Given Good Principles: Boxed Set, by Maria Grace – A Review

Given Good Principles Boxed Set by Maria Grace 2013 x 200From the desk of Kimberly Denny-Ryder:

I have a confession to make dear reader: I’m a book series binger. I’ll find myself reading the first novel in a series (in this case Darcy’s Decision by Maria Grace), and find it so intriguing that I have to buy the rest of the (available) books in the series and read them one right after another. It’s not a huge problem when it’s a series of three books or less, but when it’s four plus books, my husband starts to get worried that I’ll begin collecting dust from immobility. So, with all of that in mind I offer to you a post on Maria Grace’s Given Good Principles series.

Grace starts off her series with two completely creative and unique prequel novellas:

Darcy’s Decision

Beginning with the death of Darcy’s two parents and ending with preparations for his trip to Hertfordshire with Bingley, this unique and creative prequel (and about The Future Mrs. Darcy as well), is that Darcy and Elizabeth must go through situations that make them question their natures PRIOR to meeting. This means that as they are introduced to each other for the first time, they are aware of their own personal flaws. I fell head-over-heels in love with this idea. It’s not something I’ve seen in any other Pride and Prejudice re-telling, so from page one Grace had already hooked me with this fresh approach. The creation of the character of John Bradley was a stroke of genius. His fatherly, no-nonsense approach to discussions with Darcy was a pleasure to read. He simply tells Darcy how it is and doesn’t “scrape and bow” just to appease Darcy’s status. Continue reading

When They Fall in Love: Darcy and Elizabeth in Italy, by Mary Lydon Simonsen – A Review

When they Fall in Love, by Mary Simonen (2013) From the desk of Kimberly Denny Ryder

When I found out that Mary Lydon Simonsen was writing a Pride and Prejudice inspired book that took place in Italy I was so excited! Ever since I was able to travel to Italy two years ago I’ve loved it more and more and I can’t wait to go back. Now, reading about the combination of my two favorite literary characters with Florence was enough to make me want to go out and buy the book ASAP, and that’s exactly what I did once it came out! So, without further ado, let’s travel to Italy.

We all remember Mr. Darcy’s failed proposal to Elizabeth Bennet at the Hunsford Parsonage. When They Fall in Love picks up several years later, with much occurring in the interim, including Darcy marrying another woman, fathering a child, and becoming a widower. Now, he plans to live in a villa in the hills above Florence, Italy with his daughter, who is now six. He invites his friend Charles Bingley and his wife Jane, who now have a daughter, as well as Elizabeth, who acts as the governess for her niece. Although much has happened in the intervening years after Darcy’s failed proposal to Elizabeth, she is unsure if his love for her has withstood this test of time. Her own feelings towards him have grown tremendously, but she is apprehensive as to whether or not he reciprocates these feelings. What will become of their meeting against the beautiful backdrop of Italy? Continue reading

Pride and Prejudice (1980) Mini-series – A Review

The Pride Prejudice Bicentenary Challenge (2013)This is my fifth selection for The Pride and Prejudice Bicentenary Challenge 2013, our year-long event honoring Jane Austen’s second published novel. Please follow the link above to read all the details of this reading and viewing challenge. Sign up’s are open until July 1, 2013.

My Review:

I have been blogging about Jane Austen here at Austenprose for over five years and I have reviewed many books and movies, yet I have held off writing about the one that really turned me into a Jane Austen disciple—the 1980 BBC Pride and Prejudice. When something is close to our hearts we want to keep it in a special place, so my personal impressions of Fay Weldon’s adaptation of Jane Austen’s most popular novel has remained my own. In this bicentenary year, I think it is time for me to share.

It first aired in five (55) minute episodes on the BBC in the UK in 1979, and on US television on Masterpiece Theatre between October 26 and November 23, 1980. I was a great fan of Masterpiece and period drama and remember being quite excited to watch the new series. I was not disappointed in the first episode—in fact I was mesmerized—and watched the episode again when it aired again that week on PBS. Considering that in 1980 disco music was all the rage and Magnum P.I. and Three’s Company were the most popular television shows, you might understand why this anglophile was entranced by a series set in Regency England with beautiful costumes, country houses, sharp dialogue and swoon worthy romance. I was totally hooked and started reading the novel for the first time while the series aired. Continue reading

A Closer Look at The Lizzie Bennet Diaries: Episodes 51-66

Image from the Lizzie Bennet Diaries: Lizzie and Darcy porposal scene

From the desk of Virginia Claire Tharrington

This week I will be looking at episodes 51-66 of The Lizzie Bennet Diaries starting with Lizzie’s life while she is visiting Collins and Collins. We get to meet several knew characters and get to see some of the most beloved ones in a new setting. Did I also mention that we get to see DARCY for the first time!

