Having long been credited as the grandmother of the romance novel, it is an interesting notion to ponder if Jane Austen can also be attributed as an early feminist writer. Did she gently inject progressive thinking into her female characters to bring about the equality of the sexes? While we have been admiring Austen’s style, wit, and enduring love stories, were we missing the subtext that Austen’s strong female characters were also way ahead of their time?
Rational Creatures, a new Austen-inspired short story anthology edited by Christina Boyd posits the possibility. Sixteen Austenesque authors have been challenged with the task to create original stories inspired by Austen’s ladies—both heroines and supporting characters—revealing details, back stories, and asides that could have been part of the narrative.
If you are doubtful of the feminist infusion gentle reader, then let’s take a closer look at the famous quote from her final novel Persuasion, that obviously inspired the title of the anthology.
“But I hate to hear you talking so, like a fine gentleman, and as if women were all fine ladies, instead of rational creatures. We none of us expect to be in smooth water all our days.”
In the foreword Prof. Devoney Looser explains how for two hundred years we have turned to Austen to “reflect on the world’s unfairness, and to laugh at its trivial absurdities…to avoid unequal marriages…and seek Austenian combinations of inventiveness, wisdom and entertainment.” I could not agree more. In an era when women were treated like tender plants, Austen bravely portrayed her ladies’ vulnerabilities and strengths. In this collection there is a wide variety of stories from heroines and minor characters who exhibit intelligence, patience, resilience and grace to advance their own causes. Here is a brief description of the stories that await you: Continue reading
We were very pleased when a novel inspired by Pride and Prejudice crossed our path. What Kitty Did Next is a continuation, as such, of one of the five Bennet sisters after the close of Jane Austen’s classic novel, whose heroine Elizabeth receives most of the praise from her family and marriage to Mr. Darcy of Pemberley in the end. Her younger sister Catherine on the other hand, or Kitty as she is called by her family, only earns put-downs and threats from her father after her involvement in her younger sister Lydia’s infamous elopement with Mr. Wickham. Accused of being silly and ignorant, what could Kitty do to regain her family’s trust, raise her self-esteem and make herself marriageable? From the title of the book, my expectations were high. How would Kablean turn the floundering duckling of Longbourn into a swan?
Much of the anticipation for the reader is generated by Kitty’s past behavior in Pride and Prejudice. For those who have not read the original, Kablean gives us ample background and character backstory.
Kitty, meanwhile, was just Kitty. A docile child, she had trailed after her adored eldest sisters but they, like many older siblings, had not delighted in her presence and had sent her off to play with the younger ones. Only sickness and prolonged periods of enforced rest had brought Jane, and occasionally Elizabeth, to her bedside, and when she had fully recovered her health Lydia had so far inserted herself as her mother’s favourite that it had seemed obvious that she should follow in her younger sister’s wake and share all the delights and comforts bestowed upon her. Neither commanding nor being the centre of attention, Kitty had become more adept at observing than doing and, until the events of the previous year, had not questioned this order of things. Chapter 6
Of the five Bennet sisters in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Mary is the most unlikely of heroines. Priggish, sanctimonious, and unattractive, her prospects for a happy life were bleak. In Mary B., debut novelist Katherine Chen chooses to give Mary her own story – delving into her young, awkward life with her family at Longbourn, her early attempts at romantic attachments, and ultimately her escape to her sister’s home at Pemberley where she discovers an unknown talent, and that men can be interested in women for more than their reputed beauty and handsome dowry.
In Part I of the novel, Chen has paralleled Jane Austen’s narrative in Pride and Prejudice with a glimpse of a prequel to the Bennet sisters’ childhood. We see young Mary, awkward and introverted in comparison to her older sisters Jane and Elizabeth, and the brunt of abuse by her two younger siblings Kitty and Lydia. As the reader we are as hurt and confused as our heroine and it is not an enjoyable experience. As the story continues, those who have read Pride and Prejudice will recognize the plot as it picks up at the beginning of Austen’s famous tale. Through Mary’s eyes we experience the arrival of Mr. Bingley and Mr. Darcy in the Meryton neighborhood, the ball at Netherfield Park and the visit to the family home by the Bennet’s odious cousin Mr. Collins. Infatuated with the silly man, Mary throws herself at him and then watches as he chooses her sister Lizzy as the “companion of his future life.” Adding insult to injury, after her sister rejects his proposal of marriage Mr. Collins does not even think of her as an alternative, marrying their neighbor Charlotte Lucas instead. Continue reading
What a great year of Austenesque reading! We reviewed 40 fiction and nonfiction books in the Austenesque, Regency or Georgian genre this past year and would like to share our list of what we feel were the most exciting, memorable and rewarding books of 2015.
