Jane Austen Lives Again, by Jane Odiwe – A Review

Jane Austen Lives Again by Jane Odiwe 2015 x 200From the desk of Katie Patchell:

What would Jane Austen say and do if she lived in the 1920s instead of the late 1700s/early 1800s? Would she wear a drop-waist dress that showed her ankles and bob her auburn hair? Would she dance the Charleston or listen to Jazz music? How would she react to being called ‘baby doll’? And would being handed into the front seat of a car by a young, eligible man just as romantic as being handed into a Regency carriage? These fascinating questions and more are imaginatively answered in Jane Odiwe’s latest novel, Jane Austen Lives Again, where readers—and Jane Austen herself—are transported to the chaotic, electrifying Jazz Age.

1817: After days of sickness, Jane Austen closes her eyes on this world for the last time. Or so she thinks. When she opens them again—to her, only a few moments later—her doctor informs her that he found the secret to immortal life, and the year is… Continue reading

Top Jane Austen-inspired Books of 2012

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

Top 5 Historical sequels, prequels or retellings:

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

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

The Journey, by Jan Hahn (5 stars)

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

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

Top 5 Contemporary inspired:

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

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

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

Hidden Paradise, by Janet Mullany (4.5 stars)

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

Regency inspired:

The Garden Intrigue, by Lauren Willig (5 stars)

The West Yet Glimmers: The Lord & Lady Baugham Stories, by Gail McEwen & Tina Moncton (5 stars)

Mysteries:

Midnight in Austenland: A Novel, by Shannon Hale (4.5 stars)

My Particular Friend: A Charlotte House Affair (Volume 1), by Jennifer Petkus (5 stars)

Paranormal:

Jane Vows Vengeance: A Novel, by Michael Thomas Ford (5 stars)

Searching for Captain Wentworth, by Jane Odiwe (5 stars)

Nonfiction:

The Jane Austen Guide to Happily Ever After, by Elizabeth Kantor (5 stars)

The Jane Austen Guide to Life: Thoughtful Lessons for the Modern Woman, by Lori Smith (5 stars)

Scholarly:

The Marriage of Faith: Christianity in William Wordsworth and Jane Austen, by Laura Dabundo (5 stars)

Jane Austen’s Cults and Cultures, by Claudia L. Johnson (5 stars)

Self-published:

Mr. Darcy’s Proposal, by Susan Mason-Milks (4 stars)

For Myself Alone, by Shannon Winslow (4 stars)

Young Adult:

The Beresfords, by Christina Dudley (4.5 stars)

Persuaded, by Jenni James (4 stars)

Debut Author: (tie)

All My Tomorrows, by Colette Saucier (5 stars)

Mercy’s Embrace: Elizabeth Elliot’s Story, Book 1: So Rough a Course, by Laura Hile (5 stars)

Readers Choice Awards:

1.) The West Yet Glimmers, by Gail McEwen & Tina Moncton

2.) Persuaded, by Jenni James

3.) The Journey, by Jan Hahn

4.) Echoes of Pemberley, by Cynthia Ingram Hensley (tie)

4.) Find Wonder in All Things, by Karen M. Cox (tie)

5.) Pulse and Prejudice, by Colette L. Saucier

Congratulations to all of the authors! Thanks for another great year of fabulous reading.

Cheers,

Austenprose review staff

Related posts

2013 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

Jane Austen Made Me Do It, edited by Laurel Ann Nattress – A Review

Jane Austen Made Me Do It , edited by Laurel Ann Nattress 2011Guest review by Christina Boyd

“It is only a novel… or, in short, some work in which the greatest powers of the mind are displayed, in which the most thorough knowledge of human nature, the happiest delineation of its varieties, the liveliest effusions of wit and humour are conveyed to the world in the best chosen language.”  Northanger Abbey, Volume 1, Chapter 5

Jane Austen Made Me Do It, Original Stories Inspired by Literature‘s Most Astute Observer of the Human Heart is a collection of twenty-two original Jane Austen-inspired stories including contributions from best-selling authors Pamela Aidan, Stephanie Barron, Carrie Bebris, Laurie Viera Rigler and Lauren Willig.  Editor Laurel Ann Nattress, and blog mistress of Austenprose – A Jane Austen Blog, has assembled her dream team of authors and for this anthology asking them to “stay within the theme of exploring Austen’s philosophies of life and love by reacquainting readers with characters from her novels or introducing original stories inspired by her ideals.  From historical to contemporary to young-adult fiction to paranormal, five of the major novels and Austen’s life are featured in this anthology,” p. xiv.  In addition, one story by a previously unpublished author, Brenna Aubrey, was picked as Grand Prize winner via a contest hosted by the Austen fan site Pemberley.com.  With such a significant range in this compilation, surely one would agree, “One cannot have too large a party.  A large party secures its own amusement.”  Emma, Volume 3, Chapter 6

On my first reading of this anthology, I must admit that I singled out my favorite authors first.  Yes, yes. I realize out of order was not how the editor intended it to be read, but, “One man’s way may be as good as anothers, but we all like our own best.”  Persuasion, Volume 2, Chapter 1.  So of course, for me, I began with “Jane & the Gentleman Rogue,” by Stephanie Barron. What can I say? You had me with the title. Anything that has more of the Gentleman Rogue must be 5 stars. This was a terrific “fragment of a Jane Austen Mystery” chocked full of treason and breathless intrigue, that Barron surely knocked out of the park!

Another stand out was “Letters to Lydia” by Maya Slater.  In the spirit of Jane Austen’s much studied remaining correspondence, these are letters from Pride and Prejudice’s minor character Maria Lucas, the younger sister of Mrs. William Collins, nee Miss Charlotte Lucas to Elizabeth Bennet’s youngest and wildest sister, Lydia Bennet. Loved, loved, loved how I could truly hear Maria’s voice as she recounts a supposed secret Love Affair and tryst between Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet– and how she unwittingly “helped them along.” (Bonus points for Mr. Collins’ lisp!)

“Jane Austen and the Mistletoe Kiss,” by Jo Beverley was a definite favorite. Flowing with Austen-like brilliance, this tale about a genteel, but impoverished, widow and her three daughters who have an amiable, rich neighbor who often meet was CHARMING from beginning to end.  Anytime there is a clear, happy ending, preferably resulting marriage, I am bound to be enchanted!

I was totally caught unawares by the cleverness in “What Would Austen Do?,” by Jane Rubino & Caitlen Rubino-Bradway.  A contemporary story about a teenage boy who inadvertently signs up for a Country Dance for Beginners class (and not the “Boot, Scoot, Boogie” kind of country dance!) and must learn how to make the most of this summer experience.  Fortunately, his keen wit and willingness to read Austen’s novels helps him  befriend the new girl in town.  Just loved! ALL OF IT! Fantastic– a teenage hero quoting Austen appropriately and with a terrific moral ending?  Even better, the authors biography states that they are currently developing “What Would Austen Do?” into a full length novel!

But, “All Merit you know is comparative,” Catharine.  In such a large collection of works there is bound to be a slight disappointment or two. While reading “Me and Mr. Darcy, Again,” a short extension of the novel, “Me and Mr. Darcy,” by Alexander Potter, I suffered not just a little discomfort with the idea that a now married Mr. Darcy is wandering outside heroine Emily’s hotel at night, staring up at her room, still carrying some sort of torch for her. In the end, Mr. Darcy does act honorably, and even charitably, in bringing about a happy resolution, but its conclusion was rather “vague.” But I liked the story, despite myself.  “A fondness for reading… must be an education in itself.” Mansfield Park, Volume 1, Chapter 2

I was somewhat under-whelmed by Pamela Aidan’s “The Riding Habit” as the now married Mr. Darcy seems to steam roll wife Elizabeth into riding, an activity she somewhat fears and takes no joy in. I also found it strangely odd that the pinnacle riding accident would bring about such a comparison to an upcoming ball and how she can surely expect the support of her loved ones around her.  Indeed?  Don’t get me wrong: Aiden’s writing style, language and cadence is pitch-perfect as ever.  Beautiful even. I simply found the story disjointed from the Darcy and Elizabeth she wrote so well of in her awe-inspiring, tremendously popular trilogy, Fitzwilliam Darcy, GentlemanHowever, “One half of the world cannot understand the pleasures of the other.”  Emma, Volume 1, Chapter 9

Still, there are a surfeit of solidly entertaining, easy to love stories.  Syrie James’ highly amusing “Jane Austen’s Nightmare” is just that!  While sleeping, our dear Jane is beset with characters from her novels, all with complaints on how she has represented their person. I particularly delighted in how the dream inspires her to write Persuasion.

