The Stories in Jane Austen Made Me Do It

Summaries:

“The Riding Habit,” by Pamela Aidan

It is April 1814, almost sixteen months since the wedding of Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy, and the happily married couple is in London for the Season. The months have been full for Elizabeth, but since removing to Town, she has discovered that the blunt words of Lady Catherine held more truth than she knew. Negotiating Society is complicated, and it promises to become more so as she prepares for Georgiana’s coming out ball. Why, then, must her beloved Fitzwilliam insist she learn to ride a horse now before the eyes of them all?

“The Ghostwriter,” by Elizabeth Aston

Sara, obsessed with Pride and Prejudice, is jilted by Charles, who can’t compete with Mr. Darcy. His parting gift is a lock of Jane Austen’s hair. Sara wakes the next morning to find a strange woman sitting on the end of her bed. A figment of her imagination? No, it’s the astringent ghost of Jane Austen. On a mission to restore the reputation of forgotten Gothic author Clarissa Curstable, Jane Austen saves Sara’s career and brings Charles back before taking herself off into the ether, but there’s a price to pay, as the couple discover when they wake up to find another ghostly visitor at the end of the bed. It’s Jane’s friend, Clarissa – and she plans to stay.


“The Love Letter,” by Brenna Aubrey

Young doctor Mark Hinton thinks his life is perfect.  He is just about to finish his residency and has accepted the offer of a fabulous new job.  Things could not be better…  until the arrival of an anonymous letter in the mail forces him to confront the truth he’s been hiding from for seven years.

Sent on a quest by the mysterious contents of the letter, he is forced to discover the contents of his own heart thanks to Jane Austen, a canny librarian, a cantankerous patient, and a coolly observant sister.

“Jane and the Gentleman Rogue,” by Stephanie Barron

Jane and the Gentleman Rogue finds the unsettled Miss Austen in the spring of 1806, living in temporary Bath lodgings following the death of her father.  An invitation to a ball at the Dowager Duchess of Wilborough’s home in Laura Place throws her into the company of Lord Harold Trowbridge: confidant of the Government, Rake about Town, and spy.  The unmasking of a French Adventuress and her traitorous paramour leads to an unexpected meeting at dawn–when only Jane’s wit stands between England and disaster.

“The Chase,” by Carrie Bebris

An Age of Sail adventure tale featuring Jane Austen’s brother Francis William Austen (who eventually rose to the Royal Navy’s highest position, Admiral of the Fleet) as the daring 26-year-old commander of the HMS Petterel sloop. It depicts the true events of the March 1800 action off Marseilles that earned him promotion to post-captain. There just might be more of Francis Austen in Persuasion’s Captain Wentworth than you ever imagined!

“Jane Austen and the Mistletoe Kiss,” by Jo Beverley

Elinor Carsholt is living on the charity of a connection of her late husband’s in the village of Chawton, facing a dismal future for her three young daughters, until she begins to hope that her oldest daughter Amy has caught the eye of local baronet Sir Nicholas Danvers. Amy must have been sneaking out for clandestine meetings, which disturbs her, and there is a ten-year age difference, but still, it would be the saving of them all.

When she and the girls go out on Christmas Eve to look for holly, ivy, and mistletoe, Elinor is still undecided and rejects Amy’s urging to go to Sir Nicholas’s estate in search of mistletoe, but then local resident Miss Austen drives by in her donkey cart and pauses to chat.

Elinor doesn’t really approve of Miss Jane Austen, for she’s been told she writes novels, which Elinor thinks a bad influence on young female minds, but she has to be polite. Miss Jane turns talk to love and marriage, expressing far too romantic a view, but she also assures them all that Sir Nicholas would be delighted if they searched his orchard for mistletoe, changing the course of their lives.

“Jane Austen’s Cat,” by Diana Birchall

Jane Austen’s niece Anna once wrote that her aunt used to “tell us the most delightful stories, chiefly of Fairyland, and her fairies had all characters of their own.“  A younger niece, Caroline, remembered that “Aunt Jane was the general favourite with children; her ways with them being so playful, and her long circumstantial stories so delightful. These were continued from time to time, and were begged for on all possible and impossible occasions; woven, as she proceeded, out of nothing but her own happy talent for invention. Ah! if but one of them could be recovered!

