New Heroes and Heartbreakers website launches on Valentine’s Day

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Myretta Robens from the Republic of Pemberley sends us news of a great new website dedicated to romance readers. Heroes and Heartbreakers (what a great title) was launched yesterday on Valentine’s Day!

Heroes and Heartbreakers (H&H) brings together original stories, pre-release excerpts, blog posts, giveaways and more in a publisher-neutral environment, which means romance content from all publishers, imprints and authors will be featured on the site.

Myretta is a featured blogger. Check out her posts on Valentine cards and a humorous take on the four episodes of Downton Abbey.

Cheers,

Laurel Ann

© 2007 – 2011 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

Young Master Darcy: A Lesson in Honour, by Pamela Aidan – A Review

Young Master Darcy: A Lesson in Honor, by Pamela Aidan (2010)Guest review by Kimberly Denny-Ryder of Reflections of a Book Addict

Have you ever finished reading Pride and Prejudice and wondered how Darcy became so filled with pride and conceit?  Now, you might find your answer. Pamela Aidan, author of the Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman trilogy is back with Young Master Darcy, a novella focusing on Fitzwilliam Darcy’s youth.

Young Master Darcy introduces us to a thirteen year old Darcy returning to Pemberley for the holidays after his first semester at Eton.  Upon his return, his father calls him into his study to share with him the bad news that his mother’s health is failing and that in all probability she will not recover.  Mr. Darcy tells Fitzwilliam that he expects him to take the news as a gentleman of his stature should, and not let it affect his duties as “Master Darcy.”

Now, I must trust you with some distressing news-a blow, really-but you are a young man now, Fitzwilliam, and know what is expected of a gentleman in regard to misfortune.”

Darcy, distraught with grief, decides to take a morning ride out into the village of Lambton.  It is there that he meets a group of children his age practicing for a play they will be putting on in the town square the night before Christmas.  Darcy, anxious to escape the high expectations of his privileged life, decides to join them while lying about his true identity.  He finds great comfort in his new role as a commoner.  He begins leading a double life as common village boy by day and privileged gentleman by night.  With his cousin Richard (later known as Colonel Fitzwilliam) and family coming for the holidays he knows it’s not long until this double life is revealed.  Will he be able to perform in the Christmas play with no one knowing, or he will his parents discover where he’s been spending all of his time and punish him?

Aidan has possibly created a new Jane Austen fan fiction trend in starting to delve into who these characters where in their youth.  Just the idea of reading about Darcy, before his pride and arrogance took hold, was appealing to me. However, despite my original excitement, the novella did fall a little short.

The most confusing part was the weaving of Darcy’s two lives.  On one side you have Darcy just wanting to act like a typical thirteen year old boy.  He wants playmates and friends that are his age and accept him not for his money, but for his personality.  On the other side you have “Master Darcy” living a lavish life with much expected of him.  It was this side that was a bit hard to believe.  It’s difficult to imagine that a boy who has been living such a privileged life for thirteen years does not know how to request a bath to be drawn, or the proper way to announce his plans for the day, as well as acting shy in front of the servants.  I found all of these things to require a bit too much of a stretch of my imagination.

We know from Pride and Prejudice that Darcy learns the ways of being a gentleman from his parents.  In this novella however, it’s the staff that are teaching him.  They coach him on the proper way to request things, and at one point tell him that he should send his compliments to his mother.  The character of “gentleman” Darcy was just too bizarre for me to accept.

On a more positive note, the storyline of the book is its best attribute.  There is a quote in Pride and Prejudice that seems to be where certain aspects of the storyline are drawn from:

I was spoilt by my parents, who, though good themselves (my father, particularly, all that was benevolent and amiable), allowed, encouraged, almost taught me to be selfish and overbearing; to care for none beyond my own family circle; to think meanly of all the rest of the world; to wish at least to think meanly of their sense and worth compared with my own.

Darcy has multiple conversations with his mother where she stresses to him the importance of marrying someone of their own social class, as well as what will be expected of him and Georgiana as they mature.  This was very intriguing as we begin to see how Darcy became the man we are later introduced to in Pride and Prejudice.  Intriguingly, the ending of the novella seems to be the catalyst that cements Darcy’s ultimate future personality.

