Austenesque, Book Reviews, Contemporary Era, Reading Challenges

Undressing Mr. Darcy, by Karen Doornebos – A Review

From the desk of Christina Boyd: 

With a title like Undressing Mr. Darcy, author Karen Doornebos’ new release is sure to turn a few heads this holiday season. “Sex sells, even to smart, liberated women, and Mr. Darcy was the smart girl’s pinup boy.” p. 7 And like the novel’s heroine, a master PR rep who has turned tweeting into an #artform, Doornebos has carefully crafted another contemporary romance novel about an ambitious, highly energized, very modern woman who meets a charming Mr. Darcy re-enactor, sure to draw the attention of Janeites and romance readers alike.

When Vanessa Roberts, PR extraordinaire with the perpetually-present smartphone and ever-ready clever social media tweet or posting, takes on a pro-bono job as a favor for her elderly Jane Austen loving aunt, little does she expect promoting the English author of, My Year as Mr. Darcy, to turn her organized world topsy-turvy. When she finally meets Julian Chancellor, who has capitalized on his good looks “as he gives a little historical background on his Regency-era clothing as he proceeds to take it off –down to his drawers” at his book signings, she finds she too, like the throngs of Darcy fans in the audience, is caught by his artful allurements.

When she realizes his incentive for writing his book is to raise money to support the restoration of his ancestral home, coupled with his charm and gentlemen-like behavior, she can’t help herself but start to fantasize about what a fling, nay relationship, with him might be like. As they all attend the Jane Austen Society North America (JASNA) Annual General Meeting (AGM) in Chicago, while surrounded by Austen lovers fully immersed in the hubbub, Vanessa is busy promoting her author, “Want to tie the knot with Mr. Darcy? He’s in Cravat Tying 101 right now.#JASNAagm #UndressingMrDarcy #OrDressingMrDarcy?” p. 71 Surprisingly amongst all the bonnets and lace, she discovers she might be open to the possibilities of something more to life than constantly being plugged in.

It felt as if some of his Austen quotes were speaking directly to her at times, and it occurred to her that it might be time that she gave the author another chance. Perhaps her aunt had been on to something all these years. Was there something beyond the happily ever after stories and the demure portrait of a woman in a white ruffled cap that popped in Vanessa’s head every time ‘Jane Austen’ was mentioned?” p. 36

As Julian’s clothes come off, the heat turns up. But it’s not just his fine person that captivates her; his endearing friendship with her beloved aunt coupled with his affection and knowledge of all things Austen soon bewitch her body and soul. “‘The conversion has begun. It’s in your blood. Resistance is futile.’ He looked into her eyes and took a step backward. ‘You’re becoming an Austen fan.‘” p. 9

As in life, every dry spell has its flood. And for the lonesome, loveless Vanessa, soon after meeting Julian she meets a handsome, amiable pirate! Turns out HeroCon is happening simultaneously at the same Chicago hotel. Is Chase MacClane a rogue of the highest order or is he the hero in disguise?

Two Austen events later, Vanessa finds herself in England for the celebrated ten-day Jane Austen Festival in Bath. As soon as the plane lands, the consummate media maven posts, “‘Here I am once more in this Scene of Dissipation & vice, and I begin already to find my Morals corrupted.’ Could a girl ask for more? All sorts of sordid things happen in London.” p. 209 But all may not be how it appears. Later as she scampers about London and Bath on a wild, Austen-inspired scavenger hunt, she questions the authenticity of her relationship with Julian, her friendship with Chase, her aunt’s imminent Alzheimer’s diagnosis, and what she is going to do about any of it. “She laughed at her own folly. Folly? Had she ever used that word before? Why did she palpably feel Jane Austen’s presence across the room, near the trio, with folded arms and laughing at her?” p. 214 Doornebos’s storytelling had me biting my bottom lip until the very last, guessing who, if anyone, our fair heroine might choose!

Karen Doornebos, the author of Definitely Not Mr. Darcy, has certainly delivered me good tidings of comfort and joy this holiday season with this latest offering. Because of her concise research of Austen, in concert with the believable dialogue and madcap romantic antics, I am compelled to tweet: “@xtnaboyd Undressing Mr. Darcy is the #perfectstockingstuffer for Austen & Darcy lovers everywhere- regardless who are naughty or nice!”