Lizzie goes to visit Charlotte at Collins and Collins. She meets Lady Catherine and her dog Annie Kins (though we never get to see Lady Catherine we just see Lizzie’s impressions of her). We also get to meet one of my favorite characters in the novel and in the series, Fitz, who comes with Darcy to look at Collins and Collins and give Lady Catherine a report on its progress. Darcy finally shows up in the videos and tells Lizzie he loves her. She flatly rejects him and tells him off for his rude behavior towards her and others and she also tells him to watch her videos. He returns later with a letter and having watched videos. Lizzie reads the letter but refuses to share its contents even with Caroline who comes trying to snoop and find out what is in the letter. Lizzie and Charlotte face off against Caroline and call her out for her manipulation of Bing. Collins flits in and out of several episodes mostly causing havoc by making Charlotte dress as a condiment or trying to make Charlotte work over Thanksgiving. By the end of these episodes Lizzie is ready to go home because home would probably be less stressful. In episode 62 Lizzie says, “This is definitely messing with my world view. Its like I don’t know myself anymore” (I consider this line akin to Austen’s “Till this moment, I never knew myself.” It is the turning point in the book for Elizabeth’s character)

Here are some highlights from Episodes 51-66:

Image from The Lizzie Bennet Diaries: Fitz and Lizzie care package

We meet Fitz:

Colonel Fitzwilliam is one of my favorite characters from the novels. I have always had a crush on him because I found him to be so much nicer than his cousin. In some alternative universe I really think he and Lizzie would work out (even though he is a younger son and has no money).

In the alternative universe of the Lizzie Bennet Diaries Fitz (Craig Frank) and Lizzie can’t work out as a couple because he is gay. I think this modernization is BRILLIANT because it allows Fitz and Lizzie to be good friends, but it is known from the start that they will never be more than friends. Fitz in the LBD is a smart and well-established business executive (he can see two bridges from his corner office) but he is also super fun. I automatically want to be his friend and so does Lizzie. Lizzie wonders why Darcy can have such nice friends when he is so cold and stiff. Fitz explains “The guy doesn’t always make the best first impression, and he has the social skills of an agoraphobic lobster.” (episode 56).  Fitz does a fabulous impression of haughty Darcy and really enjoys goofing off on the videos. He says “Well what is life if you cant have a little fun? Am I right Lizzie B? You know you should meet Gigi… because she is a cool kid and I think you too will like each other” (episode 56). Fitz seems to be a nice guy who cares about his friends and has his head on straight yet a guy who can also loosen up and have a lot of fun.

Image from The Lizzie Bennet Diaries: Annie Kins

Catherine de Bourgh and Annie Kins

I hate that we never to get see Catherine de Bourgh but Lizzie’s impressions of her make up for this loss. Her daughter Anne is transformed into a snaggletooth, asthmatic dog named Annie Kins that Catherine dotes on. Mr. Collins prepares Lizzie for dining with Catherine de Bourgh by giving her a long list of dos and don’ts and by telling her “so if you will simply choose the least offensive outfit you have brought along with you, I am certain that will be more than satisfactory.” (episode 53). Catherine still tries to but into everyone’s conversations and adores Caroline Lee for her accomplishments even though it is unclear what Caroline does or if she even has a job or goes to school.

Image from The Lizzie Bennet Diaries: staff spirit costumes

Charlotte and Mr. Collins Dressed as condiments

Mr. Collins is full of hair-brained ideas about improving the company morale. One if his ideas involves a “spirit week” of sorts culminating in a Halloween party where he and Charlotte dress up as condiments. Seeing Charlotte as a giant ketchup bottle is pretty amusing, but Mr. Collins as a giant mustard bottle takes the cake. His sincerity and seriousness make him even funnier. Collins tries to make Lizzie come to the party but Charlotte steps in and shows her control and handling of him. Mr. Collins might be the head of the company but Charlotte is the neck and she can turn the head anyway she chooses.

Image from The Lizzie Bennet Diaries: proposal scene

Darcy:

Darcy, Darcy, Darcy… everyone freaks out when Darcy is finally shown. Not this girl. I am going to try and keep my talk of Darcy to a minimum for several reasons:

  1. We don’t see that much of him.
  2. I don’t like Darcy Hype.
  3.  He does come off as a pretty big jerk.
  4.  I agree with Lizzie about him.

The viewership of the Darcy episode almost doubled compared to other episodes. Episode 60 (where we first see his face) has had over 466,000 views. Don’t get me wrong– he will improve, and I do think the writing on his episode is fantastic; I just hate Darcy hype. These are called the LIZZIE BENNET DIARIES and that is who the story is about, so I applaud the writers and creators for putting off introducing Darcy till 3/5 of the way through the series.

