Recipe for Persuasion

Recipe for Persuasion (The Rajes #2) by Sonali Dev

Last year I reviewed the first in the series, Pride, Prejudice, and Other Flavors and I really enjoyed that book! I liked the way Dev took Pride and Prejudice and made it her own, I enjoyed the characters and the themes, but most of all I loved the multiracial characters of DJ and Emma. Growing up biracial there was never a lot of material to read or watch that touched on those issues and I am always happy to read one.

So when Dev said that she was planning on writing another book, this one being a retelling of Persuasion, I was jazzed. I could not wait to read it!

Then I finally got my hands on a copy, I read it all in one setting and I didn’t really like it as much as I thought I would. So I decided to let my thoughts steep for a while and think about what it was that made me not love the sequel when I had really loved the first book in the series.

Hmm…

This book is about Trisha’s cousin Ashna Raje. Ashna is an Indian princess; her father (a prince) married a cricket star, but was constantly getting into trouble and causing scandal, so he was sent away from India to to America to be with his older brother (who would hopefully help whip him into shape). There he built a home and a restaurant, cooking Indian and fancy cuisine.

Ashna lived with her father in California, spending most of her time living with her Raje cousins, as her mother was always gone as she traveled around the world trying to better women’s lives. Ashna’s father died when Ashna was graduating high school and after his death she decided to carry on his legacy and traveled to Paris to attend Cordeon Bleu (meeting and befriending DJ, from the previous story). When she returned home eager to put her education to work and carry on her father’s dreams, she discovered that the people she left in charge of the business had embezzled a large portion of the profits and fled, the resturant is dwindling in customers, and that nearly every time she tries to make something new or deviate from the original menu she has panic attacks.

DJ tries to help her revamp the menu, but she struggles trying to do anything. Her customers continue to dwindle and her sous chef leaves her for a better position.

Ashna feels alone and lost when her mother, who left her as a child, calls and makes her feel worse about her life and her choices (as always); along with trying to convince her to sell the resturant and do something else. Ashna becomes angry that her mother is again belittling her life choices and decides to do the one thing she never thought she would ever do, agree to be on her friend, China Dashwood’s, cooking show competition.

China Dashwood is producing a new show, Cooking With the Stars, that pairs a local chef up with a celebrity. Ashna was set against it, but being on the show will be good for business and help stick it to her mom, who Ashna has a lot of unresolved issues with.

Meanwhile, in England, World Cup Winner Rico Silva is trying to decide what to do next with his life. Rico was born in a favela in Brasil, the illegitimate son of a famous fútball star. When his mother passed away, he was sent to America to stay with his Tia. There he started playing soccer; along with meeting and falling in love with Ashna.

But Ashna was always ashamed of him and never wanted him to meet her father or family, always keeping him hidden from them and a secret, just like his dad treated his mom. One day, Rico went to see her father and he said horrible things to him and about his family. Ashna never spoke to Rico after that, completely ignoring all his texts and calls.

Now Rico is a famous fútball player who’s knee injury has forced him to retire. Feeling bad for himself at a friend’s bachelor party, he starts thinking of his string of failed relationships, as he has never been able to move past Ashna. He decides to google her and discovers she is going to be on a cooking show. Not making the most logical decisions, he decides to go on it too, be her partner, and get his revenge? Find closure? Maybe a mix of both?

Ashna is extremely nervous to be on the show, but when she sees that her partner is Rico, the man who broke her heart-she is so surprised she drops her knife, nearly slicing off her toes. Luckily Rico dives and saves her.

Ashna is uncertain how she will make it through this competition while being so close to Rico, this whole situation is so painful and brings back both good and bad memories. Meanwhile, Rico starts regretting being alongside someone who still has so much emotional power over him.

They should not have done this.

But even if both wanted to back out, it is impossible now as they are leading the charts with their chemistry. Ratings are a dream as everyone is tuned in to see what will happen next in the cooking romance. But can the two work as a team? Or is the heat between then too much for this kitchen?

Hmmm…

So the story wasn’t bad but I wasn’t really as invested in these characters as I was with the ones from the previous book. It’s weird as I was really interested to have more Ashna, as I liked her in the previous book, but I felt like something was off in thiI think it is because the circumstances didn’t pull on my heart as much in this book as they did in the original Persuasion and in the previous book. In Persuasion, first we have the fear of loss of security as their family is running out of money and Anne’s father Sir Walter and sister Elizabeth are making no effort to change that. Anne gets a glimpse of her unhappy future as she stays with her horrible sister Mary and brother-in-law. In Recipe for Persuasion, there is the fear of losing her father’s resturant, but I had a harder time finding connecting to that as she still has the property and the house-both of which are prime Bay Area real estate, she could sell them and get millions. And if she did lose her place as she had too much debt that would be paid after the sale, she could always stay at the Raje family compound. Her family is amazing and she used to live with them, so it isn’t as scary an end. I mean it is still sad to have failed and to lose your dream, but she wouldn’t be lost or alone as all would be willing to help her as she regrouped and figured out what was next.

Also in Persuasion, when Wentworth comes back successful and has both the Musgrove sisters fawning over him, he enjoys the attention, especially as it is in front of the woman who rejected him-while Anne definitely feels less then and sad that she let him go. Then when Captain Wentworth realizes he still loves her, he is stuck waiting to see what will happen to Louisa as his attention to her made everyone assume they are to be engaged and he can’t abandon an injured woman. With this there is no block to their happiness, I mean Rico gets over his hurt fairly quickly and is trying to get with Ashna pretty early on in the book. The author does try to mislead us and Ashna with KDrama star Song and Rico growing close, but she isn’t a serious contender. She is never more than just friendly to him.