5 out of 5 Stars 

Undressing Mr. Darcy, by Karen Doornebos
Berkley Trade (2013)
Trade paperback (368) pages
ISBN: 978-0425261392

Cover image courtesy of Berkley Trade © 2013; text Christina Boyd © 2013, Austenprose.com

Austenesque, Historical Fiction, Historical Mystery, Thriller & Suspense Fiction

Jane Austen Book Sleuth: New Books in the Queue for Summer 2013

Summer is here — and it time to head to the beach or take that well-earned holiday and read great books!

Summer reads are always fun—and little light-hearted and playful—and the Austenesque & Regency faire in the queue is so exciting that the Jane Austen Book Sleuth is thrilled to share what we will be reading and reviewing here on Austenprose in the coming months. Included are release dates and descriptions of the titles by the publisher to help you plan out your summer reading. Pre-order and enjoy! 

Austen-inspired Nonfiction 

Walking Jane Austen's London, by Louise Allen 2013Walking Jane Austen’s London, by Louise Allen (June 25) 

The London of Jane Austen’s world and imagination comes to life in this themed guidebook of nine walking tours from well-known landmarks to hidden treasures –each evoking the time and culture of Regency England which so influenced Austen’s wise perspective and astute insight in novels such as Pride and Prejudice. Extensively illustrated with full-color photographs and maps these walks will delight tourists and armchair travelers as they discover eighteenth-century chop houses, elegant squares, sinister prisons, bustling city streets and exclusive gentlemen’s clubs among innumerable other Austenesque delights.  

– During Jane Austen’s time, 1775 – 1817, London was a flourishing city with fine streets, fashionable squares and a thriving port which brought in good from around the globe. Much of this London still remains, the great buildings, elegant streets, parks, but much has changed. This tour allows the reader to take it all in, noting what Jane may have experienced while citing modern improvements such as street lighting and privies! 

ISBN: 978-0747812951
© 2013 Shire   Continue reading “Jane Austen Book Sleuth: New Books in the Queue for Summer 2013”

Book Reviews, Jane Austen Sequels Book Reviews

Attempting Elizabeth, by Jessica Grey – A Review

Image of the cover of the book Attempting Elizabeth, by Jessica Grey © 2013 Tall House BooksFrom the desk of Veronica Ibarra

Ever love a book so much that it is committed to memory? Have a favorite book that provides comfort and escape from life’s more troublesome realities? Pride and Prejudice is just such a book for many, including Kelsey Edmundson, the heroine of Jessica Grey’s new Jane Austen-inspired novel Attempting Elizabeth, who is magically transported through time and dimension jumping right into the story.

Kelsey is a grad student with a deep and abiding geeky love for TV, movies, and books, particularly Pride and Prejudice. She is also in recovery after a bad breakup. In an effort to help Kelsey get back into the game of life, her roommate Tori Mansfield coerces Kelsey into putting on her shortest dress and best boots for a night of dancing. Kelsey, however, is not at the top of her game, suffering through a dance with an overly grope-y acquaintance, manages to insult the Aussie hottie Mark Barnes, and then utterly fails to redeem herself as the evening comes to a close.

If that is not bad enough, the next day Kelsey’s given a second chance to make a better impression with Mark on a group hiking excursion. Unfortunately, hiking is not really Kelsey’s thing and her foul mood prompts more ill-judged comments. Then without a chance to freshen up, the group goes out for dinner, where Kelsey’s downward spiral continues as she spills her drink and the sight of the woman who had put the nail in the coffin of Kelsey’s last relationship hanging all over Mark sends her into a bit of self-pity relapse.

This is when Kelsey seeks comfort in the way so many of us can relate. Dressed in her “rattiest sweats” and armed with a glass of wine and her favorite book, she settles on the couch for some escapist reading. Kelsey escapes far more effectively than she intends as she comes to inexplicably inside the body of Georgiana Darcy. Kelsey is confused. Not only is she inside the world of her favorite book, but being Darcy’s sister is no way to enjoy the experience.