One of the stories inspired by Persuasion is Margaret C. Sullivan‘s “Heard of You.”  I found this smart telling of how Admiral Croft and the former Miss Sophia Wentworth met as exciting at sea, as it was in the ballroom; making me sigh in all the right places!

“The Chase” by Carrie Bebris did not disappoint! Her depiction of a riveting and historic sea battle had me on the edge of my seat; truly captivated by this insight of how Jane Austen’s brother Frank became post-captain.

Laurie Viera Rigler offers the wickedly satirical and campy “Intolerable Stupidity” that imagines a courtroom drama where Mr. Darcy sues authors of Pride and Prejudice spin-offs for how they have sketched his character.  Of course, the honorable Lady Catherine de Bourgh presides!

The anthology opens with an introduction by the editor, Laurel Ann Nattress, as she pays deference to Jane Austen as well as the many novels, sub-genre and films Austen has inspired.  Nattress shares how she came to love Austen’s work in the ‘80s and how Austen has since catapulted to “megastar status” by means of “her strongest catalyst: the Internet and a wet shirt.” p. xii.  Also, I took particular delight in the Readers Guide where the 22 contributing authors selected their favorite Austen quote. It was as if taking a stroll down memory lane with a dear friend. Reading groups and book clubs will find the Questions and Topics for Discussion pages beneficial.

The Austen Legacy continues to grow and this collection of wonderful short stories is a brilliant tribute.  Janeites and historical fiction readers alike will inhale this book!  But with a dream team of Austen inspired writers under the deft editing skills of Laurel Ann Nattress, how could this be anything but a grand slam!  “The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.”  Northanger Abbey, Volume 1, Chapter 14

Authors included: Lauren Willig • Adriana Trigiani • Jo Beverley • Alexandra Potter • Laurie Viera Rigler • Frank Delaney & Diane Meier • Syrie James • Stephanie Barron • Amanda Grange • Pamela Aidan • Elizabeth Aston • Carrie Bebris • Diana Birchall • Monica Fairview • Janet Mullany • Jane Odiwe • Beth Pattillo • Myretta Robens • Jane Rubino and Caitlen Rubino-Bradway • Maya Slater • Margaret C. Sullivan • and Brenna Aubrey, the winner of a story contest hosted by the Republic of Pemberley

5 out of 5 Regency Stars

Jane Austen Made Me Do It: Original Stories Inspired by Literature’s Most Astute Observer of the Human Heart, edited by Laurel Ann Nattress
Ballantine Books (2011)
Trade paperback (446) pages
ISBN: 978-0345524966

Christina Boyd lives in the wilds of the Pacific Northwest with her dear Mr. B, two youngish children and a Chesapeake Bay Retriever named Bibi.  She studied Fine Art at Temple University’s Tyler School of Art and received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications from Salisbury University in Maryland. Although life has taken her on a merry adventure through a myriad of careers including modeling, flight attending, marketing & sales, owning a paint-it-yourself ceramic studio… she has for the last nine years created and sold her own pottery line from her working studio. Albeit she read Jane Austen as a moody teenager, it wasn’t until Joe Wright’s 2005 movie of Pride & Prejudice that sparked her interest in all things Austen.  A life member of the Jane Austen Society of North America, Christina has read and owns well over 200 Austen inspired novels… and cannot comprehend the neglect of the collection in such days as these.  Visiting Jane Austen’s England remains on her bucket list.

© 2007 – 2011 Christina Boyd, Austenprose

Jane Austen: Blood Persuasion Blog Tour with author Janet Mullany, & Giveaway!

Jane Austen: Blood Persuasion, by Janet Mullany (2011)Just in time to get you into a Gothic mood this Halloween season, please join us today in welcoming author Janet Mullany on her blog tour in celebration of the release of Jane Austen: Blood Persuasion, her second novel featuring Jane Austen as a vampire, published today by William Morrow.

Janet graciously offers us a sampling of her witty writing with a guest interview with the undead Jane Austen.

Austen: I believe you have done it once more, Mrs. Mullany.

Mullany: Yeah. I have. Sorry.

Austen: My sister is furious and my brothers talk of little but lawyers these days.

Mullany: Does Mrs. Austen have no say in the matter?

Austen: I regret my mother wishes only to know if you can spare a cutting of your red clematis and a root or two of lemon balm.

Mullany: Absolutely, although I should warn you that the lemon balm takes over. I very much admired the garden when I visited your house last year although I was disappointed that you were not at home. Please convey my regards to Mrs. Austen and tell her the lavender is doing very well although I am not confident it will survive the winter.

Austen: I am much obliged. I shall tell my mother so.

Mullany: But do you wish to sue me for libel? I really wouldn’t recommend it. My book may help sell more of yours, although I strongly recommend that you publish under your own name. “By A Lady” sounds so prissy. (Nervously) So, um, what did you think of the book?

Austen: It was tolerably well written and had a few moments of genuine wit although I cannot approve of the excessive sensuality; however one may behave between the sheets should not necessarily reflect on that which appears between the pages of a book. In all fairness, though, I have taken the liberty of borrowing a few of your ideas—the idea of the upstart newcomer forcing her neighbors into a music club is something that appeals to me, for instance. I am also considering another novel in which an aging woman meets her former lover.

Mullany: Absolutely. I’m glad you adopted my idea of two or three families in a village as a starting point for a novel. For the new one, you could even borrow my title if you like. I think “Persuasion” would be a wonderful name for a book. How is the current WIP going?

Austen: My brothers persuaded me that Fanny should not be one of the Damned, even though the persons of Mary and Henry Crawford offer delightful prospects. In fact none of the characters, in the most recent draft are vampires, although many maintain the characteristics of greed, selfishness, and excessive sensuality so typical of the Damned.

Mullany: Even Luke?

Austen: Indeed, although I love him against my will and my reason, even against my character.

Mullany: You’re quoting yourself again. A lot of readers of JANE AND THE DAMNED were very upset with us at the end of the book. They thought you and Luke would have a HEA. Shall we let the cat out of the bag?

Austen: Indeed not. Why should they believe us? Some people even now doubt that the French invaded England in 1797—I am grateful, by the way, for the afterword that explained some of that lost history.

Mullany: And where is dear Luke now?

Austen: Why do you wish to know?

Mullany: Oh, no reason. Just that I may be going back to England soon and I wondered if I could … you know, just see if he was OK.

Austen: Absolutely not.

Mullany: I should like to invite you and him to the book launch party for my book, our hostess Ms. Nattress’s collection of stories JANE AUSTEN MADE ME DO IT, and Ms. Bebris’s THE DECEPTION AT LYME at Fort Worth in Texas on October 14.  If we ask the booksellers now, I’m pretty sure they’d have time to get in some of your stock to sign.

Austen: I regret I do not travel often, and I do not believe Texas has been discovered yet. I am not overfond of military men, either, so I have no wish to visit a fort. A naval uniform, however, is another matter.

Mullany: You could order a new gown for it.

Austen: You tempt me greatly, but I fear I must decline.

Mullany: We’ll do our best without you. Thank you, Miss Austen.

Book description:

JANE AUSTEN: BLOOD PERSUASION. It’s 1810 and Jane Austen settles down to some serious writing in the peaceful village of Chawton. But it’s not so peaceful when the Damned introduce themselves as her new neighbors. Jane has to deal with the threat of a vampire civil war, her beloved niece Anna in peril, her best friend borrowing her precious silk stockings for assignations with the Damned, and a former lover determined to hold a grudge for eternity.

Witty, smart, and sharp as a stake, Janet Mullany’s vampiric Jane is my favorite reimagining of Ms. Austen’s proper world. Colleen Gleason, author of the Gardella Vampire Chronicles

Author Janet Mullany visiting Chawton Cottage, the home of Jane Austen (2011)Author Janet Mullany (left) visits Chawton Cottage.

Author Bio:

Janet Mullany was born in England but now lives near Washington, DC. She’s worked as an archaeologist, performing arts administrator, waitress, bookseller, and as an editor/proofreader for a small press. Her debut book was Dedication, the only Signet Regency to have two bondage scenes, followed by The Rules of Gentility (HarperCollins 2007), which was acquired by Little Black Dress (UK) for whom she writes more Regency chicklit. Her career as a writer who does terrible things to Jane Austen began in 2010 with the publication of Jane and the Damned (HarperCollins), a book about Jane as a vampire, and a modern retelling of Emma, Little to Hex Her, in the anthology Bespelling Jane Austen headlined by Mary Balogh. Her most recent book is Jane Austen: Blood Persuasion, about the vampire invasion of Chawton (William Morrow, 2011). Visit Janet at her website Janet Mullany, on Twitter as @Janet_Mullany, and on Facebook as Janet Mullany.

Chawton Cottage garden (2011)

Garden at Chawton Cottage, Jane Austen House Museum

Giveaway of Jane Austen: Blood Persuasion

Enter a chance to win one of three copies of Jane Austen: Blood Persuasion, by leaving a comment stating what intrigues you about reading this fun and witty novel, or which of Jane Austen’s characters might make a great vampire meal, and why, by midnight PT, Wednesday, October 19, 2011. Winner announced on Thursday, October 20, 2011. Shipment to US and Canadian addresses only. Good luck!

Jane Austen: Blood Persuasion, by Janet Mullany
William Morrow (2011)
Trade paperback (304) pages
ISBN: 9780061958311

© 2007 – 2011 Janet Mullany, Austenprose

Mr. Darcy’s Bite Blog Tour with author Mary Simonsen, & Giveaway

Mr Darcy's Bite, by Mary Simonsen (2011)Halloween season is upon us, and that includes paranormal novels arriving to get us in the mood for the spooky holiday. Please join us today in welcoming author Mary Simonsen on her blog tour in celebration of the release of Mr. Darcy’s Bite a new paranormal Pride and Prejudice-inspired story published on October 1, 2011 by Sourcebooks. Mary has kindly shared her insights into her inspiration and research for our readers.

Hi Laurel Ann. It’s always good to be back on Austenprose, but today is especially significant. Not only do I have a new release, Mr. Darcy’s Bite, but today is my birthday. It’s one of those big ones that end in a zero. I won’t say how old I am, but I’m reading Social Security brochures.

I thought I might begin by sharing an excerpt from the prologue of Mr. Darcy’s Bite: The story opens with fourteen-year-old Darcy being bitten by a wolf in the Black Forest:

William retreated, but from a distance, the wolf followed him. With his heart pounding in his chest, he finally reached the road and could see the men working on the carriage. Before going in search of his father, he took one last look down the road and saw the wolf standing in plain view. Because of the full moon, the road was lit up as if it were daytime, leaving the female lupine completely exposed. Without thinking, William waved to her, and it was only then that she returned to the woods. The only conclusion he could draw was that she had wanted to make sure he was safe. But what kind of wolf did that?

You asked me to write about my inspiration for penning a werewolf novel. I had two motivations. The first was that I wanted to write a short-story for Halloween for a fan fiction site where I posted most of my stories, and it was appropriately titled “Mr. Darcy on the Eve of All Saints Day.” But the response was so great that I just kept writing. Before I knew it, my short story had become a full-length novel. It shows what a little encouragement can do.

My second motivation was to respond to another Darcy werewolf story. Although I applauded the author for creating a dark atmosphere, her Darcy and Elizabeth were not mine. In the first place, Darcy did not tell Elizabeth he was a werewolf before marrying her, and because of the threat of exposure, he had separated his bride from her family by bringing Elizabeth to a castle far, far away from Longbourn. In my mind, Darcy would not have done either of those things. So with sword (actually computer) in hand, I set about righting the wrong.

I did do some research for Mr. Darcy’s Bite, but after reading grisly stories about werewolves eating human flesh, I decided to go with my own concept of a werewolf. Most importantly, it was my goal to have Darcy remain true to the person Jane Austen had created. As such, Darcy’s honesty demanded that he inform Elizabeth of his other nature before they marry. At first, Elizabeth is horrified that the man she has fallen in love with howls at the moon and stalks deer, but her love is so strong she willingly agrees to share her life with a man who will leave her for two days during every full moon to become a part of the animal world.

Of course, there are difficulties—a she wolf within the community who has her eye on Darcy—and external threats. From the time when men told stories in caves, wolves have been the enemy. Because of their bad (and undeserved) reputation, the usual reaction to a population finding a wolf in their midst is to “kill the beast.” As a result, Darcy and Elizabeth must always be on their guard.

Despite the fur, fangs, and four legs, Mr. Darcy’s Bite is a love story. Adjustments are required, but what’s a little fur among friends?

Thanks again for having me at Austenprose.

Author Bio:

Mary Lydon Simonsen’s novels, Searching for Pemberley and The Perfect Bride for Mr. Darcy, were acclaimed by Publishers Weekly, RT Book Reviews, and Booklist. In her novels, the romance between Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet is told with a light touch and a sense of humor and presented as a battle of wits between two equals. She is well loved and widely followed on all the Jane Austen fan fiction sites with tens of thousands of hits and hundreds of reviews whenever she posts. She has also self-published a parody of Persuasion, Anne Elliot, A New Beginning, two Austen novellas, Mr. Darcy’s Angel of Mercy and For All the Wrong Reasons, and a modern romance, The Second Date, Love Italian-American Style. Mary lives in Peoria, Arizona. Visit Mary at her blog, on Facebook and as @bibliofilly on Twitter.

Giveaway of Mr. Darcy’s Bite

Enter a chance to win one of three copies of Mr. Darcy’s Bite by leaving a comment answering what intrigues you most about reading a paranormal version of Pride and Prejudice, or what characters or novels you would like to see Mary write about next, by midnight PT, Wednesday, October 19, 2011. Winner announced on Thursday, October 20, 2011. Shipment to US and Canadian addresses only. Good luck!

Mr. Darcy’s Bite, by Mary Simonsen
Sourcebooks (2011)
Trade paperback (336) pages
ISBN: 9781402250774

© 2007 – 2011 Mary Simonsen, Austenprose

Bespelling Jane Austen, by Mary Balogh, Colleen Gleason, Susan Krinard and Janet Mullany – A Review

Pairing the Jane Austen and paranormal genre’s is a clever concept that has seen some hits and misses over the last few years. Bespelling Jane Austen is a new anthology offering four novellas from romance authors Mary Balogh, Colleen Gleason, Susan Krinard and Janet Mullany adapting Austen novels with a supernatural spin.

Almost Persuaded, by Mary Balogh

Bestselling romance novelist Mary Balogh uses Persuasion, Jane Austen’s tender love story of second chances as the inspiration for her story about Jane Everett, the unmarried and unappreciated middle daughter of the preening Sir Horace Everett of Goodrich Hall. When Royal Army Captain Robert Mitford returns to England after a serious injury in India, he meets Jane triggering memories of past lives together. They soon discover that they are soul mates who have been fated to love and fail until they overcome the impediments to “conquer all with the power of their love of each other.”

Initially I was intrigued by reincarnation as a clever parallel to a second chance at love; after all, it is the ultimate love match do-over. Besides a deus ex machina in the guise of a hidden metal box with documents from a previous life confirming the heroine’s memories, I was unconvinced that Jane and Robert knewn each other before and were destined for one another. Furthermore, when after only one day’s acquaintance they take a roll in the grass, I was pretty certain that they were trapped in the Austenesque version of the movie Ground Hog Day for many, many lives until they could reach enlightenment and the Anne Elliot and Captain Wentworth state of Nirvana.

Northanger Castle, by Colleen Gleason

In this parody of Austen’s parody on Gothic fiction Northanger Abbey, heroine Caroline “Caro” Merrill’s wild imagination sees characters from her favorite horrid novels in every new acquaintance and passerby on the streets of Bath. Armed against vampires preying on the innocent in the Pump Room, Caro carries a large reticule stocked with a silver cross, garlic and a wooden stake. With her new friends siblings Isobel and James Thornton and Ellen Henry and her guardian, the aptly nicknamed Lord Rude, she travels for a moonlight picnic to Blaize Abbey and later to Northanger Castle in hopes of confirming Mr. Thornton’s affections, discovering a maiden locked in tower, or at the very least, an evil vampire. Her imaginings come true, but not as she expected.