The other 1/3-1/2 of the book focused on Ashna’s mother’s story, Shobi, who’s storyline is very sad. The first part of Shobi’s story describes how she was in love with another man but her father wouldn’t let her marry a poor Muslim, and instead agreed to a marriage with the prince, Ashna’s father who wanted her. The prince is a horrible abusive man who rapes her on her wedding night. That part I didn’t have an issue with, having been in an abusive relationship I felt they dealt with her story well. What bothered me was the way she justifies leaving her child to help children all over the world and the anger she has at her ex-husband blaming him for her and her daughter’s decaying relationship. Now I will never condemn someone for leaving their abusive partner, but the way she belittles not being there for her daughter because she had a “greater good” to serve really bothered me. Her husband did not paint Shobi in the best light to her daughter, but I felt that she also needs to take responsibility for the choices she made, especially after her husband died. She still hardly spends time with Ashna, doesn’t listen to what she wants, just drops in without warning believing that will fix everything, threatens to sell the store if Ashna doesn’t listen to her, etc. And if she did apologize and recognize her failings to Ashna, instead of telling her again and again these impoverished women are more important than her own daughter, I would have liked her more.

I also didn’t like how easily Ashna and her mother Shobi resolve their issues. Ashna realizes that her being with Rico wasn’t what made her father commit suicide, but that her mother served him with divorce papers. That brought a bunch of memories of how horrible her father treated her mother and she instantly forgives her and is happy to hear her mother is in a happy relationship with another man (who Shobi has been dating for almost all of her married life). I understand what the author is doing and wanting to wrap up that thread, but I used to work with grieving adults and kids and it is never, ever that easy. This exact scenario happened with a preteen I was working with. The mom stayed with her abusive husband because of the kids, but was finally planning on leaving him. He found out and killed himself, the daughter being the one who found the body. The daughter hated her mom as she blamed her for the death, and idolized her father (just like Ashna) and after a lot of therapy and the art class they were in a better place; but she was still very angry with her mom, and it was a continual process. There were also adults who went to the grief class and had a similar scenario happen in their life and had never dealt with those issues. After the art therapy class they were in a better place with their parent-but still had hurt and blame over their mother “causing the death” of their father. I found it extemely unrealistic that Ashna who has never been in any therapy regarding her mother was able to get over the abandonment of her mother; moved past feeling second best to her mother’s charity work, and accepted that this whole time her mother had a secret life/relationship with another man in an instant. What? I would have liked it better if her mother and her started talking and then showing years later they are in a good place instead of it all fixed in one night.

Hmm…

There are also some interesting writing choices in this book as well. We have a chapter where we are in we are in Ashna’s POV and then it suddenly switches to her mom. It was a bit disorientating.

I also had a really hard time with all the Portuguese in this book. Being half Mexican I grew up with Spanish and Portuguese is not Spanish. This is nothing against the author or the language, I just struggled with it and cautioning other Spanish speakers/readers you too might have a bit of a struggle as well.

So that’s all that I did not care for, now what did I like? First of all I loved that again we have an interracial relationship with Ashna (Indian) and Rico (Brazilian). Growing up biracial there wasn’t a lot of media that had interracial or multiracial couples/characters. Anytime there is anything that has even a tiny shard of it, I am excited to see. I loved that scene when they blend Rico’s favorite dish from Brasil with pieces of an Indian recipe that Ashna’s grandma used to make. That scene was just wonderful! It made me think of my own life when blending traditions from both sides of my culture.

Like Pride and Prejudice and Other Flavors, this book was also a love letter to food. I like how it highlights the comfort, love, and traditions of it. I also love how we have the two bond of cooking. Rico, having only been a part to get back at Ashna, actually find himself enjoying creating these different dishes with Ashna. And Ashna finds herself having a renewed interest in it, and finding herself once again being creative and not stuck in the past and past recipes. In a sense, then cooking together really is what begins to help heal what transpired between them. And of course there is the constant Chais that Ashna creates and blends for her cousins. It made me want some, real chai, so bad.

And of course, Rico writes Ashna a letter to convince her that he’s serious in his feelings for her. You know me, I’m a sucker for a character writing a love letter. It gets me every time.

I also liked how the author shared about the struggles women face in other places of the world along with Shobi’s struggle with abuse and marital rape. I think both of these issues are important and I’m glad that Sonali Dev didn’t shy away from it all.

So I didn’t hate it and I don’t think it was a bad story-there was just something missing for me…a missing ingredient that I felt the previous book had and this one lacked.

She just published a third book, Incense and Sensibility, and I have read and will be posting on it soon (I hope).

Because of the content of those book I want to end this post with this: Are you in an abusive relationship? Do you need help or assistance? If you are in need of help please contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline. 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, the National Domestic Violence Hotline provides essential tools and support to help survivors of domestic violence so they can live their lives free of abuse. You can reach them at 1.800.799.7233

For more Persuasion, go to Jane in Love

For more Persuasion adaptions, go to Holiday Mix Tape

For more on The Rajes, go to Pride, Prejudice and Other Flavors

For more Jane Austen adaptions, go to I Watched Northanger Abbey (2007) With My 13 Year Old Niece

Jane Austen Birthday Party: Jane Austen Trivia

So as I have been saying in every post, I have been planning my Jane Austen 29th birthday party for a few years (it was originally supposed to be my 27th birthday celebration but things happened); and I was finally able to have it.

So in my previous posts I went over the invitations, the prizes, the decorations, making a teapot piñata, the menu, etc. The next step in my party planning was activities. I ended up choosing to have the activities of paper fan making and croquet for those who didn’t want to play the games; or for the little girls to do while the adults played the games.

Party time!

So originally I had planned for three games, but I ended up doing four. The first game I had wanted to play a type of guess who game where I gave an Austen character to each party guest. I planned for each to have a short bio of their character along with a list of characters everyone else was going to be. I planned for each to act out their character, the first person to get someone to guess them right would receive a prize. I thought it would be a lot of fun, but then my sister and mother pointed out that the people attending were not really Austen fans.