Kelsey’s efforts to cope with her “delusion” are hilarious until she finally discovers the key to returning to her reality. However, reality finds Kelsey still unable to say or do the right thing around Mark, who fate seems to keep throwing at her. Kelsey wonders if it was just a fluke that got her into Pride and Prejudice or if there is a way to repeat the experience. With the exciting discovery that it is possible, Kelsey’s mission becomes jumping into Elizabeth in order to be with Pride and Prejudice’s hero, Darcy. But Kelsey finds that becoming Elizabeth is not so easily done and that her emotional baggage may have something to do with it.

Through Kelsey’s various character jumping Grey demonstrates a keen understanding of the characters Jane Austen created, and also looks at them through the eyes of a modern woman dropped into their world as a participant and not merely as an observer. This presents an added challenge for Kelsey who must fight against her desire to deviate from Austen’s story or suffer on repeat—to truly understand that, you really have to read Attempting Elizabeth.

While Kelsey can jump into Pride and Prejudice and live there with the Regency society, it is Regency as Austen wrote about it. Still the need of maids for dressing, how bathing is handled, and even how relieving oneself is done are only hinted at, but not explored in detail. How the lack of indoor plumbing alone does not kill Kelsey’s determination to be Elizabeth can only be explained by her desire to be with the real Darcy. If you have read Pride and Prejudice then you know that Elizabeth and Darcy do not hit it off from the get go and that there is a lot of time between meetings, we are talking months of time. Even having an escape hatch, I am not sure I would have the same determination as Kelsey.

Kelsey’s journey to true love and through the pages of Pride and Prejudice is fun and quirky. Her internal dialogue is full of references to things Austen would have known nothing about, such Star Wars and Quantum Leap. At the beginning of every chapter there is a quote from a movie, television show, or book, but the details are not given until the end of the story. I am not sure if Grey intended it to be a guessing game or not, but I had fun playing it that way as I read. I got sixteen out of twenty-two. Not sure how geeky that makes me, maybe slightly above average. It is also kind of interesting how the quotes fit with the chapters, but even without them the book is a fun read I would recommend.

4 out of 5 Regency Stars

Attempting Elizabeth, by Jessica Grey
Tall House Books (2013)
Trade paperback (320) pages
ISBN: 978-0985039660

Cover image courtesy © 2013 Tall House Books; text © 2013 Veronica Ibarra, Austenprose

Austenesque, Book Reviews, Contemporary Fiction, Young Adult Fiction

Emmalee: The Jane Austen Diaries #4, by Jenni James – A Review

Emmalee: The Jane Austen Diaries #4, by Jenni James (2012)From the desk of Kimberly Denny-Ryder

Several months ago I had the opportunity to read Persuaded by Jenni James, a modern YA (young adult) adaptation of Jane Austen’s Persuasion.  I was really impressed with James’ ability to keep the depth of Austen’s works when translating them into the modern world and make them appealing to the YA crowd. When offered the chance to review her adaptation of Emma, I jumped and said yes! I’ve always found that Emma Woodhouse is a difficult character to relate to. (At least to me) The film Clueless did an excellent job showcasing her naivety while also reflecting that deep down inside she was a good person with good intentions. I was interested in seeing if James could also reflect this naïve nature while still making Emma appealing to teens.

Emmalee Bradford, the modern-day equivalent to Emma, lives a very satisfying life.  She believes that she is an expert matchmaker and never misses an opportunity to set her friends up on dates. She takes special interest in Hannah, whom she decides to devote all her energy to in order to make her popular. What she doesn’t realize, however, is all this energy expended on others leaves her alone and partner-less. Will she be able to find a match for herself despite being so adept at finding matches for others?

As I said before, Jane Austen’s Emma is a difficult character to relate to. Emmalee, on the other hand, is surprisingly refreshing. This may be because of her age. We’ve all had those awkward teen years dealing with growing up, moving on, difficult parents, friendship/relationship woes, and all the other difficulties being a teen brings. On the surface, Emmalee seems like a spoiled rich kid, but when you get in her head, she genuinely thinks that what she does and says is completely unselfish. By the end of the novel, we see her begin to look at her actions from a different perspective and take responsibility for them. This highlights an emotional growth that was missing in Emmalee in the beginning and is now beginning to transform her into a much more mature person. James weaves this into the plot perfectly, much like Austen made Emma transform from a slightly superficial matchmaker to a woman who has finally found true fulfillment in her own life. It is this transformation that makes Emmalee such a great read (and of course Emma too by extension!) Continue reading “Emmalee: The Jane Austen Diaries #4, by Jenni James – A Review”

Austenesque, Critiques & Analysis, Favorite Books, Historical Fantasy, Paranormal & Gothic Fiction, Historical Fiction, Historical Mystery, Thriller & Suspense Fiction

Top Jane Austen-inspired Books of 2012

Jane Austen Pop Art Banner

2012 was a banner year for Jane Austen-inspired books. From historical fiction to self-help to mysteries, Austen was visible in several genres and as popular as ever. Here are our top favorites reviewed here at Austenprose.com in 2012 with a bonus category, Readers Choice Awards.

Top 5 Historical sequels, prequels or retellings:

The Three Colonels: Jane Austen’s Fighting Men, by Jack Caldwell (4.5 stars)

Dear Mr. Darcy: A Retelling of Pride and Prejudice, by Amanda Grange (4.5 stars)

The Journey, by Jan Hahn (5 stars)

The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen, by Syrie James (5 stars)

A Pemberley Medley: Five Pride & Prejudice Variations, by Abigail Reynolds (5 stars)

Top 5 Contemporary inspired:

Compulsively Mr. Darcy, by Nina Benneton (4 stars)

Mr. Darcy Forever, by Victoria Connelly (4.5 stars)

Find Wonder in All Things, by Karen M. Cox (4.5 stars)

Hidden Paradise, by Janet Mullany (4.5 stars)

Darcy Goes to War: A Pride and Prejudice Re-imagining, by Mary Lydon Simonsen (5 stars)

Regency inspired:

Continue reading “Top Jane Austen-inspired Books of 2012”

Jane Austen in the News

Roundup of Pride and Prejudice Turning 200 and other Amusements

The Kiss, by Janet Taylor

Illustration of The Kiss, from a note card by Janet Taylor

This has been a heady week of Pride and Prejudice blitz from the media and bloggers celebrating the 200th anniversary of its publication on Monday, January 28, 2013. There have been so many articles, interviews, read-a-thons, television news segments, and Internet chat about Jane Austen’s “darling child” that even this confessed Austen obsessive is overwhelmed and unable to keep up with all of the festivities.  I was shocked to hear another Austenesque author tell me that she was sick of it. “What?” I exclaimed incredulously. “No! This is great for Jane’s fame and for authors,” I told her defensively.  She shrugged and agreed.

It is very gratifying to me to see my favorite author so amply admired by so many and honored by scholars and the media. In a world filled with so much uncertainty and unrest, Pride and Prejudice is indeed a truth universally acknowledged. I think it will be around and venerated as long as people value pithy dialogue, intelligent, spunky heroines, honorable heroes, and compelling love stories. If I had to narrow down why it is my favorite novel, I would say because it is such a chameleon: after repeated annual readings over thirty plus years, I always come to the final passage with some new insight and a calming satisfaction that some things in life are constant.

Here is my roundup of favorite #PandP200 articles:

Jane Odiwe, BBC interview (2013)

The enduring appeal of Pride and Prejudice

Our friend and Jane Austen Made Me Do It short story contributor Jane Odiwe is interviewed by the BBC. Jane, the author of four Austen-inspired novels, and numerous illustrations of her favorite Austen characters and scenes, admits to being obsessed with Jane Austen to the world. Brave, Jane. We love you!

Austen Power

“To mark the 200th anniversary of Pride and Prejudice, novelists, moviemakers and scholars are releasing a flood of new homages to cash in on the bottomless appetite for all things Austen.” The Wall Street Journal interviews Austen authors Sharon Lathan and Paula Byrne, publishers Oxford University Press, HarperFiction and Sourcebooks, scholars Juliette Wells and Claudia Johnson, and fan Meredith Esparza for this extensive article about Austen’s enduring appeal. Wowza! It got a full page spread in the print edition. Go #TeamJane!

200 Years of Pride and Prejudice Book Design

There are thousands of editions of P&P (it seems) and we love to discover cover designs, old and new. This article in the The Atlantic Wire shares many of the good, the bad, and the horrid, including ones that I included in a post My Top Ten Pride and Prejudice Covers that I wrote in 2010. I guess I was ahead of the trend.

