Recently the lovely Laurel Ann Nattress stopped by The Calico Critic to introduce her new project, Jane Austen Made Me Do It, an anthology of Austenesque short stories. I've now had the opportunity to read this collection, and in conjunction with Laurel Ann's post and book giveaway, I'd like to share some brief impressions of each entry. As there are 22 shorts, I'm going to break this review up into three separate posts, starting today and in future entries. The other portions can be found here:
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“Jane Austen’s Nightmare” by Syrie James
It’s 1815, just before the publication of Jane Austen’s Emma. She has an extremely vivid dream, wherein she encounters several of the characters of her novels. Many are very dissatisfied with how they were conceived and developed in her work. Others are completely content and thankful for their treatments. After waking, Jane is inspired to create characters for her next book who are somewhat different from others in the past. I found the premise of Syrie’s story to be interesting, but wasn’t bowled over by it.
“Waiting” by Jane Odiwe
“Waiting” is a bit of a postscript to Persuasion. The day after Captain Wentworth’s and Anne’s meeting on Union Street, he goes to her father to ask for the Baronet’s blessing upon their engagement. Anne also recalls moments from years before when she and Wentworth first met. This short story is as well written as Ms. Odiwe’s other works, some of which I’ve had the pleasure of reading. I hope she considers writing more speculative fiction based upon Persuasion.
“A Night at Northanger” by Lauren Willig
Cate is an assistant investigator on a cheesy television program called Ghost Trekkers. Her production team visits Northanger Abbey to produce one of their usual smoke-and-mirrors ghost programs. She’s unhappy in her job, which she pursued due to a crush on one of the other members of the team. While at the abbey, she has a paranormal experience that helps her reevaluate her life. Willig’s story takes a little while to get going, and there’s a bit of colorful language. I enjoyed the second half better than the first.
“Jane and the Gentleman Rogue” by Stephanie Barron
It’s the spring of 1805, and Jane Austen is acquainted with a Gentleman Rogue. He becomes involved in thwarting a bit of conspiracy and espionage, and Jane is a witness to much of the goings-on. This is my first exposure to the work of Stephanie Barron. While I have never been very interested in the many Jane Austen mysteries that are in the market, I was impressed with her writing and did enjoy this little piece of intrigue.
“Faux Jane” by F. J. Meier
Penned by a husband and wife team, "Faux Jane" also involves a husband and wife, as well as a suspicious first edition of Pride and Prejudice. I'm not going to bother summarizing this one. I didn't enjoy it, found it hard to follow and was glad to move on.
“Nothing Less Than Fairy-Land” by Monica Fairview
This follow-up to Jane Austen’s Emma encounters the titular character in the early days of her marriage to Mr. Knightley. Things are not as smooth they could be, as George has agreed to come live in Emma’s home, along with her father. This produces an interesting environment, as Emma must balance the priorities and desires of both her father and that of her husband. And despite the discouragement of her spouse, Emma still desires to play the matchmaker with others in the community. Author Monica Fairview has crafted a nice episode here. As I have in the past, I enjoyed her writing and look forward to reading more of her in the future.
“Love and Best Wishes, Aunt Jane” by Adriana Trigiani
This short work from Adriana Trigiani is a letter written by Jane Austen to her niece, but set in the modern day. In it she encourages young Anna as they celebrate her engagement to a young man named Declan. She offers advice and hopes for her niece as she embarks on a new chapter in a life. It’s evident that Trigiani has done her biographical homework on Austen, but I wasn’t overly impressed with this one.
“Jane Austen and the Mistletoe Kiss” by Jo Beverley
Set in Regency England, this yuletide tale centers around the Carsholt family, who live near the Austens in Chawton. Elinor is a 35 year-old widow who longs to be married again, but feels that she is too old for any decent prospects. Her 16 year-old daughter has discovered Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and seems to be taking on some of the novelist’s romantic notions about marriage. Mrs. Carsholt worries about the care of her family, but also about the care of her daughter’s heart, which could be easily broken if she expects every man to be a Mr. Darcy. As the end of the widow’s mourning period comes to a close during the holidays, the simple hanging of mistletoe could be the beginning of something wonderful.
I’ve been unfamiliar with the work of Jo Beverley, but after reading this delightful short story, I am sure to seek out some of her novels in the future. Her submission is well written in the Regency style and perfect to read at this time of year.
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Come back soon for my next post on Jane Austen Made Me Do It, where I'll continue to offer brief thoughts on the short stories within this delightful collection.