Jane Austen Made Me Do It Short Story Contest submissions end – voting begins!

Jane Austen Made Me Do It Short Story Contest 2011 graphicCongratulations to the eighty eight (88) writers who submitted Austenesque stories to the Jane Austen Made Me Do It Short Story Contest. Well done indeed!

All of the stories are posted online at the official contest board, so please head on over and start reading before you cast your vote for your three favorite stories. Voting will continue until February 28, 2011 and the Top Ten will advance to the final selection committee. The lucky winner will be included in the new Austen-inspired short story anthology Jane Austen Made Me Do It, and be announced on 11 October 2011.

Cheers,

Laurel Ann

© 2007 – 2011 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

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

Winners Announced in The Perfect Bride for Mr. Darcy Giveaway

The Perfect Bride for Mr Darcy, by Mary Lydon Simonsen (2011)Three lucky winners were drawn from the comments in The Perfect Bride for Mr. Darcy Giveaway. Congratulations to:

Pat A., Elenatintil and Jessica M.

You have each won one copy of The Perfect Bride for Mr. Darcy, by Mary Lydon Simonsen. To claim your prize, please contact me by January 18, 2011 with your full name and address. Shipment is to the US and Canada only. Enjoy your books ladies. Many thanks to author Mary Lydon Simonsen for your blog contribution and Sourcebooks for the swag.

© 2007 – 2011 Laurel Ann Nattress, 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, 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 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

The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen, by Syrie James – A Review

The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen, by Syrie James (2007)From the desk of Christina Boyd: 

Jane Austen. Fact: born December 16, 1775; died July 18, 1817 at age 41.  Fact:  never married. Fact: wrote six complete novels, including a few unfinished works, and juvenilia. Fact: lived out her life in a quiet Chawton Cottage with her older, spinster sister Cassandra and aging mother. Also known is that not long before her own death, Cassandra burned much of Jane’s private correspondence and even cut out entire passages of the letters saved, driving many discussions as to why? Many Jane Austen biographies abound and mention her brief flirtation with Tom Lefroy at the age of 19, and even her short-lived engagement to Harris Bigg-Wither, heir of Manydown Park, where over night she retracted her acceptance of his hand. But nothing from the author herself. Nothing as rich as a personal journal. What a literary triumph that would be to discover such a one!  Surely, a writer with transparent understanding of romance, great love and human nature would have had her own back story to mine such rich characters, conversations and scenarios as found in Pride & Prejudice, Persuasion, et al. Surely, such a mind would have experienced first-hand what it is to be in-love! Author Syrie James undertakes this venture of speculation in her novel, The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen.

In this fictional work, the story opens with an Editor’s Forward, written by a Mary I. Jesse, of Oxford University, President of the Jane Austen Literary Foundation, stating that manuscripts written in Jane Austen’s own hand were recently discovered in a chest that had been walled up at Chawton Manor House. These memoirs begin with Jane and Cassandra moving to Bath in 1801 with their parents, until Mr. Austen dies four years later, leaving the women barely solvent. During these years they make extended stays with their Austen brothers and are quite dependent on their kindness. On one particular occasion while visiting Lyme with her brother Henry, Jane meets the handsome, rich and amiable Mr. Frederick Ashford. As devoted Janeites will clearly perceive the language, phrasing and situations found in Austen’s masterpieces, we would also easily recognize many of her male protagonists’ characteristics in this fine gentleman. One example while strolling the Cobb, Jane loses her footing and would have fallen to her death on the hard pavement below if not for the quick actions by Mr. Ashford. A few moments later after this prophetic initial meeting, Jane attempts to properly thank him, Ashford declares

‘ No thanks are necessary.’

‘Indeed they are.  Reaching out as you did, you might have lost your footing and come to harm yourself.’

‘Had that been the case, I would have given my life – or limb – in a worthy cause.’

‘Do you mean to imply that it was worth risking your life, to save mine?’

‘I do.’

‘A bold statement, on such a short acquaintance.’

‘In what way bold?’

‘You are a gentleman and the heir to a title and, apparently, a vast estate.  Whereas I am a woman with no fortune and of very little consequence.’

‘If first impressions are to be believed, Miss Austen’ he began.

‘Never trust your first impressions, Mr. Ashford.  They are invariably wrong.’

‘Mine are invariably right.  And they lead me to this conclusion: that you, Miss Austen, are a woman of greater fortune and consequence than I.’

‘On what grounds do you base this claim?’

‘On these grounds: if you were to have perished just now, how many people would have missed you?’

‘How many people?’

‘Yes.’

‘I would like to think my mother, my sister, my friend Martha, and my six brothers would miss me.  My brothers’ wives, my nieces and nephews, who number more than a dozen, and perhaps several dear old friends.’

‘Whereas I have only my friend and one younger sister to regret my passing.’

‘No wife, then?’

‘No.  So you see, although I may be rich in property, you are rich in family, and therefore the far more wealthy and important of us.’

I laughed.  ‘If wealth were based on your principle, Mr. Ashford, the entire class system of England would fall apart at the seams.’ Chapter 3

Although knowing from the beginning that this was entirely a tale of fancy, and knowing in my head that Jane never married, the story filled my heart with an impossible hope. Moreover, I was surprised when I found myself weeping when the happy event never came to be.

Syrie James has extensively researched Austen’s life and Regency times blending what we know as fact with the mysterious lore created by the gaps unknown to her public, creating a beautiful, fictional what if. The footnotes, maps and Austen family tree as well as the chronology of her life were delightful reference bonuses. Also included is a Q & A with the author, Quotations from Austen’s works and letters, and even Book Club/Reading Group Study Guide discussion points.

Although this novel is a work of fiction, I read it through wishing all along that it were not. Like many, I would like to imagine this brilliant, opinionated, witty woman had met the great love of her life and that she did in fact experience some of the magic she so keenly wrote of. Syrie James successfully creates a world of Jane Austen we can only wonder. “…but for my part, if a book is well written, I always find it too short.” (The Juvenilia of Jane Austen) With such sage words I can only echo that The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen is indeed entirely too short!

5 out of 5 Regency Stars

The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen, by Syrie James
HarperCollins (2007)
Trade paperback (352)
ISBN: 978-0061341427

Cover image courtesy of HarperCollin © 2007; text Christina Boyd © 2010, Austenprose.com

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

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

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