Pamela Aidan continues to excel at period details, characterization and language. Young Master Darcy is an interesting experiment in the exploration of our favorite Austen characters childhood. At 122 pages, it is short and sweet and I do encourage you to read it. It will be interesting to watch the world of Austen fan fiction to see if she has created a new trend in prequels.

3 out of 5 Regency Stars

Young Master Darcy: A Lesson in Honour, by Pamela Aidan
Wytherngate Press (2010)
Trade paperback (122) pages
ISBN: 978-0983103103

© 2007 – 2011 Kimberly Denny-Ryder, Austenprose

Follow Friday: The Jane Austen Twitter Project

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Would you like to be part of a new Jane Austen story developing on Twitter? Join the Jane Austen Twitter project in progress.

This has to be a first for Twitter! We’re planning a completely new experiment in creative collaboration, and would love you to get involved. The idea is to work together to write a whole new Jane Austen-style story, with a plot chosen on Twitter, developed on Twitter, and published on Twitter.

Hosted by Murder at Mansfield Park author Lynn Shepherd @GhostingAusten and Adam Spunberg @AdamSpunberg, check out the stories in progress and join in the fun!

The Jane Austen Twitter Project blog

© 2007 – 2011 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

It’s Not Too Late to Enter The Jane Austen Made Me Do It Short Story Contest

Jane Austen Made Me Do It Short Story Contest 2011 graphicAspiring Jane Austen fan fiction writers take heed.

The Jane Austen Short Story Contest is accepting manuscripts until February 13th, 2011. You can read the full details of the contest, including the rules for submission, at the official contest website hosted at The Republic of Pemberley. We have ten stories entered so far that can be read online. Voting for the top ten stories begins on February 14th, 2011. The lucky winner will have their story included in the new Jane Austen inspired short story anthology, Jane Austen Made Me Do It, to be published by Ballantine Books on October 11, 2011. Good luck to all!

© 2007 – 2011 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

My Dear Charlotte, by Hazel Holt – A Review

My Dear Charlotte, by Hazel Holt (2009)Guest review by Shelley DeWees – The Uprising

“When I began to write a mystery story set in the early 1800’s in the form of a series of letters, I thought a splendid way to give it authenticity might be to interweave those of my heroine with the letters written by Jane Austen. Fully aware that this was a truly presumptuous thing to do, nevertheless I have plundered that treasure house—a most enjoyable occupation.” Hazel Holt, Author’s Note

The book positively reeks of academic and literary esteem. Written by the great Hazel Holt, who is known far and wide for her Mrs. Malory mystery series, My Dear Charlotte had all the appearances and praise of a work of one seriously admired author. It boasts a beautiful cover and spectacular printing, but, more impressively, also includes a raving introduction by Jan Fergus, a noted and appreciated literary scholar from Lehigh University. By the time you’ve flipped through the first few pages, you’ll begin to think, “Wow.  This is gonna be good.” And to some extent, you’d be right.

It’s no small challenge to weave pieces and parts of Austen’s letters into those of a protagonist with dignity. Ms. Holt was aware of the precarious nature of this experiment and likened it to borrowing an “expensive and powerful car that is thrilling to drive, but you’re terrified of breaking it.” She doesn’t break it, crash it, or even dent it. No dust on the paint, no mud on the floor. No bugs on the windshield, even. The car is returned in pristine condition, perhaps even looking a little better than it did before in its freshly-driven state, beautiful in its revitalized modernity.

Indeed, the structure of the novel was brought about carefully and with the good judgment of a seasoned author, but seemingly without much regard for the actual story. Under normal circumstances, Hazel Holt is capable of fantastic edge-of-your-seat mystery writing, portraying the kind of suspense that makes you cringe in your bed, huddled under dim lighting in the wee hours of the morning. Her writing isn’t usually the kind you can fall asleep to, and certainly not the kind that stagnates or wears out.  So, you can imagine my surprise when I found myself wondering where the shadowy, intoxicating mystery had run off to as I slumped against my pillows. What gives?