Colleen Gleason caught the spirit and burlesque comedy of Austen’s novel perfectly, especially in her heroine Caroline whose obsession with Gothic novels and suspicions of evil doings everywhere mirror Austen’s Catherine Morland beautifully. I loved her play on names by upgrading Northanger to a castle and downgrading Blaize to an abbey! This story could have been sweetened by less modern language and more attention to historical detail. Someone needs to inform Ms. Gleason that they did not dance in the Pump Room in Bath, but took the waters and strolled about the room and socialized, and, the homes in Bath are not called Bungalows, but Terraced Houses. Otherwise, this was an adventure worthy of an Austen heroine in the making.

Blood and Prejudice, by Susan Krinard

Lizzy and Darcy’s love story is given some bite in this contemporary retelling of Pride and Prejudice. The Bennet’s still have five unmarried daughters and financial challenges. The family business Bennet Labs is floundering and under hostile takeover by Bingley Pharmaceuticals. Our spirited heroine Elizabeth Bennet is aptly a bookseller at Longbourn Books and Mr. Darcy a financial advisor to Charles Bingley. Also on staff is attorney George Wickham who has a long history with Mr. Darcy that goes back to childhood from the eighteenth-century – yes – two hundred years. He is a vampire whom Darcy converted without consent. Lizzy favors George’s story of Darcy the baddie and the love/hate story begins with Undead overtones that end just as expected, but not quite; — Darcy’s pride is humbled and Lizzy’s prejudice over vampires is removed, but at what cost?

Krinard has a solid understanding of the original story and characters dolling out a sagacious simile like humor coupons to win over the purist who have their guard up. It almost worked. I was amused at the clever prose but not her modern interpretation of the plot. In this instance, unfaithful adherence to Austen’s narrative would have been a bit more interesting. Retellings are tricky, especially of P&P. It is a story that so many know by heart, line for line, and just placing it in current times and mixing it up with Darcy as a vampire is not enough. Written in the first person from Elizabeth Bennet’s perspective, this change from Austen’s narrative voice would have been so much more interesting if Krinard had chosen Darcy’s view with his struggles as vampire instead of Elizabeth’s as a bystander. The ending left a bad taste in my mouth, literally, as Elizabeth ends up being a vampire’s donor doxy, though one assumes that Darcy was quite pleased with the arrangement.

Little to Hex Her, by Janet Mullany

Emma Woodhouse, Jane Austen’s self-possessed heroine from Emma is given a modern make-over as a witch running the Hartfield Dating Agency, a paranormal dating service in Washington D. C.. Emma is still matchmaker unextraordinaire, paring up werewolves, vampires and elves until it appears someone is trying to sabotage her business when money goes missing and event bookings are canceled. Could it be the spurned elf Mr. Elton whom she rejected, the sexy, but dubious vampire Frank Churchill or her ex-boyfriend Mr. Knightley?

Granted that the “handsome, clever and rich” Emma Woodhouse is not the most sympathetic character to begin with, changing the clever to inexperienced and rich to working girl helped me like this modern Emma in a new way. It also did not hurt that Janet Mullany has to be one of the sharpest knives in the Austenesque drawer writing today. Talk about cutting wit! I laughed out loud at her paring of magical creatures to Austen’s originals. Frank Churchill as a sexy vampire? Harriet Smith as insecure werewolf? George Knightley as a wizard who hates his first name? What no zombies? Thank goodness. Austen might have joked that she created a heroine that “no-one but myself will much like,” but Mullany’s Emma was a delightful quirky surprise.

Modern or contemporary, those stories that succeeded (in my estimation) were the ones that took a chance creatively yet reverently remember its inspiration. I think you will find after reading the four novellas in Bespelling Jane Austen that when it comes to Austen and paranormals, “silly things do cease to be silly if they are done by sensible people in an impudent way.

3 out of 5 Regency Stars

Bespelling Jane Austen, by Mary Balogh, Colleen Gleason, Susan Krinard and Janet Mullany
HQN Books (2010)
Trade paperback (377) pages
ISBN: 978-0373775019

© 2007 – 2010 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose