The Corinthian, by Georgette Heyer – A Review

Guest review by Danielle of A Work in Progress

The Corinthian is the perfect summer read, a page-turning romp through Regency England with all the right elements pulled off perfectly.  It’s a light-hearted comedy of manners and very much an adventure story with all sorts of twists and turns and misunderstandings — not surprising since the heroine spends the entire novel dressed as a boy!

I wasn’t sure at first just what a Corinthian was, though it’s easy to infer the meaning over the course of the novel.  The dictionary defines it as:

a man about town, esp. one who lives luxuriously or, sometimes, dissolutely.

In this case, Sir Richard Wyndham is the Corinthian.  Very much a dandy he is known as the “Man of Fashion” who cares for nothing but “the set of his cravat, polish on his boots, and the blending of his snuff“.  Always elegantly attired from his perfectly windswept hair to the toes of his gleaming Hessian boots, he’s generally unutterably bored.  He’s not lacking in encouragement to do his duty to find a wife and beget an heir, but he really couldn’t be bothered.  Nearing thirty his mother and sister are urging him to marry a woman he grew up knowing.  Only it would be a marriage of convenience as the lady is rather cold and disinterested.  She will prevail upon him to accept his suit only because her family’s financial situation is dire, not because she loves him.  Despite being the most eligible catch in the Marriage Mart, he has no other prospects (at least the sort who want him for himself rather than his bank account) and has resigned himself to his fate.

But fate has a way of tripping you up sometimes.  After a particularly long and indulgent evening at Almacks, he leaves in a state of serious inebriation. Being “devilish drunk”, he decides to walk home and happens upon a most unusual sight.  Out of an upper story window of a prim house, a mysterious fugitive comes scampering down a rope made up of knotted sheets only to discover it isn’t long enough.  The fugitive is a slight youth who begs Sir Richard’s assistance. Continue reading

Austen Book Sleuth: New Books in the Queue for June

Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict, by Laurie Viera Rigler (2009)The Jane Austen book sleuth is happy to inform Janeites that many Austen inspired books are heading our way in June, so keep your eyes open for these new titles.

Fiction (prequels, sequels, retellings, variations, or Regency inspired)

Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict, by Laurie Viera Rigler

Twenty two days and counting to the highly anticipated parallel story of author Laurie Viera Rigler’s best selling Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict. This time around it is Regency era Jane Mansfield who is transported into the body of 21stcentury Courtney Stone, and confronted head on with the modern world, resplendent with iPods, television and modern mores! (Publisher’s description) While Confessions took twenty-first-century free spirit Courtney Stone into the social confines of Jane Austen’s era, Rude Awakenings tells the parallel story of Jane Mansfield, a gentleman’s daughter from Regency England who inexplicably awakens in Courtney’s overly wired and morally confused L.A. life. Jane relishes the privacy, independence, even the power to earn her own money. But how is she to fathom her employer’s incomprehensible dictates about “syncing a BlackBerry” and “rolling a call”? How can she navigate a world in which entire publications are devoted to brides but flirting and kissing and even the sexual act itself raise no matrimonial expectations? Even more bewildering are the memories that are not her own. And the friend named Wes, who is as attractive and confusing to Jane as the man who broke her heart back home. It’s enough to make her wonder if she would be better off in her own time, where at least the rules are clear—that is, if returning is even an option. Dutton Adult, ISBN: 978-0525950769

The Private Diary of Mr. Darcy: A Novel, by Maya Slater

The Private Diary of Mr. Darcy (2009)Previously published in the UK as Mr. Darcy’s Diary, Maya Slater’s clever, funny and insightful novel was my favorite Jane Austen inspired book of 2007.  Now, this controversial look at Pride and Prejudice from Darcy’s perspective has been transported across the pond, renamed, and will be storming the American colonies on June 15th. This look at Mr. Darcy’s private diary may be a shock to Austen purist, but in my humble opinion, he is the Darcy you should get to know. (Publisher’s description) Literature’s most famous romantic hero opens his diary: it’s intimate, dramatic, deeply passionate, and sometimes downright shocking. Have you ever wondered what Mr. Darcy was really thinking? Find out his secrets in this captivating novel of love, pride, passion, and, of course, prejudice. Mr. Darcy’s intimate diary reveals his entanglements with women, his dangerous friendship with Lord Byron, his daily life in Georgian London, his mercurial mood swings calmed only by fisticuffs at Jackson’s—and, most importantly, his vain struggle to conquer his longing for Elizabeth Bennet. W.W. Norton & Co, ISBN: 978-0393336368

Prada & Prejudice, Mandy Hubbard (2009)Prada and Prejudice, by Mandy Hubbard

Not an Austen knockoff per se, but close. This young adult novel appeals to this not so young adult too! (Publisher’s description) To impress the popular girls on a high school trip to London, klutzy Callie buys real Prada heels. But trying them on, she trips…conks her head…and wakes up in the year 1815! There Callie meets Emily, who takes her in, mistaking her for a long-lost friend. As she spends time with Emily’s family, Callie warms to them—particularly to Emily’s cousin Alex, a hottie and a duke, if a tad arrogant. But can Callie save Emily from a dire engagement, and win Alex’s heart, before her time in the past is up? More Cabot than Ibbotson, Prada and Prejudice is a high-concept romantic comedy about finding friendship and love in the past in order to have happiness in the present. Razorbill, ISBN: 978-1595142603

Miss Bennet & Mr. Bingley, by Fenella Miller (2009)Miss Bennet & Mr. Bingley, by Fenella J Miller

I like to support emerging authors and this first effort gives us a new perspective on two characters from Pride and Prejudice that have not been over done, yet! The cover art by Jane Odiwe (Lydia Bennet’s Story) is enchanting. (Publisher’s description) In Miss Bennet & Mr. Bingley, Fenella J Miller returns to Jane Austen’s best loved novel, Pride and Prejudice, giving an insight into both Charles and Jane’s private thoughts through that difficult year. We discover what Jane did in London and how Charles filled the days until he was able to return to Netherfield. This book takes us past the wedding – when Kitty Bennet becomes the heroine of the hour. “Jane Bennet is in the spotlight in Fenella-Jane Miller’s delightful novel. We see Jane’s growing love for Bingley as well as her view of Elizabeth and Darcy’s unfolding relationship, and we find out what happened to her in London when she thought all was lost. Humorous, engaging and true to Jane Austen’s world, this is a charming read for Austen fans.” Amanda Grange is the bestselling author of Mr. Darcy’s Diary. Park Publishing, ISBN: 978-0956153104

The Other Mr. Darcy, by Monica Fairview (2009) UK editionThe Other Mr. Darcy, by Monica Fairview

For UK readers, watch for this creative new novel focusing on Caroline Bingley and Mr. Darcy’s American cousin! US readers will be happy to know that Sourcebooks has picked up the paperback rights and The Other Mr. Darcy will be available with a beautiful new cover and a longer title starting in October. (Publisher’s description) When Caroline Bingley, for the first time in her life, collapses to the floor and sobs at Mr. Darcy’s wedding, she does not think anyone is watching. Imagine her humiliation when she discovers that a stranger has witnessed her emotional display. Miss Bingley, understandably, resents this unknown gentleman very much, even if he is Mr. Darcy’s American cousin. And a year later, when she is forced to travel to Pemberley with him, she still has not forgiven him. But her attempts to snub him fail completely, and, as the Bennet’s descend upon them, she finds herself spending more and more time in his company, with her rigid standards of behaviour slipping slowly away…Is there more to the infamous Miss Bingley than meets the eye? And can this other Mr. Darcy break through her reserve? Robert Hale Ltd, London, ISBN: 978-0709088110

The Corinthian, by Georgette Heyer (2009)The Corinthian, by Georgette Heyer

The next installment by Sourcebooks of Regency romance queen Georgette Heyer’s classic novels is the reissue of The Corinthian which was originally published during war torn Britain in 1940. It is as welcome to readers today as it was sixty-nine years ago. (Publisher’s description) Georgette Heyer presents her sparkling wit with a Shakespearean twist. Walking home at dawn, quite drunk, Sir Richard Wyndham encounters heiress Penelope Creed climbing out her window. She is running away from a dreaded marriage to her fish-lipped cousin, while Sir Richard himself is contemplating a loveless marriage with a woman his friends have compared to a cold poultice. Sir Richard can’t allow her to careen about the countryside unchaperoned, even in the guise of a boy, so he pretends to be her tutor and takes her on a fine adventure. When their stagecoach overturns, they find themselves embroiled with thieves, at the center of a murder investigation, and finally, in love. Sourcebooks, Casablanca, ISBN: 978-1402217692

Nonfiction 

Jane Austen and Enlightenment, by Peter Knox-Shaw (2009)Jane Austen and the Enlightenment, by Peter Knox-Shaw

This scholarly treatise is now available for the first time in paperback for those, like me, without deep pockets. It amazes how Austen’s prose style is dissected and compared to everyone and anything. Scholars can not agree when the age of Enlightenment started and ended, but its principles of self actualization certainly apply to Austen characters and plots. (Publisher’s description) It is now widely understood that Jane Austen’s writing and thought derived directly from her late eighteenth-century childhood, but astonishingly this is the first study of the influence on Jane Austen of the Enlightenment. In drawing out the Enlightenment principles and ideas which lie behind much of Austen’s writing, Peter Knox-Shaw brings a whole new perspective to the study of Austen’s novels. Jane Austen and the Enlightement is essential reading for all those interested in Austen and her writing. Cambridge University Press, ISBN: 978-0521759977

Relocating Shakespeare and Austen on Screen, by Lisa Hopkins (2009)Relocating Shakespeare and Austen on Screen, by Lisa Hopkins

Professor Lisa Hopkins, a Shakespearean expert, chats about Austen film adaptations and reinterpretations: Bridget Jones’ Diary, Bride and Prejudice, Becoming Jane, Pride and Prejudice (2005) and two of the 2007 adaptations: Mansfield Park and Northanger Abbey. Not much room left for Shakespeare, but Janeites won’t mind. (Publisher’s description) Lisa Hopkins analyzes eight film adaptations which have taken either Shakespeare or Jane Austen – icons of Englishness – out of their original geographical or cultural context and transposed them to a new location, allowing for a powerful interrogation both of what these texts mean in the modern world, and of Englishness itself. Palgrave Macmillan, ISBN: 978-0230579552

Austen’s Contemporaries

Castle Rackrent (Oxford World's Classics), by Maria Edgeworth (2009)Castle Rackrent (Oxford World’s Classics), by Maria Edgeworth

From Maria Edgeworth’s perspective, it is easy to see why she disliked Jane Austen’s novel Emma, claiming “there’s no story in it.” I respectfully disagree with her opinion, and so do many, but she preferred instead to write about a larger sphere than “two or three families in a country village” and delved into areas where Austen never chose to tread: politics, religion and social unrest. Sir Walter Scott thought both writers were brilliant, so that evens the score. (Publisher’s description) With her satire on Anglo-Irish landlords in Castle Rackrent (1800), Maria Edgeworth pioneered the regional novel and inspired Sir Walter Scott’s Waverley (1814). Politically risky, stylistically innovative, and wonderfully entertaining, the novel changes the focus of conflict in Ireland from religion to class, and boldly predicts the rise of the Irish Catholic bourgeoisie. Set in Ireland prior to its achieving legislative independence from Britain in 1782, Castle Rackrent tells the story of three generations of an estate-owning family as seen through the eyes — and as told in the voice — of their longtime servant, Thady Quirk, recorded and commented on by an anonymous Editor. This edition of Maria Edgeworth’s first novel is based on the 1832 edition, the last revised by her, and includes Susan Kubica Howard’s foot-of-the-page notes on the text of the memoir as well as on the notes and glosses the Editor offers “for the information of the ignorant English reader.” Howard’s Introduction situates the novel in its political and historical context and suggests a reading of the novel as Edgeworth’s contribution to the discussion of the controversial Act of Union between Ireland and Britain that went into effect immediately after the novel’s publication in London in 1800. The second edition now includes new notes informed by the latest scholarship. Oxford University Press, USA, ISBN: 978-0199537556

Until next month, happy reading!

Laurel Ann