Yes it turned out that all my friends who had actually read or watched Austen’s works were unable to come and the friends that were attending had very limited exposure to Jane Austen. So it was back to the drawing board .

Hmm…?

My next thought was that I would do a game that was more of “Who Am I?” I would give everyone a list of characters and then I would read out a short bio of each character and they would have to match up who goes with which storyline. I thought this would be easier and I could do it either before or after the trivia game, that way it would help people get a boost in answering one of the games.

But when I presented it to my mom and sister, they both still thought it would be too hard. So it was back again to try and come up with a new idea.

Hmm…

I decided to shelve it altogether and instead work on the Jane Austen Trivia game I had planned. I sat down and wrote it up, but then when I looked it back over, I realized it was too hard. I ended up throwing it out and starting all over again.

So I rewrote it, and then this time it was far too easy. I thought if I used it then everyone would be a winner. That one joined the other in the trash.

Ugh, so hard.

I did a few more drafts and then finally settled on one that I thought wasn’t too hard, but also not too easy.

However, it still appears that I made it too hard as everyone said it was really difficult.

From Clueless

My friend who won got 9/15 questions correct and chose prize three. I will attach the Trivia file below and let me know what you think. Was it too hard? Too easy? Or do you think just right?

At the end of the post I’ll put the answers. Let me know what your score is.

I’ve been having so much fun sharing all these things with you, and even though the party has ended I will be continuing to share all my other party plans!

Answers: 1.B, 2.A, 3.C, 4.D, 5.A, 6.A, 7.B, 8.B, 9.B, 10.C, 11.B, 12.D, 13.A, 14.C, 15. A&K, B&M, C&N, D&H, E&J, F&L, G&I

For more of my Jane Austen Birthday plans, go to Jane Austen Birthday: Prize One

For more Jane Austen party ideas, go to Jane Austen Birthday Party Menu, Plus How to Dip Cookies in Chocolate, and a Sugar Cookie Recipe

For more Jane Austen games, go to Marrying Mr. Darcy: The Pride and Prejudice Card Game

Jane in Love

Happy Valentine’s Day

So today is Valentine’s Day and usually this would be the 14th romantic moment, but as I didn’t do that this year and decided to post something else instead:

This book was given to me by a friend, she knows me so well.

I read it in January, but I decided to wait on the review as I have mixed feelings about this book. Half of it I liked and the other half I didn’t.

Hmm…

So Jane in Love tells of two stories: Jane Austen and Sofia Wentworth. Jane Austen has not written any of her novels yet, but is living in Bath with her parents as they are trying to match her up. She meets a charming man, her last chance, and falls for him, but he gets engaged to someone else. She is upset and embarrassed when a neighborhood women tells her to travel to an address in London, where her dreams will come true.

Broken dreams, illusions, hopes, etc.

Hurt, upset, vulnerable she does it and is given a spell. Once completed, she travels forward to 2020 where she ends up on the set of a new adaption of Northanger Abbey. She runs into the star of the show, Sofia Wentworth.

Sofia Wentworth is a British Hollywood star-famous for being Batwoman and other sexy powerful women. But now she is 37 and the young starring roles are no longer being offered to her. Instead, she is getting older roles. This Northanger Abbey production is extra painful as she was not given the starring role of Catherine but instead Mrs. Allen, the girl Courtney Smith playing Catherine is also replacing her as Batgirl, her husband is the director and has left her for another woman, and she can’t leave the production or she will have to pay a big fee.

Truth is, Sofia doesn’t really want to leave the production. She wants to be in it to try and win her husband back! When she runs into Jane Austen she thinks that it is a practical joke. She had suggested a behind-the-scenes Jane Austen tie-in and it was denied. She thinks that they decided to do it and not tell her, some joke of her husband to try and upset her into signing the divorce papers. She takes Jane Austen with her, thinking she is an actress and there are cameras following her-having her stay with her and her brother Fred Wentworth.

Eventually, Sofia believes that Jane is Jane Austen and tries to help her find a way back, getting help from an adorable librarian, Dave Croft, as she has very little science fiction knowledge. But as she is doing that Fred puts the moves on Jane and Jane starts wondering if she should go back.

But the longer she stays the more her novels disappear. If she stays she will have love but never be able to write again (the exchange of the spell). But if she goes she will kiss her only chance at true love, marriage, and family good bye. Should she go and write her timeless tales, or should she stay and marry Fred?

At a crossroads (from Pocahontas)

So let’s start with what I love:

Sofia Wentworth

Sofia Wentworth’s character and journey was the best part of the book. In fact, I was so intrigued I skipped the Jane Austen romance and skipped ahead so that I could read what happened to her.

Tell ME!!!!!

She was an amazing savvy character who one just felt for. She is in love with her husband, Jack Travers, who has zero appreciation for her except what she brings to him. He loved that she knew movies and could help his productions, he loved that she was attractive and made him look good, he loved how she would take care of everything while he edited his films, and he loved how she would make decisions for the production when he was uncertain.

But he didn’t really love her, and Sofia doesn’t realize it. Although as she continues on this journey with Jane Austen she starts to view herself and her husband differently. She also painfully finds out that the woman her husband has left her for is the same woman she is acting with-her Catherine, Courtney Smith, the very same woman who replaced her as Batgirl.

After meeting Jane and beginning her quest to help her-Sofia starts surrounding herself with positive people, such as Derek who is her makeup person and very encouraging. He helps her stand up to Courtney and reminds her that she isn’t some aging sad person-she is beautiful makeup or no, strong, powerful, and intelligent.