Image from The Lizzie Bennet Diaries: DarcyBot

Ok, now on to Darcy. Daniel Vincent Gordh plays Darcy and does a very good job. He comes off as haughty and austere early on but does loosen up in later episodes. The writing for the proposal episode is a wonderful modernization of the scene from the book. I was worried that they would stray too much from the novel in his insults to Lizzie or that they wouldn’t have him insult her, but they did. Darcy says “I have been fighting against this for months now but Lizzie Bennet I am in love with you… I cant believe it either; that my heart can completely overwhelm my judgment.” Lizzie responds, “I hope that your judgment can be some solace in your rejection because those feelings are not mutual.” (Episode 60) In his video about the episode, one of the creators of the series Hank Green talks about how much effort and time went into writing this episode because they knew it was so important. Hank and his wife Katherine had a lot of input into who they chose for Darcy and the scene. Overall I applaud the series portrayal of Darcy because he does come off as a pretty big jerk at first and then starts to soften so that maybe you think he is just super awkward instead of a jerk. I could also do without the suspenders and skinny jeans, but I see why they did it.

Darcy hand writes and wax seals his letter to Lizzie, which is pretty cute and shows his quaintness. I thought they might do his letter as an email but I like that Darcy hand writes it and says that sometimes he has trouble expressing himself in words so he has to write things down. I think this is just the beginning of Darcy opening up. He also watches Lizzie’s videos because she tells him about them. He says, they were “illumining… you called me a robot and a newsie.” (Episode 62)

Image from The Lizzie Bennet Diaries: Caroline v Lizzie and Charlotte

Lizzie and Charlotte v Caroline

Caroline Lee shows up to try and see what was in the letter. Charlotte and Lizzie question her motives in befriending Lizzie and helping Lizzie with her videos since Caroline hasn’t spoken to Lizzie since they left. This betrayal by Caroline seems worse than in the book because in the book Lizzie never thought that Caroline was her friend. The fact that Lizzie and Jane are both hurt by Caroline’s lack of communication with them shows Lizzie’s vulnerability in a new way. Caroline comes off as manipulating, conniving and superficial. The nicest thing I can say about her is that she has great hair. Lizzie and Charlotte call Caroline out for her behavior, and I say, “You go GRILS!” If only Lizzie got to tell Mrs. Bingley off like that in the books. I think it would be very therapeutic to her.

I am leaving out Lydia’s videos from this weeks article because I want to be able to do them justice in an article all to themselves.

Next Week 67-76

Favorite Quotes of the Week

If Lydia ends up with in anyway involved with someone who traces back to Darcy I swear I am going to steal a plane and crash land onto a desert island. I can totally survive on coconut and crabs… assuming there is wifi.” (Lizzie in episode 54)

He is like a robot with buggy programing for social interaction”– “Darcy- bot Malfunction” (Lizzie on Darcy in episode 55)

He was probably just looking for an air conditioned place to drink his probiotic hemp latte”- (Lizzie guessing why Darcy keeps stopping by to see her in episode 57)

I am pretty sure the guy read Tolstoy for you

Even if that is true the virtues of reading Russian literature are far out weighted by the fact that he disinherited George. Oh yeah and he broke up Bing and Jane” (Charlotte and Lizzie talking about Darcy in episode 61)

You should see the texts I have been getting from Lydia about this OMG… WTF… WHATEVS… YOLO… FTS… PQZ!!!!” (Lizzie talking about Lydia’s reaction in episode 62)

Awesome Links:

“If you are in the Raleigh, North Carolina area this weekend please join JASNA NC for a discussion of The Lizzie Bennet Diaries. The talk will be held on Sunday March 17th at 2:00 at the Cameron Village Regional Library. Virginia Claire Tharrington will be showing clips and leading a discussion about the adaptation. We would love to see you there. Thanks VC”

Images courtesy © The Lizzie Bennet Diaries 2012; text © Virginia Claire Tharrington 2013

A Closer Look at the Lizzie Bennet Diaries: Episodes 35-50

Image from The Lizzie Bennet Diaries: Lizzie

From the desk of Virginia Claire

There is a lot to cover this week for the Lizzie Bennet Diaries. One announcement before we get started; the series will be ending on March 28th with the 100th episode. (mass hysteria and sobbing ensues!). Sadness I know but the book does come to an end and so much the LBD.  On a happier note we are just reaching the halfway point of looking at the vlogs so there is still a more discussion to come. I also can’t wait to see which book the creative team of Hank and Bernie do next. I myself am voting for Emma, mainly because I want to see a modern Emma more than a modern Anne (I am huge fan of Persuasion, but Anne Elliot is just not a blogger the way Emma would be)

This week I watched episodes 35-50 and then Charlotte and Maria Lu’s spinoff from Collins and Collins. Lizzie starts off episode 35 by saying “and everything is as it should be.” This pleasant feeling doesn’t last long for Lizzie because Mr. Collins arrives and annoys her to no end. He offers her a job, which she refuses but which Charlotte then takes. Then Charlotte leaves for the job with Mr. Collin. Next Wickham comes and tells his story of woe at the hands of Darcy to Lizzie, which makes Lizzie hate Darcy even more. After Bing’s birthday party Bing, Darcy and Caroline leave for LA without telling anyone. Jane finds out about the move from Twitter. She is broken hearted and decides to move to LA for a job promotion and a change of scene. Wickham then takes a job with the Meryton Marines and goes off to flirt and party with other girls. Lizzie isn’t broken hearted over his departure but she does wonder, “why is everyone moving on but me?” Episode 50.  In Charlotte and Maria’s spinoff we see the reconciliation that will happen between the friends. Charlotte too misses Lizzie and her sister has her watch Lizzie’s videos to see how much Lizzie misses Charlotte. Maria’s videos are a cute spinoff that shows us a glimpse at Charlotte in a new light but I don’t think they are as funny as other spinoffs like Lydia’s and Gigis’; they seem more like a plot device then stand alone vlogs.

