Mr. Darcy’s Christmas, by Elizabeth Aston – A Review

Mr. Darcy's Christmas, by Elizabeth Aston (2012)The holiday season is greatly anticipated in my home. I love decorating my tree with my collection of glass ornaments and baking my favorite treats such as my golden fruit cake.

To add to the festivities there are always new Christmas themed books available for those who love to escape into another holiday wonderland. If, that happens to be a Jane Austen-inspired Christmas, then so much the better.

In the past we have been treated to a holiday escape at Pemberley with Mr. & Mrs. Darcy with: A Darcy Christmas; A Christmas at Pemberley; and recently Christmas with Mr. Darcy. Imagine my delight when I learned last week that the renowned Austenesque author Elizabeth Aston had released her own Pride and Prejudice-inspired novella, Mr. Darcy’s Christmas! It only took me 15 seconds to purchase and download it to my NOOK and I was reading it. And—what a treat it is…

As, the newly engaged Georgiana Darcy travels home with her brother by carriage from London to Pemberley to celebrate the holiday with his family, she reflects upon her safe choice of fiancé, Mr. Moresby, and the man that she passed by, the dashing but dangerous Captain Daunton. Safe is a place that she craves to be after her near fatal elopement five years ago with George Wickham, the son of her deceased father’s steward. Wickham had later proved that he was indeed a scheming cad when he had eloped with Mr. Darcy’s wife Elizabeth’s younger sister Lydia. Mr. Moresby’s prudential views might be stifling, but he was a man of rank and high regard, enough of a catch to attract the attention of Caroline Bingley, who is bitter over his choice of bride. When she learns from her maid of Georgiana’s almost elopement from Ramsgate at age fifteen, she uses this scandalous information to drive a wedge between Mr. Moresby and his new fiancé. Continue reading

New Jane Austen Short Story Anthology Announced Today

Hot off the presses is an announcement today in Publishers Weekly of a new Jane Austen short story anthology to be published by Random House in 2011. The collection will include approximately twenty stories inspired by Jane Austen, literature’s witty muse of the modern novel and astute observer of human nature and the heart.

Readers familiar with Austen inspired paraliterature will recognize many popular authors among the list of those contributing and a few surprises from best selling authors who greatly admire Austen’s works. Contributing to the line-up are best selling authors Karen Joy Fowler (Jane Austen Book Club), Stephanie Barron (A Jane Austen Mystery Series), Adriana Trigiani (Brava, Valentine), Lauren Willig (The Pink Carnation Series) and the husband and wife writing team of Frank Delaney (Venetia Kelly’s Traveling Show) and Diane Meier (The Season of Second Chances). Approximately twenty Austenesque authors and others from related genres have already committed to the project including:

Pamela Aidan (Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman Trilogy)

Elizabeth Aston (Mr. Darcy’s Daughters, & Writing Jane Austen)

Stephanie Barron (A Jane Austen Mystery Series, & The White Garden)

Carrie Bebris (Mr. & Mrs. Darcy Mysteries Series)

Diana Birchall (Mrs. Darcy’s Dilemma, & Mrs. Elton in America)

Frank Delaney (Shannon, Tipperary, & Venetia Kelly’s Traveling Show)

Monica Fairview (The Darcy Cousins, & The Other Mr. Darcy)

Karen Joy Fowler (Jane Austen Book Club, & Wits End)

Amanda Grange (Mr. Darcy, Vampyre, & Mr. Darcy’s Diary)

Syrie James (The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen, & The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte)

Diane Meier (The Season of Second Chances)

Janet Mullany (Bespelling Jane Austen, & Rules of Gentility)

Jane Odiwe (Lydia Bennet’s Story, & Willoughby’s Return)

Beth Pattillo (Jane Austen Ruined My Life, & Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart)

Alexandra Potter (Me & Mr. Darcy, & The Two Lives of Miss Charlotte Merryweather: A Novel)

Jane Rubino and Caitlen Rubino Bradway (Lady Vernon & Her Daughter)

Myretta Robens (Pemberley.com , Just Say Yes, & Once Upon a Sofa)

Maya Slater (The Private Diary of Mr. Darcy)

Margaret C. Sullivan (AustenBlog.com, & The Jane Austen Handbook)

Adriana Trigiani (Brava Valentine, Very Valentine, & Lucia, Lucia)

Laurie Viera Rigler (Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict, & Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict)

Lauren Willig (The Pink Carnation Series)

In addition, a short story contest hosted by the venerable The Republic of Pemberley website will be held to fill one slot in the anthology for a new voice in Austenesque fiction. Further details on submission and manuscript deadlines will be posted here and at Pemberley.com.