The story is told through the eyes of Elinor Cowper who writes unendingly to her sister, the “Dear Charlotte” of the novel. Charlotte is away visiting relatives and wishes to stay apprised of all the details of home, even those that a third-party reader could never care about. Fabrics and fashions, gossip and bonnets are talked about at great length, first inspiring the reader’s interest and gradually arousing annoyance. The constant presence of mundane minutiae doesn’t diminish, even after the untimely death of one of Miss Cowper’s neighbors, Mrs. Woodstock. Elinor is soon engaged by the justice of the peace, Sir Edward Hampton, to assist in solving the mystery after she innocently discovered a few clues, and she sets out to glean more information. Sir Edward also happens to live next door in this inordinately interesting neighborhood, along with a beautiful highly-sought maiden and her two potential suitors, the tension of which surrounds the mystery of Mrs. Woodstock’s death. Suspicions are raised, suspects are investigated, relationships are built and torn asunder, and people are eliminated all through the window of a tête-à-tête between sisters and snippets from Jane Austen’s letters. What results is an over-blown academic exercise that lacks meaningful settings, strong characters, or passionate musings by anyone except Elinor.  It’s disappointing and even a bit tiresome.

That’s not to say the story didn’t have promise, because it most certainly did! The decision to write it in letter format was the major blunder, every other shortcoming being symptomatic of that resolution, admirable though it was. Ms. Holt is talented and progressive, slightly sarcastic, and even hilarious at times, but My Dear Charlotte, despite its charming moments, is a departure from her usual genius and is less than marvelous. Enjoy it simply as another glimpse of Regency England, another depiction of the loveable Jane Austen and her world, another sweet taste of Janeite brain candy, but nothing more.

3 out 5 Regency Stars

My Dear Charlotte, by Hazel Holt
Coffetown Press (2009)
Trade paperback (202) pages
ISBN: 978-1603810401

© 2007 – 2011 Shelley DeWees, Austenprose

The Perfect Bride for Mr. Darcy: Author Mary Lydon Simonsen’s Blog Tour

The Perfect Bride for Mr Darcy, by Mary Lydon Simonsen (2011)Please welcome Austenesque author Mary Lydon Simonsen on the first stop on her official blog tour today for her new Pride and Prejudice variation, The Perfect Bride for Mr. Darcy. This new novel released on New Year’s Day and my review was posted yesterday. After reading it, I was curious about Mary’s inspiration and choices that she made in expanding characters and changes to the original Austen storyline. She offers this blog in celebration of her book’s release, elaborating on her creative choices and insights that readers will find quite helpful.

Thank you, Laurel Ann, for inviting me to join you today to talk about my new book. As a long-time reader of your blog, I consider it to be an honor.

The first failed proposal – second thoughts and explanations…

The Perfect Bride for Mr. Darcy begins shortly after Darcy’s awful proposal to Elizabeth at Hunsford Lodge.  After parsing Darcy’s letter, Lizzy begins to have second thoughts about rejecting so worthy a suitor. As for Darcy, he quickly realizes that such a self-righteous, unfeeling response to Lizzy’s refusal probably closes the door to any renewal of his attentions. Between the letter and Lizzy’s harsh words, both parties leave Kent feeling that they will never come together. So that’s that. Right?

Fortunately, for our favorite couple, there are those who disagree. First, Anne De Bourgh, after realizing that Elizabeth is perfect for her cousin, sets a plan in motion to bring the two together at Pemberley. Along the way, she enlists the aid of an eager Georgiana Darcy.

When I first read Pride and Prejudice many years ago, I was about the age of Georgiana, and although I would have preferred to be more like the spunky Elizabeth Bennet, I was quiet and shy like Darcy’s sixteen-year-old sister. Because of that, I wanted to know more about her. I also thought that Anne de Bourgh got the short end of Austen’s pen. After all, she had to live with Lady Catherine and had to accept the fact that her mother had decided that she was destined to marry Mr. Darcy without having any say in the matter. Wasn’t that punishment enough? Little did I know that more than three decades later I would have an opportunity to stage an intervention with these characters. Continue reading “The Perfect Bride for Mr. Darcy: Author Mary Lydon Simonsen’s Blog Tour”

The Perfect Bride for Mr. Darcy, by Mary Lydon Simonsen – A Review

The Perfect Bride for Mr Darcy, by Mary Lydon Simonsen (2011)I don’t think I would be exaggerating if I labeled Pride and Prejudice as Jane Austen’s most popular work. In fact, I will take it one step further and proclaim it one of the most beloved novels of all time. It is no surprise to me, at all, that readers want to revisit this tale, and movie makers and writers keep pumping out P&P inspired fare. In the past fifteen years, we have seen a plethora of Mr. Darcy and Lizzy Bennet prequels, sequels, retellings, variations and inspired books. Mary Lydon Simonsen’s new offering The Perfect Bride for Mr. Darcy falls into the variation category. She has reworked the classic love story of misconceptions and misunderstandings offering her own unique take. Purist, fair warning if you are easily “put out” by tampering with your cherished classic. Be advised to make haste and head back to the unadulterated original, now! You will not find faithful adherence to Austen’s characterizations here. But if you are liberal in approach and tempered for a good lark, there are abundant amusements to be had in this new novel.