She also meets the librarian, Dave Croft, who helps her on her quest. I loved Dave Croft and the way he treats her as he doesn’t pity her, he doesn’t treat her as an object, or tries to use her to make himself look good. He doesn’t believe her tale of Jane Austen at first, but knows she is seriously upset about something. He doesn’t want anything from her other than to help her as her acting brought relief to his mother when she was ill with cancer. He finds her very attractive, but the first things he compliments on is the person she is.

How sweet!

I loved the part when Sofia classily schools Courtney in acting, that was like best scene ever as I was really hating on Courtney being such a jerk. Or when Courtney tries to embarrass her by setting her up wih the production assistant who was a major yuck! But Dave shows up and rescues her from embarrassment. And Dave completely fires a painful shot right at Jack, the perfect diss! So much fun!

I really liked this as it is so important to surround you by people who will be good friends and help you see the truth, something that can be found in all of Jane Austen’s works. We need good friends-you see the clearest example of that in Emma. Everyone needs a Mr. Knightley.

I also really liked the conversation that Jane and Sofia have about Mrs. Allen. That coupled with the Northanger Abbey audiobook made me think of Mrs. Allen in a different way, Her focus on clothes and fashion, possibly filling a hole of secret sadness. And I’m thinking that sadness is her lack of children, as that is the only thing that consoles her when Mrs. Thorpe talks about her children. And Jane helps Sofia to see that as she is no longer chained to being the hot, sexy vixen-she can now be whatever she wants to be-whoever she wants to be.

Jane’s words even help Sofia be nice to Courtney, a miracle in itself. And hearing Courtney’s complain about her soon to be ex-husband Jack helps Sofia see that Jack is a major jerk. She’s better off without him.

I love Sofia’s care of Jane as well. When Jane is struggling with what to decide, Sofia encourages her in either decision and gives her the possible outcomes of staying or going.

I also loved how Jane is amazed at everything we have in the future from chocolate, to pens, to sugar at such low prices. This inspired me on my week with Jane.

Let’s move on to part II, the part I didn’t care for:

Jane and Fred

I hated this part of the story or how the writer could think their storyline as as “romantic” .

I mean this author has all the fantastic men Austen wrote about and could have used any of them as her foundation, but didn’t. This Fred is horrible, but yet is supposed to have inspired Jane Austen’s novels?

Really?

So first is drunk and sits on Jane in the guest room. Then Fred walks in on Jane showering, even though he could hear the water and she told him it was occupied. And then when she is upset about it he wants to even the score by getting naked for her; wow a real prince. It’s like he super values her opinion. Yeah, right.

I don’t even know why they fall in love. He helped her get to London, gave her money, and taught her to swim. That’s it? She’s in love? Like why?!!!!

And why does Fred like her? Like Jane is awesome but she also has zero knowledge of how anything works-and he doesn’t find that strange or weird?! He doesn’t even wonder about her background, I would. Is she Amish? Was she in a cult? I mean in Kate and Leopold, Kate thought it was strange he didn’t know anything and later she fell in love with his old-fashioned habits. Like he doesn’t find it weird or strange that she doesn’t know about computers, cellphones, is crazy about sugar, etc?

And he he doesn’t even ask about her, her family, or what she wants to do. He knows zero about her and she knows little about him. He has an accident and gets electrocuted, with Jane and him being “in love”, but why. What do they have in common? What do they even enjoy together? They hardly have spent any time together and he asks her to marry him. Flirting is great but that’s what Jane really thinks she should base a marriage on?  The author who cautioned her niece, the one who showed us in countless examples of marrying for beauty or money can lead to unhappiness. The author who showed us that spending time with a person and getting to know who they really are is the best thing? None of her heroines ever rushed into love but either knew the person they married for a while or grew to know them by spending time with them. There is no real timeline but its like a week or two they spend together.

Fred is trying to write a book and Jane encourages him to write more, even sending off the few pages he has to a publisher. But when he gets writer’s block he blows up at her and blames her for everything-all is her fault. He takes off, out all night punishing Jane and leaving her worried and scared that something happened to him, but when he gets home he doesn’t apologize or care that he worried her but just expects her to sleep with him. Like that is textbook emotional abuse, purposely freaking your partner out and making them get worried so when you return the fight you are having is forgotten. Fred is just a horrible boyfriend.

Me to Fred

Like Jane gets so heartbroken and blames herself after his tirade. She starts believing it is her fault and she should have done nothing, then they would have been fine and happy. She then decides to forget all about what she is upset and then calls herself a slave to him. She decides to resign herself over to the only thing she is going to do with her time, is love him. Where did Jane Austen ever write that? All her women were strong women who wouldn’t roll over to be a lapdog. Like where is this coming from?

I also didn’t like that she slept with Fred. First of all the manner it went down with him throwing a tantrum and blaming his problems on her and staying away all day to punish her. Not cool, dude, not cool. But then that Jane had no problems or qualms or regrets over what happened. As a women from Regency time AND the daughter of a minister I feel like she would have had much more complicated feelings about what happened and the decision she made. Not just shrug it off as no big deal.

Fred is also really controlling and doesn’t want Jane gone for a second as he is “afraid” she will leave him. Also not true love and again abusive. She goes for a walk with Sofia and Fred has a meltdown.

And then when Jane wants to return to her time, the only way she can is by the blood from her true love and what does Fred do? He refuses as he wants to force her to stay with him. What a serious jerk! Like this Fred is nothing like Fredrick Wentworth.

And to make things even worse, Fredrick had never even read any Jane Austen books. He was willing to deprive the world of her works and he’s never even read them. What a selfish jerk!

Seriously!

Yeah Jane and Fred’s romance was not good. Give me Sofia and Dave any day.

Sorry to have such a downer of a Valentine’s post. I know to cheer me up I am going to spend the rest of my day with the wonderful Austen men.

Soooo cute!!!!

