A School for Brides: A Story of Maidens, Mystery, and Matrimony, by Patrice Kindl – A Review

A School for Brides, by Patrice Kindl 2015From the desk of Katie Patchell:

In 2012, author Patrice Kindl published her Regency debut, Keeping the Castle. Heralded by critics as part Jane Austen and part I Capture the Castle (Dodie Smith’s classic), Keeping the Castle is set in the memorable town of Lesser Hoo, Yorkshire, and filled with quirky (and mostly loveable) characters, witty and very quote-worthy lines, and one very spectacular heroine. Really, what’s not to love? Sadly, a return to the characters and town discovered in Keeping the Castle seemed only possible through a re-read rather than a sequel…until this month, that is! In A School for Brides, Patrice Kindl’s companion novel to Keeping the Castle, readers return to the small village of Lesser Hoo to see the latest comedic mayhem caused by old and new residents alike.

“Mark my words. If something drastic is not done, none of us shall ever marry. We are doomed to die old maids, banished to the seat farthest from the fire, served with the toughest cuts of meat and the weakest cups of tea, objects of pity and scorn to all we meet. That shall be our fate, so long as we remain in Lesser Hoo.” (A School For Brides, p. 1)

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For Darkness Shows the Stars, by Diana Peterfreund – A Review

For Darkness Shows the Stars, by Diana Peterfreund (2012)From the desk of Kimberly Denny-Ryder

Several months ago I kept hearing a lot of buzz about a book by Diana Peterfreund entitled For Darkness Shows the Stars. Nearly every blogging friend I had seemed to be reading and raving about this novel.  As I did some research on it I discovered that it’s a young adult, sci-fi/dystopic version of Jane Austen’s Persuasion. I was 100% interested. When Laurel Ann suggested I review it for Austenprose, I was at first super excited and simultaneously nervous. What if it didn’t live up to my expectations? Nerves aside, I dove in eager to see how Persuasion translated into a dystopic world.

Many years ago, the scientific over-manipulation of food, animals, and even people resulted in an event known as the Reduction, which set humanity back hundreds of years technologically and socially and ushered in a new nobility that outlawed most forms of technology. Elliot North is a member of this group and understood that it was not her place to run away with her childhood sweetheart, a slave known as Kai. Now, years later, the world has begun advancing back to its former glory. A new generation is beginning to reignite progress and cause change, and with this comes the stagnation of the old elite. Therefore, Elliot’s estate is forced to rent land to the Cloud Fleet, a mysterious group of shipbuilders, in order to make ends meet. Little does she know that one of these men is Captain Malakai Wentforth, the same man she loved but dutifully left so many years ago, now under a new name. Although she wonders if this may be her second chance at love, Kai does not seem so sure. He also holds a secret that could alter the very course of their humanity for good or otherwise. Will Elliot be able to persuade him to give her a second chance? What will Kai do with his secret? Continue reading

Wentworth Hall, by Abby Grahame – A Review

Wentworth Hall, by Abby Grahame (2012)Review by Kimberly Denny-Ryder

If you enjoy Persuasion, Downton Abbey, or even Gossip Girl, you’re going to want to pay attention to this review.  Abby Grahame’s debut novel, Wentworth Hall, is a combination of all of the above and more.  Filled with themes and story lines that involve the mixing of social classes, lies, deceit, unrequited/lost loves, gossip and more, this book is jam packed from start to finish.

The Darlington family is one of the most powerful families in all of England in the beginning of the twentieth-century.  Under their massive estate, Wentworth Hall, all the intricate daily goings-on of all the family members coincide with each other and secret and scandal run amok.  Maggie Darlington, the elder sister, has always been known to be more raucous and carefree, yet she is now much more reserved and secretive since returning from her year away.  Although her secret is not revealed until the end of the novel, its effects on all the other members of the household are immediate, as the Darlington family fights to save its polished image as it begins to crack amongst whispers in the local media.  A series of newspaper articles that are supposedly satirical on the surface seem to be all too similar to the actual lives of the Darlingtons, and soon everyone begins to speculate as to the fate of this famed family.  Will they be able to uphold the noble status of their estate?  What is Maggie’s secret?