The plot line runs parallel to Jane Austen’s original. Mr. Darcy, an arrogant, wealthy young man snubs Elizabeth Bennet, a spirited, overly confident gentleman’s daughter at a local assembly Ball. Her sister Jane and his best friend Charles Bingley fall in love but are separated by him. She is convinced that Darcy has spitefully withheld a promised living to her new flirtation Mr. Wickham. Mesmerized by her impertinence and fine eyes, he is compelled to propose despite his own objections to her family. She flatly rejects him. He writes the “Be not alarmed madam letter” of explanation then promptly departs. How will they reunite and find love? Austen’s narrative and denouement is famous for its plot twists and gradual reversal of his pride and her prejudice. Simonsen walks the same path, but her characters react differently changing the outcome requiring other minor characters to be developed to facilitate their eventual love match. Enter Mr. Darcy’s sickly cousin Anne de Bourgh and his shy younger sister Georgiana Darcy. Both ladies have had major character make-overs. Anne is now a dear friend and adviser to her cousin; Georgiana, a spunky and adventurous kid sister. Both heavily advocate and plan their reunion.

After Darcy returned to his room for the night, Anne thought about all that had happened between Will and Elizabeth and recognized that her cousin had got himself into a real mess. But Fitzwilliam Darcy was in love with Elizabeth Bennet, and Anne had seen real interest on Elizabeth’s part during their evenings together at Rosings Park, so something had to be done. Before retiring, she had settled on a course of action. It was as complicated as any battle plan, and it would take luck and timing to make it work. But her cousin’s happiness was at stake, and so she began to work out the details of her scheme. Page 37

Continue reading “The Perfect Bride for Mr. Darcy, by Mary Lydon Simonsen – A Review”

My Top 20 Jane Austen Books of 2010

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Happy New Year Janeites. 2011 promises to be a joyous year for Jane Austen fans. The bicentenary of Sense and Sensibility should keep Jane Austen in the limelight and publishers keen to feed our need to read more Austen inspired fare.

There are many books in the queue that we are looking forward to reading: Jane Goes Batty: A Novel, by Michael Thomas Ford, the second in the series arrives in February, My Jane Austen Summer: A Season in Mansfield Park, Cindy S. Jones’ debut novel arrives in late March and the highly anticipated Wickham’s Dairy, by Amanda Grange arrives in April. We shall also be immodest and mention our own short story anthology, Jane Austen Made Me Do It, premiering in October. *blush*

2010 was another stellar year for Jane Austen inspired sequels et all. Mysteries dominated the field with Stephanie Barron triumphant return, Jane and the Madness of Lord Byron, her tenth novel in the Being a Jane Austen Mystery series, Carrie Bebris kept me on edge and laughing out loud in The Intrigue at Highbury: Or, Emma’s Match, her fifth novel in the Mr. and Mrs. Darcy series, Tracy Kiely presented Murder on the Bride’s Side, the second novel to her contemporary Elizabeth Bennet detective series, and an incredible debut mystery from Lynn Shepherd, Murder at Mansfield Park blew me away!

There were dozens of new Jane Austen inspired novels and nonfiction books published this year. Our top choices of the year represent selections that we read and reviewed here on Austenprose. So, if your favorite is not represented, please don’t be miffed. Amazingly, we did not read everything Janeish that was published in 2010.