Now I want to look at some of my favorite moments and characters from these episodes.

Image from The Lizzie Bennet Diaries: Collins and Lizzie

Mr. Collin: Mr. Collins is by far my favorite character (other than Lizzie) in the novel and in the Lizzie Bennet Diaries. I find his so delightful obtuse yet verbose that he is irresistible to me in his ridiculousness. I interviewed Maxwell Glick who plays Mr. Collins and he was so thoughtful and wonderful that he sent me some wonderful answers to my questions. I am including a handful below.

How do you think you make Mr. Collins different or special?

Max-I wanted to bring something to Mr. Collins that took the perception of him as this rather repulsive character, and made him actually have more dimensions and real feelings.  I took the approach that he just “doesn’t get it” – not that he is a terrible person or intentionally says hurtful things.  He has poor social skills, but I don’t think his heart is in the wrong place. I wanted it to appear that everything he says is carefully scripted, albeit poorly, sometimes.  I also wanted to add a touch of humor to the guy.  After all, he is far from a boor. I wanted the audience to say “Oh I totally know someone like that.”

What do you think was the hardest aspect of Mr. Collins to adapt into modern times?

Max-Mr. Collins is a clergyman in the book, and that would be a tough storyline in modern times, so the way the writers made him a venture capitalist interested in online video, was just genius. 

I think the “first proposal” followed by the “your pitch needs work” episodes are brilliant in terms of Mr. Collins character. Do you have a favorite scene or episode?

Max-I have two favorite moments.  The Proposal where I keep bringing out an increasingly larger envelope is just hysterical to me. I love that.  Also I love my episode with Lydia.  This was one of the most fun times for me on set.  I got to bring out Collins’ incredibly uncomfortable emotions, as Lydia got closer to him.  That was just a blast. I wish I had some more episodes with her.

(hopefully I will get to post the entire interview at a later date because it is very interesting)

It was so wonderful talking to Max about Mr. Collins. He gave lots of insight into how he played Collins and how he thought about the character. Max is a hilarious guy. Check out his Flashback Friday Videos from his closet. These are adorable and entertaining videos where he sings top 10 songs from different years with no music. It is cute so check them out.

Image from The Lizzie Bennet Diaries: Lydia and Collins

Lydia v Mr. Collins: Episode 37 is perhaps my favorite episode thus far. It combines two of my favorite characters Lydia and Mr. Collins. Lydia puts Collins in his place from the beginning and makes Mr. Collins increasing uncomfortable till he runs away leaving Lydia alone when she says “and that my nerdy older sister is how you properly get rid of Mr. Collins. BOOM!” Lydia wins and I love it.

Image from The Lizzie Bennet Diaries: Collins and Charlotte

Your Pitch Needs Work”: Episode 41 is pretty brilliant because we see Charlotte’s guidance of Collins and how she influences him. Charlotte is very subtle in her manipulation of Collins. She isn’t portrayed in a negative light but we do see that she is in control of the situation and “fishing for an offer” from him. I am not condemning Charlotte in the least because she knows exactly what she is getting into with Collins, and I think it is a very conscious decision on her part.

Charlotte and Lizzie: Charlotte is a voice of reason for both Lizzie and Collins, so when Charlotte chooses to take the job with Mr. Collins, Lizzie feels completely crushed. The girls get in a huge fight over Charlotte’s decision in episode 42, which shows a more selfish side. of Lizzie. It is only through Maria showing Charlotte episode 43 where Lizzie laments not talking to her bestie that Charlotte calls Lizzie and invites her to come, stay and see Collins and Collins.

Image from The Lizzie Bennet Diaries: Wickham and Lizzie

George’s Intro: In episode 45 we meet George Wickham! I am going to skip the Darcy v. Wickham story because it just isn’t as funny as George himself. George is looking at Lizzie bookshelf when he says “I have to make sure you don’t have any red flags like books on serial killers or anything shady or with shades.” Later in the episode Lydia runs in with a solo cup “accidentally” spilling water all over him, then casually suggests that he just takes his first off. I don’t know if this is a funny nod to the 1995 “wet t-shirt scene” but it is funny none the less. Lizzie and Lydia both get a little distracted by Wickham’s excellent body and abs.

Image from The Lizzie Bennet Diaries: Lydia, Wickham and Lizzie

Snickerdoodles: On a more serious note episode 48 is very sad because we see Jane break down from her normal happy self to distraught and upset Jane who is just looking for answers from Bing. The viewers are in the same boat as Lizzie when she says “and if I could find Bing Lee and smash him over the head with a frying pan to knock some sense into him then I would.” At this point it is very unclear why Bing broke up with Jane and will not talk to her anymore, but we will find out more in later episodes.

Next week we will watch episodes 51-66. Enjoy!

Favorite quote of the week:What do you think it is? Maybe George has incriminating photos of Darcy. Maybe George has videos of Darcy in a boy band” Episode 44 – Lizzie trying to figure out the dark history between Darcy and George Wickham.

Image from The Lizzie Bennet Diaries: Lizzie and Jane

Further Reading:

Images courtesy of © 2013 The Lizzie Bennet Diaries; text © 2013 Virginia Claire Tharrington, Austenprose

Naxos AudioBooks Offers Giveaway of New Pride and Prejudice Alert Tone

Naxos AudioBooks Pride and Prejudice Ringtone (2013)

Last month I reviewed the Naxos Audiobooks edition of Pride and Prejudice, read by Emilia Fox. It is my favorite audio edition of Jane Austen’s classic novel. I was thrilled to learn that they have also created in honor of this year’s bicentenary of publication a clever alert tone for iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch of a select section of the recording.

Wouldn’t it be totally cool and so chic to have actress Emilia Fox as Elizabeth Bennet saying, “It is your turn to say something now, Mr. Darcy.” when you receive a new email or text message on your electronic device? Well, now you can.

It is only accessible within the iTunes store on your iOS device. Once it is downloaded, you can set your new tone as your default tone or assign it to a Contact. Why not try it?

Gentle readers, please bear with this Luddite who does not own a cell phone, iPod or iPad. If I make a mistake in the description or process to purchase, please forgive me. My computer and NOOK are as a techie as I get.

Here are the instructions:

Available from:

Apple Mobile App Store (iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch)

Tones

You cannot purchase ringtones and alert tones from your computer, but you can purchase them using your iOS device with iOS 5 or later. You can purchase tones on iPad, iPhone (3GS or later), and iPod touch (4th generation or later).

To locate tones in iTunes on an iOS device:

  1. Tap the iTunes app.
  2. Tap Tones. If Tones is not visible, tap More > Tones.
  3. Browse for tones. Once you purchase a tone, a dialog is displayed. The dialog gives you an option to set your new tone as your default tone or assign it to a Contact.   If you don’t want to do anything with the tone just yet, simply tap Done.
  4. Tones purchased using your iOS devices are synced to your iTunes library when you connect your device to your computer. On an iPod touch or iPhone, you can find tones in Settings > Sounds. On an iPad, you can find tones in Settings > General > Sounds.

A Grand Giveaway

Naxos AudioBooks graphicNaxos Audiobooks has generously offered 6 alert tones of Elizabeth Bennet saying, “It’s your turn to say something now, Mr. Darcy.” available to Austenprose readers. You must have iOS device. Just leave a comment stating what quote from P&P you would like them to create next! It must be one sentence. The contest ends at 11:59 pm on Wednesday, February 13, 2013. Winners will be announced on Thursday, February 14, 2013. They will receive an iTunes card to purchase their new Pride and Prejudice alert tone. Good luck!

2013 Naxos Audiobook, Austenprose

The Pride and Prejudice Bicentenary Challenge 2013

The Pride Prejudice Bicentenary Challenge (2013) 2013 is a celebratory year for the legion of Jane Austen fans. It marks the bicentenary of her second published novel, Pride and Prejudice.

For two hundred years we have been enjoying her romantic, dramatic, and witty story filled with memorable characters – the Bennet sisters: angelic Jane, spirited Elizabeth, pedantic Mary, impressionable Kitty and impetuous Lydia; and the men in their lives: amiable Charles Bingley, charming Lt. George Wickham, and the proud Mr. Darcy. There is so much to praise in Jane Austen’s most popular novel which has inspired many movie adaptations, book sequels and spinoffs. In its honor, we are very pleased to announce another reading and viewing challenge for our readers:

The Pride and Prejudice Bicentenary Challenge 2013

We had a fabulous year here in 2011 during The Sense and Sensibility Bicentenary Challenge and are pleased to offer another new challenge for Pride and Prejudice. If you have not read Jane Austen’s masterpiece (or would like to revisit it in honor of its special anniversary), seen all of the movies, or read all of the sequels and spinoffs, this is the year to join the challenge along with other Janeites, historical fiction, Regency romance, and period drama movie lovers.

Challenge Details

Continue reading

Top Search Engine Questions Sent to Austenprose

David Bramber as the odious Mr. Collins in Pride and Prejudice (1995)

One of the great things about being the admin to a blog is that you get to read all of the interesting (and sometimes hilarious) questions that people ask search engines – and then land on your blog.