I hope you all have a wonderful Valentine’s Day, no matter how you spend it. And don’t forget-candy is on sale!

For more Northanger Abbey, go to Northanger Abbey Audiobook Narrated by Anna Massey

For more Persuasion, go to You Ever Notice That The Gossip Girl TV Show is a Lot Like Persuasion?

For more Northanger Abbey adaptions, go to Northanger Abbey (2007)

For more Persuasion adaptions, go to Holiday Mix Tape

For more Jane Austen adaptions, go to Emma Manga

For more Valentine’s Day, go to You Are My Fantasy: Austenland (2013)

You Ever Notice That The Gossip Girl TV Show is a Lot Like Persuasion?

So welcome back every one! I enjoyed my week off. As we had a lot of free time last month (April) with the quarantine and shelter in place I watched a lot of TV. Some new things, some old comforts or guilty pleasures.

Of course I am always on the lookout for Jane Austen bingos and Jane Austen comparisons. One that recently came to mind was this: you ever notice that Gossip Girl the TV show (not the book series as I have never read it) is a lot like Persuasion?

What are you talking about??

I know what you are thinking, what does a show about the rich and famous Upper East Siders who drink, do drugs, scheme, and intermix their relationships (I think this show had almost every character date another of the main characters) have anything to do with Jane Austen?

Hmm…

The relationship of Lily Van der Woodsen and Rufus Humphrey

Hmm…

So quick summary on both:

Persuasion is a story that spans over several years. When Anne Elliot and Fredrick Wentworth are young they become engaged, and Anne is persuaded to turn him down as he could die, she could be left with nothing, they are young, he is leaving for the Navy, her family won’t approve, etc. He thinks it is solely because she from a rich distinguished family, and he’s a nobody. He becomes angry, takes a lot of chances in the war and increases his wealth and stature. He returns to find Anne unmarried and her family has lost their money, letting their mansion out to Fredrick’s sister and brother-in-law. Anne has never gotten over Fredrick and is shocked to see him enter her life again. Intrigue happens as some women are striving for Frederick’s heart, a woman has a ploy to snag Anne’s father Sir Walter Elliot, and a estranged relative reappears planning to go after his inheritance and cousin. Will the two get their happy ending together? Or has too much time passed?

Anne in the background, Captain Frederick Wentworth in the foreground with Louisa Musgrove.

In Gossip Girl we have the story of Dan and Jenny Humphrey who live in Brooklyn and attend the private school for the rich and famous on scholarship. Dan is a loner who is there to do well and go to college, hopefully achieving his dream of attending Dartmouth or Yale. Jenny strives to be just like the wealthy and rich, being the Queen B: Blair Waldorf’s lackey. Serena Van der Woodsen returns from boarding school and upsets everyone’s life: Blair is displeased at sharing the spotlight, Blair’s boyfriend Nate is in love with Serena, Chuck Bass is just a jerk with problems & lashing out, and for Dan she is his dream girl. Dan and Serena have a relationship but will he be able to handle the lifestyles of the rich and famous? The story spans several years, breakups and makeups, schemes, intrigue, fashion, money, etc.

The parents and adults on this show are just as bad as the children-drugs, drinking, affairs, etc. Lily is Serena’s mother and former roadie and girlfriend to Rufus Humphrey, former aspiring rock star, and Dan’s father. They traveled around but Lily left him for her life on the West Side. They are thrown back together when their kids date, but the flames between them have not quite died out. And almost every move and act is commented and written about on the Gossip Girl blog.

***Spoiler Warning***

So I know this still might not be making total sense to you, but bear with me until the end and comment if you see it or if you think there is no comparison.

I have never read the books and am basing this on the storyline in the TV show. In the TV show Lily was raised on the Upper West Side, is rich, famous, and beautiful, but also not as stuffy or following in the path of her mother-there is a serious disconnect between her and her mother (and her and her father as shown in one episode). She does not follow the plans her mother wanted for her, but instead gets involved with the average, aspiring rock and roll star, Rufus, and they are so adorable together.

How sweet!

Unfortunately, Lily’s mother, Celia Catherine “CeCe” Rhodes, persuades her against staying with Rufus as she threatens to cut Lily off and will her trust fund and inheritance away. That wouldn’t have stopped Lily except that her mother also convinced her that Lily would be unable to handle a regular life, that eventually Rufus would move on (an aspiring rock star can’t be faithful), her parents and family would never see her again or have anything to do with her, and she would end up poor and alone.

This reminded me a lot of what happened with Anne. While Anne was close to her mother, after she died she was left with her father who she shares a similar disconnect and he also has zero involvement in her life (like Lily’s dad). Anne may not be wild like Lily, but she definitely ranks high in his disapproval. Like Lily, she fell in love with someone society deemed “beneath” her, but also fell victim to the persuasion of a family friend, someone she trusted and loved as a second mother, Lady Russell. The social rank doesn’t matter to Anne, like it does to Lady Russell, but like Lily-Anne falls victim to the what ifs-if she had married Frederick she could end up with no family support (or ever seeing them again), no money, a wounded turned alcoholic husband, the life of drudgery, a widow with nothing, etc. (In fact she could end up with the same life of Fanny Price’s mother)

Fanny (left) and Mrs. Price, her mother, and little sister (right).

In Gossip Girl, it has been over 16 years and Rufus and Lily find themselves back together again. Rufus’ initial reaction is very similar to Captain Wentworth, as he is hurt and angry at how he was treated by his love. The two verbally spar with each other, but as they spend time together, they end up falling for each other again. Rufus realizes his feelings for her when his wife he’s been separated from for months (who is cheating on him), returns. Seeing her back with his family, coupled with him meeting her lover, makes him realize that it’s over for them and he really wants to be with Lily. This part reminded me of when Louisa, the girl Captain Frederick has been constantly flirting with, falls and injures herself making it impossible for him to get with Anne as everyone thinks he is engaged to Louisa-this situation cluing him into the fact that he is still in love with Anne and doesn’t want to be with anyone else. Luckily, Louisa is tended to by Captain Benwick and is engage to him, freeing Captain Wentworth and allowing him to chase after his true love.