If only they could!  This inspired me to imagine what the stories might have been like, and to portray a scene of Jane Austen’s home life at Chawton, in which she entertains her nieces.  Trying to capture her playful spirit, and remembering how her brother James amused his daughter Caroline by writing poems about her cat Tyger, I pictured Jane Austen using that same cat as a story device.  Her “cat tails” are told on one level for children, but she is also telling stories based on her novels, and on her own life.

“Faux Jane,” by F. J. Meier (Frank Delaney & Diane Meier)

A rich young American actress anxious to marry an English Lord buys a “signed first edition” of Pride and Prejudice as a gift to impress his rare book collecting mother – which, of course, is a fake. The actress’s friends are the story’s two protagonists – a fashionable New York photographer and her chic-restaurant owner husband – they’re Nicola and Charles Scott. The story mirrors many of the snob and society nuances excelled in by Jane Austen – on whom the restaurateur, Charlie (as his wife calls him: he’s “Charles” to everyone else) is encyclopedic. With the help of their butler-manservant, a former hood named Uncle Julius, Charles and Nicola crack the fraud.

“Nothing Less Than Fairy-land,” by Monica Fairview

In this gently humorous story inspired by Jane Austen’s novel Emma, the day has come for Mr. Knightley to move into Hartfield, but Mr. Woodhouse is still not reconciled to the marriage. Trouble looms on the horizon, unless Emma can quickly come up with a way to convince her papa to accept Mr. Knightley’s presence.

“Mr. Bennet Meets His Match,” by Amanda Grange

On his daughters’ wedding day, Mr. John Bennet’s mind drifts back to the events of twenty-three years before, and the events leading to his own marriage . . .  Encouraged by his parents to marry sooner rather than later and thereby provide a new generation of Bennet heirs for the estate, John laughed at their hurry. However, a meeting with his Cousin Collins, who was next in line for the entail, and an unfortunate accident, made him reconsider his position, and the proximity of the lively, pretty Miss Jane Gardiner sealed his fate.

“Jane Austen’s Nightmare,” by Syrie James

Have you ever wondered what Jane Austen dreamt about? Are you curious how she felt about her own characters? In this highly amusing glimpse into Jane Austen’s mind, we are privy to her worst nightmare. All of her heroines, and a compendium of other characters from her novels, descend on her on a foggy day in Bath to discuss or complain about the way they were portrayed, a distressing but ultimately illuminating experience which inspires her to write Persuasion.

“Jane Austen, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah!,” by Janet Mullany

It’s 1964 at the height of Beatlemania and the girls of Cleverton High School in England are out of control. Julie Morton, the most junior staff member, finds herself supervising three of the school’s worst offenders, and the resulting conversation about Sense and Sensibility starring the Fab Four gives the girls insight into Austen’s novels and teaches Julie something about her own choice in men.

“Waiting: A story inspired by Jane Austen’s Persuasion,” by Jane Odiwe

Captain Wentworth and his beloved Anne Elliot have waited almost nine years to be together. At last all misunderstandings are swept aside. They have declared their love for one another, and all that remains is for their union to be blessed by Anne’s father, the irascible Sir Walter Elliot, and for the family members to be told. As Anne and Frederick ponder their futures each is reminded of the past, and all that has happened. Anne recalls the heady days of their courtship, but Frederick finds his memories overshadowed by the recollection of Sir Walter’s former hostility. Anne waits patiently for the outcome, but is disappointed by her sister Elizabeth’s reaction to the news, and further dismayed when she sees Captain Wentworth’s expression telling her all has not gone well with his interview. However, Anne is resolute. Despite being persuaded in the past against the match, she is determined to marry the Captain whatever the opposition. To her relief she discovers that Sir Walter has given his blessing, albeit grudgingly, and that at least one of her sisters is moderately pleased for her. Anne and Frederick know there are more obstacles to their happiness to come, but rejoice in the old adage that ‘good things come to those who wait.’

“When Only A Darcy Will Do,” by Beth Pattillo

Elizabeth Brown hopes her bootleg tour of Jane Austen’s London will bring in some quick extra cash, but when a real-live Mr. Darcy shows up for the tour, her day takes an unexpected turn.  Elizabeth has very real problems.  Her father’s lost everything in the economic downturn, her parents have split up, and she has no idea where she’ll get the money she needs for grad school tuition.  Her afternoon with Mr. Darcy, though, shows her that even in the midst of turmoil, happiness can arrive in the most unexpected ways.