Best Austenesque Historical Novels 2015:
- Brinshore: The Watson Novels Book 2, by Ann Mychal (5 stars)
- Jane by the Sea: Jane Austen’s Love Story, by Carolyn V. Murray (5 stars)
- Alone with Mr. Darcy: A Pride & Prejudice Variation, by Abigail Reynolds (5 stars)
- Pride, Prejudice and Secrets, by C. P. Odom (5 stars)
- The Darcy Brothers, by Monica Fairview, Maria Grace, Cassandra Grafton, Susan Mason-Milks and Abigail Reynolds (4.5 stars)
- Suddenly Mrs. Darcy, by Jenetta James (4.5 stars)
- Yours Forevermore, Darcy, by KaraLynne Mackrory (4.5 stars)
- The Second Chance: A Pride & Prejudice and Sense & Sensibility Variation, by Joana Starnes (4.5 stars)
- A Will of Iron, by Linda Beutler (4.5 stars)
- Miss Georgiana Darcy of Pemberley, by Shannon Winslow (4 stars)
Best Austenesque Contemporary Novels 2015: Continue reading
From the desk of Katie Patchell:
Captain Wentworth and Anne Elliot’s romance in Jane Austen’s Persuasion is one of the most captivating in classic literature. Opinion varies as to what it is that makes their romance so satisfying, but something almost all fans of Persuasion can agree with is the complete beauty that is found when a hero and heroine, after long separation and opposition, discover that the time apart has done nothing to lessen the strength of their affection. Sarah M. Eden follows this timeless pattern in her latest Regency romance, For Elise, but unlike in Persuasion, the hero and heroine do not face a father’s disapproval or society’s disappointment—they face a murderer.
It is the spring of 1815, and Miles Linwood, recently returned from the West Indies, cannot pass a day without being haunted by memories of his carefree childhood friend and neighbor, Elise. Four years previously a tragedy had shattered both of their lives, leaving them to cope as they always did: together. A few weeks later and with no explanation Elise left Miles’ estate, vanishing without a trace—until four years later, when Miles catches a glimpse of familiar brown curls and Elise’s peculiar blue eyes in a small town. Miles is overjoyed to discover his best friend, but Elise is drastically altered from who she used to be, and is now hostile and untrusting, particularly towards Miles. Continue reading
We are very pleased to welcome Monica Fairview, Maria Grace, Cassandra Grafton, Susan Mason-Milks and Abigail Reynolds to Austenprose for the official virtual book launch party of their new novel The Darcy Brothers, released today by White Soup Press.
Inspired by Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, The Darcy Brothers is an original variation based on Austen’s classic in which Mr. Darcy has a charming younger brother named Theo who meets Elizabeth Bennet and vies for her affections. Written by five Austenesque authors, you may well ask, as we did ourselves, how they could pool their talents and create one novel together? Abigail Reynolds has kindly supplied a revealing guest blog to share the experience with you. And, any celebration would not be complete without gifts. Please enter a chance to win one of the four fabulous prizes being offered by their publisher by leaving a comment. The giveaway details are listed at the end of this post. Good luck to all!
DESCRIPTION (from the publisher)
Easy-going Theophilus Darcy is the opposite of his controlled older brother. Where Fitzwilliam Darcy is proud and awkward among strangers, Theo is a charmer. Fitzwilliam took his studies seriously, while Theo was sent down from Oxford for his pranks. Still, the brothers were the best of friends until tragedy and George Wickham tore them apart.
What if Theo were to meet Miss Elizabeth Bennet? Would he charm the young lady’s stockings off… or would he help his brother win her hand? Find out as the two brothers lock horns in this unique Pride & Prejudice variation collectively written by five respected authors.
The Darcy Brothers was first conceived as an interactive group writing project and has developed into a full-length novel featuring the charismatic Theo Darcy.
My loyal readers who have followed Austenprose for years know that in addition to Austenesque fiction, I love a good who-dun-it. There are some fabulous Regency-era mysteries featuring Jane Austen and her characters as sleuths including Stephanie Barron’s Being a Jane Austen Mystery Series (12 novels) and the Mr. & Mrs. Darcy Mysteries by Carrie Bebris (6 novel and one in the oven). Besides the Elizabeth Parker Mysteries (4 novels) by Tracy Kiely there are very few contemporary mysteries inspired by Austen, so when one hits my radar I am a very happy Janeite.
