REVIEW: Bespelling Jane Austen by Mary Balogh, Colleen Gleason, Susan Krinard & Janet MullanySaturday, February 26, 2011 1:00
I feel like I should love mash-ups since I love classic literature and horror stories. So far I’ve been disappointed by most of the ones I’ve read. The four authors in Bespelling Jane Austen – Mary Balogh, Colleen Gleason, Susan Krinard, and Janet Mullany – retell the stories instead of simply adding in monsters. It’s the most satisfying example of the trend that I’ve encountered.
Almost Persuaded by Mary Balogh
What if Anne Elliot and Captain Wentworth weren’t lovers who parted in this lifetime, but ones who have lost each other in life after life? In “Almost Persuaded,” that’s the case for Jane Everett and Robert Mitford. I enjoyed Mary Balogh’s originality, but felt like she took it too far from the emotional core of Persuasion.
Jane and Robert are avoiding the mistakes of their past lives, not their own mistakes. The pain and subsequent renewal isn’t as encompassing. It is two people falling in love at first sight and then making it work. It’s still a good story, but more common. I had almost completely forgotten Jane and Robert’s characteristics by the end of the anthology.
In this Regency tale of Robert and Jane, New York Times bestselling author Mary Balogh brings together former lovers who have seen beyond the veil of forgetfulness to their past mistakes, and are determined to be together in this life, and forever.
Read an excerpt here.
Northanger Castle by Colleen Gleason
I’m not going to lie: Northanger Abbey is my favorite Jane Austen novel. It’s messy and moves from sharp satire to parody on the turn of a dime and never looks back, but it gets me every time. Colleen Gleason meshes its strongest elements well with the world of the Gardella Vampire Chronicles. I enjoyed laughing at James Thornton acting pompous despite being full of shit as much in this novella as I enjoyed laughing at John Thorpe in the original.
It suffers from one of Northanger Abbey’s weaknesses as well. The pacing is just a touch off, with the ending happening rather fast. Luckily, Thaddeus Blanchard and Caroline Merrill do enough verbal sparring beforehand to support it.
Caroline’s obsession with Gothic novels winds up being good training for a lifetime of destroying the undead with her newfound beau, in this Regency by Colleen Gleason.
No excerpt found.
Blood and Prejudice by Susan Krinard
I like fanfiction, not going to lie. I also like meta about fanfiction. Most fanfiction requires knowledge of the original work to be fully appreciated. Part of the joy comes from the interplay with the original text. Anthologies like Bespelling Jane Austen naturally straddle the worlds of original fiction and fanfiction. “Blood and Prejudice” reads the most like a fanfic. (Not that that is necessarily a bad thing.)
Susan Krinard follows the structure of Pride and Prejudice closely, down to a visit to Pemberly. Most of the fun came in seeing how she made an aspect of the original work in an urban fantasy setting. I thought she did an excellent job of making the old story coherent in the new setting. The most drastic changes came at the end, one of which really annoyed me. Elizabeth doesn’t defeat Lady Catherine through courage, cleverness, and manners. She kinda sorta helps while Darcy physically defeats his aunt and then says she was defeated “thanks to [Elizabeth's] courage.”
Set in the business world of contemporary New York City, Liz Bennett joins Mr. Darcy in his hunt for a vampire cure in New York Times bestselling author Susan Krinard’s version of the classic story.
Read an excerpt here.
Little to Hex Her by Janet Mullany
I’ve never read something by Janet Mullany before, but I may after finishing “Little to Hex Her.” It takes a lot of guts to make a modern adaptation of Emma – even one with magic – in the shadow of Clueless. “Little to Hex Her” is no Clueless, but it’s still funny and romantic.
Emma Woodhouse is a witch trying to run her sister’s matchmaking service. Harriet is her werewolf and assistant who just turned Elton into a frog after a disastrous date. George Knightley is a wizard and Emma’s landlord while she lives in her sister’s apartment. And Emma needs their help and more when someone keeps trying to sabotage her service. (Plus she’s only made one successful match!) Emma and Knightley are fairly different from their inspiration in attitude (Mullany’s preface explains her choices), and it works well in the contemporary D.C. setting. “Little to Hex Her” is lighter in tone than the rest of the anthology, but it makes for a nice finish.
Present-day Washington, D.C., is full of curious creatures in Janet Mullany’s story, wherein Emma is a witch with a wizard boyfriend and a paranormal dating service to run.
Read an excerpt here.