Category Archives: Jane Austen Fan Fiction

The Jane Austen Marriage Manual by Kim Izzo

jane

I keep saying that I’m not going to read anymore Jane Austen fan fiction, but I’m finding giving up this type of fiction to be more difficult than giving up chocolate would be.*

The Jane Austen Marriage Manual by Kim Izzo tempted me by using Jane Austen’s name in the title, a very pretty pink cover featuring silhouette cameos of the heroine and hero and just like Oscar Wilde, I can resist everything except temptation. And chocolate.

This novel takes the premise that Jane Austen was the best armchair expert of marriage ever, and that by following her advice, a woman in her forties in our times could land herself a wealthy husband in times of economic difficulty. Fittingly, the heroine of The Jane Austen Marriage Manual is Kate, a journalist from New York who finds herself at the age of forty out of work, homeless and single. A writing assignment for Haute magazine leads Kate to hunt down rich men for research, although Kate also intends to find a rich man and marry him to secure her future.

Luckily Kate is tall and thin and beautiful and sexy and could pass for 32 even though she is 40 and is clever and gets flown all over the world to glamorous locations including Florida for the polo, St Moritz for the skiing and London (just because) while working on this assignment. Did I mention that Kate also has a Chanel dress which is suitable for almost every occasion that she finds herself in the company of rich men? Also, Kate has a title. Admittedly her friends bought the title for Kate as a joke, but being known as Lady Kate certainly came in handy while she was on the hunt for a husband.

Anyways, Kate meets rich men and poor men, older men and younger men, stupid men and clever men, sexy men and frightening men, the wrong men and eventually, the right man. Was he rich or poor? I can’t say, because that is giving too much away. Years ago a friend told me she tried something similar to this, by hanging around Toorak (an affluent suburb of Melbourne) with the intention of snagging herself a rich boyfriend. My friend’s plan wasn’t successful, but she eventually met a poor hippie somewhere else and fell in love. They have been happily married for about 25 years now.

Kate’s character was more of a Lydia than a Lizzie or a Jane and in my opinion, she finished up with a better fellow than she deserved. However, the author gets to decide how the story works out, and this was her choice.

The Jane Austen Marriage Manual is a light and cheerful read, but if you want a really good read, then read something Jane Austen wrote.

*I’m NEVER giving up chocolate.

 

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Jane and His Lordship’s Legacy by Stephanie Barron

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Jane and His Lordship’s Legacy is one Stephanie Barron’s ‘Being A Jane Austen Mystery’ series.

I’ve read a few others in this series and enjoyed them. Each story involves Jane Austen as a character, set in a known location that the real Jane Austen either lived in or visited during her lifetime, and have a mystery which Jane uses her detective skills to solve.

Jane and His Lordship’s Legacy is a sadder, darker story than the others I have so far read. Jane, Mrs Austen and Jane’s sister Cassandra have recently moved to Chawton Cottage in Hampshire. Jane is mourning Sir Harold Trowbridge, who she has known and loved since earlier books in the series. Sir Harold, who was known as The Rogue, left his diaries and letters in a bequest to Jane, with the intention that she write his memoirs.

Soon after they arrive at Chawton Cottage, Jane finds a dead man in the cellar. He was a local labourer, who had recently been boasting to his neighbours that he had information which would lead to him becoming a rich man. Jane attends the Coroner’s Court and of course, becomes involved in searching out the truth of the labourer’s death and other mysteries in the neighbourhood.

All the while Jane and her family are battling the dislike of the entire village, because Jane’s brother Edward removed the ‘widow Seward’ from Chawton Cottage, to make a home for Mrs Austen and her daughters. Sir Harold’s legacy has also tarnished Jane’s reputation.

I’ve believed the character of Jane Austen in each of the books I’ve read in this series, including Jane and His Lordship’s Legacy, although this is not the best book of the series, as the story was too complicated. It was interesting to have new characters introduced, such as Miss Benn, who the author advises was the role model for poor Miss Bates in Emma. Mrs Austen is also annoyingly similar to Mrs Bennet in Pride and Prejudice, which I can’t believe she was in real life, but sadly, there was no sign of any characters resembling either Mr Darcy or Colin Firth.

I haven’t read the ‘Being a Jane Austen Mystery’ stories in order, but probably should have. While the books do stand alone, I hadn’t realised Jane loved Sir Harold from the books I’ve already read. I’m continuing to look forward to reading more of this series.

 

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Me and Mr Darcy by Alexandra Potter

me

I haven’t read anything I’ve really enjoyed for ages. I’m bored with ‘Literature,’ tired of mysteries and crime and can’t be bothered with romance. There is obviously something wrong with me, because I don’t even feel like looking at photos of cakes in cook books.

