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Jane Austen Made Me Do It: Original Stories Inspired by Literature's Most Astute Observer of the Human Heart Paperback – October 11, 2011
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"If you love all things Austen, I think you will find this quite diverting and enjoy the fun that the authors had with the wealth of material that Ms.Austen supplied throughout her writing career. I truly enjoyed this little visit into different dimensions of the Jane Austen universe. I gave it 4 stars." --Ex Libris
"This anthology has a little something for every Jane Austen fan." --Rakehell
“The overall quality of the collection is high, and rare will be the reader who fails to find a few favorites to delight an Austen-loving heart.” --Just Janga
"I was impressed with all the clever approaches in which Austen themes can be recreated, intriguing and entertaining me with new characters and their stories. This collection of stories is a must for all fans of Jane Austen, and it is a great tool for introducing the authors of the Austenesque genre as well." --Burton Book Review
"All the stories were enjoyable, but some had that little quirk that really made me think or laugh. Laurel Ann Nattress has created a volume that will have something (more than one something, of that I'm sure) for everyone." --Citivolus Sus
"I tip my hat to Laurel Ann for overseeing this ambitious and very worthwhile project, for this is her first book. I give Jane Austen Made Me Do It five out of five Regency tea cups!" --Jane Austen's World
"Jane Austen Made Me Do It was another Anthology that I loved. . . there is a little bit of everything for everyone." --A Buckeye Girl Reads
"Each story in this anthology is very unique. I had so many favorites among them that it was really hard to pick just two. If you're a Jane Austen fan, you have to read Jane Austen Made Me Do It!" --Popcorn Reads
"I am all praise for Laurel Ann Nattress who has collected a fine group of writers, and a fine volume of stories showcasing everything from historical to contemporary to young-adult fiction to paranormal." --The Little White Attic
"I enjoyed this collection of short stories more than I anticipated. It had everything, really – continuations; spin-offs; stories about Jane; stories inspired by Jane; even a couple stories where Jane's ghost was involved." --Readin' and Dreamin'
"For fans of "Austenesque" fiction, this collection will be a box of bonbons." --The Seattle Times
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Other stories reveal details about the early days of Emma's marriage to Mr. Knightley as he tries to adjust to living under the same roof as her demanding father, the pre-Persuasion backstory of Anne Elliot and Captain Wentworth, the inadvertent role Maria Lucas's secret letters to Lydia played in bringing Elizabeth and Darcy together, and the believable and touching reasons behind Mr. Bennet's initial attraction to his animated but silly wife. A wonderfully ridiculous story has the impervious Lady Catherine de Bourgh as a judge presiding over a trial of Austen sequel writers and interpreters, in trouble because their story versions have caused pain and distress to Austen's characters. Because of Collin Firth's famous scene at Pemberley's lake in BBC's Pride and Prejudice and all the new vampire versions of that novel, poor Mr. Darcy finds himself constantly wet-shirted and fanged.
Like any anthology I enjoyed some tales more than others--several stories were so good that as soon as I finished them I bought full length books by the authors.
Jane Austen Made Me Do It, Original Stories Inspired by Literature`s Most Astute Observer of the Human Heart is a collection of twenty-two original Jane Austen-inspired stories including contributions from best-selling authors Pamela Aidan, Stephanie Barron, Carrie Bebris, Laurie Viera Rigler and Lauren Willig. Editor Laurel Ann Nattress, and blog mistress of Austenprose - A Jane Austen Blog, has assembled her dream team of authors and for this anthology asking them to "stay within the theme of exploring Austen's philosophies of life and love by reacquainting readers with characters from her novels or introducing original stories inspired by her ideals. From historical to contemporary to young-adult fiction to paranormal, five of the major novels and Austen's life are featured in this anthology," p. xiv. In addition, one story by a previously unpublished author, Brenna Aubrey, was picked as Grand Prize winner via a contest hosted by the Austen fan site Pemberley.com. With such a significant range in this compilation, surely one would agree, "One cannot have too large a party. A large party secures its own amusement." Emma, Volume 3, Chapter 6
On my first reading of this anthology, I must admit that I singled out my favorite authors first. Yes, yes. I realize out of order was not how the editor intended it to be read, but, "One man's way may be as good as another's, but we all like our own best." Persuasion, Volume 2, Chapter 1. So of course, for me, I began with "Jane & the Gentleman Rogue," by Stephanie Barron. What can I say? You had me with the title. Anything that has more of the Gentleman Rogue must be 5 stars. This was a terrific "fragment of a Jane Austen Mystery" chocked full of treason and breathless intrigue, that Barron surely knocked out of the park!
Another stand out was "Letters to Lydia" by Maya Slater. In the spirit of Jane Austen's much studied remaining correspondence, these are letters from Pride & Prejudice's minor character Maria Lucas, the younger sister of Mrs. William Collins, nee Miss Charlotte Collins to Elizabeth Bennet's youngest and wildest sister, Lydia Bennet. Loved, loved, loved how I could truly hear Maria's voice as she recounts a supposed secret Love Affair and tryst between Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet- and how she unwittingly "helped them along." (Bonus points for Mr. Collins' lisp!)
"Jane Austen and the Mistletoe Kiss," by Jo Beverley was a definite favorite. Flowing with Austen-like brilliance, this tale about a genteel, but impoverished, widow and her three daughters who have an amiable, rich neighbor who often meet was CHARMING from beginning to end. Anytime there is a clear, happy ending, preferably resulting marriage, I am bound to be enchanted!
I was totally caught unawares by the cleverness in "What Would Jane Austen Do?," by Jane Rubino & Caitlen Rubino-Bradway. A contemporary story about a teenage boy who inadvertently signs up for a Country Dance for Beginners class (and not the "Boot, Scoot, Boogie" kind of country dance!) and must learn how to make the most of this summer experience. Fortunately, his keen wit and willingness to read Austen's novels helps him befriend the new girl in town. Just loved! ALL OF IT! Fantastic- a teenage hero quoting Austen appropriately and with a terrific moral ending? Even better, the authors biography states that they are currently developing "What Would Jane Austen Do?" into a full length novel!
But, "All Merit you know is comparative," Catharine. In such a large collection of works there is bound to be a slight disappointment or two. While reading "Me and Mr. Darcy, Again," a short extension of the novel, "Me and Mr. Darcy," by Alexander Potter, I suffered not just a little discomfort with the idea that a now married Mr. Darcy is wandering outside heroine Emily's hotel at night, staring up at her room, still carrying some sort of torch for her. In the end, Mr. Darcy does act honorably, and even charitably, in bringing about a happy resolution, but its conclusion was rather "vague." But I liked the story, despite myself. "A fondness for reading... must be an education in itself." Mansfield Park, Volume 1, Chapter 2
I was somewhat under-whelmed by Pamela Aidan's "The Riding Habit" as the now married Mr. Darcy seems to steam roll wife Elizabeth into riding, an activity she somewhat fears and takes no joy in. I also found it strangely odd that the pinnacle riding accident would bring about such a comparison to an upcoming ball and how she can surely expect the support of her loved ones around her. Indeed? Don't get me wrong: Aiden's writing style, language and cadence is pitch-perfect as ever. Beautiful even. I simply found the story disjointed from the Darcy and Elizabeth she wrote so well of in her awe-inspiring, tremendously popular trilogy, Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman. However, "One half of the world cannot understand the pleasures of the other." Emma, Volume 1, Chapter 9
Still, there are a surfeit of solidly entertaining, easy to love stories. Syrie James' highly amusing "Jane Austen's Nightmare" is just that! While sleeping, our dear Jane is beset with characters from her novels, all with complaints on how she has represented their person. I particularly delighted in how the dream inspires her to write Persuasion.
