Make books the furniture of your home — pile them high, wide, and deep, next to your sofa, your chairs, your bed — and when you’re feeling sad, lonely or in need of inspiration, take one, open it, and let the journey begin. Just the sight of a book — its colorful binding, gold letters, and smooth leather cover — makes me happy.
(from “Love and Best Wishes, Aunt Jane” by Adriana Trigiani, Jane Austen Made Me Do It, page 133)
Jane Austen Made Me Do It is a collection of 22 stories inspired by Jane Austen. Edited by Laurel Ann Nattress of Austenprose, this anthology features an assortment of authors best known for their Austenesque novels, including Stephanie Barron, Laurie Viera Rigler, Amanda Grange, Syrie James, and Beth Pattillo. Jane Austen Made Me Do It is the perfect book for readers who want to try a sequel or retelling of an Austen novel or those who simply want to enjoy the fact that so many authors share their passion for one of the most beloved novelists in English literature.
I’d like to highlight my favorite stories in this collection. In “Jane Austen’s Nightmare” by Syrie James, author of The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen, Jane dreams she is walking the streets of Bath, where her characters confront her about how she has portrayed them. Elinor Dashwood (Sense and Sensibility) and Fanny Price (Mansfield Park), for instance, lament that they are too perfect. In “Jane Austen and the Mistletoe Kiss” by Jo Beverley, Elinor, a young widow in her 30s, prepares to celebrate Christmas with her three children and is frustrated with having to accept gifts of charity from her deceased husband’s cousin, Sir Nicholas Danvers. When she encounters Jane Austen, who is considered by Elinor to be the authoress of “dangerous” novels that fill the heads of young girls with fantasies about marrying above their station, she learns about a mistletoe tradition that gets her hoping that she might have a second chance at love.
In “When Only a Darcy Will Do” by Beth Pattillo, author of Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart, a troubled American graduate student in London hopes to earn some money by hosting Jane Austen walking tours and realizes her Mr. Darcy may have been right in front of her all along. In “Heard of You” by Margaret C. Sullivan, author of The Jane Austen Handbook and editrix of AustenBlog, Anne Wentworth hears the sweet story of how Captain Wentworth played matchmaker for his sister, Sophy, and Admiral Croft. “What Would Jane Austen Do?” by Jane Rubino and Caitlen Rubino-Bradway, authors of Lady Vernon and Her Daughter, tells the story of a teenage boy who, under the influence of his mother and a girl from a summer dance class, enjoys Austen’s novels and stands out from the zombs, vampires, and werewolves roaming the school halls by displaying perfect manners, much to the chagrin of the principal.
“The Love Letter” by Brenna Aubrey, the winner of the Jane Austen Made Me Do It short story contest, is a beautiful retelling of Persuasion in which a medical student faces the woman who rejected his marriage proposal six years ago. And finally, “Intolerable Stupidity” by Laurie Viera Rigler, author of Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict, puts the Austenesque authors and filmmakers on trial…with Lady Catherine de Bourgh as judge and the opposing attorneys acting out their own version of Pride and Prejudice.
The stories in Jane Austen Made Me Do It have a little something for everyone — mystery, ghosts, humor, and Regency and contemporary romance. They feature Austen’s characters, Austen herself, Austen’s relatives, and even modern-day characters somehow affected by Austen and her novels. While I found some stories more entertaining than others, there was enough variety that I was never bored and didn’t skip a single story. Nattress did a wonderful job gathering these stories, and I would love to see her create another anthology just like this one.
Disclosure: I received Jane Austen Made Me Do It from Ballantine Books for review.
© 2011 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.