Sometimes when I feel jaded, reading something light and bright cheers me up. I was hopeful that Me and Mr Darcy by Alexandra Potter would work, but unfortunately this book has also gone onto the list of books which I found a bit blah.

Emily Albright is an American who loves Pride and Prejudice. She impulsively decides to go on a guided tour of Jane Austen country and finds herself on a bus full of old ladies, an elderly male bus driver and a young, cute but arrogant, male journalist.

I might as well stop telling the story right now, because I expect you’ll be able to figure out how this one ends.

Possibly I’m not being fair to this author as I’m a bit tired lately, (long hours at work), but I truly wish I hadn’t wasted the hour I actually spent reading this book and the half hour I spent skimming through the remainder of the book, (just to make sure of the ending).

I know I have said this before, but I have to stop reading Jane Austen Fan Fiction. It’s too much like having a drink of water when you really want a frothy hot chocolate with marshmallows and cream. No more! (Until next time).

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Jane Austen Ruined My Life by Beth Pattillo

jane

I quite enjoyed Jane Austen Ruined My Life by Beth Pattillo, but I have a major complaint to make about the physical book. The cover was really stiff, with sharpish edges and some of the pages fell out as I was reading. It was really irritating, because the story deserved better.

Emma, the heroine of this novel, is an American college professor who has recently learned of a number of unpublished letters by Jane Austen. Can you imagine if this really happened? The Jane Austen letters in existence are the dullest correspondence of all time and the thought of seeing what Jane Austen was really capable of, uncensored by her sister, would blow the upcoming, formerly lost Harper Lee book out of the water.

Emma’s marriage ended after she learned in the worst possible way that her husband had been having an affair with her assistant (use your imagination here). To make matters worse, her rat husband and assistant framed Emma for plagiarism, causing her to be denied tenure at her school.

Emma flees to her cousin’s house in London, where she is surprised to learn that her former best friend Adam is also staying. Emma and Adam’s friendship ended when Emma married, due to Adam’s disapproval of her choice of husband.

Emma is in London to investigate the claim of a Mrs Parrot, who claims that she has a number of unpublished letters written by Jane Austen. On examination, the first letter Mrs Parrot allows Emma to see appears to be authentic and opens up more questions about Jane Austen than it answers. Mrs Parrot tells Emma that she is a member of a group known as the Formidables, originally headed by Jane Austen’s sister Cassandra, who existed to protect the letters and by extension, Jane Austen’s privacy.

Emma is set a number of tasks by Mrs Parrot before she is allowed to see subsequent letters and as she undertakes the tasks, she learns more about herself. Her emotions are complicated by Adam’s presence and their potential romance.

Emma’s story ends happily, with her personal affairs being resolved to a point where her reputation is restored and her hurt and anger with her former husband becoming her past, rather than her present. Emma defers her ‘happily ever after,’ but I can live with that, because for me, the ‘Emma’ part of this story was okay, but the Jane Austen parts of the story were thrilling. I really enjoyed the descriptions of Emma’s visits to Steventon, Bath, Chawton, Lyne Regis and other places that Jane Austen either lived in or visited. The possibility of Jane Austen having events in her life which were forever hidden after her death by Cassandra Austen’s censorship of her sister’s correspondence is fascinating. The author clearly explains that this story line is pure fiction, but I still found the possibility of these events to be enormously tantalising.

Fans of Mansfield Park will probably pick up on an error Emma (or the author) makes in this book. There are also a few typos, which along with the pages falling out, let the author and the publisher down. I think the title is a bit lame too, but I do understand that authors of Jane Austen fan fiction need to have a strong reference either to Jane Austen or one of her major novels in order to capitalise on their market.

I’ve had my ups and downs with Jane Austen fan fiction, but would recommend Jane Austen Ruined My life to other fans of this genre.

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Northanger Abbey by Val McDermid

North

Northanger Abbey by Val McDermid was written as part of the Austen Project, where contemporary authors re-write Jane Austen’s six major novels. This author is well known for her crime novels, which are very good.

I quite enjoyed Val McDermid’s version of Northanger Abbey, but I did finish the book feeling slightly disappointed, as I always do after reading Jane Austen tribute novels, or sequels or whatever they are called. Nobody writes Jane Austen like Jane Austen. Still, I keep picking these novels up because I’m not ready to let go of my favourite author.

This version of Northanger Abbey is set in Scotland in the present time. Cat Morland, a 17 year old, home schooled, would-be-heroine, goes to Edinburgh for the festival with her wealthy neighbours, the Allens. In a whirlwind of social engagements, Cat meets and becomes besties with Bella Thorpe, who is keen on Cat’s brother, James. Bella wants Cat to fall in love with her brother Johnny, however Cat is already sweet on Henry Tilney, a young lawyer.

Cat becomes friends with Henry’s sister Ellie, both of whom appear to be bullied by their widowed father, General Tilney.

Really, I don’t know why I am telling you all of this. The story is the same as Jane Austen’s, just set in the present time. The characters have Facebook and mobile phones. Cat’s reading of choice features vampires, zombies and werewolves. Cat and Bella use expressions such as OMG and LOL. The faults and failings and the good points of the characters haven’t changed since the original Northanger Abbey. Cat is naïve and Ellie is sweet. Bella Thorpe is still a young woman on the make and her brother Johnny remains a jerk.

However, I have the same problem with Val McDermid’s version of events that I do with Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey. Why would a young man, specifically Henry Tilney, who is a lawyer, fall in love with and remain in love with, a 17 year old girl? I think the age differences and intellectual differences between Catherine and Henry are too great for their relationship to work in real life. I can understand Henry’s initial interest in Cat’s pretty face and her lovely personality, but at some time in the future, he is going to be bored stupid with her. And then what? In Jane Austen’s time they would politely have lived separate lives, with Henry finding his amusement elsewhere, but in the present time, Henry would eventually move on and Cat’s heart will be been broken.

Regardless of my fault finding with the plot, I did enjoy this novel and would recommend it to fellow Janeites. In future though, I would prefer to read a Val McDermid crime novel though than her re-telling someone else’s story.

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A Modern Day Persuasion by Kaitlin Saunders

modern

Do yourself a favour Janeites, re-read Jane Austen’s Persuasion instead of A Modern Day Persuasion, An Adaptation of Jane Austen’s Classic by Kaitlin Saunders.

This book needed a good, hard edit. Some famous writer or other (Elmore Leonard, to be precise) said that the trick to telling a good story is to leave out the boring bits, and someone should have told this author. There is far too much guff about what kind of tea minor characters drink, and lunches with celebrity cousins who aren’t interesting. Boring stuff that doesn’t move the story along doesn’t belong in the final cut.

To make matters worse, the grammar and punctuation are poor. I’m not an expert, far from it, but these sort of faults are annoying.

The author is also guilty of telling rather than showing the action.

As I said earlier, a reader will get far more pleasure from reading or re-reading Persuasion. However, if you really want to know what happens, seventeen year old Anne Elliot falls in love with twenty year old Rick Wentworth, a poor lifesaver. Too young to get married, they are parted by Anne’s family and godmother, who believe she can do better than Rick.

Years later, Rick returns to the area as a rich and successful novelist. Anne must have been living under a rock, because she had no idea what Rick had been up to during their time apart. (Seriously? You expect me to believe that?In this day and age, if you were still in love with an old flame, wouldn’t you Google them once in a while? I would. Also, Rick is a bestselling writer. Jane Austen heroines read. I found Pride and Prejudice and Zombies to be more believable).

Blah, blah, blah. Anne’s car breaks down, blah, blah, Anne’s nephew fell out of a tree, blah, blah, Anne has a haircut and makeover, blah, blah, enter Will Elliott, blah, blah, Rick thinks Anne is in love with Will, blah, blah, blah, fireworks, happily ever after. The reader probably fell asleep hours ago.

This book has cured me for the moment of Jane Austen tribute novels.

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Captain Wentworth’s Diary by Amanda Grange

Captain

Sigh…(of happiness). Captain Wentworth’s Diary by Amanda Grange left me feeling as if all is right with the world.

First, a disclaimer: Persuasion is my favourite Jane Austen novel, and Captain Wentworth from Persuasion is my favourite Jane Austen hero. As you might expect, Anne Elliott from Persuasion is my favourite Jane Austen heroine. To re-visit their story in Captain Wentworth’s Diary was an unexpected pleasure.

In my opinion, Persuasion is the ultimate romance novel.

The plot summary of Persuasion is as follows. The major characters meet, and fall in love, only to be separated by reasons beyond their control. Now, pay attention to the next sentence everyone, because this is the reason why Persuasion is so wonderful. The separated lovers do not stop loving each other. They meet again, many years later, and after a series of misunderstandings, re-unite. At the end of the book you just know they are going to live happily ever after.

Captain Wentworth’s Diary tells of how he and Anne Elliott first met and fell in love, and is told via Frederick’s diary entries. Persuasion, by Jane Austen is told through Anne Elliott’s eyes and Anne and Frederick have already parted by the beginning of the story.

Frederick’s diary entries show him to be young and girl crazy, a sailor on shore leave who has his money burning a hole in his pockets. The reader knows Frederick will become a good  and successful man, as he is kind and straightforward, and most importantly values Anne, who is not treated with love or respect by her father and sister. Anne is clever and funny and pretty blossoms with Frederick’s attentions. During his visit to Somerset, she and Frederick become friends and eventually fall in love.

Despite agreeing to marry Frederick, Anne is persuaded by a family friend to break her engagement, so as not to hold him back in his career. There is also an element of snobbery in Anne’s friend’s advice not to marry him, as Anne is a Baronet’s daughter, and her friend believes Anne could do better for herself than a sailor.

When they part, Frederick, who is heartbroken and bitter, goes back to the Navy to make his fortune during the Napoleonic Wars. At this point in the story, Captain Wentworth’s Diary merges with Persuasion. Frederick returns eight years later as a rich man to Somerset, where he meets Anne again. Despite recognising that he still loves Anne, Frederick flirts with and considers marrying other girls. The girl he favours is headstrong, a characteristic Frederick believes is important, in light of Anne having been persuaded not to marry him. Frederick is compromised by the girl he has been flirting with and thinks he will have to marry her, but luckily for him she falls in love with someone else.

The next obstacle to Anne and Frederick’s happy ending is Frederick’s belief that Anne is to marry her cousin, who is to inherit the Baronetcy on her father’s death.

Frederick and Anne’s eventual realisation that they still love each other, have always loved each other and that they should have fought harder for each other in the beginning is satisfying but bittersweet.

Based on my enjoyment of Captain Wentworth’s Diary I will read more books by Amanda Grange and I would highly recommend this book to fellow Janeites.

 

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The Darcy Connection by Elizabeth Aston

The Darcy Connection

Warning! Warning! Jane Austen is my favourite author. Like many other Jane-ites, I am a sucker for novels written by other authors who take minor characters from Jane Austen’s novels and use them to write their own books, although I draw the line at spin offs with zombies.

The Darcy Connection by Elizabeth Aston is a misleading name for this novel, which takes characters from Pride and Prejudice, as none of the Darcy’s appear as characters in the novel at all, despite playing pivotal roles.

The Darcy Connection is actually all about Eliza Collins, who is the youngest daughter of Mr Collins from Pride and Prejudice and his wife Charlotte. Eliza’s character is quite like Elizabeth Bennet’s, in that she is lively and clever and far more interesting than her older sister, Charlotte, who is extraordinarily beautiful. (Charlotte Collins must have been adopted, as neither of her parents, according to Jane Austen, were physically attractive. Mr Collins was described as tall and heavy and Charlotte Lucas as sensible and intelligent looking. I’m positive Charlotte would much prefer to have been described as pretty, but Jane Austen did not give her that gift).

The story begins with Eliza’s romance with Anthony Diggory, who is the son of the local squire. Mr Collins is now the Bishop of Ripon, but he is quite poor and Anthony’s father, Sir Roger Diggory, wants a richer wife for his son.  Instead of sticking up for his daughter when Sir Roger accuses her of trying to ensnare his son, Bishop Collins does his best to appease Sir Roger and agrees to send Eliza away somewhere where she can not make “sheep’s eyes” at Anthony.

Charlotte (Eliza’s sister, not mother) has a rich godmother, Lady Grandpoint, who has arranged to take Charlotte to London for a season. Because she is so beautiful, Charlotte is expected to find herself a rich and aristocratic husband. Lady Grandpoint agrees to take Eliza with them also, although she points out that she can not be expected to fund Eliza’s visit. Eliza goes along to London unwillingly as a poor relation to Charlotte.

The story borrows slightly from Cinderella at this point. Lady Grandpoint spends a great deal of money on Charlotte’s clothing and appearance in order to attend society functions, where she very soon begins to win the hearts of eligible suitors.

Eliza, when she does attend parties, is dressed in unsuitable and unfashionable clothing, and is snubbed by a new acquaintance, Mr Bartholomew Bruton, who Eliza overhears calling her a “provincial”  in a manner reminiscent of Mr Darcy calling Elizabeth Bennet “tolerable.” Luckily Eliza’s resourceful maid knows where to buy affordable fabric and creates dresses which show Eliza to her best advantage. Eliza wows Mr Bruton when she appears at a function beautifully dressed, something which would have been far more satisfying than being thought clever.

The story has adventures and scandals, love affairs and even a duel. There are plenty of twists and turns in the plot to keep things interesting, even though, let’s be honest, it is at heart a romance novel. There will be a happy ending, even though Caroline Bingley makes an appearance and guess what? She is still mean.

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