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

Nocturne, by Syrie James – A Review

Nocturne, by Syrie James (2011)From the desk of Christina Boyd:

After loving best selling author Syrie James’ The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen, as well as her Dracula, My Love: The Secret Journals of Mina Harker, my next obvious step was to read her latest offering, Nocturne. Our story begins with Nicole Whitcomb driving to the Denver airport from a Rocky Mountain wedding and ski mini-break, when a blinding snowstorm whips up, and her car hits black ice, spinning her out of control and over an embankment. She blacks out, only to wake in a rustic, mountain lodge having been rescued by its owner, a handsome, recluse named Michael. The blizzard outside prevents her from continuing on her journey. As the hours turn into days, an uneasy companionship ensues, as Nicole becomes ever curious of her mysterious host. Why does he choose to dine alone? Why is the kitchen so under stocked? Why is he shockingly rude but yet still thoughtful?

Curious attraction fuels this odd companionship through their common interest in books when she discovers his first edition collections of classic literature represented by Daniel Defoe, Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters, Bram Stoker, Mark Twain… When she asks if she can borrow one, he answers,

‘Whatever you like, Miss Whitcomb.’ She heard something different in his voice—a quieter, mellower tone that he’d yet exhibited – and she turned to look at him. He was leaning up against his desk, his arms crossed over his chest, his long legs stretched out before him. His guard was down, and he was studying her with an expression that resembled something like tentative delight. It was the first time he’d looked at her that way – as if she might prove to be an interesting human being after all and not just an inconvenience. It wasn’t the most flattering look in the world, and yet the newfound warmth in his blue eyes made her heart skitter. ‘This isn’t Pride and Prejudice.  You can call me Nicole.’ Page 49.

As the sexual tension increases and her imagination runs rampant in this mountain seclusion, she readily makes his excuses, only to discover that her wildest dreams, or nightmares, are now her reality. Will I ruin it for you if I tell you that yes, Michael is a vampire? Like the iconic vampires of Bram Stoker, Anne Rice, and even Stephenie Meyer, Michael has his impossible strengths and weaknesses. When Nicole realizes what he is, the shock and fear that she has fallen for a vampire sets her on a dangerous escape.

But it’s his unlikely humanity, as well as his “love for her” that allowed him “to hold his carnal instincts in check” that endeared me most. As the sun comes out and the roads have cleared, Nicole and Michael must find a way to co-exist if their forbidden love is to survive.

Tauntingly compelling, the ending left me spent. Let’s just say however, thankfully Syrie James included an Author’s Note (and helpful Author’s Questions and Answers) that gave me hope (or at least wishful thinking) that she might revisit Nicole and Michael’s love story in the future. If not, let me be the first to petition such a work! The haunting Nocturne is the perfect escape book for romance readers with some pretty steamy love scenes sure to warm you to your toes these cold, winter months.  Enjoy!

4 out of 5 Stars

Nocturne, by Syrie James
Vanguard Press (2011)
Hardcover (288) pages
ISBN: 978-1593156282

Cover image courtesy of Vanguard Press © 2011; text Christina Boyd © 2011, Austenprose.com

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

Jane and the Damned, by Janet Mullany – A Review

It is 1797, and twenty-one year old Jane Austen’s first attempt at publication, First Impressions, has been “Declined by Return of Post”. Disheartened, but not dejected, she attends the Bassingstoke Assembly with her sister Cassandra. One would think that “to be fond of dancing was a certain step towards falling in love,” not to be turned into one of the Damned! What started as an innocent flirtation with one of the bon ton (but dangerous) vampires, changes Jane’s life forever. Carelessly turned then abandoned, she is now one of the Undead. Struggling to hide her en sanglant urges Jane shares her affliction with her father Rev. Austen who is determined to save his daughter’s immortal soul from damnation. He decides to leave immediately with his family for Bath so Jane may partake the waters, the only known cure for her affliction.

Weak from hunger, Jane visits the Pump Room for the first time meeting Mr. Luke Venning, another of her kind. He quickly convinces her that she needs to feast on him to restore her strength before taking the cure. Jane is revived, but now her vampire desires are heightened and she craves even more blood. She is still determined to stay with her family and take the cure, until Napoleon’s troops invade England and Bath quickly loses the battle surrendering to the French forces. Realizing that her superior vampire skills could be used to oust the French from England, Jane rejects her salvation and accepts the mentorship of Mr. Venning who adopts her as her Bearleader. Training her in the vampire ways, Jane learns how to drink blood to survive and rip out the throats of Frenchmen, all in defense of her country.

Jane is indoctrinated into the vampire world revealing the pleasurable and decadent side of the Damned by reading minds, overpowering mortal thoughts and partaking in feeding orgies. She is even introduced to an infamous Royal who she previously abhorred for his dissipation and vice, but she now befriends as a fellow vampire. She is pleasantly surprised to discover that not all of her kind are narcissistic as they join together to thwart the enemy. As Jane becomes more of a vampire she discovers that she has lost her ability to write and her affection for her family is diminishing, including her dear sister Cassandra. Torn between her new life of pleasure, power and passion or her love of writing and her family, Jane must choose between the decadent life of the Damned or the chance that her books will offer her immortality.

If the plot summary raised both eyebrows, just remember to go with the flow and have fun. Janet Mullany has been touted as the witty love child of Jane Austen and Lord Byron for good reason. She is sharp and acerbic and irreverent; presenting a literary mash-up of a Jane Austen bio-fic, vampires and Napoleonic battles into an adventurous “sick and wicked” concoction.

This is a vampire novel with Jane Austen in it, not vice versa, so be prepared to experience our Jane as never before. The story is high spirited, outrageous and at times shocking (Mr. Austen giving his daughter his blood & Jane ripping out the throats of her opponents), but I am fainthearted and swoon at the thought of a putrid throat. Since my vampire expertise extends to childhood memories of Dark Shadows and the recent movie of the novel Twilight, I can only attest to her Jane being a true bloodsucker and not the vegan variety that sparkles in the sunshine.

For those Janeites who were miffed at the notion of paranormal stuff in your Austen (a la Pride and Prejudice and Zombies) best to try stumbling upon something more traditional. If you are in the mood for a galloping Regency paranormal spiked with wit, irony and romance, get ready for Jane and the Damned.

4 out of 5 Regency Stars

Jane and the Damned, by Janet Mullany
HarperCollins (2010)
Trade paperback (292) pages
ISBN: 978-0061958304

© 2007 – 2010 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

Emma and the Vampires, by Wayne Josephson – A Review

Austen and vampires. Two powerhouse pop culture juggernauts. Mash them up and they are irresistible to publishers eager to feed on the Twilight & Trueblood craze. Here is a new novel that transforms Emma, Austen’s masterpiece of astute characterization and social reproof into a tale of Undead matchmaking blunders and vampire battles. Will Miss Woodhouse continue to be a nonsensical girl or morph into Buffy the Vampire Slayer?

Once upon a time, long, long ago in Regency times there was a handsome, clever and rich young lady named Emma Woodhouse who had lived close to twenty-one years of her life with very little to vex her. She lived with her kindly old father in a big castle named Hartfield near the village of Highbury. The Woodhouses’ were the first family of consequence in the surrounding neighborhood filled with gentleman vampires. Their particular friend was Mr. Knightley whose pale skin, black eyes and fear of sunlight were attributed to his lack of sleep and dull appetite.

Miss Woodhouse was clueless that anything was amiss though the telltale signs of the Undead were apparent throughout their social sphere. The other ladies of Highbury were also un-mindful accepting the attentions and marriage proposals of the gentleman vampires without concern. Not even their children’s pallid skin and need to hunt for small animals in the nearby forest alarmed them to any measure. However, in the dark forest also lived wild vampires totally lacking in social graces who feasted upon the young ladies in Mrs. Goddard’s school or anyone else careless enough to walk too close to the shrubberies.

Oblivious to the real evils within Highbury, Emma proceeds to match make her friends to unsuitable vampires with disastrous results. Even though she has never had the discipline to apply herself to reading or drawing, or the desire to marry, she discovers quite suddenly that she is a skilled vampire slayer and proceeds to rid the neighborhood of the fiendish Undead while winning the approval and heart of the one gentleman vampire who she discovers she truly loves. And then, with all the evil vampires vanquished and her desire to be a misapplying match maker renounced, they lived happily ever after.

If this synopsis sounds like a charming fairytale of Emma with vampires added in, that was my intention. It was the novel that I wished I had read, but sadly did not. I am exceedingly puzzled by what was attempted. A retelling of Austen’s Emma for young children, or adults that need a dumbed down version laced with vampires to understand the original story?

There is an inherent challenge in retelling a classic; how much to leave in and what to take away. Wayne Josephson has used Austen’s characters and followed the plot faithfully. However, he completely rewrote 99% of the text in his own words. His choice of language is very simple and modern taking away the flavor of Austen’s beautiful prose. Even her famous quotes were axed, removing any grounding to the original text and absolutely all humor.

The vampires have been added for excitement and there were moments of surprise and occasional smiles. This dumbing down of the language and doping up with vampires could have worked beautifully if he had not taken the middle road and either made the story a fractured fairytale parodying Emma and vampires, or gone all out campy and outrageous presenting Emma a la Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Even though this novel has been classified as adult fiction, I think that it appeals more to the young reader in middle school who will be glamoured into reading an Austen retelling by the mention of romance and vampires.

2 out of 5 Regency Stars

Emma and the Vampires, by Wayne Josephson
Sourcebooks (2010)
Trade paperback (304) pages
ISBN: 978-1402241345

© 2007 – 2010 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

Austen Book Sleuth: New Books in the Queue for August 2010

The Jane Austen book sleuth is happy to inform Janeites that many Austen inspired books are heading our way in August, so keep your eyes open for these new titles.

Audio

The Convenient Marriage, by Georgette Heyer, read by Richard Armitage

In honor of historical romance novelist Georgette Heyer’s birthday this month, I am sure that Jane Austen will not mind if I place one of Heyer’s Regency romance novels first among the great selection of books available this month. If you hadn’t noticed, we are celebrating Heyer in a big way all month here on Austenprose, but this novel in particular of the 34 we will be discussing stands head and shoulders over the rest. Yes, the story is one of Heyer’s best with a strong hero and an endearingly flawed young heroine, but this audio edition really chases away any fit of the blue devils with its velvet voiced reader, Richard Armitage. This is his third foray into reading Heyer for Naxos Audiobooks, and I cannot think of one actor more qualified to make half of the population of the world swoon. (Publishers description) Horatia Winwood is the youngest and the least attractive of the three Winwood sisters. She also has a stammer. But when the enigmatic and eminently eligible Earl of Rule offers for her oldest sister’s hand – a match that makes financial and social sense, but would break her heart – it is Horatia who takes matters into her own impetuous hands. Can she save her family’s fortune? Or is she courting disaster? Witty, charming, elegant and always delightful, Georgette Heyer – the undisputed Queen of Regency Romance – brings the whole period to life with deft precision and glorious characters. Naxos AudioBooks (2010), Abridged Audio CD, ISBN: 978-1843794417. Listen to a preview.

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

Emma and the Vampires, by Wayne Josephson

More vampires in our Austen coming our way. This time, its Austen’s handsome, clever, and rich Emma Woodhouse, with a comfortable home and happy disposition with very little to distress or vex her except her vampire neighbors. (Publishers description) In this hilarious retelling of Jane Austen’s Emma, screenwriter Wayne Josephson casts Mr. Knightley as one of the most handsome and noble of the gentlemen village vampires. Blithely unaware of their presence, Emma, who imagines she has a special gift for matchmaking, attempts to arrange the affairs of her social circle with delightfully disastrous results. But when her dear friend Harriet Smith declares her love for Mr. Knightley, Emma realizes she’s the one who wants to stay up all night with him. Fortunately, Mr. Knightley has been hiding a secret deep within his unbeating heart-his (literal) undying love for her… A brilliant mash-up of Jane Austen and the undead. Sourcebooks Landmark (2010), Trade paperback, ISBN: 978-1402241345. Read the first chapter.

To Conquer Mr. Darcy, Abigail Reynolds

Originally published as Impulse and Initiative by Sourcebooks in 2008, this Pride and Prejudice variation asks “what if” after Mr. Darcy’s first proposal to Elizabeth Bennet he didn’t give up, but pursued her from Kent back to Longbourn? I reviewed the original edition if you would like to peruse my humble opinion. (Publishers description) What if…Instead of disappearing from Elizabeth Bennet’s life after she refused his offer of marriage, Mr. Darcy had stayed and tried to change her mind? What if…Lizzy, as she gets to know Darcy, finds him undeniably attractive and her impulses win out over her sense of propriety? What if…Madly in love and mutually on fire, their passion anticipates their wedding? In To Conquer Mr. Darcy, instead of avoiding Elizabeth after his ill-fated marriage proposal, Mr. Darcy follows her back to Hertfordshire to prove to her he is a changed man and worthy of her love. And little by little, Elizabeth begins to find the man she thought she despised, irresistible… Sourcebooks Casablanca (2010), Mass market paperback, ISBN: 978-1402237300. Read the first chapter.

Murder on the Bride’s Side: A Mystery, by Tracy Kiely

Last year debut author Tracy Kiely blew my bonnet off with her clever Pride and Prejudice inspired whodunit, Murder at Longbourn. Now her clever, but endearingly insecure sleuth Elizabeth Parker is back with a new mystery to solve that is inspired from Austen’s Sense and Sensibility. (Publishers description) Drawing from the classic Sense and Sensibility, Tracy Kiely continues the adventures of Elizabeth Parker, the likable Austen-quoting sleuth, in this witty and charming series. Elizabeth Parker suspected that fulfilling her duties as maid-of-honor for her best friend, Bridget, was going to be murder. And no sooner is the last grain of rice thrown than she finds herself staring into the dead eyes of Bridget’s Aunt Roni, a woman whose death is almost as universally celebrated as Bridget’s nuptials. The horror only increases when Harry, Bridget’s cousin, becomes the chief suspect. The idea is ludicrous to the family, because Harry is one of the kindest, most compassionate people imaginable. To complicate matters, Elizabeth’s boyfriend, Peter, appears to be falling for an old flame, a gorgeous wedding planner. Determined to clear Harry of the crime, reign in Bridget’s impulsive brand of sleuthing, and figure out where Peter’s heart lies, Elizabeth sets her mind to work. Minotaur Books (2010), Hardcover, ISBN: 978-0312537579.  Read my preview and an excerpt here.

Austen’s Oeuvre

Emma (Blackstone Audio Classic), by Jane Austen, read by Nadia May

Since one can never have too many audio editions of Emma to break the monotony of the work commute,  pop this one into your car CD player and enjoy an unabridged recording of  Austen’s nonsensical girl. (Publishers description) Often considered Jane Austen’s finest work, Emma is the story of a charmingly self-deluded heroine whose injudicious matchmaking schemes often lead to substantial mortification. Emma, ”handsome, clever, and rich, with a comfortable home and happy disposition, seemed to unite some of the best blessings of existence; and had lived nearly twenty-one years in the world with very little to distress or vex her.” Her own great fortune has blinded Emma to the true feelings and motivations of others and leads her to some hilarious misjudgments. But it is through her mistakes that Emma finds humility, wisdom, and true love. Told with the shrewd wit and delicate irony which have made Jane Austen a master of the English novel, Emma is a comic masterpiece whose fanciful heroine has gained the affection of generations of readers. Blackstone Audio, Inc. (2010), Unabridged CD, ISBN: 978-1441755360

Nonfiction

The Jane Austen Pocket Bible: The Perfect Gift for a Literary Lover, by Holly Ivins

From the publishers description, this appears to be the be all, end all of Austen enlightenment. That is a lot of Austenology for this slim 192 page volume. (Publishers description) The perfect gift for a literary lover. Have you ever dreamt of Darcy? Wished for Wentworth? Or even envied the womanly wiles of Emma? Perhaps you want to know a bit more about the author who so accurately describes the ins and outs of courtship, and whose novels have never been out of print since they were first published nearly 200 years ago? If you’re nodding in excitement reading this then the Jane Austen Pocket Bible is one for you. This handy little book guides you through Austen’s beloved novels, explaining Regency manners, the class system, the importance of inheritance, and the delicate matter of landing a husband. Full of fascinating trivia about the world of Austen’s novels this book also contains details of Austen’s life, the writers who inspired her, the country estates which make up the settings for her romantic adventures, and details on the countless film and television adaptations which have been made. With facts on genteel dancing, a plan for an Austen dinner party and words of wisdom from the lady herself, it’s a must-have for every self-confessed Jane fan or those making their first foray into Austen’s carefully crafted world. Pocket Bibles (2010), Hardcover, ISBN: 978-1907087097

Austen’s Contemporaries & Beyond

Becoming Queen Victoria: The Tragic Death of Princess Charlotte and the Unexpected Rise of Britain’s Greatest Monarch, by Kate Williams

There are ton of Victoria biographies on the market, so why do we need another one? Kate Williams is why. If any of you missed her 2006 bio of Emma Hamilton, England’s Mistress, it is well worth a trip to the library or that gift card you have been hording from last Christmas. Her next venture into fascinating women from the nineteenth-century is with Queen V. Her slant is the Princess Charlotte tragedy and how it made the Royal family scamper to conceive the next heir to the throne. (Publishers description) In her lauded biography England’s Mistress: The Infamous Life of Emma Hamilton, Kate Williams painted a vivid and intimate portrait of Emma Hamilton, the lover of English national hero Lord Horatio Nelson. Now, with the same keen insight and gift for telling detail, Williams provides a gripping account of Queen Victoria’s rise to the throne and her early years in power—as well as the tragic, little-known story of the princess whose demise made it all possible. Writing with a combination of novelistic flair and historical precision, Williams reveals an energetic and vibrant woman in the prime of her life, while chronicling the byzantine machinations behind Victoria’s struggle to occupy the throne—scheming that continued even after the crown was placed on her head. Ballantine Books (2010), Hardcover, ISBN: 978-0345461957. Read the first chapter.

Georgette Heyer’s Regency World, by Jennifer Kloester

Not just your average compendium of Regency-era historical facts and figures, this volume uses Georgette Heyer’s novels as a springboard and ties in social, cultural and political customs and events, explaining it all for you, clearly and concisely. Read my review for full details and insights. (Publishers description) The definitive guide for all fans of Georgette Heyer, Jane Austen, and the glittering Regency period. Immerse yourself in the resplendent glow of Regency England and the world of Georgette Heyer…From the fascinating slang, the elegant fashions, the precise ways the bon ton ate, drank, danced, and flirted, to the shocking real life scandals of the day, Georgette Heyer’s Regency World takes you behind the scenes of Heyer’s captivating novels. As much fun to read as Heyer’s own novels, beautifully illustrated, and meticulously researched, Jennifer Kloester’s essential guide brings the world of the Regency to life for Heyer fans and Jane Austen fans alike. Sourcebooks (2010), Trade paperback, ISBN: 978-1402241369. Read the first chapter.

Shades of Milk and Honey, by Robinette Kowal

More fun with Jane. (sort of) This Regency-era novel has some similar Austenesque themes: two sisters with divergent personality seek love and happiness, but with Harry Potter magic throw in the mix. It looks intriguing. Let’s hope the prose is light, bright and sparkly. (Publishers description) The fantasy novel you’ve always wished Jane Austen had written. Shades of Milk and Honey is exactly what we could expect from Jane Austen if she had been a fantasy writer: Pride and Prejudice meets Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. It is an intimate portrait of a woman, Jane, and her quest for love in a world where the manipulation of glamour is considered an essential skill for a lady of quality. Jane and her sister Melody vie for the attentions of eligible men, and while Jane’s skill with glamour is remarkable, it is her sister who is fair of face. When Jane realizes that one of Melody’s suitors is set on taking advantage of her sister for the sake of her dowry, she pushes her skills to the limit of what her body can withstand in order to set things right—and, in the process, accidentally wanders into a love story of her own. Tor Books, Hardcover, ISBN: 978-0765325563. Read the first chapter.

Until next month, happy reading!

Laurel Ann

Northanger Alibi, by Jenni James – A Review

What qualifies a story as a retelling of a Jane Austen novel? Reverent adherence to Austen’s plot line? Faithful interpretation of characterization?  Emulation of her prose style? I asked myself these questions several times while reading Jenni James’ new novel Northanger Alibi, the first book in her Austen Diaries series of contemporary counterparts to Austen’s six classic novels. At what point does an Austen retelling diverge so far that it is not a retelling at all? And, more importantly, does it really matter? This led me to evaluate my Janeitehood. Am I a Formidable, or an Iconoclastic Austen sequel reader? Honestly, if you can answer these questions immediately, you will know if you want to read this novel or not. I could not decide, so I continued reading.

Claire Hart is a sixteen year old country girl from New Mexico whose never been kissed. Like any teenager she’d like it to be otherwise. She is Twi-hard to the extreme having read the Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer numerous times, seen the movies and obsessed over its heroes Edward Cullen and Jacob Black beyond the point of redemption. She is confident that she is now an expert on vampires and werewolves and can spot them on sight. When she and her sister Cassidy are given the chance to travel to Seattle with family friends for a summer holiday she is ecstatic to be near the epicenter of the Twi-world, Forks, Washington. Her trip to the Emerald City takes an interesting turn when she is introduced to Tony Russo, a handsome young man who likes to tease her, is interested in fine fashion, uses the word nice frequently and according to Claire’s first impression is definitely a vampire. Next she meets tall, dark and overbearing Jaden Black who is Quileute, the same local Native American tribe as the Twilight character Jacob and therefore must also be a werewolf. Everything she experiences is seen through the Gothic prism of Twilight characters and she is certain that her deductions are correct. Her sister is skeptical until she too starts reading the addictive novels that Claire has brought along with her. As both of Claire’s new supposedly paranormal male friends vie for her affections, she must learn to distinguish between fiction and reality and to trust her own instincts in matters of the heart.

Northanger Alibi is a charming tale written for a pre-teen audience craving more vampire and werewolf fare after reading the sensationally popular Twilight series. As such, it gently mocks the genre and its obsessive fans while following its heroine in her first experiences with love and romance. The concept of combining Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey, a parody of the melodramatic Gothic fiction so popular in Austen’s time, with the hugely successful modern Gothic tale Twilight was intriguing to me. The story had a promising beginning and then wanders away from Austen’s classic tale to the author’s unique plot and characterizations. Her hero and heroine do have similarities to Austen’s Catherine Morland and Henry Tilney: she is impressionable, naive and obsessed with Gothic fiction; he teases, likes fashion and the word nice, but beside a few other plot comparisons and character allusions, that is just about as close as it gets to the original. The ending brings us back to some resemblance of Austen’s story, but by then this reader was baffled.

Why am I picking at this funny and exuberant debut novel written by a promising new author you ask? Because of how it has been marketed. “This modern Gothic remake of Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey, with a nod to Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series, will leave you in stitches.” The Formidable in me must warn readers who purchase this book because of the Jane Austen connection that they will find very little Abbey in this Northanger. On the other hand, the Iconoclast in me admires the author’s energy and creativity, and blames her editor and publisher for not pointing out the egregious omissions and addressing them. Promoting this book as a retelling of Austen’s novel is misleading. Promoting this book as a Twilight inspired story for pre-teens pairs the author’s creative choices with her target audience. Northanger Alibi is a great concept novel and a fun read for those interested in Twilight, but not the most rewarding fare for the Janeite who is expecting more than a passing resemblance to the original story.

2 out of 5 Regency Stars

Northanger Alibi: The Austen Diaries, by Jenni James
Valor Publishing Group, Orem, Utah
Hardcover, text (310) pages
ISBN: 978-1935546153

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