Valentine’s Day Reads
February is a time for mass-produced and forced romance, a.k.a. Valentine’s Day. Whether you love Valentine’s, dread it, or are simply ambivalent (usually depends upon your relationship status)…nothing beats reading a beautiful romance.
The romance genre today is the largest money-maker in the book biz, with everything from epics, erotica, and Harlequin; and it really got started a long time ago (think Guinevere and Lancelot). A few hundred years later, Jane Austen came along and gifted the world with her perfect novels that are romantic, charming, and can make even the most jaded believe in love. So in this installment of Between the Pages, I am going to suggest some books for all of those who love Jane Austen (Jane-ites!), but have already read the originals and want more amusement.
Most fan-fic or novels based on Jane Austen spring off of ‘Pride and Prejudice’, or to be more precise, the relationship of Elizabeth and Darcy. In Jane’s time she could have never even alluded to their intimate relationship, especially since the tale ends at their marriage. For the modern reader who wants the details of the boudoir and wonders what happens post-marriage, I would highly suggest ‘Mr Darcy Takes a Wife: Pride and Prejudice Continues’ by Linda Berdoll. Berdoll does a decent job of describing Elizabeth’s wonderful new life at Pemberley, her perfect marriage to Darcy, their exciting sex life, and then throws in some plot twists that show off Darcy’s sword fighting skills and undying love for Elizabeth. The reader also gets a peek at the more subdued relationship of Elizabeth’s sister Jane and her husband Bingley. I must note that Berdoll has written a second installment to this book, but it’s terrible! I suggest taking a pass.
Many readers (the obsessive amongst us at least) fantasize about living the Jane Austen life (living in a manor or estate, drinking tea, taking refreshing walks and being courted by handsome and rich bachelors). Well, two authors have taken this idea to heart. The first, Shannon Hale, constructs a Jane Austen theme park experience in her book ‘Austenland’. The second, Laurie Viera Rigler, takes her protagonist back in time to the era of Jane Austen in ‘Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict’. ‘Austenland’ is a present day theme park of sorts where guests can go to un-plug, de-stress and most of all immerse themselves in the Austen lifestyle. The park is a tight ship run by servants and actors hired to make the guests believe that Darcy only has eyes for them. So when twenty-nine year old New Yorker Jane takes a visit, the last thing on her mind is romp with the gardener and blackberry deprivation. In ‘Confessions’, modern L.A. woman Courtney Stone wakes up in the year 1813 in a manor house in England, and in the body of Miss Jane Mansfield. An entertaining story ensues as Courtney must learn to act like a woman of her time and decide whether she has truly lost her mind or found true love.
A book I have not read yet, but will very soon, is ‘Impulse and Initiative’ by Abigail Reynolds. The book tells the story of Darcy and Elizabeth from the point of Elizabeth’s first rejection of his proposal. The author asks, what if Darcy had not taken no for an answer and instead of having his wounded pride get the better of him, strove hard to win Elizabeth’s love and erase her prejudice? I have heard this book is sexy and not very proper, but for Jane-ites who like a little sizzle to their historical reads, this could be fabulous. I am looking forwards to this book as it comes highly recommended!
Jane Austen died before she could finish her last novel, ‘Sandition’. Sandition is generally included alongside ‘The Watsons’, ‘Lady Susan’, and ‘Juvenilia’ (also unfinished.) However, ‘Sandition’ takes center stage as many critics believe that had Jane been able to finish the piece, it would have been her finest and most powerful work. ‘Sandition’ tells the story of a town struggling with a changing world of commerce, powerful gossip, and notoriety. Depending on the edition you buy, you can either read ‘Sandition’ as Jane Austen left it, or you can read another author’s interpretation of how it may have ended.
Of course, the titles mentioned above are just the tip of the iceberg as far as Jane Austen fan-fic novels. There are gazillions out there! The above touch on several that I have really enjoyed as I have found a lot of what is available is not very good at all. If you have a favorite book based on Jane Austen, be sure to let me know. Happy reading!