There Must be Murder, by Margaret C. Sullivan – A Review

There Must Be Murder, by Margaret C. Sullivan (2010)I was once told by an academic that Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey was the least read of her six major novels. Shocking. I can’t think why; or why we even need to rank masterpieces among masterpieces. I adore it. I will admit that it was the last of her major novels that I read, so I may be proof to her pudding. Yes, the academic shall remain unnamed and duly forgotten; but Northanger Abbey should not.

I sincerely regretted waiting so long to read it. I laughed and rolled my eyes at the incredible skill of Austen at parodying Gothic romances, and for creating a hero, unlike any of her others, whose sense of humor and endearing charm make the über romantic icon Mr. Darcy dull in comparison to Mr. Tilney’s sparkling wit. Who, pray tell, could not love a man who loves a woman who thinks she cannot speak well enough to be unintelligible, or who thinks people who have no pleasure in a good novel are intolerably stupid? *swoon*

Northanger Abbey sequels are as scarce as a comely heiress. I can count them on one hand. There Must Be Murder, by Margaret C. Sullivan is a welcome addition to the slim collection. At 118 pages and twelve chapters it qualifies as a novella. I am not complaining. At all. I will take a Jane Austen sequel continuing the story after the wedding of our heroine in the making Catherine Morland and Austen’s most underrated hero Henry Tilney without hesitation, but with a wary eye. The story has a promising beginning. The tone is pleasing and the reverence to canon characters a relief.

We find Catherine and Henry comfortably settled as newlyweds at Woodston parsonage in Gloucestershire. Ever the thoughtful romantic, Henry proposes that they celebrate the anniversary of their first meeting in Bath with a visit to the city. Once there they are reunited with Henry’s sister Eleanor and introduced to her new husband Lord Whiting. Also in attendance at the Lower Rooms is Henry’s father the dour autocrat General Tilney, his recently widowed wealthy neighbor Lady Beauclerk, her twenty-seven year-old unmarried daughter Judith, and her husband’s nephew and heir Sir Philip Beauclerk. Catherine is happy to dance the night away, while family differences bubble and stew.

Illustration by Cassandra Chouinard in There Must Be Murder, by Margaret C. Sullivan (2010)As Henry and Catherine continue to enjoy the delights of Bath attractions, they begin to learn that there are suspicious circumstances involving the death of General Tilney’s neighbor Sir Arthur Beauclerk brought forward by his widowed sister Fanny Findlay. She believes his death had not been natural – and it appears that many in this unhappy family would benefit from his early demise. The suspects stack up like winter cordwood ready for the fire. Is it the wife, Lady Beauclerk, eager to be free of his miserly pocketbook?  The daughter, Miss Judith, squashed by parental oppression? The dissipated nephew, Sir Philip, prohibiting his uncle from changing the will? Or the sister, Mrs. Findlay, ready to bump off all the heirs in line before her to regain the family fortune? Catherine’s Gothic inspired imagination may serve her well as a detective, if Henry can temper her impulses and guide them to a logical conclusion.

There Must Be Murder had me hooked at Henry reading Udolpho, Anne Radcliffe’s classic Gothic novel, to his young bride in bed. Brilliant. It is exactly how I envisioned their marriage would continue: Henry romantically feeding his wife’s passion for a horrid novel and Catherine finding new insights from the text from his patient and humorous explanations. The story cleverly builds, slowly layering in new characters, revealing family conflicts, planting evidence. Along the way we revisit Milsom-street, Beechen Cliff, the Pump-room, Laura Place and all the highlights of Catherine’s first adventure in the beautiful Georgian-era city. Sullivan has captured the charm and endearing delight of Austen’s characters beautifully, added new ones rich in folly and nonsense, and a Newfoundland dog named MacGuffin who steals every scene. The numerous illustrations by Cassandra Chouinard are enchanting. My only disappointment was in the length. It was over much too quickly. Austen’s Henry Tilney would have been annoyed, claiming this shortcoming was “nice.”  We will agree.

4 out of 5 Regency Stars

There Must Be Murder, by Margaret C. Sullivan, illustrations by Cassandra Chouinard
LibriFiles Publishing (2010)
Trade paperback (118) pages
ISBN: 978-0615425870

© 2007 – 2010 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

Prom and Prejudice, by Elizabeth Eulberg – A Review

Prom and Prejudice, by Elizabeth Eulberg (2011)Guest review by Kimberly Denny-Ryder of Reflections of a Book Addict

Young adult fiction author Elizabeth Eulberg is back with Prom and Prejudice, her teen driven homage to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Eulberg has quickly earned a name for herself in the world of teen romances due to the popularity of her debut novel The Lonely Hearts Club. Her novels have a flare for the comedic which this blogger believes is to her credit, as it shines as one of her strengths. She takes perhaps the most well known line that Austen ever wrote and adds her comedic flair to draw us in.