And if you were wondering how I know so much about the project, I have been secretly working on it for months and will be the editor. I’m the luckiest Janeite in the world!

Cheers, Laurel Ann

© 2007-2010 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

Writing Jane Austen, by Elizabeth Aston – A Review

Stepping into the 21st-century, Elizabeth Aston’s new novel Writing Jane Austen offers a completely different vintage of Austen inspired paraliterature than her previous six books based on Pride and Prejudice characters and their families from the early 19th-century. Set in present day London, readers will immediately discover that Austen’s influence of three or four families in a country village, social machinations and romantic entanglements are far removed from this author’s intensions – and our heroine Georgina Jackson is no Lizzy Bennet. One wonders out loud if this change is a good thing. Well, this is definitely not your mother’s traditional Austen sequel. With one eyebrow raised, I am reminded of Mr. Knightley’s comment in Austen’s novel Emma, “surpizes are foolish things”. We shall see if his advice is warranted. 

Georgina Jackson is an American writer living in London with one highly acclaimed but not so best-selling book under her belt. Her specialty is grim late Victorian and her second novel is way over deadline. Her high-powered agent Livia Harkness is about to scratch her off her client list when she offers her a literary chance of a life-time to complete a recently discovered unfinished manuscript by Jane Austen. Georgina is not impressed. She does not do early nineteenth-century. She is however, getting nowhere with her present novel, over-drawn at the bank and terrified to be deported back to America with no money and a dead career. With little choice she begrudgingly accepts the job, even though she thinks Austen is only about frivolous romance and has never had a desire to read one of her books. 

The pressure is on to complete the novel in three months so she sets off on a research expedition to discover everything she can about Austen in the Bodleian Libray in Oxford. Overhelmed, she heads to Bath to follow in Austen’s footsteps through the beautiful Georgian city. Finding the Jane Austen™ franchise everywhere and seemingly everyone making money off it, Georgina is repulsed and now dislikes Austen and her obsessive fans even more. Next she travels to Lacock, a Regency-era village to experience life as Jane would have known it. There she finds more trinket shops, tour buses and a film shooting of yet another adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. Discouraged, Georgina returns to London to her rented room in a terrace house she shares with her landlord Henry Lefroy an unemployed banker, Maude his precocious teenage sister and Anna Bednarska the indefatigable Polish housekeeper. They all know and admire Austen’s works and are ready and willing to coach her through any snags. Still procrastinating and stymied to write a word, Georgina finally opens Pride and Prejudice. Engrossed, she reads all of Austen’s six major novels nonstop for two days. Her life would never be the same.  

This fast passed novel is packed full of Austen lore galore, though you do not have to be a Janeite to enjoy all the in-jokes and jabs at the Austen industry. Anyone who has seen the BBC 1995 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice will get half the humor. Janeites will get all of it and laugh and roll their eyes at how Austen fandom is viewed by the uninitiated. Even though this is a new style for Aston, the framework has been around since Helen Fielding introduced us to her angst-ridden and weight obsessive Bridget Jones in 1995. Is this chick-lit you ask? Definitely. Aston’s heroine Georgina Jackson is as ambitious and insecure as her pink covered compatriots but without the main drive to find a man. Instead, Georgina’s objective is to find Austen and learn to write like her. Aston is a master at research and I found her historical references to Austen, her novels and her family quite impressive. By three-quarters into the book I wished the heroine would accept her plight and just get on with writing, but that was the author’s prolonged point. Readers will be entertained by the quirky humor of Georgina’s dilemma, charmed and annoyed by the well-crafted supporting characters and surprised by the eventual outcome. However, if you are expecting a drawing room drama punctuated by romance, Writing Jane Austen is exactly what its title implies. 