Wentworth Hall can be summed up in one word – glamorous.  While the hall itself isn’t, Grahame’s rich writing and fascinating storylines can 100% be described in this way.  (For a perfect example of her glamorous writing style, check out the guest post she posted last week here on Austenprose)  I’m still surprised that this is Grahame’s debut novel.  Her understanding of the culture, most specifically the social aspects, is captivating.  Similar to Persuasion and even Downton Abbey, Grahame explores the mixing of social classes using a love story as her plot device.  Using the Edwardian Era as the backdrop for her sweeping drama allows her to use the upstairs/downstairs and master/servant mentality to clearly demonstrate her narrative style.

I really enjoyed all of characters different secrets and how they were revealed and unraveled, merging together in the end.  It wasn’t difficult for me to figure out what each person was hiding, but I think it’ll be less obvious for the younger crowds that pick this up to read.

My major disappointment was the vagueness of the ending.  This young adult novel builds and builds and does resolve itself, but with few details.  It’s like going from point A to Z with nothing in the middle.  It left me wondering if this was going to be part of a series.  If it is in fact scheduled to be part of a series, then the vagueness sets up the plot for future books nicely.  Despite this, the splendor of Grahame’s writing combined with the excitement of the plot made me into a big fan of Wentworth Hall.  I humbly suggest that it becomes the next addition to your “to read” pile.

4 out of 5 Stars

Wentworth Hall, by Abby Grahame
Simon & Schuster (2012)
Hardcover (228) pages
ISBN: 978-1442451964

Kimberly Denny-Ryder is the owner/moderator of Reflections of a Book Addict, a book blog dedicated to following her journey of reading 100 books a year, while attempting to keep a life! When not reading, Kim can be found volunteering as the co-chair of a 24hr cancer awareness event, as well as an active member of Quinnipiac University’s alumni association.  When not reading or volunteering, Kim can be found at her full-time job working in vehicle funding. She lives with her husband Todd and two cats, Belle and Sebastian, in Connecticut.

© 2007 – 2012 Kimberly Denny-Ryder, Austenprose

Wentworth Hall blog tour with author Abby Grahame & Giveaway

Wentworth Hall, by Abby Grahame (2012)Seven months until Downton Abbey season 3 airs on Masterpiece Classic PBS. So, what’s a Downtonite to do in the meantime besides re-watching the first two seasons again? Why – read of course.

Please join us today in welcoming author Abby Grahame on her blog tour in celebration of the publication of Wentworth Hall, released this month by Simon & Schuster. Set in Edwardian England, not only will its title intrigue most Janeites with its reference to a certain romantic Captain from Austen’s novel Persuasion, but its author was inspired by Jane Austen throughout. Abby has generously shared with us some insights on her inspiration for writing her first young adult novel and offered a giveaway to three lucky readers.

The “Persuasive” Influence of Jane Austen on Wentworth Hall

A writer’s tool chest is the mind: It is filled with all that the senses have imbibed; the memories and the emotions; the people, the places; the ceremonious days filled with frivolity and the fleeting moments when great truths can be revealed in a subtle nod.  Some things are recalled as if yesterday, others have sunk beneath the forgetful blanket of the unconscious. The profound and entertaining books one has enjoyed are in there too.

All of this comes into play in the act of writing. Sometimes a writer “borrows,” from another source in full consciousness. It is a parody or homage, or simply a theft. Other times the influence bubbles up unbidden from the underground caves of the authorial psyche. Such was the case—I realize only now—when I embarked on writing my first published novel Wentworth Hall.  The spirit of Jane Austen was there, whispering in my ear, for sure. But she was so clever that I didn’t notice her presence at first.

The immediate influence can be seen in naming the novel after a venerable location rife with history and family secrets. (Northanger Abbey, Mansfield Park)  But, I have to admit this was also influenced by the luscious TV mini-series Downton Abbey.  (A title that was probably in itself influenced by Jane Austen too.) The upstairs, downstairs approach captivated me. This leads me to the next—and larger—influence.  Class!

In Jane Austen’s posthumously published Persuasion, Ann Elliot is madly in love with Captain Frederick Wentworth but is “persuaded” that he is not of high enough social consequence to merit a match. As in so much of Austen’s work, it is a statement on the hypocrisy and changeability of social class.

In my novel, I wanted to write about these things too. The stratification of our world into a 1% elite with gradations going down to the bottom of society’s poorest has been in the news lately. It is something that has been developing over the last fifty years in an accelerating fashion. These class distinctions are as relevant now as they were in Austen’s day.

Of course there are differences too. Wentworth Hall is set in 1912. Electricity has arrived and the radio will soon be in every home. World War One is looming. The characters see themselves as being on the cusp of a new, modern world that will shake up the power of the old aristocracy around them. A space was opening for the entrenched serving class to rise above their station of birth, just as naval service in the Napoleonic Wars allows Captain Wentworth to become a man of status and wealth.

In Wentworth Hall, the central story involves a great love affair thwarted by class differences. There are also less prominent characters whose lives are affected by the positions they were born into (in some cases the upper class feels trapped as well as the lower class). Hopefully I have explored the common humanity that makes these divides so superficial even though the lock they put on the lives of the characters seems unbreakable and can be disastrous.

So when the name Wentworth Hall occurred to me as a title, I had to have been somehow remembering that Captain Wentworth was man of rising stature in Persuasion  even though at the time I simply thought it had a good sound to it. And now that I have been made aware of the connection by the Jane Austen fans of my acquaintance, I couldn’t be more pleased. I loved Persuasion when I first read it as a college Literature major. Wentworth Hall is, indeed, imbued with the spirit of Captain Wentworth, the dashing character whom Jane Austen created with, if not precognitive, then certainly with the keen social perceptivity she brought to all her books.

So, thanks, Jane Austen. I couldn’t ask for a more acute and observant guide through the halls of class, romance, and social change.

Author Bio:

Abby Grahame lives in upstate New York. Her interest in historical fiction and British period dramas inspired Wentworth Hall. This is her first novel.

Grand Giveaway of Wentworth Hall

Enter a chance to win one of three copies available of Wentworth Hall, by Abby Grahame. Please leave a comment revealing who your favorite character is in Downton Abbey or why you would love to read this new young adult novel by 11:59 PT, Wednesday, May 16, 2012. Winner announced on Thursday, May 17, 2012. Shipment to US addresses only. Good luck!

Wentworth Hall, by Abby Grahame
Simon & Schuster (2012)
Hardcover (228) pages
ISBN: 978-1442451964

© 2007 – 2012 Abby Grahame, Austenprose

Forbidden, by Syrie James and Ryan M. James – A Review

Forbidden, by Syrie James and Ryan M. James (2012)From the desk of Christina Boyd:

Look out, Alyson Noel. Make way, Becca Fitzpatrick. Heads up, Lauren Kate.  There is a spectacular new Young Adult (YA) writing team on the horizon! 

Forbidden, authored by a mother and son writing team is their debut supernatural novel chocked full of intrigue, romance and humor.  But whyever is a Jane Austen blog site reviewing such a book?  One with not even a mention of Mr. Darcy, nor a reference to Jane Austen, nor anything remotely Regency? Simply thus.  One of the authors, none other than the international best-selling author of The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen as well as the award winning The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte, Syrie James, along with her son, Ryan M. James, ventures to offer us a larger allowance of prose to our daily study.

High school sophomore, Claire Brennan is tired of constantly moving from city to city.  Every time she seems to put down roots, her paranoid, seemingly hippie mother decides to pull up stakes and start anew.  New city.  New school.   But here at Emerson Academy, in the posh Brentwood, California community, not only does Claire love her prestigious school and value the scholarship she has worked these last two years to maintain but also her two bosom buddies, Erica and Brian, whom she shares everything with.  So who can blame her for not telling her mother about her newly discovered psychic powers and the visions warning her of imminent peril?  Then there is Alec MacKenzie, new man on campus with the exotic Scottish accent and handsome good looks.  Who is he?  After he somehow saves them from being crushed by falling scaffolding… his story of being orphaned at an early age, lived all over the world with various relations and most recently emancipated from a rich uncle… seems more and more sketchy, putting Claire and her friends on high alert.  “Even if you can explain away all those other things, the fact is, I saw those platforms hover for a moment in mid-fall before being tipped, I’m telling you, Alec held them up – somehow –  with his mind, and he made them fall to the side.  He may not be a vampire, but he’s… I don’t know… telekinetic.” p. 87

What Claire doesn’t know is Alec is a Grigori, an earthly angel bound to watch and sometimes eliminate the descendants of his angelic forefathers, and chose Emerson Academy to hide from those duties, living amongst the humans as one of them. “So, when you hugged – did you feel Alec’s heartbeat?  Claire stifled a laugh.  She looked at Brian from her seat and nodded emphatically, patting her chest one-handed with a rapid drumbeat.  He grinned triumphantly and made his hand for her to turn the note over.  She did. It read: See. Told you. He’s not a vampire.” p.118  Who would have thought Alec would end up falling in love with Claire, a newly Awakened Nephilim, a half angel, a Halfblood… one whose very existence is forbidden.

At first Alec appears aloof, but his demeanor improves on acquaintance.  “Claire could feel the heat emanating from his body.  Suddenly, all she could think about was that moment in her dream when he’d almost kissed her.  He was looking at her now in the same way.  The fear and doubt she’d been harboring began to trickle away.  Whoever Alec was –whatever he was –Claire realized she wouldn’t mind if he did kiss her.” p.157  As the two discover each other, as Claire learns about her heritage and her newly discovered powers, the stakes rise and are no longer about first kisses and crushes.  “If there entire relationship was against Grigori law, what would happen if they pursued it?” p.211   It seems others have discovered her existence now and the hunt is on.  Alec vows to protect her from those he is escaping as well as The Fallen, the evil ones he has hunted for a century.  “…what are you going to do?  Turn me into your hangman committee?  Have me executed?”  “That’s what I should do.”  Vincent finished off his wine and sighed.  “But Alec has begged me to reconsider.  It seems you’ve become so important to him, he’s willing to put many lives at risk.  So we’ve made a deal.” p.307

If this all seems familiar, as in “We can’t be together… I’ll hurt you,” Bella and Edward from Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight saga; or the mysterious, handsome teenage boy romances the odd girl with new found powers, Ever and Damen from Alyson Noel’s Immortals series; or girl falling in love with angel protector with Fallen angels all about them, Nora and Patch from Becca Fitzgerald’s Hush Hush series and Daniel and Luce from Lauren Kate’s Fallen series…  I can promise you it’s not a copycat novel.  Yes, there may be similarities but I interpreted it as part of the genre and following angel lore. It was very much about trust, discovery, and love. I totally enjoyed this. I was entertained by the inspired prose, witty dialogue, the humorous actions and reactions, and of course, the honest, pure character development.  The ending will leave you not quite hanging off a cliff by your fingernails… but I assure you, I look forward to James and James n©ext installment. This may be written for Young Adults, however, might I also suggest, for the young at heart?