“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single girl of high standing at Longbourn Academy must be in want of a prom date.”

It is with this line that we enter the world of Longbourn Academy, an all-girls school filled with rich, privileged, boy-crazy teen girls who have fashion designers on speed dial and have never heard the word no before. Hoboken native Elizabeth Bennet is the new scholarship student who is tortured on a daily basis for her poor and meager background. Her roommate Jane, fellow scholarship student Charlotte Collins, and piano teacher Mrs. Gardiner are the only friends that Lizzie has at Longbourn. Lizzie understands that she’ll never be accepted into the society of her fellow students and thus throws herself into her academic studies and the piano, where she has incredible talent. Being friends with Jane however does thrust her into the company of Charles Bingley, Caroline Bingley, and Will Darcy. (Will and Charles attend Pemberley Academy, the all-boys school near Longbourn) There are some sparks between Lizzie and Darcy at first, but they quickly fizzle out once her scholarship status is found out. Unfortunately the two continue to be thrown into each other’s paths since their best friends Jane and Charles are dating. Unbeknownst to Jane and to Elizabeth, Charles’ sister begins putting a wedge in between Jane and Charles. Caroline is unimpressed with the company that Jane keeps and finds Jane an unsuitable match for her brother. Charles soon disappears from Jane’s life, causing Jane to have a major meltdown. With prom only weeks away and Vera Wang already beginning her designer prom gown, how will she show her face without a date?! Elizabeth tries to convince Jane that prom is not the most important thing in life, but to a Longbourn girl it’s the social event of the season. Will Jane and Charles get back together in time for Prom? Will Lizzie and Darcy ever get over themselves to see the other for what they truly are?

If you are a fan of Pride and Prejudice and have a younger girl in your family that has no interest in reading it, get them to try Prom and Prejudice. I can almost guarantee that after reading it they will be interested in trying Jane Austen. Elizabeth Eulberg has crafted an excellent teen drama with the characters from the novel we’ve come to know and love. Elizabeth Bennet is a spieited heroine who has amazing strength, tenacity, accomplished piano skills that could rival Georgiana Darcy’s in the original novel and some misdirected notions of the wealthy. Jane and Charles are kind, caring, and looking for the good in everyone. Wickham is still a womanizing jerk, always scheming for a way to discredit Darcy. Darcy is still always looking out for his friends and family with a fierceness in him that is sometimes misjudged for arrogance and conceit.

I really enjoyed this fun retelling of Pride and Prejudice. Eulberg did a fantastic job in creating a new story to bring to a younger audience and adults too. I’ve read quite a few Austen inspired novels (as chronicled here of course) and I wasn’t bored with it at any point. It was refreshing to read not only a modern adaptation of Austen’s work, but one that adapted it to a time that we all experience in our lives, our teen years. You can definitely relate to the main characters as they struggle with finding a date for prom, trying to get through finals, first loves, broken friendships, etc.

My only disappointment was in its length. At 288 pages it was a tad short and could have benefited from a longer conclusion to the story. I’m hoping that Eulberg will continue writing more about Lizzie and Darcy inspired novels in the future. It’s a nice change to read about their teenage versions, and I think it provides a new audience an entrance into the world of Jane Austen.

4 out of 5 Regency Stars

Prom and Prejudice, by Elizabeth Eulberg
Scholastic, Inc. (2011)
Hardcover (288) pages
ISBN:  978-0545240772

© 2007 – 2010 Kimberly Denny-Ryder, 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”

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

Announcing the Jane Austen Made Me Do It Short Story Contest

Jane Austen Made Me Do It Short Story Contest 2011 graphicThe Jane Austen Made Me Do It

Short Story Contest Begins

January 1, 2011

In conjunction with the publication of the new anthology Jane Austen Made Me Do It, Ballantine Books, Austenprose.com, and The Republic of Pemberley are pleased to announce an online short story contest.  Enter for a chance to win the Grand Prize: publication of your entry in the anthology – a collection of original short stories inspired by the life and works of popular English novelist Jane Austen (1775-1817).  Hosted by the Jane Austen web site The Republic of Pemberley, the contest begins on January 1, 2011. Publication of Jane Austen Made Me Do It is tentatively scheduled for publication by Ballantine in Fall 2011.

Contest Highlights

  • Eligibility: Previously unpublished U.S. residents over the age of 18
  • Entries must be approximately 5,000 words in length
  • Manuscript submission January 1 – February 13, 2011
  • Voting for the Top Ten finalists February 14 – 28, 2011
  • Top Ten finalists announced on March 1, 2011
  • One Grand Prize winner receives $500.00 and a contract for publication in the anthology Jane Austen Made Me Do It
  • Grand Prize winner announced Fall 2011 in conjunction with the official release by Ballantine Books (Random House, Inc.) of Jane Austen Made Me Do It

Jane Austen Made Me Do It contains more than twenty best-selling and popular authors who have contributed short stories inspired by Jane Austen, her novels and her philosophies of life and love. From historical continuations of her plots and characters to contemporary spinoffs and comedies, the stories encapsulate what we love about our favorite author: romance, social satire and witty humor. Contributing to the line-up are best-selling authors Karen Joy Fowler (The Jane Austen Book Club), Adriana Trigiani (Brava, Valentine), Lauren Willig (The Pink Carnation series), Laurie Viera Rigler (The Jane Austen Addict series), Syrie James (The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen), Stephanie Barron (Being A Jane Austen Mystery series), and the husband and wife writing team of Frank Delaney (Venetia Kelly’s Traveling Show) and Diane Meier (The Season of Second Chances). Many Austenesque authors and others from related genres have also contributed stories to the project. One spot in the anthology remains open for the lucky Grand Prize winner. Continue reading “Announcing the Jane Austen Made Me Do It Short Story Contest”

UPDATED! Download Free Jane Austen-inspired eBooks on her Birthday, December 16, 2010

Sourcebooks Jane Austen Birthday Banner 2010

Update 16 December 2010: 1:00 pm PT

Breaking News:

Sourcebooks has extended the one day offer through 17 December 2010.

Next Thursday, December 16th is Jane Austen’s 235th birthday and Sourcebooks, the world’s leading Jane Austen publisher, is throwing a huge one-day-only birthday book bash. They will be offering ten of their best Austen-inspired novels for FREE. Yep. That’s right. FREE!

Anyone with a digital eReader, or free application on their computer, or blackberry, or iPhone, or Android, or iPad can download the books. Just go to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Borders, etc. online on December 16th and download away! (I highly recommend Barnes & Noble’s free Nook applications if you do not already own an eReader like me! You can read the eBooks on five different electronic devices ) Continue reading “UPDATED! Download Free Jane Austen-inspired eBooks on her Birthday, December 16, 2010”

Jane Austen 101: Fan Fiction Web Sites

Jane Austen Fan Club

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”

Pemberley Ranch Author Jack Caldwell’s Whistle-stop Blog Tour

Pemberley Ranch, by Jack Caldwell (2010)Pemberley Ranch, the latest re-imagining of Jane Austen’s novel Pride and Prejudice officially hits books stores this week. Transporting Austen’s classic Regency-era romance to the American West of post-Civil War Texas is an intriguing notion that I could not pass up. My co-reviewer Christina Boyd and I were so inspired by the ole Wild West spirit we offered a double-barrel review of Pemberley Ranch for your consideration. As you will read, it was a heart-pounding, rip-roaring, sure-fire page-turner.

Joining us today on the first leg of his whistle-stop blog tour is author Jack Caldwell. I was curious about his take on Mr. Darcy as a romantic icon in any century. Did he see parallels between the Regency gentleman and the American cowboy icon? How do the traits and characteristics from the Regency apply to the American West? Welcome Jack!

FITZWILLIAM DARCY AS A COWBOY? REALLY?

Greetings, everyone. I’m Jack Caldwell, author of Pemberley Ranch, a western-themed re-imagining of Pride & Prejudice. I hope all of you in the United States had a wonderful Thanksgiving. I’d like to thank Laurel Ann and Austenprose for this opportunity to talk to you about that great paragon of masculinity, Fitzwilliam Darcy, Esq.

Man, what we guys have to live up to.

Darcy—Jane Austen’s perfect man.  Rich, handsome, honorable, intelligent, generous, reasonable, modest, and romantic. Yet with just enough flaws—pride, lack of liveliness, and incivility—to make him “real” and “fixable.”  Yes, fixable.  Darcy’s far more interesting than Henry Tilney, isn’t he?

Let’s face it, ladies, you do like to civilize us animals.  Whether it is our manners, our dress, or our language, we men are often a life-long “work in progress.” And you ladies don’t have to succeed. If your improvements stick, all the better, but if they don’t, it gives you something to talk about with your girlfriends. Continue reading “Pemberley Ranch Author Jack Caldwell’s Whistle-stop Blog Tour”

Pemberley Ranch, by Jack Caldwell – A Review

Pemberley Ranch, by Jack Caldwell (2010)In the spirit of the ole Wild West, Christina and Laurel Ann have agreed to a double barrel review!

Review by Christina Boyd

The latest re-imagining of Jane Austen’s classic Pride and Prejudice is Jack Caldwell’s debut novel, Pemberley Ranch, a tale of fancy in a style entirely new. Set in the post-Civil War Era on the plains of Texas, ardent Union supporter Beth Bennet and family must retrench from Meryton, Ohio to the wilds of Rosings, Texas. When Beth encounters the handsome, rich yet unfortunately arrogant owner of Pemberley Ranch, Will Darcy, an attraction ensues. Rich or not, however, Beth cannot overlook his Confederate past and coupled with the town gossip and tales shared by carpetbagger George Whitehead, Darcy doesn’t stand a chance when he presses his suit. But as bullets start to fly, Darcy is the only one who can settle the dust and save the Bennet’s from ruin.

In this Wild West incarnation of Pride & Prejudice, Caldwell uses many familiar (or similar rather) names from Jane Austen’s canon in entirely original plot devices – as well as many newcomers, like the former slave family, the Washington’s. Like the Bennet’s, they too have come to Rosings for a fresh start. They buy land from Cate Burroughs, Darcy’s cousin, but encounter deadly prejudices along the way that prove all is not what it may seem. The railroad is coming to town and if the greedy, dangerous faction of Kid Denny, George Whitehead and Billy Collins have any say, nothing will stand in their way of becoming the new masters of the west.

This sure-fire page-turner with Jack Caldwell’s heart pounding standoffs and heart racing romantic moments is bested only by his real gift in the clever nuances and subtle references, ie.  Lizzy’s horse, a “paint,” named Turner (more than a nod to the famous Regency Era painter, J.M.W. Turner.) As an unabashed reader of this Louisiana native since his early Cajun ramblings at various fan-fiction sites, I must humbly admit to being “a partial, prejudiced, & ignorant historian.” His masterful handling of the historical action and colloquialisms authenticates this fictitious musing and the footnotes are quite helpful to one such as myself, who is rather uniformed regarding the particulars of this Reconstruction Period. To pinch a line or two from Daniel Decatur Emmett’s rallying song, Dixie, Caldwell takes his stand and triumphs in his debut novel retelling “old times there are not forgotten… Hooray! Hooray!” The slated Spring 2012 release of his next offering, The Three Colonels, really is too long a wait. *sigh*

5 out of 5 Regency Stars

Review by Laurel Ann

I have been patiently awaiting a Wild West rendition of Pride and Prejudice for some time, so when Pemberley Ranch rode into town, I was all anticipation. The blending of the two genres seemed like a natural to me; especially concerning two romantic archetypes – the Regency gentleman and the American cowboy. *swoon*

It’s really not surprising that so many elements from the Regency-era have transitioned neatly into Caldwell’s new adaption of Jane Austen classic story set in post-Civil War Texas. Lizzy and Darcy are as spirited and arrogant as ever in any century, transformed into Beth Bennet, a poor Yankee farmer’s daughter from Ohio relocated to Rosings, Texas where rich Johnny Reb William Darcy has a large cattle spread, Pemberley Ranch, and the local Darcy Bank. Caldwell does a great job of melding the plot to fit a western theme, changing enough of the story to make it original, yet harkening to all of the plot points that readers will recollect from the original narrative. There are some important exceptions. Given that this is a tall tale from the Wild, Wild West, Cate Burroughs (Lady Catherine de Bourgh), George Whitehead (George Wickham) and Lily Bennet (Lydia Bennet) can be “really” officious, dastardly and loose! Well maybe they were already, but in this setting the writer does not have to be as proprietous as Austen was obliged to be in the early nineteenth-century.

Pemberley Ranch had some surprises. The Team Tilney fan-girls will be happy to know that Henry himself makes an appearance as a very “likable” high plains rector in a supporting role. Even pedantic Mary Bennet is under his charms. The dialogue is lacking Austen’s wit and snappy retorts, but shucks, this is the Wild West where outlaws and lawmen talk with their guns. The story builds beautifully in the western theme of shoot-outs over the land as opposed to Austen’s conflict of social decorum with witty words. However, some things never change as both plots have money struggles in common, and, the eventual humbling of Darcy’s pride and dissolution of Beth’s prejudice – culminating in a great romance as they ride off into the sunset. Yippy ki-aye.

4 out of 5 Regency Stars

Pemberley Ranch, by Jack Caldwell
Sourcebooks, Landmark (2010)
Trade paperback (363) pages
ISBN: 978-1402241284

Glorious Pemberley Ranch Giveaway

Want to enter a chance to win one of five copies of Pemberley Ranch? Follow this link to Jack Caldwell’s whistle-stop blog tour and leave a comment there before December 13, 2010. Good luck!

© 2010 Austenprose

Captain Wentworth’s Persuasion: Jane Austen’s Classic Retold Through His Eyes, by Regina Jeffers – A Review

Guest review by Kimberly Denny-Ryder of Reflections of a Book Addict

There are few readers of Jane Austen’s Persuasion who have finished the novel and not been more than a little in love with the dashing Captain Frederick Wentworth. His famous “you pierce my soul” letter to heroine Anne Elliot is one of the most moving love letters in literary history. Happily, author Regina Jeffers has given his fans another opportunity to relive the story in Captain Wentworth’s Persuasion. Entirely retold through his eyes via flashbacks and expanded sequences in the present, we are offered the same classic love story, but from an entirely new perspective.

Frederick Wentworth and Anne Elliot were engaged once upon a time. Anne was persuaded not to marry him due to his low standing in society and his lack of fortune. Being the daughter of a baronet she was expected to marry someone of good fortune and high social standing. Eight years later their paths cross again, but with reversed financial circumstances. He is now a wealthy Captain returned from the war, and the Elliot family is so far in debt they must retrench and rent out their family estate of Kellynch Hall to Frederick’s sister Sophy and her husband Admiral Croft. When Frederick and Anne are reunited, they must discover if they still love each other, or if they are lost to each other forever.

“I created a quagmire.  When I first went to Uppercross, I purposely entertained the attention of Miss Musgrove.  I needed Anne to see how others wanted me, even though she did not.  I played games for which I now must pay.  Lately, I decided I still wanted Anne, but I knew I had to distance myself from Louisa Musgrove, before I could plead my case with Miss Anne.”

With Captain Wentworth’s Persuasion, the entire story is infused with new life due to the strong characterizations that Ms. Jeffers writes. In the original Persuasion you know that Frederick stayed with his brother for a period of time that is not discussed in the novel. In Captain Wentworth’s Persuasion Jeffers creates the whole time period of their stay, essentially writing the character of Frederick’s brother Edward. She created a rich relationship that unlocked another portion of Frederick which was previously undiscovered.

My biggest disappointment in the novel was what Ms. Jeffers did to the character of Louisa Musgrove. She made her out to be a grudging, jealous, and immature character that just did not seem to fit with the character Austen originally created. Austen had Louisa become engaged to Captain Benwick due to a change in her personality from her fall at the Cobb at Lyme. In Captain Wentworth’s Persuasion I saw no change from the frivolous girl she was prior to her serious injury and recovery.

I absolutely loved this novel. Most Jane Austen inspired retellings that I’ve read just give the same story that Austen wrote without much of the author’s own creativity. Ms. Jeffers takes Austen’s story and gives it back to the reader in a new way, taking the events we know to have happened, but expanding on them. She takes what happens after the wedding and tells their past, present and future all at the same time.  It made the book fly by. I was done with it before I even realized it.

Previously published in 2009 as Wayward Love: Captain Wentworth’s Story, I highly recommend this book to any Persuasion fan. I can safely say that you will not be disappointed with it. The scenes and events that Ms. Jeffers creates for the unwritten scenes in Persuasion really do shed new light on the characters that we know and love.

5 out of 5 Regency Stars

Captain Wentworth’s Persuasion: Jane Austen’s Classic Retold Through His Eyes, by Regina Jeffers
Ulysses Press (2010)
Trade paperback (236) pages
ISBN: 978-1569757765

© 2007 – 2010 Kimberly Denny-Ryder Austenprose

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