4 out of 5 Regency Stars

Writing Jane Austen: A Novel, by Elizabeth Aston
Touchstone, New York (2010)
Trade paperback (320) pages
ISBN: 978-1416587873

Additional Reviews

Mr. Darcy’s Dream, by Elizabeth Aston – A Review

Mr. Darcy's Dream: A Novel, by Elizabeth Ashton (2009)Author Elizabeth Aston has become a nonpareil in the Austen sequel publishing industry. Her latest outing Mr. Darcy’s Dream will be her sixth Pride and Prejudice continuation in as many years. With so many authors out there jockeying for position in this competitive book niche, she remains on top and true to her vision consistently offering amusing stories of Jane Austen’s famous romantic couple Elizabeth and Fitzwilliam Darcy’s children and families. A winning recipe if you mix it up right, so why does the namesake of this book Mr. Darcy not show up until the last three pages of the novel, and what the deuce does his dream have to do with anything? 

Twenty-year old Phoebe Hawkins is handsome, well-born, and endowed with a fortune of fifty thousand pounds to the lucky man to win her hand. Unfortunately, her choice Mr. Anthony Stanhope has a bit of a bad rep prompting her father to reject his offer of marriage. Undaunted, Phoebe is certain that Stanhope is no rake until she witnesses his assignation with a notorious woman. Heartbroken and dejected, her clever ma’ma Lady Georgiana averts London gossip by devising a plan to send her to the country to her uncle Darcy’s estate in Derbyshire until it blows over. Joining her is her amiable cousin Louisa Bingley whose failure to engage after three London seasons is a bit of flop. Their temperaments could not be more opposite. Quick to judge, Phoebe’s free spirit challenges social stricture, while easygoing Louisa is as accepting of fate as her mother Jane Bingley seeing little fault in anything. Both feel the pressure to fulfill their family obligations with brilliant marriages yet neither have a clue as to why they have not succeeded or if they will ever find their own bit of happiness. Together they hope for a respite at Pemberley free from the pressures of thinking about men, while focusing instead on planning a summer ball while the Darcy’s are abroad. 

The young ladies arrive at Pemberley to see great improvements underway with the construction of a grand new glasshouse supervised by Mr. Darcy’s estate manager Hugh Drummond, all part of Mr. Darcy’s dream of modernizing Pemberley, (thus the book title). Educated as an attorney, Mr. Drummond is a bit of hands on manager after his stint as a ‘Light Bob’ during the peninsular war where he and Mr. Stanhope served under Wellington. Louisa Bingley takes a shine to him. Who wouldn’t? When Mr. Stanhope arrives in the neighborhood on the pretext of visiting his married sister, Phoebe is resigned not to see him averting his persistent attempts until she must face the music. Add to this mix the return of devilish George Warren, step son of the condescending and censorious Caroline Warren nee Bingley, and you have your sinister element. When Mr. Darcy finally arrives at Pemberley to attend the ball, the story swiftly concludes as all the romantic misunderstanding and machinations have been resolved, but not to everyone’s satisfaction. 

Underneath this diverting historical romance, Aston has supplied us with perceptive commentary on early 19th-century life in upper class England where women’s worlds were governed by men and social convention. Throughout the novel there is a thin thread of cynicism about marriage illustrated by Mr. Stanhope’s unhappily married sister Kitty, “one day you’ll realize you need an heir, and will propose to the nearest available girl, who will proceed to make your life misery.”, and the fear of infidelity by Phoebe after witnessing the affects on her parent’s relationship after their own affairs. These honest themes can be a bit leveling, but move this novel away from being escapist fluff. To lighten it up, Aston has supplied the requisite ensemble of secondary characters to add interest, but little humor: a peevish Frog governess, fussy and gossipy maids, an officious great aunt, a toady Minister, and a bit of espionage to keep the plot churning and our attention engaged. Overall, I found the tone of Mr. Darcy’s Dream a bit dark and overshadowed with angst. When reading a sequel to the light, bright and sparkling Pride and Prejudice it is difficult not to compare the two, but in all fairness to Ms. Aston this novel is so far removed in time and characters to the original that it is an entirely new entity. On its own merit I enjoyed it thoroughly and recommend it highly. As a continuation of a ‘Mr. Darcy does something novel’, well, that it debatable.

4 out of 5 Regency Stars

Mr. Darcy’s Dream, by Elizabeth Aston
Touchstone, Simon & Schuster, New York (2009)
Trade Paperback (284) pages
ISBN: 978-1416547266

The Sunday Salon Badge