared for young readers (and those young at heart) we are on very good footing indeed. Well done. I recommend it highly for those in need of a quick escape, and a hearty laugh. 

4 out of 5 Regency Stars 

Prada & Prejudice, by Mandy Hubbard
Razorbill (Penguin Group), New York (2009)
Trade paperback, (238) pages
ISBN: 9781595142603

Love, Lies and Lizzie, by Rosie Rushton – A Review

Love, Lies and Lizzie, by Rosie Rushton (2009)In her fourth book in the Jane Austen in the 21st-century series for young adult readers, (and some older adults who are forever young at heart), author Rosie Rushton tackles Jane Austen’s most famous novel, Pride and Prejudice, retelling the story with a contemporary twist. Her teenage Lizzie Bennet and sisters are still hunting for beaus, but with all of the advantages of modern technology: mobile phones, laptop computers and blackberries. The Bennet family always wanted to be well connected. Well, now they are. 

Rushton has been faithful to the original storyline, cleverly transferring the machinations of Regency courtship into the traumas of 21st-century teenage search for romance. There are plot changes, but half the fun is remembering the differences, and seeing her logic in updates. The most significant change is that the Bennet’s are wealthy – nouveau riche – since Mrs. Bennet inherited a bundle from a third cousin. This Mrs. Bennet is still as outrageously unrefined as ever, using her new money to social climb through Meryton’s better families. Mr. Bennet is still an unhappy bystander, but now resides in his music room listening to Wagner at full volume instead of the quaint and quiet 19th-century pastime of reading. The five Bennet sister’s personalities and foibles are all updated cleverly. Lizzie, like Austen’s, is as spirited and outspoken as we would wish her to be, Jane as kind and accepting as ever, Mary/Meredith a fervent ecologist afraid of global warming and food additives, and Kitty/Katie and Lydia are now twins; one wilder than Austen ever could have imagined, and the other unhappy because she is not. I’ll let you sort out who is who! The male love interests play out well too. Fitzwilliam/James Darcy is dishy and arrogant enough to drive a Ferrari and Charles/Charlie Bingley still a pushover. Mr. Collins/Drew Collins is as toady as ever, only times two since he can reach characters by cell phone, text messages and e-mail ad nauseam. There is no getting away from him! All comfortably familiar. Only Charlotte/Emily Lucas and George Wickham were a surprise. I’ll let you discovery why. 

Updating a classic of world literature is a daunting task that Rushton handled with composed energy. Her plot, characters and language was up to the minute, filled with modern technology and cultural references that teenagers (and adults) will identify with. I had to laugh when Darcy’s famous ‘be not alarmed, Madame’ letter explaining to Lizzie his reasons for separating Jane and Charlie and his treatment of George Wickham arrived via e-mail! How else?  There’s also lots of texting flying about speeding up the pace. Certain elements of the original story were omitted, not causing any offense to this devotee of Austen’s works. In reverence to Jane Austen, Rushton began each chapter with epigraph from the original text, foreshadowing the narrative. It was a nice touch connecting the two novels with quotes that any Austen fan will recognize.

Rushton is a British author and this edition has certain colloquialisms that were quite over this Colonial’s head. I do however, have a new appreciation for snogging, Pimms and wankers; — the other words I just guessed at. The novel is split into two parts, and for some reason the second half was not as fleshed out as the first, which made it rushed and thin. My biggest disappointment was that Lady Catherine/Katrina De Burgh was not nearly as officious or condescending as she could have been, and that her final showdown with Lizzie was on the phone and not vis-à-vis, diminishing the significance to the original infamous altercation in the prettyish kind of a little wilderness. No polluting of the Pemberley shades even alluded to. No Pemberley even mentioned in the entire book! 

This was a fast read and great fun. Kudos to Rushton for having the sense not to open the novel with her version of  “It is a truth universally acknowledged.” The cover art is also a lovely complement to the novel. Well done. 

Author Rosie RushtonFour out of five Regency stars 

Love, Lies and Lizzie, by Rosie Rushton
Piccadilly Press, Ltd, London (2009)
Trade paperback (216) pages
ISBN: 978-1853409790 

Other books available in this series 

The Secrets of Love (Sense and Sensibility)
Summer of Secrets (Northanger Abbey)
Secret Schemes and Daring Dreams (Emma) 

Polly Shulman’s ‘Enthusiasm’ for Jane Austen is Infectious!

I had a blast reading Polly Shulman’s novel Enthusiasm, her hommage to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice! It had been released in 2006 and was on my ‘to be read’ list for quite some time until I felt the need for something summerish and light to read. Since it is classified as a young adult novel for grades 7-10, I was prepared to be underwhelmed by a less than sparkling plot and characterizations. My assumptions were so wrong! Totally!

It is quite amazing to think that this is Shulman’s first novel! If you check out her picture on her web site she looks barley old enough to be ‘out’ in society!. Educated at Yale Univeristy as a mathematician, she obviously possesses both left and right brain skills! This writer is pea green with envy and is in total awe of this level of talent in one so young. Like Jane Austen, Shulman is all about language, social observation and characterization. It is easy to see why Austen is one of her favorite authors and how she inspired her writing.

The book’s auspicious opening quote, “There is little more likely to exasperate a person of sense than finding herself tied by affection and habit to an Enthusiast” sets the tone of Austen-esque language throughout the novel that is respectful but not mimicy to Austen’s prose. The narrative is told from the perspective of fifteen-year old Julie, whose best friend since grade school is Ashleigh, an ‘enthusiast’. From Harriet the Spy to candy-making to military strategy, Julie never knows what or when the next craze will over-take her friend, but she is certain to be pulled into it. Now, her latest inspiration is also Julie’s passion, Jane Austen’s novel Pride and Prejudice. However, Ashleigh’s new possession of Regency manners and decorum mortify her conservative friend. Not only do they include speaking in Austenese, but wearing Regency attire to school, learning to country dance like her idols Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet, and ultimately, the ardent pursuit of her own true love. Ashleigh’s latest hair-brain scheme is to find their Mr. Darcy and Mr. Bingley by crashing a boy’s prep school dance!

Knowing Austen’s world through her novels and movie adaptations was helpful, but not a prerequisite to enjoying this delightful novel. By following Julie’s 21st-century hardships, anxieties, mix-ups, and social blunderings we see that they are interchangeable with any 19th-century Regency Miss’ life; — for what young lady of any era does not wish, hope, and dream that a young gentleman will notice her, and return her affections?

Rating: 3.5 of 5 Regency Stars

Enthusiasm, by Polly Shulman
Puffin, New York (2007)
Trade paperback (208) pages
ISBN:  978-0142409350

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© Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose