Austensibly Ordinary, by Alyssa Goodnight – A Review

Austensibly Ordinary, by Alyssa Goodnight (2013)From the desk of Lisa Galek

What’s an average girl to do when she wants to add some excitement and romance to her life? Just ask Jane Austen, of course! Sure, she’s been dead for nearly 200 years, but there are ways around that little problem.

Cate Kendall spends her days teaching the classics like Emma to a group of quasi-bored high school students and her nights dreaming of doing something adventurous. The most excitement she’s got going on in her life is her weekly Scrabble games against her best friend, and fellow teacher, Ethan Chavez. When Cate receives an invitation to an Alfred Hitchcock-themed party in Austin, Texas, she realizes this is her chance to reinvent herself into the sexy woman of mystery she’s always dreamt of becoming.

But, as she’s preparing her transformation, Cate finds a centuries-old diary. It’s blank inside, but the inscription on the first page is a quote from none other than Jane Austen herself. Cate decides to use the diary to record her new adventures and plans. What she doesn’t expect is for the diary to start writing back. And that it actually has some pretty good advice… the kind of stuff that Jane herself might say.

Slowly, Cate realizes the truth about the diary. But will she take its advice and find the love she’s been waiting for – her own Mr. Darcy or Mr. Knightley? Or will she wind up unwittingly chasing Mr. Wickham as part of her daring new lifestyle?

Austensibly Ordinary is really a fun, light romp into the world of Jane Austen and romance. I loved how the story stays tethered to Austen, though she wasn’t the entire focus. Cate loves and teaches Austen novels and, obviously, the diary is tied to Jane, but otherwise, most of the other characters live normal, Jane Austen-free lives. Ethan doesn’t even like Mr. Darcy, and yet I still found him charming. Now that’s saying something.

I don’t think it’s spoiling too much to say that I loved the will-they-won’t-they dynamic between Cate and Ethan. From the very first chapter, when we see him playing Scrabble with Cate, the sparks are flying (though, of course, Cate doesn’t know it). The dialogue and banter between them was sharp, sexy, and fun. And when the details about Ethan’s secret background came out, it really heightened the tension between them.

The other characters were both funny and memorable. Cate’s recently divorced mother who is a bit of a cougar hunting for younger men, her sister, Gemma, a grad student, who moonlights as a sex phone operator, and Cate’s friends, especially the ghost-hunting Courtney, were all quirky, interesting, and all-around hilarious.

The book is also very, very sexy without getting graphic. The author is really skilled at the slow burn. She draws out every situation until you’re waiting with baited breath for the characters to just go ahead and kiss already. But, when a couple makes their way to the bedroom we don’t follow behind. For some readers that will be a relief, for others a disappointment. I thought it was really well done, but I’m not much into those Fifty Shades of Gray level sex scenes.

Overall, the writing is good. The dialogue especially jumps out and really gives the characters life. Though, during some of the quick exchanges, I found Cate’s constant stream of thoughts a bit intrusive. No one thinks that much. Especially not someone who is in the middle of some particularly snappy banter with the guy she has a crush on.

There were also a few situations that seemed a bit out of place. I didn’t really care for the ending where Cate finally gets the guy. Without giving away anything, I just thought it was a little off, though it didn’t completely ruin the story for me. There’s also a scene where the ghost of Jane Austen appears in a public bathroom. But, hey, once you accept that a magic, advice-giving journal is hanging around, I guess anything goes.

And, speaking of endings, until I got there, I didn’t realize that this book is actually a sequel of sorts to Alyssa Goodnight’s other novel, Austentatious. They both follow the same structure – single woman finds a mysterious Austen-inspired diary. Cate actually discovers the diary after the heroine from the first book drops it off at a random location in Austin.

For a fun, light, sexy romance, I’d definitely recommend Austensibly Ordinary. I was happy to see that, in the end, Cate also passed on the diary to some other unsuspecting future heroine. I know I’ll be putting both the first book and any others in this series on my reading list very soon.

4 out of 5 Stars

Austensibly Ordinary, by Alyssa Goodnight
Kensington (2013)
Trade paperback (320) pages
ISBN: 978-0758267450

© 2013 Lisa Galek, Austenprose  

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. Continue reading

Pulse and Prejudice, by Colette L. Saucier – A Review

Pulse and Prejudice, by Colette L. Saucier (2012)Review by Lisa Galek

If you’ve always loved Pride and Prejudice, but wish it had a few more vampires in it, than Pulse and Prejudice might just be for you.

The novel follows the events of Jane Austen’s classic, except for one tiny difference – Mr. Darcy is a vampire. Within the first few pages, we are there with him at the Meryton assembly. Mr. Darcy is not only in danger of being declared arrogant and prideful, but of drinking the blood of the locals. Though he initially writes off all the ladies in town, he is strangely drawn to Elizabeth Bennet. Her wit, her beauty, her fine eyes, and, yes, even her throat draw him in. Though he resists his growing love for her, believing that he can never marry because of his condition, Darcy eventually gives in and asks Elizabeth to be his wife.

The rest we Austen fans know… or do we? This time, when Elizabeth learns the truth about the man who so admires and loves her, she is horrified to discover that the haughty Mr. Darcy is actually a vampire. Will Mr. Darcy be able to change his prideful ways and win Elizabeth’s hand? And even if he does, will Lizzy ever accept a vampire as her husband?

I cannot express enough how skeptical I was upon starting this book. Pride and Prejudice with a touch of vampires was enough to send me into fits of eye rolls. But, within only the first chapter, I found myself strangely drawn to the story. The vampire Darcy weaves his spell quickly. Continue reading

Giveaway Winners Announced for Mr. Darcy’s Bite

Mr Darcy's Bite, by Mary Simonsen (2011)45 of you left comments qualifying you for a chance to win one of three copies of Mr. Darcy’s Bite, by Mary Simonsen. The winners drawn at random are:

  • Theresa M. who left a comment on October 3, 2011
  • Janet who left a comment on October 5, 2011
  • Colleen Lane who left a comment on October 3, 2011

Congratulations ladies! To claim your prize, please contact me with your full name and address by October 26, 2011. Shipment is to US and Canadian addresses only.

Thanks to all who left comments, and to Mary Simonsen for her insightful blog on her characters in her new novel, Mr. Darcy’s Bite.

© 2007 – 2011 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

Giveaway Winners Announced for Jane Austen: Blood Persuasion

Jane Austen: Blood Persuasion, by Janet Mullany (2011)26 of you left comments qualifying you for a chance to win one of three copies of Jane Austen: Blood Persuasion, by Janet Mullany. The winners drawn at random are:

  • Lori Hedgpeth who left a comment on October 4, 2011
  • Maragret who left a comment on October 4, 2011
  • Sourkraut who left a comment on October 4, 2011

Congratulations ladies! To claim your prize, please contact me with your full name and address by October 26, 2011. Shipment is to US and Canadian addresses only.

Thanks to all who left comments, and to Janet Mullany for her entertaining interview with Jane Austen.

© 2007 – 2011 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

Jane Austen: Blood Persuasion, by Janet Mullany – A Review

Jane Austen: Blood Persuasion, by Janet Mullany (2011)Guest Review by Aia A. Hussein

For those who have the seemingly unrelated interest in the Georgian world of Jane Austen and the macabre one of immortal vampires, Janet Mullany’s new novel Jane Austen: Blood Persuasion is a perfect combination of the two.  In fact, as was recounted in Mullany’s previous novel Jane and the Damned, beloved and proper Jane Austen is a vampire.  Or, at least, she has been bitten and is trying her hardest to fight against the metamorphosis as would any proper eighteenth-century female.  In this new Austen-vampire mashup, Jane continues to struggle against what seems an inevitable metamorphosis into one of the Damned while reconciling her feelings for a seemingly indifferent Creator, a former consort, a new love interest, a vulnerable niece, a dear friend who has an odd penchant for being leeched by vampires, and an oblivious family.  You are, indeed, correct in assuming that poor Jane has a lot on her plate.

It is 1810 and the Austen family has new, undead neighbors.  Having just been banished from polite society, the Damned are seeking less conspicuous roles in provincial society where they hope to blend in unnoticed or, at least, without too much notice.  Jane is in the middle of working on what will be her literary masterpiece when she is interrupted by the return of a number of old, undead friends – a formerly indifferent Creator who is seeking to make amends and a seemingly ambivalent former consort – both of whom have found themselves entrenched in a looming civil war between factions of the Damned right in the heart of Jane’s small provincial town.  More upsetting for Jane is the return of her vampire characteristics and feelings for her former consort, Luke.  Even more upsetting, and completely unexpected, is a sudden passionate interest in a steward named Raphael, who is similarly in-between vampire metamorphosis, and which only complicates Jane’s feelings towards Luke.

Her internal love struggle aside, Jane gets caught up in trying to prevent a civil war amongst the Damned especially since the safety of her town and family is in peril despite the high risk of metamorphosis that being near the Damned poses.  She is torn between wanting to save her town and family (especially a vulnerable niece who has caught the eye of a ruthless vampire) or her soul.  Her propriety or her passion.  Luke or Raphael.  And, perhaps most importantly, her writing or transforming into a vampire to save her family from danger since, as was demonstrated in Jane and the Damned, her vampire-self could not write.  Not to mention Jane’s dear friend who continues to have intimate contact with vampires despite Jane’s numerous warnings and who annoyingly persists in borrowing Jane’s precious silk stockings for these liaisons!

Mullany’s novel will interest those who find paranormal romances entertaining.  It is creative and is perfectly timed with the resurgence of fiction about vampires and other paranormal creatures.  I, admittedly, did find myself hoping for more depth and nuance when it came to characters and plot.  Jane’s internal and external struggles resolved themselves a little too easily and I found myself not really feeling invested in any of the characters.  I did, however, find Mullany’s suggestion – made both in the novel and on this blog – that Mary and Henry Crawford from Austen’s Mansfield Park would make perfect members of the Damned extremely interesting as I think that might lead to some very intriguing fictional possibilities.  Nevertheless, Jane Austen: Blood Persuasion is definitely recommended for those who find paranormal romances crossed with Jane Austen fan fiction their cup of tea as Mullany’s enthusiasm for her work is evident throughout the novel, and you will at the very least, be highly entertained by a Jane Austen combating evil vampires in men’s clothing while, elsewhere in the novel, insisting on wearing a spinster’s cap.