4.5 out of 5 Stars

Forbidden, by Syrie James & Ryan M. James
Harper Teen (2012)
Trade paperback (416) pages
ISBN: 978-0062027894

Cover image courtesy of Harper Teen © 2012; text Christina Boyd © 2012, Austenprose.com

Sass & Serendipity Blog Tour with Author Jennifer Ziegler

Sass and Serendipity, by Jennifer Ziegler (2011)Please join us today in welcoming young adult fiction author Jennifer Ziegler for the official launch of her book blog tour of Sass & Serendipity a new Sense and Sensibility-inspired YA novel that is releasing tomorrow, Tuesday, July 12, 2011, by Delacorte Books for Young Readers (Random House).

Growing up, I found great comfort in reading Jane Austen.  I can’t remember exactly when I discovered her, but it was sometime during my high school years.  From a purely literary standpoint I would have to say that Pride and Prejudice is her masterwork, but Sense and Sensibility has always been my favorite.

I adored the characters of Elinor and Marianne, and, being a sister myself, I could really relate to their relationship – especially the way they were so different and yet still fiercely devoted to each other.  I realized that sisterhood today wasn’t all that different from sisterhood two centuries ago, and I started to wonder when somebody would do a modern retelling – something that would stay true to the themes and moods of the book.

And here is where I make a confession:  I think, in some ways, Jane Austen wrote YA.  Before anyone tosses tomatoes at me, please allow me to explain…

Austen’s books centered around young women on the verge of adulthood.  They are nearly ready to leave the nest and take their spot in the world – and in the Regency era, the best landing of all would be that of a happy marriage to a good and prosperous man.  Standing on this threshold of life is the emotional setting for all young adult novels.  Teens are caught between the insular world of the childhood home and that of society at large.  Even if they don’t strike out on their own at the end, they have surely become more “adult” by the final page.

Austen never makes the search for a proper husband the point of her stories.  In every case the main character needs to go through some significant growth first.  Whether it’s Elinor learning to trust her feelings as much as her intellect, Marianne coming out of her fantasies and into her senses, Elizabeth learning not to judge too prematurely, Emma learning not to meddle in other people’s lives, and so on, Austen makes sure her heroines recognize and overcome character flaws in order to earn their happy-ever-afters.  Such maturation is central to young adult literature, as it is with all good character-based fiction.  However, in YA, the age of the protagonists is key.  Teens and early twenties don’t know as much about the world or themselves quite yet.  Because of this, the problems they face are brand new, but also – and this is critical – their emotions are brand new.  This is first love, first heartbreak, first crushing disillusionment.

Thus, when I really stopped to consider it, I realized that any retelling of an Austen novel would almost have to be a young adult book in order to stay true to these themes and arcs.  At that point it was a quick hop from “Someone should do an update of Sense and Sensibility” to “Yes … and why not me?”

Of course, it was a daunting suggestion.  Me update Austen?  Would I give the original source material the proper care and reverence?  The answer was no.  I mean, I knew I would do my best, but I also knew that I couldn’t duplicate Austen’s prose.  My writing style is just too different.  I also knew that the scope of the book would have to be changed – favorite scenes and characters would have to go.  An exact retelling, with faithful character match-ups and plot recreations would be impossible.  Any attempt would end up a mess.

So, to avoid disappointing Austen fans, my fans, and myself, I decided early on that my novel would pay homage to Sense and Sensibility without being a strict retelling.  It was the feel of the book – the themes of sisterly bonds, romance, and identity – that inspired me to update it in the first place, so that is where I would start.

Ironically, to be true to the tone and premise of her book, I had to stay far away from it.  In fact, I avoided all things Austen while drafting the novel (a huge sacrifice for me).  I didn’t want to be tempted toward replication, so instead, I worked from memory – the storylines, moods, and ideas that had made an indelible impression on me.

The result was Sass & Serendipity, a story of two sisters living in modern, small-town Texas, and their run-ins with romance, economic hardships, societal pressures, and each other.  It was tough to write – but fun.  I really enjoyed getting to “play Austen.”

And now that the book is out, I’ve gotten the best endorsement ever:  my sister, Amanda, loves it.  I hope others will, too.

Author Jennifer ZieglerAuthor Bio:

Jennifer Ziegler is the author of Alpha Dog and How Not to be Popular. Born in Temple, Texas, as a child she also lived in Anchorage, Alaska and then returned to the Lone Star state to attend the University of Texas, where she earned degrees in journalism and English. While there she fell in love with Austin and its many cool hangouts, music venues, swimming holes, and hip people. Upon graduation, she decided to settle there, working as a freelance reporter, editorial assistant, and middle school language arts teacher. Jennifer also met a cute musician guy named Carl and the two got married. Visit Jennifer at her website, or Facebook, and follow her on Twitter as @ZieglerJennifer.

Giveaway of Sass & Serendipity

Enter a chance to win one of three copies of Sass & Serendipity by leaving a comment answering what intrigues you most about reading a Sense and Sensibility-inspired young adult novel or which character in the original novel is your favorite, by midnight PT, Wednesday, July 20, 2011. Winners to be announced on Thursday, July 21, 2010. Shipment to US and Canadian addresses only. Good luck!

Sass & Serendipity, by Jennifer Ziegler
Delacorte Books (2011)
Hardcover (384) pages
ISBN: 978-0385738989

© 2007 – 2011 Jennifer Ziegler, Austenprose

Echoes of Love: Jane Austen in 21st Century Book 5, by Rosie Rushton – A Review

Echoes of Love: Jane Austen in the 21st Century Book 5, by Rosie Rushton (2010)Guest review by Kimberly Denny-Ryder of Reflections of a Book Addict

Anna is the daughter of Walter Elliot, a washed up has-been TV personality. Walter has been out of work for over a year and has refused to curb his lifestyle, which has caused major financial difficulties for the Elliot’s. Family friend Marina has convinced Walter to move rent-free into an apartment near the marina where he can “house-sit” for her friends, while a nice couple pays to rent out the family estate. Marina begins telling Anna about the couple that is going to be renting out the house when Anna suddenly gets the feeling that she’s heard of them before. Turns out the couple renting the house are the aunt and uncle of Felix Wentworth, the love of Anna’s life. All would be well with their being there, except for the fact that Anna’s family came between her and Felix two years earlier, tearing them apart. Anna comes to learn that Felix is going to be visiting them for the summer while he is on leave from the military, and sees that she might have a chance to win him back if she can prove her love and remorse. Will she be able to convince him that there has never been anyone but him for her, and that her family will never make her decisions for her again?

Echoes of Love is the fifth book in the 21st Century Austen series by Rosie Rushton. The series takes Jane Austen’s novels and turns them into contemporary teen romance stories, with Echoes of Love being based on Persuasion. Rushton is also well known for her other teen series The Leehampton Series, Best Friends, and What a Week. Echoes of Love does a great job at making Persuasion relevant to the social issues of today. I think it was an interesting twist to make Felix black and Anna white. Bi-racial relationships are still sometimes tough sells to some people, and it was nice to see it accepted here. And what a great twist to make Felix a soldier in Afghanistan! So many people in today’s society are dating/engaged/married to a soldier and it was interesting to see it represented here. The personal struggle Anna had with saying goodbye to him when he left for training and boot camp and her response when she found out that he had been injured were definitely relatable for many today.

My biggest complaint with the book would probably have been the Wentworth “you pierce my soul” letter. It’s missing. Anyone who has read Persuasion knows that the letter is the standout part of the novel. I was all anticipation to find out whether or not Rushton was going to include it in her novel, and when I finally got to it I was a bit let down. I guess since it was a teen related book I shouldn’t have expected something as stunning and heartfelt as an adult’s love letter, but I hoped anyway!

I’m a huge fan of turning Austen’s novels into ones geared towards teens. Rushton does a great job at bringing Persuasion to a more mature teen audience. The book takes place in Europe, where the drinking age is 18, so many of the characters meet at bars and drink wine and beers. There are also some sexual innuendo’s made, which might make some parents uncomfortable about their younger teens reading the book. This young, hip, fresh take on Jane Austen’s Persuasion is sure to have the teen in your family clamoring for Austen’s originals.

4 out of 5 Regency Stars

Echoes of Love: Jane Austen in 21st Century Book 5, by Rosie Rushton
Piccadilly Press (2010)
Trade paperback (208) pages
ISBN: 978-1848120549

© 2007 – 2011 Kimberly Denny-Ryder, Austenprose

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

Additional Reviews

Prada & Prejudice, by Mandy Hubbard – A Review

Prada and Prejudice, by Mandy Hubbard (2009)When fifteen year old heroine Callie Montgomery purchases a pair of red Prada pumps with sky-high heels she thinks her life will change from high school geek to A-list fashionista in one smooth step. She’s out to impress her savvy classmates while traveling on a school trip in London. Not only is Callie socially awkward, she is an admitted klutz. It only takes her three steps out of the Prada shop in her new shoes to trip and hit her head. When she wakes up, her surroundings have changed from city street, to country lane. She is taken in at Harksbury, a palatial country manor house where she is mistaken for an American cousin Rebecca Vaughn. Rebecca’s first visit to England is highly anticipated by Emily Thorton-Hawke, who warmly greets the cousin she has never met with open arms, and in full Regency era attire. Thinking that British people are very odd, Callie asks to use the telephone, but only gets blank looks. She plays along with impersonating Cousin Rebecca and gradually begins to realize that somehow she has traveled back in time to 1815. Her twenty-first century manners and memory of Regency history hamper her ruse, especially with the arrogant but dishy Lord Alexander Thorton-Hawke, Duke of Harksbury.  He thinks she is outspoken and ill-mannered; she thinks if he wasn’t such a complete jerk, he’d be a great catch. 

A high-concept time travel fantasy, Mandy Hubbard’s debut novel Prada & Prejudice reminds us how far we have evolved socially pitting twenty-first century personal freedoms against early nineteenth-century social stricture. Hubbard’s first person writing style is direct and engaging. Her heroine Callie/Rebecca is endearingly angst ridden and insecure, struggling to find herself in a teenage world flooded with designer clothes and confusing priorities. She cleverly contrasts her heroine’s modern sensibilities against the double standard for women in Regency times. By Callie/Rebecca’s motivation to help Emily break her engagement to a man thirty years her senior she does not love, and influencing Alex, the Duke of Harksbury to change his views on out of wedlock children, arranged marriages, and of course being an arrogant aristocrat, she directly addresses issues like primogeniture and feminism without even knowing it. She is just being herself, outspoken and direct. In addition, being Rebecca changes Callie’s perspective as she gradually realizes that by traveling thousands of miles to England, or back two hundred years into the past, she can not escape who she is. Wherever you go there you are! Like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, her red shoes are not her ticket to happiness. It was there all along, waiting to be discovered, in herself. 

Light, bright, and sparkly, Prada & Prejudice has made a grand entrance into the emerging Young Adult fiction genre. It is not a Jane Austen sequel per se, but gently nods with reverence at Pride and Prejudice, presenting a hero and heroine whose relationship and characteristics readers will recognize from Austen’s famous literary couple Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy. With Austen being the grandmother of chick-lit, we have seen this premise used many times before in modern novels; Bridget Jones’ Diary, Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict and Twilight, and in the movies You’ve Got Mail and Lost in Austen to name a few. If Prada & Prejudice represents the next generation in Austen inspired fiction geared for young readers (and those young at heart) we are on very good footing indeed. Well done. I recommend it highly for those in need of a quick escape, and a hearty laugh. 

4 out of 5 Regency Stars 

Prada & Prejudice, by Mandy Hubbard
Razorbill (Penguin Group), New York (2009)
Trade paperback, (238) pages
ISBN: 9781595142603

Love, Lies and Lizzie, by Rosie Rushton – A Review

Love, Lies and Lizzie, by Rosie Rushton (2009)In her fourth book in the Jane Austen in the 21st-century series for young adult readers, (and some older adults who are forever young at heart), author Rosie Rushton tackles Jane Austen’s most famous novel, Pride and Prejudice, retelling the story with a contemporary twist. Her teenage Lizzie Bennet and sisters are still hunting for beaus, but with all of the advantages of modern technology: mobile phones, laptop computers and blackberries. The Bennet family always wanted to be well connected. Well, now they are. 

Rushton has been faithful to the original storyline, cleverly transferring the machinations of Regency courtship into the traumas of 21st-century teenage search for romance. There are plot changes, but half the fun is remembering the differences, and seeing her logic in updates. The most significant change is that the Bennet’s are wealthy – nouveau riche – since Mrs. Bennet inherited a bundle from a third cousin. This Mrs. Bennet is still as outrageously unrefined as ever, using her new money to social climb through Meryton’s better families. Mr. Bennet is still an unhappy bystander, but now resides in his music room listening to Wagner at full volume instead of the quaint and quiet 19th-century pastime of reading. The five Bennet sister’s personalities and foibles are all updated cleverly. Lizzie, like Austen’s, is as spirited and outspoken as we would wish her to be, Jane as kind and accepting as ever, Mary/Meredith a fervent ecologist afraid of global warming and food additives, and Kitty/Katie and Lydia are now twins; one wilder than Austen ever could have imagined, and the other unhappy because she is not. I’ll let you sort out who is who! The male love interests play out well too. Fitzwilliam/James Darcy is dishy and arrogant enough to drive a Ferrari and Charles/Charlie Bingley still a pushover. Mr. Collins/Drew Collins is as toady as ever, only times two since he can reach characters by cell phone, text messages and e-mail ad nauseam. There is no getting away from him! All comfortably familiar. Only Charlotte/Emily Lucas and George Wickham were a surprise. I’ll let you discovery why. 

Updating a classic of world literature is a daunting task that Rushton handled with composed energy. Her plot, characters and language was up to the minute, filled with modern technology and cultural references that teenagers (and adults) will identify with. I had to laugh when Darcy’s famous ‘be not alarmed, Madame’ letter explaining to Lizzie his reasons for separating Jane and Charlie and his treatment of George Wickham arrived via e-mail! How else?  There’s also lots of texting flying about speeding up the pace. Certain elements of the original story were omitted, not causing any offense to this devotee of Austen’s works. In reverence to Jane Austen, Rushton began each chapter with epigraph from the original text, foreshadowing the narrative. It was a nice touch connecting the two novels with quotes that any Austen fan will recognize.

Rushton is a British author and this edition has certain colloquialisms that were quite over this Colonial’s head. I do however, have a new appreciation for snogging, Pimms and wankers; — the other words I just guessed at. The novel is split into two parts, and for some reason the second half was not as fleshed out as the first, which made it rushed and thin. My biggest disappointment was that Lady Catherine/Katrina De Burgh was not nearly as officious or condescending as she could have been, and that her final showdown with Lizzie was on the phone and not vis-à-vis, diminishing the significance to the original infamous altercation in the prettyish kind of a little wilderness. No polluting of the Pemberley shades even alluded to. No Pemberley even mentioned in the entire book! 

This was a fast read and great fun. Kudos to Rushton for having the sense not to open the novel with her version of  “It is a truth universally acknowledged.” The cover art is also a lovely complement to the novel. Well done. 

Author Rosie RushtonFour out of five Regency stars 

Love, Lies and Lizzie, by Rosie Rushton
Piccadilly Press, Ltd, London (2009)
Trade paperback (216) pages
ISBN: 978-1853409790 

Other books available in this series 

The Secrets of Love (Sense and Sensibility)
Summer of Secrets (Northanger Abbey)
Secret Schemes and Daring Dreams (Emma)