If you are wondering what this means, when key words or phrases match material on your blog, it shows up in the search engine results and people come to visit to discover the answer. Now, sometimes it sends them to us just based on key words and not complete answers, so they may be disappointed, or intrigued to find something altogether unexpected. Here are a few humdingers that either made us laugh out loud or yell an answer into cyberspace.

Q: Is Emma Woodhouse a likeable character?

A: Wow. That is a loaded question! Many say NO. That she is a troublesome, bossy, snob and not likeable at ALL. But that is Austen’s point. Before publication she admitted to creating “a heroine whom no one but myself will like.” Of course that is her self-effacing joke. Emma Woodhouse certainly is annoying and self-serving throughout 90% of the novel, but it is revealed in a comical and moralistic manner that many (including ourselves) consider entertaining and scholars deem a masterpiece. So, no. Emma is not likeable, but that’s why we like her.

Q: What does Dowager Duchess mean?

A: Dowager appears to be in the same category of mysterious archaic English words like entail. It is a title given the widow of a Duke in British aristocracy. The most famous Dowager on the radar of Downton Abbey fans is no doubt Violet, Dowager Countess of Grantham, played by Maggie Smith.

Q: Is fruitcake the same as Christmas pudding? Continue reading

Compulsively Mr. Darcy Blog Tour with Author Nina Benneton, & Giveaway!

Compulsively Mr. Darcy, by Nina Benneton (2012)There are a lot of Mr. Darcy novels out there. Hundreds, in fact. Some are retellings of his side of Pride and Prejudice. Others continue his life at Pemberley after his marriage to Elizabeth Bennet, but, a new Mr. Darcy novel released today has an entirely new twist!

Please join us today in welcoming author Nina Benneton on the first stop in her blog tour in celebration of the release of her debut novel, Compulsively Mr. Darcy published this month by Sourcebooks. Nina has generously shared with us some insights on creating the novel, and offered a giveaway to three lucky readers.

I wish to thank Laurel Ann and Austenprose for inviting me to guest blog today.  It’s an honor.

“There’s no one to touch Jane when you’re in a tight place.” – Rudyard Kipling, “The Janeites” 

Reading and rereading Jane Austen’s works have gotten me out of a few “tight places” in my life.

To quote Lee Siegel in his article, A Writer Who is Good for You, (Atlantic Monthly, January 1998) “…few authors are at the same time so quietly fearsome and so intensely consoling.”

So quietly fearsome and so intensely consoling. That’s exactly how I experience Jane Austen’s works.  As Siegel and the WWI soldiers in Kipling’s “The Janeites” did, I, too, have always found Austen’s writing soothing. Siegel’s words expressed better than I could my reason:  “Austen’s sentences operate inwardly at once—they go into a quiet corner of the mind and out into the busy world.”

I love Austen’s stories for her characters. In particular, her secondary characters. Mrs. Norris in Mansfield Park, General Tilney in Northanger Abbey, Mr. Woodhouse in Emma, Mrs. Jennings in Sense and Sensibility, Sir Walter Elliot in Persuasion, and of course, Mrs. Bennet in Pride and Prejudice.  For years, the quirks of Austen’s secondary characters held me captive as a faithful reader. Their foibles and follies appealed to a particular defect in my own personality: my tendency toward irreverence. Austen’s heroes/heroines protagonists and antagonists and their so-called romance were simply plot devices to showcase how funny Sir Walter Elliot, Mr. Woodhouse and Mrs. Jennings were.

At first, Austen’s novels were not romance novels for me. To really escape from tight places, and to get that heart palpitating, swooning, shivering read of a romance, I read genre romance novels. Novels that weren’t assigned by high school English teachers. Novels with covers of women with bosoms more bodacious than mine. Novels with covers of men with hair longer than mine.

Then, during a particular “tight place” period a few years ago, on a shelf in my library, I stumbled across Jane Austen sequel books.

Be still my heart.

I read. I palpitated. I swooned. I shivered.

I searched for more of these stories, on shelves and then online. My space was no longer tight. My mind was no longer quiet. My soul was pierced by the romance of Mr. Darcy and Miss Bennet.

Mr. Darcy’s cropped locks, a la Brutus, replaced Fabio’s mullet. Miss Bennet’s spencer, demure yet still saucy, replaced bodacious bosoms.

Inspired by these writers’ interpretations of Mr. Darcy and Miss Bennet’s romance, I dipped my nib into ink.

A modern interpretation of Mr. Darcy and Miss Bennet’s romance appealed to me. To take beloved, iconic characters and infuse my own irreverent contemporary interpretation, while staying true to the joyful spirit of Austen’s work: what audacious challenge! To go to town on secondary characters: what bliss!

A collision of coincidences gave birth to the beginning setting of Compulsively Mr. Darcy. I’d discovered the addictive nature of reading tabloids at the same time I discovered the addictive nature of Jane Austen sequels.

Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie had just adopted a Vietnamese orphan. What must that been like for the locals to have these rich and famous people come to adopt one of their own?

