Saturday, July 14, 2012

Guest Post and Giveaway:
Christina Dudley of The Beresfords

The Calico Critic offers a big welcome to our guest blogger Christina Dudley, author of The Beresfords.  As fan of Austenesque fiction, I myself am looking forward to reading this nod to Mansfield Park in the near future.  In the meantime, here are a few thoughts from Christina and a nice giveaway!

*          *          *

Although Austen described Emma Woodhouse as “a heroine whom no-one but myself will much like,” as the centuries have passed, it turns out far more abuse has actually been heaped on Fanny Price of Mansfield Park. Yes, Emma may be interfering and snobby, but Fanny—! Even Austen’s niece Anna Austen LeFroy “could not bear” her, and Austen’s own mother deemed Fanny “insipid.” Why the hate?

Anna Austen Lefroy,

I think Fanny suffers from the Not-Elizabeth-Bennet Syndrome, just as MP suffers in readers’ estimation as the Not-Pride-and-Prejudice. Fanny doesn’t sparkle and enchant; she watches from the wings, observing all but acting little (pun intended). When Mary Crawford comes along, sparkling and enchanting like an Elizabeth Bennet gone to the Dark Side, she steals Fanny’s horse, Fanny’s health, Fanny’s beloved Edmund, and Fanny’s emotional well-being, without Fanny lifting a finger in defense. Fanny Price has nothing, it seems, but the power to say No. Yet much of the novel turns on this power of Fanny’s. With her No to the amateur theatrical and its attendant misbehaviors, and with her No to the wiles of Henry Crawford, Fanny alone emerges with her self-respect and integrity intact.

Maybe if we let her hair
down and give her pouty lips
and cleavage, people will warm to her..?
Besides its passive heroine, Mansfield Park has two more strikes against it for modern readers: Fanny’s sincere religiosity and Edmund’s unsexy career choice. For their book A Billion Wicked Thoughts, neuroscientists Ogi Ogas and Sai Gaddam analyzed 15,000 Harlequin novels and came up with this top-ten list of romance hero professions:
  1. Now there's a hero.
  2. Cowboy
  3. Boss
  4. Prince
  5. Rancher
  6. Knight
  7. Surgeon
  8. King
  9. Bodyguard
  10. Sheriff

But wait! They left off “clergyman”! Exactly. Now, I know Harlequin novels are not Austen novels, but they, like all the Austen adaptations and sequels and updates, are descendents of her work. The hillbilly cousins who show up to the family reunion.

So given all poor Fanny’s disadvantages, why did I choose to write The Beresfords, a modern update of Mansfield Park? Four reasons:

  1. Mansfield Park is one of my favorite Austen novels, P&P and Persuasion being the others. MP features some of Austen’s best humor (not to mention the only dirty joke in her entire oeuvre, courtesy of Mary Crawford!), richest characterizations, and most detailed windows into her time and place.
  2. Given Fanny’s religiosity and Edmund’s career choice, faith issues play a natural, integral role in a re-envisioning of the story. My whole reading life has been spent on “secular” books, and I don’t think of myself as a writer of Christian fiction, per se, but I get tagged as such because I often write about churchgoing characters and things they wrestle with. Don’t know if you’ve noticed, but in contemporary secular fiction, churchgoing characters tend to be either (1) closet molesters or, (2) hypocritical as all-get-out. There are exceptions, of course, but not many. The exceptions prove the rule.
  3. I wanted to give Fanny her own voice, to make her more sympathetic. Recently, MP was made into an opera, and as the Austenonly blogger who attended noted, “…the internalized dialogues of Fanny Price are simply crying out to be translated into arias when she can address us, her audience, with some passion about the dreadful goings on around her.” The best way to make a potentially unsympathetic character sympathetic? Let her tell her side of the story, as my “Frannie” does.
  4. And finally, I was ticked at dear Jane for the ending of Mansfield Park. After all that Fanny has been through, things turn around for her in one sentence?! (And not even a very detailed sentence!) Fanny suffers more than any other Austen heroine, with the possible exception of Anne Elliott in Persuasion, but Anne gets a delicious conclusion, complete with detailed, heartfelt confession by Captain Wentworth. How could Austen so phone it in, when it came to Fanny? This absolutely had to be remedied.

So meet The Beresfords.

Raised with four older stepcousins in a conservative, churchgoing family, Frannie Price teeters on the brink of adolescence in the summer of 1985. Her timidity and awkwardness make her easy to overlook, yet she has one true friend in her cousin Jonathan. Jonathan, her childhood champion and the best person she knows. But when the Grant twins enter her life, Frannie’s world turns upside down. Not only does the sly and charming Eric Grant set her girl cousins against each other, but his flirtatious sister makes off with Jonathan’s heart.

Only Frannie sees the faults running beneath the family landscape—not that anyone’s asking her opinion. Not her strict Uncle Paul, not her beloved Jonathan, and certainly not the Grants, who, after having their way with the rest of the Beresfords, turn their sights on her. What’s a girl to do? And why does she feel, in this uncharted territory, like God left her at the border?

With sympathy, humor and more than a nod to Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park, The Beresfords chronicles Frannie’s coming of age, when all around her is coming apart.

*          *          *

Probably only a small percentage of my reader base have read Mansfield Park, so if I can’t convince you to love the Austen novel, don’t let it stop you from spending time with my Frannie!

A misleading Venn diagram, in which the author’s
readership appears disproportionately large.
But you get the idea.

And finally, if you live in the greater Seattle area, I will be reading from and signing copies of The Beresfords at University Book Store Bellevue, Wednesday, July 18, at 6:30 p.m. Come talk Austen with me, and invite me to your book club!

E-Book Giveaway of The Beresfords!