Sequels, prequels, retellings or contemporary inspired:

Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart, by Beth Pattillo

The Darcy Cousins, by Monica Fairview

Pemberley Ranch, by Jack Caldwell

Mr. Darcy’s Little Sister, C. Allyn Pierson

Dancing with Mr. Darcy: Stories Inspired by Jane Austen and Chawton House, edited by Sarah Waters

Regency inspired:

The Mischief of the Mistletoe, by Lauren Willig

Venetia (Naxos AudioBooks), by Georgette Heyer & read by Richard Armitage

Betrayal of the Blood Lilly, by Lauren Willig

The Convenient Marriage (Naxos AudioBooks), by Georgette Heyer & read by Richard Armitage Continue reading “My Top 20 Jane Austen Books of 2010”

The Legacy of Pemberley: The Pemberley Chronicles No 10, by Rebecca Ann Collins – A Review

The Legacy of Pemberley, by Rebecca Collins (2010)Guest review by Kimberly Denny-Ryder of Reflections of a Book Addict

The Legacy of Pemberley is the tenth and final novel in the acclaimed Pride and Prejudice sequel series by Rebecca Ann Collins.  The ten novels in the series cover the fifty years following the wedding of Elizabeth Bennet to Fitzwilliam Darcy.  It is by far the most complete series of sequels that I’ve had the pleasure of reading.

Beginning with a controversial engagement similar to Elizabeth and Darcy’s, we are thrust back into the lives of the Darcy, Bingley, and Gardiner families.  Continuing fifty years after the Darcy’s marriage we delve deeper into the lives of their children and grandchildren through marriage, death, friendship, love, conflict, etc.  As their childrens lives take center stage in the narrative Lizzie and Darcy make the difficult decision to travel to Europe with Jane and Charles Bingley in the hopes that it will restore Charles and Lizzie’s health.

“As you know, Richard, Charles, and Jane Bingley leave for Europe next week.  Bingley has leased a villa in the south of Italy where they will spend the Winter, and he has on more than one occasion invited us to join them.  Would it help Mrs. Darcy, too?  Would you recommend it?…Without any reservation , sir; it would be the very thing, since it would provide all those essential ingredients I have just mentioned.  In the company of Mr. and Mrs. Bingley, you would enjoy the benefits of travelling overseas without any of the aggravation of being with a party of strangers.”

With their departure as main characters, Collins is afforded the opportunity to focus on the characters she created and complete their storylines.  Character mysteries are solved, new romances begin budding, deaths are grieved, and much more.  This is only a sliver of the storylines that exist within The Legacy of Pemberley.

If this book was given to me without an author, I can honestly say that I might think that Austen herself wrote it.  Collins is without a doubt the only author I’ve read that has not strayed far from Austen’s style.  She is a true gem in the world of Jane Austen fan fiction, and it’s sad to see her Pemberley Chronicles series conclude.  They have afforded many Jane Austen purists an escape back in to the Regency world of Pemberley and into the Victorian-era.  Yes, the genre of Jane Austen fan fiction affords one the pleasure of exploring other characters and situations that would have definitely not existed in Austen’s original works, but Collins’ writing seems to transcend that.  Although it is an extrapolation of Darcy and Lizzie’s life it doesn’t feel like it.  We can grow along with them and feel as if we are there with them watching their children grow.

The series not only offers the reader the chance to feel like one of the family, but it gives insight into the social, political, and historical England of the period.  The Legacy of Pemberley takes place during the middle of the Victorian Era, where we can see the beginnings of the Christmas tree tradition that Queen Victoria and Prince Albert started making popular, as well as the beginning of trains and coal.

I personally have to state that I have not had the opportunity to read the books that fall in the middle of this series.  I did however read the first in the series a long time ago and remember being impressed with how rich the story and characters were.  Missing out on the middle books however did create some confusion for me in the characters.  Collins has created such rich lives for the characters that over the course of 50 years they’ve had children who have gotten married and have had their own children.  There are so many characters and so many storylines that I do have to warn you: if you haven’t read the other novels you might want to wait and read them in order.  It will definitely enrich the novels having knowledge of the characters from start to finish.

While all good things must come to an end, they do sometimes leave a “legacy” behind.  In the case of The Legacy of Pemberley and Collins’ entire Pemberley series, the legacy they inherit is a story with rich characters who teach love, family, friendship, honor, humility, courage, and much more.  If Austen were alive today, I think she would be proud that the themes so prevalent in her own novels continue to thrive in the works that emulate her own.