So in Persuasion, Captain Wentworth needs to let Anne know his feelings and he writes her one of the most romantic letters so that she has concrete proof he cares for her. Rufus is also very romantic and while he doesn’t write Lily a letter he “walks” (as I don’t believe that he really walked the whole way) from Brooklyn to the Upper East Side in the snow with no coat to tell Lily that he loves her, leaving her with a romantic voicemail.

Both Lady Russell (Anne’s godmother) and CeCe Rhodes (Lily’s mother) realize their mistakes as both stories progress. Lady Russell sees that Frederick is a good man and will take care of Anne, along with valuing her. CeCe also realizes her mistake in having separated the two and even encourages them to get together.

But of course the TV series ran for six seasons and LOVED the drama, so every time Rufus and Lily drew close, they broke up or something came to keep them apart. Eventually, they do marry and I really liked them together, but then Lily’s ex-husband was poisoning her to think she had cancer and rely on him and she couldn’t tell Rufus (so that caused issues) and even later her previous husband Bart Bass-who died but somehow miraculously lived, comes back from the grave so her marriage to Rufus is invalid. And then she ends up with her ex-husband who poisoned her, which is one of the dumbest decisions that TV show made, really? Why would she be with him when he was POISONING her?

So it has parallel’s to Persuasion, but unfortunately they don’t get the happy ending Wentworth and Anne do.

So what do you think? Do you see the similarities? Or are these two stories completely different from each other? Comment below!

For more on Persuasion, go to The Jane Austen Book Club (2007)

For more on Gossip Girl, go to Prom Book Dream Come True: Valley Girl, Gossip Girl (2009)

For more Jane Austen meets modern culture, go to Austen Avengers Assemble!

An Insane Doctor, A Hysterical Herbalist, and Murder in a Magician’s Mansion + A Possible Persuasion Reference?

Ready for any case

So this year’s theme is “mysteries” in honor of Agatha Christie’s novel The Mysterious Affair at Styles turning 100 years old. To really have this theme be present I decided to review a mystery every month…somehow and ideally connecting it to Jane Austen.

Mystery, you say?

In January, I wasn’t sure what to do when I received a goblin in my mailbox.

It turned out to be a a mysterious package from The Mysterious Package Company

Ah, mysterious

So the last package seemed to be saying that there is something wrong with 27 East Heath Road

Haunted house!

The architect, Henry Griggs, had been going crazy trying to finish building the house, after his wife died-using all his money. He even felt as if something was there making him continue, something altering his plans, something controlling him.

The house was almost complete, but Griggs has descended into some kind of madness.

“The madness in the walls must not escape…I fear I shall be gone altogether…I fear harm may come to her [Lizzy]  if she is not sent to safety.”

He ends up putting his daughter in an orphanage and Griggs disappears, presumed dead.

Or is it?!

This package contained a lot of items and goes on a bit:

  • 1 Deed
  • 1 Letter from Dr. Jack S. Aigner
  • 4 Small Memorandum/ Doctor’s notes from Dr. William Elliot
  • Arsenic Druggist Note
  • A Page from Baldwin’s Physician’s Guide
  • 1 Large Memorandum/ Doctor’s notes from Dr. William Elliot
  • Dr. Elliott’s Tincture Receipt
  • 1 Poster for The Great Goodyear
  • 1 Great Goodyear flip book that showcases two of his illusions
  • Garden Diary of Héléne Ashworth
  • Elise Face Cosmetiques Label
  • Newspaper Clipping
  • A page from Charles Dickens’ The Chimes

So first of all, I saw Dr. Walter Elliott on the letters:

And as a Jane Austen fan my mind went:

This is 1888, I am going to believe this is Mr. Elliot’s great or great-great grandson, named after Sir Walter. I mean I don’t know if he married Mrs. Clay, but I do know that eventually he would have to secure his family line and inheritance.

So Dr. Walter Elliot, descendent of Mr. Elliot, has purchased 27 East Heath Road and everything inside the building for £420 sterling. I think he will regret this…

So Dr. Elliot has a conservatory and grows herbs but according to his former instructor Dr. Jack S. Aigner, Dr. Elliot is sensitive, insecure of whether or not he is a good doctor, creates different tonics and medicines; AND medicates/tests himself. Uh, oh. Oh no, that does not sound good.

Dr. Aiger mentions the room he is using to treat patients and that it holds a mirror, but it is placed strange on the wrong wall. It should be behind the patient, not in front, but it will be good if he wants to try self-hypnosis. There is a young girl he is trying to help that is an interesting case. Hmm…could it be Elizabeth Griggs?

Then we have Dr. Elliot’s notes on the patient, although not all of them. He mysteriously chose to remove the notes in his patient from September 1889-October 1891, us picking it up in October 1891.

His patient is interesting…she wants to be in the room alone and when he stepped out as she said she heard footfalls in hallway, she moved the flowers in the office, why?

She likes the tincture he gave her, which pleases him as he is really getting the use out of his conservatory.

The next notes are from February 1889, and we are given that the name is on Beth Siggers 15 years old. The DOB is inked out, but we know it is 1874. Could this be Elizabeth Griggs? Just her name changed so the Doctor doesn’t connect it to the architect if the house?

Hmm…

Beth comes to see Dr. Elliot because she is suffering headaches and shortness of breath, but when she came in she would not sit, instead touching and knocking into everything-walls, tables, the mirror, etc. Searching…but for what? He thinks she faked the illness but why? He gives her some tincture and she leaves.