“Me and Mr. Darcy, Again…,” by Alexandra Potter

Mr. Darcy is every woman’s fantasy. But what happens when he becomes one woman’s reality? In 2007 Emily traveled from New York to England to go on a Jane Austen-inspired literary tour. There she met and fell in love with Spike, an English journalist.

She also met Mr. Darcy… Or did she? She can never be sure if it really happened, or it was her over-active imagination. Now, four years later, she’s had a huge row with Spike and is back in London nursing a broken heart. And there’s only one person who can mend it. Mr. Darcy….

“The Mysterious Closet: A Tale,” by Myretta Robens

In the wake of her most recent failed relationship, Cathy Fullerton takes an extended vacation in a converted Abbey in Gloucestershire, England.  Ensconced in the Radcliffe Suite, a jet-lagged Cathy mistakes a walk-in closet for a Vaulted Chamber, a clothing rack for an Instrument of Torture and an accumulation of cobwebs for her True Love.

“What Would Austen Do?,” by Jane Rubino and Caitlen Rubino-Bradway

Fifteen-year-old James Austen always thought Jane Austen was for people like his mom – people who read stuff, old people.  But when he mistakenly signs up for a country dancing class, James realizes that all kinds of girls actually read Jane Austen.  If he wants to figure out why, he’s going to have to actually…read the books.

“Letters to Lydia,” by Maya Slater

While visiting her newly married sister Charlotte Collins, Maria Lucas writes to her best friend Lydia Bennet of her experiences in Kent. Top on her list of tittle-tattle is the budding romance of Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy. Present throughout the Hunsford episode, which culminates in Darcy’s first disastrous proposal of marriage to Elizabeth, we are privileged to Maria’s own account of their romance from the point of view of her naïve sixteen-year-old imaginings. Although she misinterprets everything she observes, it turns out that she is partly responsible for bringing about the marriage of Elizabeth and Darcy.

“Heard of You,” by Margaret C. Sullivan

In Jane Austen’s Persuasion, we are told that Admiral and Mrs. Croft married a shockingly short time after their first meeting, but that they had heard a great deal about each other before they met. How could they have known each other so well? In the midst of war, an unlikely Cupid brings together one of Austen’s best married couples in a story inspired both by Persuasion and by Captain Frederick Marryat’s novel Peter Simple.

“Love and Best Wishes, Aunt Jane,” by Adriana Trigiani

Love and Best Wishes, Aunt Jane is a story that celebrates the art of the written letter, sent person to person, in private to impart news, feelings of love or to warn of impending doom. One of the joys of reading Jane Austen’s novels are the letters written by the characters that change the course of the action, and send the plot off in new and unexpected directions. I imagined Jane today, and with the sketchy biographical information we have of her, wrote this letter in her fictional voice. Viva Jane!

“Intolerable Stupidity,” by Laurie Viera Rigler

Well hidden from the ordinary world, in a little-known corner of jurisprudential hell known as the Court of Intolerable Stupidity, a legal drama of literary proportions unfolds. The plaintiff is none other than the most famous romantic hero of all time, Mr. Darcy. The defendants are the authors who dared write sequels, adaptations, and inspired-by’s of his Creator’s most beloved work, Pride and Prejudice. One of those works, whose author was tried and convicted in absentia, is so popular that its salacious swimming-in-the-lake scene has resulted in Darcy’s being forced to endure a perpetual state of shivering wetness in a transparent white shirt. For when Darcy’s adoring public isn’t throwing water on him, his umbrella breaks in the midst of a downpour. And now, between the zombies and the vampires, Darcy and his wife Elizabeth are at their wit’s end. So is defense attorney Fritz Williams, who not only fights a losing battle in a kangaroo court ruled by Darcy’s tyrannical aunt, the Honorable Lady Catherine de Bourgh, but also his secret infatuation with prosecuting attorney Tawny Wolfson. Who has her own secret: a hopeless addiction to the illegal miniseries that she is supposed to abhor.

“A Night at Northanger,” by Lauren Willig

Our heroine, Cate Cartwright, is part of the cast of “Ghost Trekkers”, currently filming at one of England’s most haunted homes, Northanger Abbey.  Naturally, Cate knows there’s no such thing as ghosts.  It’s all smoke and mirrors for the credulous who watch late night TV.  At least, that’s what she thinks… until she meets the shade of one Miss Jane Austen during one fateful night at Northanger.