One of the stories inspired by Persuasion is Margaret C. Sullivan`s "Heard of You." I found this smart telling of how Admiral Croft and the former Miss Sophia Wentworth met as exciting at sea, as it was in the ballroom; making me sigh in all the right places!
"The Chase" by Carrie Bebris did not disappoint! Her depiction of a riveting and historic sea battle had me on the edge of my seat; truly captivated by this insight of how Jane Austen's brother Frank became post-captain.
Laurie Viera Rigler offers the wickedly satirical and campy "Intolerable Stupidity" that imagines a courtroom drama where Mr. Darcy sues authors of Pride and Prejudice spin-offs for how they have sketched his character. Of course, the honorable Lady Catherine de Bourgh presides!
The anthology opens with an introduction by the editor, Laurel Ann Nattress, as she pays deference to Jane Austen as well as the many novels, sub-genre and films Austen has inspired. Nattress shares how she came to love Austen's work in the `80s and how Austen has since catapulted to "megastar status" by means of "her strongest catalyst: the Internet and a wet shirt." p. xii. The Austen Legacy continues to grow and this collection of wonderful short stories is a brilliant tribute. Janeites and historical fiction readers alike will inhale this book! But with a dream team of Austen inspired writers under the deft editing skills of Laurel Ann Nattress, how could this be anything but a grand slam! "The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid." Northanger Abbey, Volume 1, Chapter 14
P.S. I might add that I wrote the above review from my advanced copy, missing the story of contest winner, Brenna Aubrey. Upon reading my complete copy on Thursday, I found Aubrey's Persuasion inspired contemporary story, written from a male doctor's point of view, quite lovely. That contest certainly discovered a talented writer.
There is also the additon of discussion questions -- perfect for book clubs. I also enjoyed the additon of the anthology's contributing authors' favorite Austen quotes... Much like a stroll down memory lane with a comfortable friend.
What I like so much about short story anthologies is that regardless of your schedule, you can usually find time to read at least one story... the tricky part is having the will power to not read the whole thing in one sitting! Enjoy!
I liked how these various authors played with Austen names, and when they used actual characters, they stayed true to the original. One of the ones that I thought was creative was "Intolerable Stupidity" by Laurie Viera Rigler. In this story, Lady Catherine de Bourgh is a judge in a hidden court, but what's interesting is that the Austen characters (specifically Mr. Darcy) change appearance based on the perceptions of the audience. So while he always shows up in a dripping wet shirt, sometimes he has fangs (as a vampire hunter), sometimes he doesn't. However, that story was kind of hard to keep everything straight; but part of that may be because I read it over two days.
I also liked "Mr. Bennet Meets His Match" by Amanda Grange. It tells the purported story of how Mr. Bennet came to meet and marry Mrs. Bennet. A relationship that almost all think is a horrible one comes about in an interesting way. "Letters to Lydia" by Maya Slater also tells a hidden side of a tumultuous story. It's the story of Maria's letters to Lydia when they are apart, especially when Lydia is eloping. Interestingly enough, Maria knew where Lydia was before Lydia's family knew. I like to think about how that would have changed the story if Jane had added it.
Several stories are told in the present day - with characters who are Austen fans looking for their "Darcy", and the supernatural (or coincidence) plays a part in their relationship. One of those stories is "The Mysterious Closet: A Tale" by Myretta Robens that tells the story of Cathy and Henry and how they meet in a mysterious room in a castle. Another is "A Night at Northanger" by Lauren Willig, one of my favorite authors. It tells the story of Cate's experiences hunting ghosts at Northanger Abbey and how her experiences lead her to look at her life and what she wants out of her future.
I would say there are more hits than misses in this anthology. I don't usually read anthologies because just when I get into a story, it ends. I didn't really have any issues with this one; my schedule is busy enough that I would read one or two stories at each sitting.
I received this book from the publisher through the NetGalley system. I was not required to write a positive review. All opinions expressed are my own.