4 out of 5 Regency Stars

The Legacy of Pemberley: The Pemberley Chronicles No 10, by Rebecca Ann Collins
Sourcebooks (2010)
Trade paperback (352) pages
ISBN: 978-1402224522

© 2007 -2010 Kimberly Denny-Ryder, Austenprose

Jane Austen 101: Fan Fiction Web Sites

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Today, there are literally 100’s of Jane Austen prequels, sequels, re-tellings, re-imaginings and inspired by published books. Prior to 1995, there were just a few dozen in print. Why the explosion? Blame it on the incredible popularity of the 1995 Pride and Prejudice mini-series and the availability in our own homes of the Internet. The time and temperament were ripe for Jane Austen mania to sweep in and motivate budding authors to write stories inspired by our witty muse of the modern novel, Jane Austen.

Wondering what Jane Austen fan fiction or JAFF is? Generally, they are fictional stories written by fans of a movie, TV series or book that are either published on the Internet or are developed into a novel in a printed or digital book. If they are on the Internet they are published at fan fiction web sites (JAFF, or Jane Austen Fan Fiction web sites) by chapter installments. Readers can add comments as the story progresses and the writer can continue the story until they choose to end it.

There are generally two levels of engagement for authors of fan fiction: pleasure writers or aspiring novelist. Sometimes they are one-in-the same as budding writers discover that others greatly enjoy their stories and then choose to self-publish as a novel, or submit their story to a publisher for publication. Granted that the road to traditional publication can be quite long and arduous for an aspiring novelist, they can continue to write and publish fan fiction on the Internet to develop their readership. I have also seen some published authors post stories for feedback, or for their online fans. OK, this is getting complicated. An author writes fan fiction of their favorite author and then writes fan fiction of the fan fiction for their fans. Oh my!

Many of our popular Austenesque authors got their start at fan fiction web sites. Off the top of my head I can think of Abigail Reynolds of the Pride and Prejudice Variations series, Pamela Aidan of the Fitzwilliam Darcy Gentleman series, Marsha Altman of the Darcys and Bingleys series and Sharon Lathan of the Darcy Saga series, to name a few. Lately, I have noticed that more and more Jane Austen fan fiction writers are moving from Internet fan boards to the self-publishing medium. This is encouragement enough to opine that the fan fiction boards are producing quality work with great potential. Continue reading “Jane Austen 101: Fan Fiction Web Sites”

Bespelling Jane Austen, by Mary Balogh, Colleen Gleason, Susan Krinard and Janet Mullany – A Review

Pairing the Jane Austen and paranormal genre’s is a clever concept that has seen some hits and misses over the last few years. Bespelling Jane Austen is a new anthology offering four novellas from romance authors Mary Balogh, Colleen Gleason, Susan Krinard and Janet Mullany adapting Austen novels with a supernatural spin.

Almost Persuaded, by Mary Balogh

Bestselling romance novelist Mary Balogh uses Persuasion, Jane Austen’s tender love story of second chances as the inspiration for her story about Jane Everett, the unmarried and unappreciated middle daughter of the preening Sir Horace Everett of Goodrich Hall. When Royal Army Captain Robert Mitford returns to England after a serious injury in India, he meets Jane triggering memories of past lives together. They soon discover that they are soul mates who have been fated to love and fail until they overcome the impediments to “conquer all with the power of their love of each other.”

Initially I was intrigued by reincarnation as a clever parallel to a second chance at love; after all, it is the ultimate love match do-over. Besides a deus ex machina in the guise of a hidden metal box with documents from a previous life confirming the heroine’s memories, I was unconvinced that Jane and Robert knewn each other before and were destined for one another. Furthermore, when after only one day’s acquaintance they take a roll in the grass, I was pretty certain that they were trapped in the Austenesque version of the movie Ground Hog Day for many, many lives until they could reach enlightenment and the Anne Elliot and Captain Wentworth state of Nirvana.

Northanger Castle, by Colleen Gleason

In this parody of Austen’s parody on Gothic fiction Northanger Abbey, heroine Caroline “Caro” Merrill’s wild imagination sees characters from her favorite horrid novels in every new acquaintance and passerby on the streets of Bath. Armed against vampires preying on the innocent in the Pump Room, Caro carries a large reticule stocked with a silver cross, garlic and a wooden stake. With her new friends siblings Isobel and James Thornton and Ellen Henry and her guardian, the aptly nicknamed Lord Rude, she travels for a moonlight picnic to Blaize Abbey and later to Northanger Castle in hopes of confirming Mr. Thornton’s affections, discovering a maiden locked in tower, or at the very least, an evil vampire. Her imaginings come true, but not as she expected.

Colleen Gleason caught the spirit and burlesque comedy of Austen’s novel perfectly, especially in her heroine Caroline whose obsession with Gothic novels and suspicions of evil doings everywhere mirror Austen’s Catherine Morland beautifully. I loved her play on names by upgrading Northanger to a castle and downgrading Blaize to an abbey! This story could have been sweetened by less modern language and more attention to historical detail. Someone needs to inform Ms. Gleason that they did not dance in the Pump Room in Bath, but took the waters and strolled about the room and socialized, and, the homes in Bath are not called Bungalows, but Terraced Houses. Otherwise, this was an adventure worthy of an Austen heroine in the making.

Blood and Prejudice, by Susan Krinard

Lizzy and Darcy’s love story is given some bite in this contemporary retelling of Pride and Prejudice. The Bennet’s still have five unmarried daughters and financial challenges. The family business Bennet Labs is floundering and under hostile takeover by Bingley Pharmaceuticals. Our spirited heroine Elizabeth Bennet is aptly a bookseller at Longbourn Books and Mr. Darcy a financial advisor to Charles Bingley. Also on staff is attorney George Wickham who has a long history with Mr. Darcy that goes back to childhood from the eighteenth-century – yes – two hundred years. He is a vampire whom Darcy converted without consent. Lizzy favors George’s story of Darcy the baddie and the love/hate story begins with Undead overtones that end just as expected, but not quite; — Darcy’s pride is humbled and Lizzy’s prejudice over vampires is removed, but at what cost?

Krinard has a solid understanding of the original story and characters dolling out a sagacious simile like humor coupons to win over the purist who have their guard up. It almost worked. I was amused at the clever prose but not her modern interpretation of the plot. In this instance, unfaithful adherence to Austen’s narrative would have been a bit more interesting. Retellings are tricky, especially of P&P. It is a story that so many know by heart, line for line, and just placing it in current times and mixing it up with Darcy as a vampire is not enough. Written in the first person from Elizabeth Bennet’s perspective, this change from Austen’s narrative voice would have been so much more interesting if Krinard had chosen Darcy’s view with his struggles as vampire instead of Elizabeth’s as a bystander. The ending left a bad taste in my mouth, literally, as Elizabeth ends up being a vampire’s donor doxy, though one assumes that Darcy was quite pleased with the arrangement.

Little to Hex Her, by Janet Mullany

Emma Woodhouse, Jane Austen’s self-possessed heroine from Emma is given a modern make-over as a witch running the Hartfield Dating Agency, a paranormal dating service in Washington D. C.. Emma is still matchmaker unextraordinaire, paring up werewolves, vampires and elves until it appears someone is trying to sabotage her business when money goes missing and event bookings are canceled. Could it be the spurned elf Mr. Elton whom she rejected, the sexy, but dubious vampire Frank Churchill or her ex-boyfriend Mr. Knightley?

Granted that the “handsome, clever and rich” Emma Woodhouse is not the most sympathetic character to begin with, changing the clever to inexperienced and rich to working girl helped me like this modern Emma in a new way. It also did not hurt that Janet Mullany has to be one of the sharpest knives in the Austenesque drawer writing today. Talk about cutting wit! I laughed out loud at her paring of magical creatures to Austen’s originals. Frank Churchill as a sexy vampire? Harriet Smith as insecure werewolf? George Knightley as a wizard who hates his first name? What no zombies? Thank goodness. Austen might have joked that she created a heroine that “no-one but myself will much like,” but Mullany’s Emma was a delightful quirky surprise.

Modern or contemporary, those stories that succeeded (in my estimation) were the ones that took a chance creatively yet reverently remember its inspiration. I think you will find after reading the four novellas in Bespelling Jane Austen that when it comes to Austen and paranormals, “silly things do cease to be silly if they are done by sensible people in an impudent way.

3 out of 5 Regency Stars

Bespelling Jane Austen, by Mary Balogh, Colleen Gleason, Susan Krinard and Janet Mullany
HQN Books (2010)
Trade paperback (377) pages
ISBN: 978-0373775019

© 2007 – 2010 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

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