That’s just like the Netherfield gang arriving in Hertfordshire. The comic potential of Bingley & Darcy and company coming to Vietnam to adopt a trendy Hollywood baby sparked my muse.

I had some familiarity with international adoption and had traveled to Asia and to Vietnam a few years earlier for a visit, I had emotional geography—memory of the cacophony of noises as soon as one left the airport, memory of the zany sight of people riding bikes carrying chickens and pigs, memory of the hilarious sight of a ninety-pounds cyclo driver taxiing an American tourist three sizes his weight through dust-filled streets.  Emotional geography is essential for a writer because the setting is truly another character in any story. I decided to begin the story in Vietnam.  The city of Da Nang replaced Hertfordshire as the setting. Netherfield became Net Thi Phen resort. Marble Mountains replaced the woods at Rosings.

How to interpret and develop the heroine?  From repeated readings of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, what struck me about her Elizabeth Bennet was how quick-to-judge she was, how assured she was in her snap judgment of people. I knew I wanted to explore that aspect of her characterization.

But how to get her to Vietnam? What would she be doing there?  She needed to be more than a tourist. She needed a local, an “expat.”

Write what you know.

I had a classmate, Lisa, who grew up in a nice suburb near Berkeley, California. Lisa went to Africa to work with orphans afflicted with AIDS, and I’ve always admired her for that. Before going to Africa, Lisa had never even traveled beyond the hundred-mile radius of Berkeley (the center of the world to us Berkeley gals!).  Lisa was the smartest girl in the class, and the most innocent, tender-heart person I knew. She’s still there. Lisa is Elizabeth.  It’s fitting. I had to use her as inspiration for my Dr. Elizabeth Bennet.

I didn’t have a specialty for Dr. Elizabeth Bennet until an obsessive-compulsive Mr. Darcy came fully fleshed to me one day. It was sheet-and-blanket laundry day at home, and it occurred to me that, if I were traveling, I wouldn’t have to wash the sheets. My mind jumped to how well and how often hotel sheets were actually washed, at home and abroad, whether at the Super 8 motel near my home or in the four-star resorts in Asia.  From my repeated reading of Jane Austen’s Mr. Darcy, I had an impression of an alpha male who liked to be in control.  I decided my hero Mr. Darcy would be control-freak who’d bring his own sheets to hotels.

If my Mr. Darcy was an OCD control-freak, then my Dr. Elizabeth Bennet had to be an infectious disease doctor who’s impulsive as heck to yin his yang.

And that was how Compulsively Mr. Darcy came to be written.

Author Bio:  Nina Benneton was on her way to save the world and earn a Nobel Prize in something, anything, when her own Mr. Darcy and a bevy of beautiful children interrupted her plans. She woke up one day and saw she was too obsessive about alphabetizing her spices and searching for stray Barbie shoes. She turned to writing.

Her debut novel, Compulsively Mr. Darcy, earned a Best Book review from Long and Short Review, “Hands down…a must read for lovers and fans of classic romance.”  Fresh Fiction Review called it a “tenderly written novel.”  Publishers Weekly wrote, “Die-hard fans of everything Austen will enjoy this update of her classic tale.” Visit Nina at her website: Nina Benneton; Facebook: as Nina Benneton; Twitter: as @NinaBenneton; and at Austen Authors.

Giveaway of Compulsively Mr. Darcy

Enter a chance to win one of three copies of Compulsively Mr. Darcy, by Nina Benneton by leaving a comment stating what intrigues you about this new retelling of Pride and Prejudice, or which character in the original novel you love or hate, by 11:59 PT, Wednesday, February 15, 2012. Winner announced on Thursday, February 16, 2012. Shipment to US and Canadian addresses only. Good luck!

Compulsively Mr. Darcy, by Nina Benneton
Sourcebooks (2012)
Trade paperback (352) pages
ISBN: 978-1402262494
Nook: ISBN: 978-1402262500
Kindle: ASIN: B006IBFYGU

© 2007 – 2012 Nina Benneton, Austenprose

Fitzwilliam Darcy, Rock Star Blog Tour with Author Heather Lynn Rigaud

Fitzwilliam Darcy, Rock Star, by Heather Lynn Rigaud (2011)Please join us today in welcoming author Heather Lynn Rigaud on her blog tour in celebration of the release of Fitzwilliam Darcy, Rock Star, a new contemporary retelling of Pride and Prejudice published today by Sourcebooks.

It’s so nice to be here on Austenprose today. It’s the first stop on my very first every blog tour, so I’m very, very excited.

So many people have asked me “Why a modern Pride and Prejudice and WHY a Rock Band???” Well, as always, it’s Jane’s fault. I came to Jane Austen, as many people have, through the movies. It started with Bridget Jones’ Diary the movie, then the book, then the 1995 Pride and Prejudice movie, and then the book. And then Persuasion, and then Northanger Abbey, and then Emma, and then Sense and Sensibility and then… Well, your readers know how that goes.

