If you have not been on another planet for the last six months, then you know about Fifty Shades of Grey, by E L James. It’s the first novel in an erotic romance trilogy that has been on the best seller list since April and flying off the shelves at my Barnes & Noble. It is estimated that the series has sold over 20 million copies. The movie rights have sold too! That is a lot of cold hard cash for its debut author, who until she wrote the series as fanfiction to the popular Twilight series, rewrote it and self-published, then sold the rights to Random House, was an unknown entity in the publishing world. To have a grand slam home run at your first time at bat. What are the odds? A bazillion to one? Wild!
Popularly tagged mommy porn, or mummy porn if you live on the other side of the pond, I first heard about the series when I read a review by a fellow Austenprose writer Kimberly Denny-Ryder on her blog Reflections of a Book Addict. Kim is an ardent Austenesque reader and I value her opinion implicitly. I was duly intrigued. Follow this link to read her review of the Fifty Shades Trilogy on her blog. I think you will find it honest and amusing.
With the astounding success of the Fifty Shades series, it was only a matter of time before other publishers jumped on the erotic bandwagon. But, imagine my surprise when I read this online article in the Daily Mail: Reader, I ravished him: Classics given a steamy Fifty Shades of Grey makeover that would make Jane Austen and the Brontes blush. It appears that a UK publisher thinks that there is a market for erotically enhanced classics:
Devotees of Jane Austen or the Bronte sisters may wish to loosen their corsets and have the smelling salts within reach.
Some of the greatest works of English literature have been controversially ‘sexed up’ for the 21st century.
Following the success of erotic novel Fifty Shades of Grey, one enterprising publisher has given classics such as Pride and Prejudice, Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights a bawdy makeover.
The existing texts have been interspersed with more racy scenes – some in toe-curling language that would surely have made the original authors blush.
Toe-curling language. Hm?
This description sounds like they are following the format of the recent bestselling mash-up Pride and Prejudice and Zombies that added bone-crunching zombie action into Jane Austen’s classic text. Now it is hot romantic scenes K-Y’d in. This is new? No way. Many Austenesque authors have been doing this for years. Linda Berdoll took us behind the green baize curtain in 1999 with her spicy sequel to Pride and Prejudice, The Bar Sinister (later republished in 2004 by Sourcebooks as Mr. Darcy Takes a Wife); Abigail Reynolds has re-imagined Pride and Prejudice from many perspectives, historical and contemporary, adding amorous scenes to her popular Pemberley Variations series (eight novels with the ninth, Mr. Darcy’s Refuge next) and Woods Hole Quartet series; and Sharon Lathan’s bestselling Darcy Saga, which follows the married life of Pride and Prejudice’s Mr. Darcy and his wife Elizabeth (seven novels with the eighth, The Passions of Mr. Darcy next). Even though these three authors enhance and expand Mr. Darcy’s romantic life, they are PG-13 and tastefully tame in comparison to the two 2011 publications, Pride and Prejudice: Hidden Lusts, by Mitzi Szereto and Pride and Prejudice: The Wild and Wanton Edition by Michelle Pillow, which really break into the R for decidedly racy category.
In addition to a sexed up Pride and Prejudice, the Clandestine Classics series by Total E-Bound will offer Austen fans an erotic version of Northanger Abbey! The underdog of Austen’s oeuvre, Northanger is not as widely read as Austen’s golden child P&P, or the scholar favorite Emma, but I adore it because of its exuberant young heroine Catherine Morland and witty and urbane hero Nonparallel, Henry Tilney. Since Catherine is only seventeen in the novel, one wonders out loud if she will be left as is, or??? The wicked side of me is a bit curious to see what they will do with my fav of Austen’s heroes Henry Tilney. Yes, he even surpasses Mr. Darcy in my esteem dear readers. *sigh*
There are always mixed opinions about adding sex to Austen. Claire Siemaszkiewicz, founder of Total-E-Bound, offered her buz-bite on her series and attempted to forestall the fallout in the article in the Daily Mail:
“Readers will finally be able to read what the books could have been like if erotic romance had been acceptable in that day and age.
We recognise it’s a bold move that may have a polarising effect on readers but we’re keeping the works as close to the original classics as possible.”
Polarising effect? That’s an understatement!
Now Austen must amend her famous line from Mansfield Park to:
“Let other pens dwell on guilt, misery and S&M.”
I am very curious what readers think of sex in their Austen? What is acceptable and what crosses the line of decorum?
© 2012 Laurel Ann, Austenprose