Mary Lydon Simonsen, author of several fabulous Austenesque historical novels including: Searching for Pemberley, A Wife for Mr. Darcy and Becoming Elizabeth Darcy, also writes a detective series called The Patrick Shea Mysteries. In her latest installment, Dying to Write, she has cleverly blended both Austen-inspired and a contemporary mystery. Today, Mary has kindly offered an excerpt for our enjoyment.
PREVIEW (from the description by the publisher)
In need of a break from his job at Scotland Yard, Detective Sergeant Patrick Shea of London’s Metropolitan Police, is looking forward to some quiet time at a timeshare in rural Devon in England’s West Country. However, when he arrives at The Woodlands, Patrick finds himself in the midst of a Jane Austen conference. Despite Regency-era dresses, bonnets, and parasols, a deep divide exists between the Jane Austen fan-fiction community, those who enjoy expanding on the author’s work by writing re-imaginings of her stories, and the Janeites, those devotees who think anyone who tampers with the original novels is committing a sacrilege. When one of the conference speakers is found dead in her condo, Patrick is back on the job trying to find out who murdered her. Is it possible that the victim was actually killed because of a book?
From the desk of Jenny Haggerty:
The holidays make me nostalgic for past times I’ve never actually experienced, so I leapt at the chance to spend the Yuletide season with Jane Austen. Jane and the Twelve Days of Christmas is the twelfth installment in a series that features one of my favorite novelists as an amateur sleuth, but so far I hadn’t managed to read one of them. It seemed high time to rectify that lapse, especially since author Stephanie Barron studied European history in college and then worked as a CIA analyst, highly suitable credentials for writing a story of intrigue set in the past.
The book opens on a blizzardy, bitterly cold evening with Jane Austen, her mother, and her sister Cassandra traveling by coach to the home of Jane’s eldest brother James and his family in Hampshire. Unfortunately when they reach the end of the public line the women find that James has sent an unlighted open horse cart for the last few miles of their journey, even though it’s dark outside and blowing snow. Both Jane’s mother and sister have their heads bowed to prevent the snow from stinging their faces, so it’s only Jane who sees the rapidly approaching carriage heading straight for them. There’s a terrible crash and the ladies are thrown to the floor of the now ruined cart, but almost as shocking is the language of the gentleman in the carriage. Raphael West comes gallantly to their rescue and certainly acts with consideration and grace, but he proves he must be some kind of freethinker by swearing in front of them without reservation. Jane is intrigued. Continue reading
Jane Austen, the holiday season and gifts go so well together that I am pleased to share the news that Austenesque author Syrie James is going on a holiday blog tour with her new novel Jane Austen’s First Love.
Readers will remember that Austenprose is a big fan of Syrie’s work and have reviewed many of her books here including:
I have often thought of Pride and Prejudice as the ultimate fairy tale. While it does not have the traditional folkloric fantasy figures such as dwarves, fairies or giants, Jane Austen did create iconic romantic characters that have become prototypes for modern writers and a plot that includes the perfect happily-ever-after ending. It is easy to see why we want to return to that fantasy and live in the era with her characters again and again through new stories.
Austenesque author Jane Odiwe has written two Austen-inspired novels with strong fantasy elements: Project Darcy and Searching for Captain Wentworth. She has a particular talent for time-slip novels where a modern heroine, like her fairy tale compatriots—Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella or Belle in Beauty and the Beast—are touched by a magic that changes their lives, setting them on a course of discovery and romance. Her latest is a novella, Mr. Darcy’s Christmas Calendar, is set during the holiday season in modern day and Regency England. Jane has generously supplied an exclusive excerpt of her new work. I hope you enjoy it.
PREVIEW (from the publisher’s description)
A novella for the Christmas holidays – Lizzy Benson visits Jane Austen’s house in Chawton, and buys a special advent calendar in the gift shop, but strange things start to happen when she opens up the first door and finds herself back in time with all the beloved characters from her favourite book, Pride and Prejudice. As she finds herself increasingly drawn into an alternate reality, Lizzy discovers not only is Mr Darcy missing from the plot, but Jane Austen has never heard of him. All Lizzy can hope is that she can help to get the story and her own complicated love life back on track before Christmas is over!