Like many hungry JA fans, I found JAFF fan fiction on the web, and soon was writing and posting my own. That’s when I met Abigail Reynolds. I was writing a modern P&P adaptation called Longbourn & Pemberley Go to War and she was writing Impulse & Initiative when she asked if I’d be willing to look at her love scene. Of course it was fantastic, but it started us beta-reading for each other.

It was Abigail who got me thinking about how would Darcy live in this modern time. It’s given that he would be wealthy and successful, but he also needed a modicum of fame. I was puzzling on how to make him a celebrity, but still Darcy- proud and aloof. He would never be glad-handing fans on TV Guide, or pushing his next big thing on Letterman.

He would be Darcy, at heart always true to his integrity, and yes, his pride. It came to me that he could be some kind of artist. They could easily maintain a quiet and aloof persona. A musician maybe? At the same time I was thinking about this, I heard a new song from a new band called “Puddle of Mudd”. The song was ‘She Hates Me’ and it occurred to me that this was so much like Darcy right after Elizabeth rejects him at Hunsford (I freely admit to having Jane Austen on the brain, and I strongly believe I’m not the only one) The chorus of the song goes like this:

I tried too hard

and she tore my feelings like I had none

and ripped them away

It was perfect. It expressed so clearly Darcy’s bitter anger at Elizabeth after she rejects him, as well as his underlying anger at himself. It was something I had to incorporate into my story. So then I thought about well known guitarists: Joe Perry of Aerosmith, Eddie Van Halen from Van Halen, The Edge of U2, even Slash from Guns & Roses. Men who were perfectly content to let someone else do the front man stuff. Men who let their instruments express what they felt. Then in a flash I had it:

Fitzwilliam Darcy is the enigmatic virtuoso guitarist of the world famous rock band Slurry.

I knew right there I had my story, and my Darcy. It was remarkable how quickly the pieces fell into place after that: Of course Bingley and Col. Fitzwilliam would be in his band. Of course, Wickham would have previously been part of the band until the ‘incident’ at Ramsgate. Of course Lady Catherine would own the record company. And of course Lizzy would be part of an ‘up & coming’ band. A new band seeking success and fame by playing with a world famous group is an excellent parallel to poorer women in the regency seeking to improve their lives by finding and marrying richer men. And of course Darcy would try and protect his friends from these opportunistic women.

In short, it was all there and I just had to write it down. I took the blueprint for my Mr. Darcy from JA – tall, handsome, dark eyes and hair. From there, I made him very talented, so there would be a basis of his pride. I made him independently wealthy, so he would be jaded by the whole music industry. And because he’s so good, and so rich, and so proud, I also made him very responsible. For him, everything connected to his band is his concern, especially his tour. So when something comes along to upset it, he’s going to be very defensive.

Into that already messy pile of emotions comes Elizabeth Bennet, who is as talented as Darcy, but is not rich and is not famous, and who has a big chip on her shoulder about being ‘good enough’. Is it any wonder that when these two fiery, driven, brilliant souls come together it’s explosive?

Fitzwilliam Darcy, Rock Star is their story. There are also the stories of their companions to keep things rolling, but it’s always Darcy and Elizabeth.

I hope your readers will try this crazy premise out and read it, and let me know what they think.

Thank you for having me, Laurel Ann, I’ve enjoyed being here.

Author Heather Rigaud (2011)Author Bio:

Heather Lynn Rigaud can usually be found trying to juggle too many things. A wife and mother of two, she suffers from excessive interest in almost everything that comes her way. She cooks, she sews, she writes, she knits, she Geo-Caches, she makes soaps, she collects perfume, she paints silk-and she overthinks every single one of them. But she’s lively and has a good (if bawdy) sense of humor.

Born and raised in world famous Woodstock NY by Republican parents, Heather Lynn has a lot of experience feeling like you just don’t fit in. This used to bother her greatly, but she’s mostly managed to overcome it, and even learned to enjoy walking ‘to the beat of a different drummer’. She enjoys reading, fine food and wine, and art. She is a professional writer with degrees in music therapy and teaching who lives with her husband and two sons in Kingston, New York. Fitzwilliam Darcy, Rock Star is her debut novel.

Visit Heather Lynn at her blog Austen Nights, on Twitter as @hlrigaud and on Facebook as Heather Lynn Rigaud.

Grand Giveaway

Enter a chance to win one of three copies of Fitzwilliam Darcy, Rock Star, by Heather Lynn Rigaud by leaving a comment stating what intrigues you most about reading a contemporary retelling of Pride and Prejudice, or which character from the original novel will, in your estimation, translate easily into a modern rock band setting, by midnight PT, Wednesday, September 14th, 2011. Winners to be announced on Thursday, September 15th, 2010. Shipment to US and Canadian addresses only. Good luck!

Fitzwilliam Darcy, Rock Star, by Heather Lynn Rigaud
Sourcebooks (2011)
Trade paperback (432) pages
ISBN: 978-1402257810

© 2007 – 2011 Heather Lynn Rigaud, Austenprose