Weird…

March 1889

Beth continues to return to the Doctor’s office, but every time she has a different ailment. Obviously she is suffering from a mental issue rather than a physical ones, but what and why?

She returns another time and says she left her bag behind, but when he finds her he sees she isn’t in the reception area but on the main staircase as she got “turned around”. Strange behavior, the doctor prescribes tonic.

Hmmm…

April 1889

She seems much better, although she is fixated on the mirror. The doctor looked at it and thought he saw a face in it, but that is just nonsense. He gives her 1/2 bottle of tonic.

She returns later complaining the tonic is too strong, and Dr. Elliot watered it down and 1/2 the dose-1/4 tonic. It’s strange, he notices the hallway door is ajar. That keeps happening every time Beth comes to his office.

Spooky…

May 1889

Beth returns, upset and acting strange: pulse elevated and pupils dilated. Dr. Elliot thinks it is just “spring fever” and gives previous mixture and dosage.

Hmm…strange

June 1889

Beth has been by again and Dr. Eliot thinks he saw a figure in the mirror, again. He has always hated the way the mirror was fixed in the wall. He searches, but there is nothing there. Dr. Elliot begins to worry that maybe the tincture he took and tested on himself might be giving him hallucinations.

July 1889

Dr. Elliot has decided to no longer see Beth. He tells her and later that evening he discovers she has hid in the parlour…weird why? She begs him to let her come back and he agrees for one more time.

NO, NO, NO, NO, NO!!! Something is wrong with this girl-you need to get way from her.

January 1892

Dr. Elliot feels watched and puzzles over the patient. Maybe he should stop seeing her, nothing seems to be changing.

YES!!! STOP SEEING HER SOMETHING ISN’T RIGHT!! But of course he won’t listen. He will continue and things are going to go wrong.

February 1892

Things are getting worse. After Beth comes poking on walls, knocking here and there, looking in corners, seeing things that aren’t there, Dr. Elliot too starts to feel as if there are spirits, ghosts, or something in the house. He tries to talk himself out of it but wonders.

He continues his experiments and taking the tincture. Oh no Dr. Elliot, don’t test on yourself!

In another set of letters from February 1892 to Jack, Dr. Elliot mentions a page with ciphers from Baldwin’s Physcian’s Guide. The page is included with these lines underlined:

“…what can be gained from inclusive speculation on the subject?”

“…physiognomy is mere judgement, assumption, and, in some cases, coincidence.”

On the back is an image that looks out of the Grimm texts and has some strange ciphers on it.

In his letter he has figured out what two of the symbols mean, an E & R.

Meanwhile, Griggs’ daughter, Beth, continues to see the doctor and every visit something odd happens. The flowers espechially always seem to be moved.

Beth keeps talking about something she sees under hypnosis so Dr. Elliot decides to test it and takes extra tincture.

Don’t Do it!!! Stop!!!! NOOOOOOOOO!!!!

There is a receipt for his tincture and on the back it says:

“You’ve got the right bottle, doctor.” With a bunch of symbols.

DON’T DO IT!!!!!

Dr. Elliot gets some cramps but about 30 mins in, he sees a figure in the mirror, or looking to come out of the mirror…

He leans toward the mirror and the figure was gone. He searched the house for it and found the dispensary unlocked, even though he always locks it.

He decides to increase the dose and do it again, adding to his letter later-he does and it says:

“I see it! It comes…”

And that is the end of Dr. Elliot. I’m assuming he died. Poor guy, you shouldn’t have tested on yourself-you shouldn’t have delved into the unknown, espechially on your own.

You’re crazy!
Crazy, am I? We’ll see whether I’m crazy or not.

There is no more correspondence, we then switch to the second half of the package.

Time to get on the case!

The next item in the package is the garden diary of Héléne Ashworth.

June 1892

The house has been sold to the Great Goodyear, Claude Goodyear, and his muse, assistant, and wife Héléne Ashworth. The name sounds familiar, but I’m not sure why.

Where have I read or seen that name before?

Their friend, Lilibeth, let them know about 27 East Heath Road becoming available after the doctor died. It seems he accidentally took too much of his medicine, although some whisper it was a suicide.

Claude loves the room with the mirror in it, as it can help him to practice his tricks and Héléne loves having the conservatory as she is a gardener. She has taken inventory about the plants and discovered hemlock. Hemlock? Why would a doctor need that?

Strange…

Claude jokes about ghosts in the walls as the house does make noise, but Héléne is not afraid. She loves her new house.

Ghosts?

July 1893

Héléne’s garden is doing well except for the calla lilies and forget-me-nots she planted. Instead the hyacinth, lavender, and dragonwort are doing extremely well-even though she did not plant them. There is no way Claude did so where did they come from?

At 27 East Heath Road.

Héléne believes in the language of flowers and these ones that mysteriously appeared mean constancy, devotion, and twice twisted. Hmm…maybe it means something twice twisted in the house? Devoted to it?

Hmm…

Let’s see-hemlock was poisonous, are these too? Let me look…yes, hyacinth bulbs are poisonous and touching them causes skin irritation. So lavender is used in food and perfumes so it is okay to take, but it can cause constipation, headache, and skin irritation in some people. Dragonwort is used to stop bleeding. So again, doesn’t seem too bad.

Hmmm…

There are a lot of strange herbs Héléne doesn’t know growing as well. She also discovers two more letters of the cipher-M & Y.

Another entry:

Claude is doing extremely well and even gets to perform at the famous Egyptian Hall. Héléne is so excited to perform, but Claude wants her to quit now that they are married. Hmmm…

Meanwhile, Héléne feels watched in the house. She wants to mention it to her husband, but decides not to worry him before a big show. On a sad note all the Calla lilies died, just like their hopes for a baby.

May 1895

Héléne is no longer allowed to perform, Claude thinking that is what caused them to have a miscarriage. Try as she might the yellow hyacinth (jealousy) keeps growing, and Héléne is convinced there is a curse on this house-a curse keeping a cild from being born, her nice and kind flowers from growing, and the hyacinth strong.

Later entry:

Héléne finds more and more deadly plants-nightshade and monkshood. She also sees the gruesome figure from her nightmares. She tries to tell her husband but he doesn’t listen, saying the illusions have turned her head.

June 1895

Claude has refused two engagements and is very upset. He is convinced spies are coming into the halls and watching/copying his ideas. He continues to practice in the room with the mirror and won’t let anyone into it, not even Héléne.

Héléne is very hurt and upset as she and Claude grow farther and farther apart. Sometimes Héléne pus on the old costumes and performs in front of the plants-wishing she could still be on the stage.

Lilibet has grown worried about Héléne and has taken up spiritualism and becoming a very famous medium. Lilibet and Héléne have known each other since girlhood and Héléne decides to throw a get together and help Lilibet. I’m starting to think Lilibet is Elizabeth “Beth” Griggs. Maybe Héléne was in the orphanage? I’ll check. The records say she is, ah “…the scarlet thread of murder running through the colourless skein of life” (A Study in Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle) is Elizabeth Griggs.

And it is “…our duty is to unravel it, and isolate it, and expose every inch of it.” (A Study in Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle)

Mystery, you say?

September 1895

Liliibet otherwise known as Mrs. Alizbeta Divak has asked Hélene to join in. Helene has created the character Madame Solandra, wears black bombazine, and pale makeup that comes from the Elise makeup company. There is a label from Elise Cosmetiques and it has a message on the back:

“YOU THINK TO HIDE YOURSELF FROM ME?”

Followed by the ciphers.

Claude does not approve of spiritualism, Helene has to hide it from him.

November 1896

They held the seance but things did not go as planned, A real spirit came from the mirror shouting at them “interlopers! Be gone!”

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!

When Héléne did the automatic writing it was if someone else was controlling her. Helene faints and when she awakens, it is Lilibet giving her smelling salts.

Oh no, the smelling salts were poisoned with the Doctor’s medicine.

Nooo

Lilibet preetends it didn’t happen, but Héléne knows it was real. She however feels very sick.

December 1896

Helene is still sick and supposed to be in bed, but has found a strange hidden doorway and secret hidden rooms in the house  But is it real? She is fading in and out and unsure.

But no! She found it! She has found a secret door in the conservatory, as soon as she is stronger she will investigate it!

Time to get on the case!

January 1897

Helene’s passage is a strange one. She believes the phantom is walking the house and Claude has all but disappeared. Is there a spirit in her home? A man? Or is her husband gaslighting her?

Gaslight (1944)

And all her flowers were ripped up? Why would the phantom want to do that?Why put dirt on her hands after?

Claude is yelling and locking Helene in her room refusing Lilibet to come in. But she has found a way out. She will follow the wallpaper and escape that way…

That is the last entry in the journal.

This felt a lot like The Yellow Wallpaper, the short story where the lady goes mad and her husband locks her up (or did her husband lock her up and then she went mad?)

Hmmm…is there a phantom or just an evil husband?

Gaslight (1944)

Next we have a newspaper clipping “Murder at the Mad Magician’s Mansion”. 

The wife of The Great Goodyear, Claude Goodyear, has been found dead in her home, found by her husband when he returned from performing.

Héléne’s face was frozen in terror and the inquest found that she had been poisoned-even though she was alone in the house and it was locked up tight. But by who? And how?

Of course authorities looked at the husband first, but it was impossible for him to slip away as he was performing and his every moment had witnesses.

Hmmm…

Her body was strangely found, it looked as if she was trying to crawl out of a small under-stairs cupboard with her face frozen, and hair turned white.

It appears Claude has lost his mind at his wife’s death. He warns people of a gruesome phantom moving in his house, warning people to stay far away.

After two incidents, one of him claiming a police constable to be a monster, he was relocated to the Broadmoor Asylum for the Criminally Insane.

Aw, that’s sad.

And last a page ripped out of Charles Dicken’s The Chimes with the following words underlined:

“Monsters uncouth and wild, arise in premature, imperfect resurrection; the several parts and shapes of different things are joined and mixed by chance..”

“Haunt and hunt him…”

“Bleak his slumbers…”

“he saw this WITH Goblin sight…”

“…saw these creatures, not only among sleeping men but waking also…”

There are more marks of the secret language written in the margin.

Hmmm…

I have been working on decoding it, and I think I’ve figures out a few letters based on what they gave me and just common sense of filling in the blanks, but there are some I am just not sure of.

Hmm…

So I am getting a Phantom of the Opera vibe from this (I love The Phantom of the Opera)

So in the original story of The Phantom of the Opera, one of Erik’s (the phantom’s) many talents was architecture and he builds the opera house-creating his secret home and all the passages, using the mirror as a door to bring Christine to his lair.

I think Henry Griggs is alive! And living in the house he built, probably a secret passage in the mirror. I’m just not sure if he is killing people because he us possessed by something or because he thinks if he does he will have his house back. I’ll have to wait and see.

Hmmm…

A lot of stuff came in this package and I did my best to try and put it all in one picture:

For more from The Mysterious Package Company, go to A Goblin in My Mailbox

For more insane doctors, go to Mr. Hyde Versus the Werewolf: Dr. Jekyll Versus the Werewolf (1972)

For more Persuasion, go to The Jane Austen Book Club (2007)

For more mysteries, go to I Won the Cederberg Tea Giveaway + Book Club Picks: The Insanity of God

For more ghosts, go to North by Northanger (Or, the Shades of Pemberley)