Colin Firth dripping wet with sex as Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice (1995)

Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice: Darcy is still the ultimate sex symbol

Like this is a surprise? The Telegraph (UK newspaper) offers up this cream puff of a piece on a truth already universally acknowledged by any Janeite worth their weight in syllabub. *yawn* We still like seeing wet shirt Darcy and enjoyed the history of his on screen persona thank you very much!

Why Jane Austen’s Pride And Prejudice still has appeal 200 years on

Professor Karen O’Brien, Austen expert, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Education) and Professor of English Literature at the University of Birmingham, explains why Pride and Prejudice’s appeal has spanned two centuries – and is still growing.

Pride and Prejudice is an enduring classic because it is really about the human instinct to pursue happiness, to insist that happiness is something we are all entitled to (no matter what the Lady Catherine de Bourghs of this world tell us) and to believe that those who are generous, affectionate and self-aware stand the best chance of becoming happy.

The love story is fundamentally about that path to self-awareness, and how a genuinely intimate relationship is a mutual journey in which we come to know ourselves, each other and the world.

We are reminded of Austen’s rub of Birmingham in Emma. I think they have forgiven her.

A Tweet Universally Acknowledged

How would the Netherfield ball play out on Twitter? Austenesque author Lynn Shepherd’s delightful imaginings of a Twitter feed if the Bennet girls could tweet and Darcy could DM. Even Mr. Collins has his say. How he condensed his flowery soliloquies down to 140 characters is quite a feat.

Chatsworth House, Derbyshire, England

Following in Jane Austen’s Footsteps: Discover Novelist’s England

A video look at Chatsworth House, the famous grand manor in Derbyshire that many believe was Jane Austen’s inspiration for Pemberley, Mr. Darcy’s estate in Pride and Prejudice. Ooo, we are always awed by its magnificence and are reminded of this passage from chapter 43:

Elizabeth’s mind was too full for conversation, but she saw and admired every remarkable spot and point of view. They gradually ascended for half a mile, and then found themselves at the top of a considerable eminence, where the wood ceased, and the eye was instantly caught by Pemberley House, situated on the opposite side of a valley, into which the road with some abruptness wound. It was a large, handsome stone building, standing well on rising ground, and backed by a ridge of high woody hills; and in front a stream of some natural importance was swelled into greater, but without any artificial appearance. Its banks were neither formal nor falsely adorned. Elizabeth was delighted. She had never seen a place for which nature had done more, or where natural beauty had been so little counteracted by an awkward taste. They were all of them warm in their admiration; and at that moment she felt that to be mistress of Pemberley might be something!

Janeites: The curious American cult of Jane Austen

BBC News interviewed Janeites and scholars about the phenomenon of Pride and Prejudice and Jane’s fame here in America including blog mistress and author Myretta Robens of The Republic of Pemberley, professor of English Literature at Princeton University and esteemed Austen scholar Claudia L Johnson, and me. Yes, you read that correctly. ME. In our best imitation of Mr. Collins, we were very humbled that the esteemed BBC condescended to interview us on such an auspicious occasion.

Which—leads me to my own personal Pride and Prejudice 200 encounter at work on Wednesday with a non-Janeite sent on an errand by his teenage daughter.

Customer: Do you have a copy of Pride and Prejudice?
Me: *smiles* Why yes, we have several editions. Is this a gift or for yourself?
Customer: It’s for my 14-year old daughter who has never had an interest in reading classics before. She gave me this news article and asked for this book too, written by some Jane Austen cultist who lives in our hometown of Snohomish.
Me: *Nods in stunned silence. Looks at article.* Yes, I am familiar with the article and the book.
Customer: Really? What a coincidence!
Me: Monday was the bicentenary of the publication of Pride and Prejudice. It was all over the media and television. *walks customer over to Austen shelf in fiction and then to anthologies for Jane Austen Made Me Do It.
Customer: *points at cover of Jane Austen Made Me Do It* Do you know anything about this book?
Me: *pregnant pause* I do. I am the Jane Austen cultist who lives in Snohomish.
Customer: *Stares in stunned silence and then laughs loudly*
Me: *calmly smiles* I hope she enjoys both books!
Customer: *still laughing, he nods his thanks and walks away*

Happy bicentenary Pride and Prejudice!

If you would like to continue the celebration with us here at Austenprose, please join The Pride and Prejudice Bicentenary Challenge 2013. We are reading Jane Austen’s classic and many Austen-inspired sequels, viewing movie adaptations and other diverting entertainments with great giveaway prizes all year long.

Cheers,

Laurel Ann

© 2013 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

Austenesque, Favorite Books

Last Day to Vote for Your Favorite Jane Austen-inspired Book of 2012!

Jane Austen Warhol Banner

Make haste! The poll closes at 11:59 pm PT tonight for Austenprose’s Readers Choice Award for Austen-inspired books that were published in 2012 or have been reviewed here last year. One vote per IP address.

Best of luck to all of the authors!

Cheers,

Laurel Ann

© 2013, Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

Austenesque, Book Reviews, Regency Era

Georgiana and the Wolf: Pride and Prejudice Continues Volume 6, by Marsha Altman – A Review

Georgiana and the Wolf by Marsha Altman (2012)From the desk of Veronica Ibarra

As if reading about the continued lives of our favorite characters from Pride and Prejudice and that of their children is not fascinating enough, send one Georgiana Bingley to seminary in France, throw in a murder with the rumor of a werewolf, and you potentially have something quite interesting. Such is Marsha Altman’s Georgiana and the Wolf, the sixth installment of her Pride and Prejudice Continues series. If you have not read any of the previous books then you are in luck as this one, though connected via Georgiana, can stand on its own without any confusion that reading a series out of order can cause.

Inspector Robert Audley has been pulled off a case in Paris and ordered to a small country town where the Marquis de Maret is rumored to be a werewolf and a murderer. With his engagement to Lady Heather Littlefield threatened by these rumors the marquis is eager for Inspector Audley to put an end to them. But things quickly become complicated as “the famed inspector of Paris” Audley uncovers a tangled web of clues that point to not one but two killers as more are found dead, and finds that Lady Littlefield’s companion Georgiana Bingley seems to be far more adept at gathering information than he.

Georgiana Bingley is the daughter of Charles Bingley and Jane Bennet, but little is made of this. All that is familiar to the avid Austen fan goes largely by the wayside because even though Georgiana is central to the story, where she comes from, who her family is, and any dowry attached to her is of little significance to this story.

The main character of this tale is Inspector Audley. It is through his eyes (and thoughts) that we are led through his investigation and distraction. Because of this we are kept focused on the case, but even as Audley finds the case baffling, it is clear that his distraction is the only thing really keeping him from solving the case. Though the particulars were interesting enough to keep me reading, I did not find myself baffled by it in the least. Continue reading “Georgiana and the Wolf: Pride and Prejudice Continues Volume 6, by Marsha Altman – A Review”

Jane Austen in the News

A Light, Bright, and Sparkling Pride and Prejudice Anniversary Celebration & Giveaway

Mr. Darcy & Elizabeth Bennet, Pride and Prejudice (1995)Huzzah Janeites! Today is the 200th anniversary of the publication of Jane Austen’s classic novel Pride and Prejudice. *throws confetti*

The exact day of publication of Pride and Prejudice is uncertain, but we do know from Austen’s personal correspondence that she had received her own copy from her publisher by January 27, 1813, and the London newspaper The Morning Chronicle announced Pride and Prejudice as ‘Published this Day’ on 28 January 1813. So, that is the date that scholars have accepted.

You will see all sorts of media coverage this week, including this BBC news article, and many others about this worldwide celebration, but the Jane Austen blogosphere is having their own party in honor of this fabulous novel with a Blog Hop hosted by Courtney at Stiletto Storytime and author Alyssa Goodnight. See the great list of giveaways that we are offering to readers below!

If you would like your celebration of Pride and Prejudice to continue, please join us here at Austenprose for The Pride and Prejudice Bicentenary Challenge 2013. We are reading the classic novel and exploring many of the many novels, books, movies and entertainments that it has inspired with a monthly review and discussion. It’s totally free and guaranteed fun. Continue reading “A Light, Bright, and Sparkling Pride and Prejudice Anniversary Celebration & Giveaway”