Now that Christina has piqued your interest in The Beresfords, she has generously offered to give away a Kindle edition of her book!  Remember, even if you don't own a Kindle, you can still read these versions on Kindle's Cloud Reader on your computer, or even on a Kindle app for your phone or iPad. Be sure to read the guidelines below, enter via the Rafflecopter widget, and good luck!

  • The contest period ends at 12:01am EST on July 29th, 2012.
  • Contest is open to those with an account to receive contest prize.
  • Make sure you leave your email address in the one required portion of the Rafflecopter form. Should you win, I will contact you on Sunday, July 29th.  Please take measures to ensure that my email will make it past your spam filters, lest you miss my message. ( You'll have 72 hours to respond before I pick another winner.  This email address must be the same one you use to log in to your Amazon account, as it is where the e-book will be sent.
  • All entries must go through the Rafflecopter form.  For example, if you leave a blog post comment and would like it to count toward your contest entry, be sure to indicate this through the "Leave a Blog Post Comment" button on the form.
  • You may tweet about the giveaway once per day for bonus entries. Please report the direct URL to the tweet in the Rafflecopter form.
  • Entries will be verified.  If a fraudulent entry is detected for the winning name, another winner will be drawn.
  • After contact is established with the winner via email, the results will be published in the Rafflecopter widget below, and in a post on The Calico Critic's Facebook group wall.

If you can't see the Rafflecopter form below,
try clicking on the "Read more »" link

a Rafflecopter giveaway




  1. I have read mansfield Park. Honestly not my first favorite of her books but did enjoy it.

  2. Not entering the contest because I already bought The Beresfords. And I loved it! What a delightful read!

    1. Nan:

      Thanks for your comment! Looks like we have something to look forward to!


  3. i have not read MansfieldPark, but it's been on my TBR pile for a LONG time!!
    thank you for the giveaway!!

    cyn209 at juno dot com

  4. I enjoyed Mansfield Park very much after seeing a movie version!

    1. Jeffrey:

      After dwelling on this post, I checked out Mansfield Park on DVD from our public library. I saw the 1999 version when it came out, long before I was a Janeite. I haven't re-watched it yet, but will do so very soon.

      Would you say that the movie stays pretty true to the book, or do they diverge from the original somewhat, as movies tend to do?


  5. I'm a reader of Jane Austen + reader of Jane Austen Spinoffs ... But I'm willing to be a reader of Christina too! ;o)

    I am reading Mansfield Park right now, and finding it slightly akin to torture :o/ It's rough-going. Very rough-going. So rough that Fanny has now replaced Anne Elliott as my absolute least favorite Austen heroine. (And if anyone knows how I feel about Persuasion, that's saying something, haha) ... BUT, I'm very interested in Christina's take on MP. I've discovered that I LOVE Persuasion adaptations, even though I don't like the original -- and I'm interested in seeing if MP adaptations follow the same pattern ... Plus, if Fanny gets a say and is more than the silent little shadow, that's gotta be an improvement :o)

  6. I've read Mansfield Park once and was recently re-reading it with Indie Jane but I only got about half way through it. I was enjoying it more than the first time I read it though, but other reading was keeping me from reading further.

    The Beresfords sounds like an interesting read. I like that it is set in the 80's and that she is living with her step-cousins. I would love to see how it all works out! Thanks for the chance to win!

  7. Our favorite Austen heroines are those we'd like to change places with---the sparkling, clever Elizabeth Bennet, for example---who capture the hearts of men we admire.

    Poor Fanny Price, whose situation in life is so limited it's hard to fathom, does not have nearly the appeal. And yet I love her story. It's subtle, and uncomfortably true to the times. She stands true to her principles. Would I be able to resist the flattery of the dashing, supposedly-reformed Henry Crawford as she did?

    I do agree about the ending, though. Edmund comes off as though he settled.

    By the way, I love your Venn diagram, Christina. Mine would look even worse. (I write the so-arrogant Elizabeth Elliot of Persuasion, a woman everyone loves to hate! And nobody wants to read about ... until they do.)

    I look forward to reading your book.

    :) Laura

    1. Wow-- great thoughts, Laura! I'd hate to admit where I fall in the Venn diagram...

    2. Ha! Regarding the Venn diagram, I sacrificed accuracy for words that fit in the circle that were still big enough to read...

  8. I'm definitely intrigued by the Beresfords! I look forward to reading it. It's been a long time since I read MP. While I don't dislike Fanny as much as many others do (there is something to be said for sticking to one's principles), Edmund is a pretty uninspiring hero. I never thought it was because he was a clergyman. Part of me wants to say that because he was a clergyman, he should've been better able to see through Mary, but then he is just a man, like many men whose heads are turned by more flashy ladies. There is a sweetness about him, which I guess is what she saw, but I don't think, even in the end, he loved Fanny anywhere near as much as she loved him all along.

    1. That's what I meant about Austen phoning it in! i think Edmund's coming around is every bit as disappointing as Henry Tilney (in Northanger Abbey) deciding he liked Catherine because, effectively, she liked him first. Blah. (Maybe Northanger Abbey needs a little touch-up!)

  9. I love all things Austen. Although, I think Mansfield Park is the only Austen I haven't read. I've added The Beresfords to my Goodreads shelf.

  10. Haven't read it yet... but on my TBR pile.

  11. Am very eager to read you updated adaptation of the novel. _Mansfield Park_ has one of Austen's most controversial characters .. I'd love to explore your updated interpretation.

    1. And I'd love to see how you like it! Good luck in the giveaway.

  12. I have not read the book yet (have read P&P and S&S), but I've seen two movie versions. I love the version with Jonny Lee Miller as Edmund. I actually love Mansfield Park. Hope I get lucky enough to win The Beresfords!


  13. Thanks for providing the opportunity to win this great-sounding ebook. Fingers crossed.



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