3.5 out of 5 Regency Stars

Jane Austen: Blood Persuasion, by Janet Mullany
William Morrow (2011)
Trade paperback (304) pages
ISBN: 978-0061958311

Aia A. Hussein, a graduate of Bryn Mawr College and American University, pursued Literature degrees in order to have an official excuse to spend all her time reading.  She lives in the DC area and is a devotee of Jane Austen and all things Victorian.

© 2007 – 2011 Aia A. Hussein, Austenprose

Jane Goes Batty: A Novel, by Michael Thomas Ford – A Review

Jane Goes Batty: A Novel, by Michael Thomas Ford (2011)Our Janeite sensibilities tell us that the notion of Jane Austen as a vampire is pretty wacky. It’s just so hard to visualize “our” Jane as one of the undead, still here after two hundred years, and struggling with life challenges and her condition. Author Michael Thomas Ford understands this too. He has created a trilogy based on our uncertainty, curiosity and proclivity for the burlesque that Austen herself was so fond of. Book one, Jane Bites Back, sold us on the concept that anything can happen in a Jane Austen inspired novel – even Jane as a vampire. It was “light, campy and a bit Buffyish” and we were truly “glamored.” But as any vampire aficionado knows, to be “glamored” means to be under the vampire’s mind spell which does not last forever. After over a year shouldn’t it have worn off, returning us to our cynical, defensive Janeite self? Book two, Jane Goes Batty, would have to be pretty darn good to dispel our doubts and resurrect our confidence. Our fingers were crossed, along with our corset strings.

Our twenty-first century Jane is still undead and living in Brakeston, a small university town in upper-state New York. The success of her novel Constance has changed her life considerably. In 1796 she may have wished to “write for Fame, and without any view for pecuniary emolument,” but now she has both as Jane Fairfax bestselling author. Her fans are arriving by the bus load and camping on her door step, a Hollywood movie crew has descended upon her hometown to film a glitzy star-studded version of her latest novel, and the hope of her next books success has garnered a fat advance. Life sounds pretty good, but not if you are a 235 old vampire who has thrived on anonymity and resisted advancing your powers in the undeadly arts.

Attempting to manage her life sensibly, she has promoted her friend and assistant Lucy to run her bookstore, Flyleaf Books, and welcomed her former lover George Byron (who also turned her) back into her life as a mentor. He is helping Jane to “develop her powers instead of run from them” in case “Our Gloomy Friend,” that pesky Bronte woman should make good on her threats. Her love-life is just where she wants it keeping patient boyfriend Walter in a holding pattern, and the town folk are none-the-wiser of her undead condition. With money, fame, friends and love in ones life, what’s to worry? Plenty. Walters Jewish mother Miriam arrives from Florida expecting her to convert, Jessica, her new demanding editor thinks she is an untalented plagiarist who should be writing a novel as good as Valley of the Dolls, and a vampire attack on one of the movie actors has Jane and Byron pointing fingers at one another. The challenges of keeping her true identity a secret, mastering her vampire skills, and the looming threat of another throw-down with an adversary from the past have her as distracted as Mrs. Bennet on her last nerve.

After the third chapter we remembered why we enjoyed the first novel in this series so much. Michael Thomas Ford is a wicked wit with a scoop of irony on top; a devilish combination that Austen whipped up and has been wowing us with for centuries. The premise of Jane Austen as a vampire is wacky – totally – but after we had been swept up in the frenetic pace, hilarious characters and outrageous parody, we were laughing out loud and startling our cats. Spirited, diverting and impertinent the “conceited independence” of this author knows no bounds. Watch out for a vicious three-legged Chihuahua, Ted and Ned the gay and straight, vampire and mortal, identical twins that we could never tell apart (nor could anyone else), eye rolling one liners by Lord Byron, a deranged vampire turned book reviewer (gulp), a surprise vampire hunter that is too close to home, and a poke at you gentle reader, if you are as inclined as we are to visit Jane Austen blogs and go to conventions in period costume! Our only quibble, and it is more of disapprobation, is that on more than one occasion we wanted to yell at this twenty-first century Jane Austen to find her inner Elizabeth Bennet or channel her Mary Crawford and get past the rag-doll syndrome that she was trapped in. It was almost all happily resolved by the end – like any Jane Austen novel should be – but we won’t tell. Of course Ford has left some plot points dangling that will, we hope, be addressed in book three, Jane Vows Revenge.

5 out of 5 Regency Stars

Jane Goes Batty: A Novel, by Michael Thomas Ford
Ballantine Books (2011)
Trade paperback (304) pages
ISBN: 978-0345513663

© 2007 – 2011 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose