Modesto Jane Con: Gowns & Groans, A Costumer Looks at Regency Costumes on Film and Stage

So Modesto Jane Con was this past weekend. From January 10th-12th there were all kinds of workshops, activities, movies, an opera, and even a fashion show!

I, unfortunately, could only go on Saturday, but I had so much fun and I can’t wait until the next one! If there is a next one…

So your $30 ticket allowed you to attend the workshops (BOTH DAYS) and see one showing of Mansfield Park Opera (your choice of Saturday or Sunday).

I dressed up for the event (I’ll post on that later) and brought a reticule my sister made. Reticules are tiny, so I couldn’t pack everything in my bag-just the essentials. Debit card, credit card, ID, fan, gloves, pens, glasses (as I was wearing contacts) and a handkerchief. I wasn’t too worried about the size of the reticule though, as I had planned on purchasing one of their cute tote bags.

I also brought my notebook, as I planned on taking notes and later posting them (as I am now).

Our group was traveling from 1.5-2 hours away (depending on that CA traffic) and left around seven and arrived a little after 8:30. We actually headed to the theater as I was looking at the wrong event. You know me and navigating, I always get lost!

I then redirected our group, and we went to the library. We easily checked in and finished just as they announced the first workshop: Gowns & Groans

So of course, we were excited about this workshop. We wanted to learn more about the Regency gowns and who can resist the chance to snark about costumes?

Let the snark begin!

This workshop was run by Kristine Doiel and Hillari DeSchane

“Costumes have a coded language all their own. They can transport us back to Austen’s time and speak volumes about the characters, or they can be a constant distraction and prevent us from losing ourselves in the unfolding drama. Join veteran costumer Kristine Doiel on a lively, and likely to be controversial, stroll through this Regency costume Hall of Fame and Shame.”

Kristine Doiel is a costume designer and theater educator with over 50 theater and dance productions to her credit. A lecturer at Fresno State since 2017, she has taught costume and theater classes and mentored student designers. Awards include the UC Davis Provost’s Fellowship in Arts, the Princess Grace Foundation Theater Grant and a Dramalogue Award for costume design for The Rivals in Santa Barbara.

Hillari DeSchane is a JASNA life member and a board member of Opera Modesto. Her pre-show opera talks have become audience favorites. DeSchane’s first Regency pet cozy: A Christmas Tail: A Regency Holiday Mystery received a Certificate of Merit from the Cat Writers Association hillarideschane.com

Picture by Arnold Chavez

So Doiel started off the workshop talking about her background; moved onto the judging of the film depictions, finished with her experiences in costuming the Mansfield Park Opera, and concluded with a Q&A.

Part I: Doiel’s Background

Doiel shared that didn’t have a background in Regency wear, and had to do research on it-being an archeologist, literary analyst, and art historian all in one. I enjoyed this aspect of her talk as you don’t really think about that when watching a film or performance, that not only do the clothes have to be accurate-but they have to reflect the action of the scene, the context of the characters, and the literature of the piece.

That’s a lot

It reminded me of when I studied art history and how you looked at the art and what it was saying, but at the same time also looked into what was happening at the time and how that influenced it. There are many layers you have to work through-such as a self portrait of an artist wearing red, blue, and white takes on a different meaning when it was created post-French revolution, such as to show liberty, fraternity, that is one of the new citizens, etc.

Part II: Gowns & Groans

The next part of the discussion was Doiel reviewing the clothing choices in Mansfield Park (1999), Mansfield Park (2007), and Pride and Prejudice (1940).

So to start with, I do not like Mainsfield Park (1999). 

Not for me..

Eventually I will review it, but as for now-we will get back to the clothes.

Gowns:

Doiel felt that quite a bit of the costumes in here were accurate. Lady Bertram wore flimsy, lacy gowns that looked like something the wealthy class would wear, but older-late 1700s and post-French Revolution. It fits as Lady Bertram wouldn’t be at the height of fashion, but wearing something more her time. Maria, Julia, and the men were all accurate.

Groans:

So here is the good part, let’s start talking trash! J/K, Doiel was very kind in her remarks, trying to not be too judgmental and try to reason why a certain outfit would have been picked.

The first offender: Fanny Price played by Frances O’Conner

So in this Fanny wears a lot of what looks like a jumper or vest over a shirt. This is not accurate at all. Instead the film, which is one reason why I can’t stand it, doesn’t follow the book at all when it comes to Fanny’s character. Instead, they turn Fanny into Jane Austen, and emphasize the writing aspect, dressing her in this more masculine, “writing type” outfit. I call it a “writing type” outfit as when I saw this the first time it made me think of Jo in the 1933 version and she was a writer. It also is similar to what Jo wears in the 2019 version of Little Women.

The other offender: Mary Crawford.

All of Mary’s clothes were too contemporary. I mean look at the dress above, it is something that we were wearing at the start of the millennium, rather than 185 years earlier. remember wearing sleeves like that on my clothes.

She also has an outfit with a giant collar, that is just what? Doiel pointed out that the person in charge of wardrobe would have the resources and done the research on what was accurate and somebody (whether them, the studio, actor, or the director) picked this for a purpose. Doiel didn’t know why, but guessed that either the director or actor wanted something more modern to relate to audiences.

Mary’s outfits definitely were the worst.

So Mansfield Park (2007) is not the most accurate of films, as they cut a lot out to keep it at standard movie time length-however I am apparently one of the few that actually enjoys it.

Gowns: 

She didn’t talk about any she liked as it was time to move onto the next section.

Groans:

The offender here was Billie Piper as Fanny Price.

So Doil noticed that Piper wore a wide range of styles and thought maybe it was so varied as the production wanted her to be wearing hand-me-down gowns. There is a diamond dress that she wears that is completely inaccurate to the time period. Also her hair is one hundred percent wrong, as it is too modern, and she would have had it pinned up as she isn’t a young child. I think that is an interesting comment in light of the Emma Vogue photo shoot. 

The other outfit that Doiel pointed out as wrong was the white wedding dress Fanny wears at the end of the film. White wedding dresses only became popular after Queen Victoria, prior to that they were colored dresses. I disagreed with this as I thought the white dress was more a comment on Fanny’s innocence, sweetness, and morality versus being white to be in with what is in fashion today. I mean, after all this takes place after an affair, a love proved false, and all the manipulations by the Crawfords. Plus, it is a foil to Maria’s dress who had opulence (check out that hat) and color, Fanny’s being plain not because of what she was forced to wear (as I am sure Sir Thomas would have bought her a different dress), but a testament to her character. But that’s just my thoughts…

The last one we looked at was Pride and Prejudice (1940) a film I love, but apparently a lot do not.

Gowns:

The men were all accurate. *Sigh* Laurence Olivier.

Groans:

The film was set in the 1830s instead of the Regency period and no one quite knows why. Some say it was because Gone With the Wind was so popular and they wanted to use costumes like that. Others say it was because the Regency gowns seemed too plain. Others believe it was more cost effective to use these gowns than create new ones. Doiel thought that they might have picked such extravagant costumes as England was having to o with sparse materials, “mend and make do” as the slogan goes, and seeing such fun fabric and opulence would raise spirits. I don’t know if we will ever know…

Hmmm

Doiel said that she felt that this style works for Mrs. Bennet, Kitty, and Lydia as it is extravagant, frivolous, oversized, and fits their characters.

However, with Elizabeth, it works against her.

That’s where we ended, although I wished they had discussed Mansfield Park (1983) as that one has some doozies in choices. I mean look at their hair.

From left to right: Edmund Bertram, Mary Crawford, and Mr. Yates

Part III: Costuming Mansfield Park, the Opera

So Doiel said that when costuming something that takes place in the past, buying the right type of fabric can be a problem. You need something that looks right on stage, fits together as a whole (in color and style), and needs to be accurate as to something they would wear.

Doiel did say that she was fortunate in this Opera to be able to reuse costumes from an earlier production, Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley that had been done in December 2019.

She brought swatches in of the different fabrics for each characters costumes, and me and my group really liked that. We all enjoyed the closeup look and when we watched the performance later in the day, looked at the costumes and remembered what we had seen earlier in the workshop. We also loved that her mom, who helped her sew and cut things out, was there. It was so sweet how she helped hand out the swatches and supported her. I had tried to take a picture of the one for Fanny, but the people in my row wanted me to pass it along and the pic came out blurry.

Doiel’s favorite dress of the production was the gray number that Mary Crawford wears in Scene 5: Chapter Five. In the Wilderness. It was originally worn by Anne de Bourgh in the Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley. I tried to get a good picture, but this was all I got.

She also loved the Navy suit that Edmund wears as she made it.

Part IV: Q & A

Doiel ended the session by answering questions and talking about Regency wear. Breeches were standard menswear. Pants, or pantaloons as they were called, were not to be worn by the upperclass. They were said to cause a scandal because they showed everything too well-even though in reality breeches showed more. But you know how I feel about that!

This should say breeches instead of pants, but I didn’t write this so it gets a pass. It was an instagram answer from a question I asked my followers.

She said that pants were worn only by the lower class workers, so wearing them was seen as trashy.

Someone asked about the muslin we have today versus then, and she said it is different. The muslin sold in stores today is mostly white and work wear, instead of dress wear. Back in the Regency period it would be block printed, decorated, different colors, and came from India. The muslin was semi-sheer and lightweight, like cotton. Of course whenever I think of Muslin I think of:

India greatly influenced what people wore-in colors, patterns, and of course ladies adopting the use of a pashmina. I had noticed that when I was trying to find something to wear to Jane Con.

From Emma (1996)

Women and men always wore gloves when going out of the house. Doiel mentioned how they weren’t doing that in the Opera as it was too difficult with all the clothing changes. That means that that hand clench scene in the 2005 Pride and Prejudice never should have happened as both Darcy and Elizabeth should have been wearing gloves.

One woman asked about lace, and lace was very in fashion. It came from India or France (probably not as much from France at this time as England and France had been fighting) and was used on hemlines and sleeves.

My book club + sister really enjoyed this discussion. We wished that Doiel had judged the costumes a bit more, (as who doesn’t like a good rip ?), but understood that she was trying to be fair.

We loved that she stayed on topic-discussing only the clothes instead of the actual films. We would have liked to hear her thoughts on more films or more on costuming the show, but understood we only had an hour and had to be a bit limited to have enough time to cover everything.

DeSchane did a great job moderating the workshop, with her interesting questions and keeping an eye on how much time we had.

We loved it and learned a lot. In fact, later we watched the 1983 Mansfield Park and discussed what we learned in this when we looked at the costumes.

This workshop.

For more on Regency clothes, go to Muslin: The Fabric of Jane’s Life

For more Mansfield Park, go to Rational Creatures: Fanny Price & Mary Crawford

For more on Jane Austen, go to Praying With Jane: 31 Days Through the Prayers of Jane Austen

Praying With Jane: 31 Days Through the Prayers of Jane Austen

Praying With Jane: 31 Days Through the Prayers if Jane Austen by Rachel Dodge

So two years ago in October, my book club and I went to an author Meet & Greet to meet Paula Scott, the author of the California Rising series. There were other authors there, but we spent almost all the time talking to her and picking up the last book of the series, Chasing the Wind, which we were going to read in January 2019.

My friend, and fellow book club member, saw the Praying with Jane booth and pointed it out to me as she knows I love Jane Austen.

I had just seen it on instagram, and put it on my to-read shelf and was very excited about it. Unfortunately, I couldn’t buy it as I had no extra money, besides buying the Chasing the Wind, as I had a lot of things I had to take care of from my ex-husband.

I was bummed, and just stopped by quickly saying hello to Ms. Dodge, and then taking a bookmark to hold on to. I was planning on buying it after my finances cleared. But…it turned out that I didn’t need to. My friend bought me this book and Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe.  

She knows me very well.

I resolved to read it, February 1st-March 3rd 2019. I started off strong, but fell behind in the middle of it.

I tried a few more times and each time failed:

Uh oh

So in October, I resolved to try in November. This time I would just keep going, even if I failed to read one day-I would just keep moving forward.

I started off badly-beginning on November 3rd-and ended on December 23rd. Yes, as you can see it took me longer to read this.

But it was worth it. This book was fantastic! You can read it anytime, but I found it perfect in the holiday season as it allowed me time to pause, focus on God, and prepare my heart.

So some people are not religious and will not be interested in going through the prayers, but no matter your beliefs, all will appreciate the value and research that Dodge went through in writing this book. Not only did she study Jane Austen’s family, life, and background; but she has read and researched the novels of Jane Austen-highlighting moments from her popular books to the ones that aren’t always mentioned or talked about-Mansfield Park, Persuasion, and Northanger Abbey.

So if you go on my instagram, you can see day by day the parts of each passage that I liked, but on here I am going to mention the ones that really touched me.

Or years.

Day 7

“…Jane had much for which to be thankful. Thus, the last few words of this line reveal an important truth: Discontentment and indifference are two prime enemies of thankfulness. Discontentment is wishing things were different. It’s common when we face trials, compare our lives to the lives of others, or start to think what we have isn’t enough. Indifference is the state of being unmoved by blessings that surround us…Discontentment and indifference are both founded in a lack of thankfulness because when we grumble about out ‘lot’, we’re really grumbling against God.”

“Jane’s prayer reminds us to make thanksgiving an integral part of our prayers lives as a powerful antidote against discontentment and indifference. When you fill your mouth with praise, it has less room for grumbling. Thanking God for what He has done and has promised to do shifts your focus from what you don’t have to what you do.”

I love holidays and celebrating, but when the holiday season comes it can also bring some discontent with bills, holiday celebrations, seeing how others seem happy and together-comparing it to yourself. Reading this in November was perfect as this book helped redirect me from any of those pratfalls and help prepare my heart on thankfulness and being grateful for all I had.

Day 9

“Jane’s prayer reminds us that though we cannot comfort every widow, orphan, and prisoner, we can reach out to one lonely man, woman, or child with the love of Christ. And no matter our age, health, or financial circumstances, we can pray for those in need.”

This chapter was perfect with the holiday season as that is the perfect time to think about others-

And I love how Dodge says that we can help others not just financially-but by spending time with them or praying for them.

Day 13

“Jane’s prayer reminds us to ask God if anything is ‘amiss’ in our lives and priorities. Many of us try to fit God into our lives, instead of making God the centerpiece of our lives. Giving our first fruit to God isn’t just about money; it’s also about our time. One beneficial daily habit is to begin each day with prayer and Bible reading…Ask you seek God first, you will experience steady growth in your relationship with him.”

Ouch, I think we all fall victim to this and Dodge is right. The best way to correct and fix our lives is focus on the one who made us.

Day 14

“Guarding our hearts is essential in the face of temptation. Just as Jane prayed for God’s mercy on ‘Creatures so formed’, we can ask for God’s help in our weak spots.”

This always makes me think of the Johnny Cash song, as we need to keep a close eye on our heart and not allow it to lead is down the wrong path. There is nothing wrong with passion, but unbridled can cause one to make not the best choices, i.e.:

I love Wuthering Heights but let’s be honest-there are no good relationships in there. We have passionate people consumed by passion and not caring who is hurt or damaged.

Day 17

“Yet Fanny Price closely embodies the kind of patience under affliction Jane writes about in her prayer. Despite her troubles, Fanny has an inner strength and fortitude that never lags. Though she is mistreated and suffers in mind, body, and soul at times, she finds solace in her little attic room and in quiet reflection. She doesn’t lash out or become bitter. Even in the face of disappointment and anxiety, she quietly waits and hopes.”

“In this broken world we face illness, danger, grief, but in everything, God is with us.”

So first of all I love that Rachel Dodge discusses every heroine of the Jane Austen novels in this book and that Fanny Dashwood has gotten some love as she deserves it. She may not be as witty as Elizabeth, as self-assured as Emma, or as passionate as Marianne-but would we love Jane Austen’s books if every character was exactly the same? Fanny has a lot of great qualities-patience, kindness, perseverance, courage-I mean she is brave enough to stick to her guns. Fanny has qualities that we should all strive for.

I also loved her part about living in a broken world. Unfortunately bad things will always happen, but at least we have someone we can lean on who understands pain and loss.

Chapter 26

“Mrs. Bennet’s problem is two-fold: She’s dissatisfied with her current situation and worried about her future. She’s done nothing to deserve the life she has, and yet she is unhappy. She lives in a comfortable home, has five daughters, plenty of friends, and dines with ‘four and twenty families,’ but it’s not enough. As long as she thinks she might someday have to live on a small income with five daughters, that none of her five girls will ever marry, and that her husband might die before she does, she’s insufferable.”

“In Jane’s prayer, she prays ‘for a continuance of all these Mercies,’ asking for God’s provision and protection; however, her words also express an underlying sense of contentment. As children of God, we’ve already been ‘blessed far beyond any thing we have deserved.’ Our inheritance, our reward, is kept for us in heaven.”

I liked this chapter as often we get caught up in the worries if the day and future. I know I do.

Chapter 28

“You, too, preach a sermon with your life. What you do with your time, talent, and treasure says a lot about you. The things that make you angry and the things you work the hardest to get reveal what you value most. What values are you preaching to your family, friends, children, and colleagues?”

Growing up as a pastor’s kid, I knew what it was like to be in the “fishbowl”-people watching you and what you do. I thought I would eventually leave that behind, but the truth is people are always watching you. Your friends, relatives, coworkers-all see how you act and react, what you strive for and desire, etc-and what you do and the way you act tells a lot about who you are.

I thought this was an amazing book, and just like Jane Austen’s works you can read it over and over again.

It’s great when you have a writer who loves Jane Austen’s work and really tries to capture it.

“However, her [Jane Austen’s] gift could not, would not be hidden. Her writing outlasts her now by over 200 years, and yet it remains as remarkable today as it was when it was first printed.

We too can live extraordinary lives. Though we may not ever be famous, we all leave behind us a legacy. We will be remembered for who we are more than for what we do. Our friends and family will speak of us based on what they saw of our lives, the way we treated people, and the way we loved.”

If you love Jane Austen, you’ll love this book.

If you want to improve your spiritual life or are looking for a new devotional, you’ll love this book.

Please, oh please!

And if you are a fan of both, you need to check it out.

Its not a want, it’s a need!

For more on Jane Austen, go to Jane Austen: Her Heart Did Whisper

For more Jane Austen adaptions, go to Holiday Mix Tape

For more Bible Verses, go to Book Club Picks: Chasing the Wind

YULETIDE: A Jane Austen-inspired Collection of Stories Audiobook

YULETIDE: A Jane Austen-inspired Collection of Stories

So I had planned to review the film version of Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe but after reading the book, I really was in a bah humbug mood, and needed something to lift my spirits.

I had Holiday Mix Tape, which I will be reviewing soon, but I was in the mood for Pride and Prejudice and Holiday Mix Tape is a modern adaption of Persuasion. Too bad no Jane Austen film adaptions don’t show more of Christmas, or I could include them in my watching a Christmas film every day.

Aw, man!

But then, I realized-I had the next best thing! The YULETIDE audiobook narrated by Harry Frost, and edited by Christina Boyd.

Christina Boyd has worked with several writers to create many different Jane Austen anthologies. The first I read was The Darcy Monologues. It contained stories from Susan Adriani, Sara Angelini, Karen M. Cox, J. Marie Croft, Jan Hahn, Jenetta James, Lory Lilian, KaraLynne Mackrory, Beau North, Ruth Phillips Oakland, Natalie Richards, Sophia Rose, Melanie Stanford, Joana Starnes, and Caitlin Williams. These stories were all told from Darcy’s point of view with half the book set in the Regency Era and the other half set in different time periods (from 1880s Western to modern times). I really loved it! Just like the movies, there are many different forms of Darcy, so you have your pick of Darcy-being sure to find one, two, or more to love.

After that project, Christina Boyd teamed up with Karen M. Cox: J. Marie Croft, Amy D’Orazio, Jenetta James, Lona Manning, Christina Morland, Beau North, Katie Oliver, Sophia Ros, Joana Starnes, and Brooke West for a new book. This book is Dangerous to Know Jane Austen’s Rakes & Gentlemen Rogues, on the rogues and rakes of the Austen books-Mr. Willoughby, Mr. Wickham, Captain Tilney, General Tilney, Mr. Elliot, Mr. Thorpe, and more. This book was a lot of fun as we got a chance to see things from the bad boys point of view.

The next one was Rational Creatures, with stories by Elizabeth Adams, Nicole Clarkston, Karen M. Cox, J. Marie Croft, Amy D’Orazio, Jenetta James, Jessie Lewis, KaraLynne Mackrory, Lona Manning, Christina Morland, Beau North, Sophia Rose, Anngela Schroeder, Joana Starnes, Brooke West, and Caitlin Williams. Each story was on a different woman of Jane Austen novels-our heroines along with supporting characters and a few bad girls.

So the book was published last November, and this year they came out with the Audiobook.

So audiobooks, I like but my problem is that the people read too slow. I get into the story and then I need to find out what happens NOW…so I usually get the book and read it, and stop listening to the audiobook. That did not happen with this one. Harry Frost is amazing! I could listen to him over and over again, and while I am writing this I am on my third go round with this book.

Or in this case Audiobook, and I could never hate it.

Harry Frost is a marvel at doing the different tones of voice and accents of the different characters. This book has Regency and Modern Darcys and even though both are done in a British accent, there is a big difference between the two.

He also does an amazing job at the female voices by giving them a higher tone, but not doing that thing most narrators do when they make the ladies talk really high pitch, you know a voice that sounds so unrealistic and annoying. Instead, he changed his tone so you knew it was a woman speaking and not in an annoying way. And with each character he made subtle changes so not all sounded the same.

I love it!

He also did a great job with the American accents, especially the one when Mr. Collins sounds like a total bonehead (many of you are thinking which one doesn’t he sound like that in everything?), and his voice was spot on what I would have imagined he sounded like.

And listening to him didn’t make me want to leave the audiobook and get the book to read. When Harry Frost narrated he wasn’t just reading it, he really put in emotion and captured the spirit of the characters and the stories that it was all together a fantastic experience. How fantastic my you ask? Well, I’m on my third listen…listen through? I don’t know what the term for it would be but every time I finish the audiobook I just start it back from the beginning.

Audiobook

So Harry Frost is amazing, now that we have talked about him it is time to talk about the stories themselves. I LOVED ALL OF THEM!

Like when I said that Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe made me lose my Christmas spirit and put me in a Scrooge mood-I’m dead serious. It is an awful book, that made me feel awful.

These stories, they were perfect! They fulfilled my need for Jane Austen Christmas!!! They filled me with Christmas joy! They were exactly what I needed to help get me in the Christmas mood after reading Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe. Listening to them brought back my Christmas spirit faster than the Ghost of Christmas Past, Present, and Yet to Come.

They were so enjoyable, they made me think of that song from Jack Frost:

“It’s just what I always wanted, it’s perfectly right! It’s just what I always wanted, a Christmas delight!!”

This book

So usually I save the praise after I’ve gone over each story, but I don’t know I felt like doing it first. I mean I have said I keep listening to it over and over again, so I don’t think anyone was in suspense whether I thought this was good or not. But each writer deserves their due, so we need to go through the individual stories.

The Forfeit by Caitlin Williams

So this is my favorite of all the stories. It made me laugh, it had me in suspense, it made my heart go all fuzzy in feelings.

I love it!

This is a Regency story and takes place in Christmas after Mr. Bingley came and left. Charlotte is engaged to Mr. Collins, and the Bennets are getting ready for the holidays-even though not everyone in the family is happy (Jane brokenhearted, Mrs. Bennet angry at Elizabeth, and Elizabeth upset at Darcy). Elizabeth is walking home after visiting Charlotte and runs into Mr. Darcy!

He came for some business but oh no, his carriage is stuck in the snow, a storm is coming, and he’s stuck at the Bennet’s home for Christmas. Will this be a Christmas to remember? Or the worst Christmas of their lives?

It was great, as I said already it was my favorite. The story was fantastic, the language and the writing amazing, I loved this line “their elbows bumping as frequently as their intellect…” Oh and the story-not only do we have Darcy trapped in the Bennet home, but oh-no then Wickham comes on the scene, and Elizabeth and Darcy make a bet, and they plan a Christmas scavenger hunt, and oh I loved it. I would talk about it more but I’m afraid I’ll give away the ending.

Oops! Wrong book!

For more by Caitlin Williams, go to “In Good Hands” from Rational Creatures: Emma Woodhouse, Miss Bates, & Harriet Smith

And Evermore Be Merry by Joanna Starnes

This is also a Regency story told from the point of view of Georgiana Darcy. It has been a few years since the end of Pride and Prejudice with Georgiana having been married and visiting Pemberley for Christmas.

This is a cute story that starts in the present festivities, Pemberley filled with family again and children laughing, but then takes us back in time as Georgiana remembers the Christmas when Darcy and Elizabeth fought over who she wanted to marry. That moment that did start with fighting, was also a great lesson to Georgiana on love, marriage, forgiveness, and family.

I loved seeing the events from her point of view and it was a cute tale that showed the bonds that formed between this family.

For more by Joana Starnes, go to “Charlotte’s Comfort” from Rational Creatures: Elizabeth Bennet & Charlotte Lucas

The Wishing Ball by Amy D’Orazio

This is a modern Pride and Prejudice tale, set in 2014, with Mr. Darcy in New York with Georgiana. She gave him a christmas gift, a wishing ball ornament that you place a wish in when you hang it on the tree. In a Twilight Zone-esque twist the ornament has his initials on it and a wish inside-even though Georgiana didn’t get it monogrammed and it was sealed.

Spooky…

The strangeness of the evening, doesn’t end there as that night insomniac Darcy goes on facebook to kill time and sees that even though he hasn’t been on facebook since he joined everything is different! He’s married, has children, and when he looks at the most recent date it says 2018!

In a reverse Christmas Eve Darcy sees what his life could be like, but after the night ends will it be enough to change his ways, or will he continue on the path he is on?

I LOVED it, it totally appealed to my love of Twilight Zone-esque plots and kept me on the edge of my seat! What was going to happen next?!

For more by Amy D’Orazio, go to “Happiness in Marriage” from Rational Creatures: Elizabeth Bennet & Charlotte Lucas

By a Lady by Lona Manning

This takes place in the Regency Era, a few years after Pride and Prejudice. Elizabeth and Darcy have a little boy and a baby girl, and are headed to spend Christmas with Lady Catherine.

She still doesn’t like Elizabeth, but likes the children so that’s what mended fences between them. This trip Elizabeth is on a mission as she wants to befriend Anne. She takes with her as many books as she can possibly fit in the carriage, hoping they can be a great conversation starter…hopefully?

This was such a cute story as Anne does open up about her secret hobby of writing and Elizabeth tries to help her secretly get published. But will anyone be interested in the story? Will Lady Catherine discover the truth?

So heart melting! We need more Anne stories anyway, I really liked the way many of the authors portrayed her in The Darcy Monologues and she definitely deserves more attention.

For more by Lona Maning, go to “The Art of Pleasing” from Rational Creatures: Anne Elliot, Mrs. Croft, Mrs. Clay, & Louisa Musgrove

Homespun for the Holidays by J. Marie Croft

Mr. Darcy was in America for business and is stopping by a shop called Homespun to get the jumper, sweater, that his sister wants for Christmas. He is in an extremely bad mood, made even blacker when he gets there and discovers that the sweater he asked to be held for him was purchased by someone else.

He throws a bit of a fit, I love all the English slang in this although I wasn’t always 100% sure what he was saying, but after talking to Elizabeth he calms down and apologizes. Unfortunately, to make things even worse-a giant storm stops him from being able to leave, there’s no room for him at the local inn, and he has to stay on a loft in the barn.

Yes, he joins the Bennet family for dinner and her cousins keep thinking he’s Jesus, lol (not in a sacrilegious way, but a way that kid’s make connections). This is the one that has the serious bonehead Mr. Collins, but is a story of bad first impressions and trying to set them right again. A hilarious and fun tale, I particularly love Elizabeth’s retorts, oooh Mr. Darcy…

For more by Lona Maning, go to “The Simple Things” from Rational Creatures: Emma Woodhouse, Miss Bates, & Harriet Smith

The Season for Friendly Meetings by Anngela Schroeder

This story takes place in the Regency era and takes place in the same time as the first story-the Christmas after Mr. Bingley came and left. Mrs. Bennet is unhappy and when an opportunity comes for Jane and Elizabeth to visit York and be in the presence of eligible young men-she sends them off to stay with the Longs, Mrs. Bennet’s sister.

There the girls attend a ball and their cousins hear some not so happy things about Mr. Wickham. She also meets Colonel Fitzwilliam, who talks to her and starts to raise some serious questions about the truth of Wickham.

If that’s not enough Darcy and Bingley are headed to the same party! Whoo, it’s going to be some type of party!

This was another cute story and it brought up a lot of points that Elizabeth and we overlook in Wickham when we first meet him as we are still smarting from Darcy’s remark about being “tolerable”. I loved it! Plus Colonel Fitzwilliam as a matchmaker?

For more by Anngela Schroeder, go to “Knightley Discourses” from Rational Creatures: Emma Woodhouse, Miss Bates, & Harriet Smith

Mistletoe Mismanagement by Elizabeth Adams

Darcy and Elizabeth have only been married a month and are having Christmas with the Fitzwilliam family. Colonel, his older brother, along with his mother and father are all attending.

Along with them we have a Miss Wheeler and two Miss Becheems. Colonel Fitzwilliam is interested in Miss Wheeler, and Elizabeth is trying to help him and her get together.

But that has to take a backseat to some other Christmas shenanigans, as Captain Watson comes interested in Colonel Fitzwilliam’s brother’s wife and they have another guest who the Earl is trying to swing with.

They don’t want that happening in their home, and the evening becomes an unhappy game of musical chairs to outwit these couples.

For more by Elizabeth Adams, go to “An Unnatural Beginning” from Rational Creatures: Anne Elliot, Mrs. Croft, Mrs. Clay, & Louisa Musgrove

I LOVED this and it is going to become a yearly tradition for me. And if that isn’t enough to get you interested, all proceeds from buying the book go to benefit Chawton Great House in Hampshire, former manor house of Jane Austen’s brother Edward Austen Knight and now the Centre for the Study of Early Women’s Writing, 1600-1830.

This has been the best Christmas gift so far!

At first I was sad that I didn’t get this review out when I wanted to, but then I realized that not posting on Friday lead the next post to be on December 16th, which is none other than Jane Austen’s birthday!

Happy 244th Birthday!

For more on Pride and Prejudice, go to Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe

For more by Christina Boyd, go to Rational Creatures: Catherine Morland, Eleanor Tilney, & Lady Susan

For more Christmas posts, go to I Don’t Want a Lot for Christmas, There is Just One Thing I Need

Non-Austen Reads for Austen Readers: And Only to Deceive

So this is something I started a while back. Sometimes you want more Austen books after you have read all her books. There are variations on her stories, but you don’t always want to read the same story. You want Austen-like works, but what to read or watch?

Hmm…

That’s why I started this series. I will review books that have the things we love about the Austen novels, but in something fresher than a retelling.

And Only to Deceive (Lady Emily Mysteries #1) by Tasha Alexander

Lady Emily is a widow.

But she isn’t sad as she never loved her husband.

What?

Emily Ashton is an only daughter and all her life her mother has been plotting and planning and maneuvering, etc to get her daughter married off to a wealthy and eligible bachelor.

Emily chose Viscount Phillip Ashton for three reason:

  1. He seemed less chauvinistic than most men
  2. He appears to be someone she could live
  3. By marrying she would be free of her mother

Phillip was interested in pursuing her, was ecstatic at capturing his quarry, and not long after they married went on a big game hunt to Africa were he became sick and died.

Emily was actually happier after his death as:

  1. She didn’t really know her husband or spend time with him
  2. Was free of her mother
  3. Given freedom
  4. Has money
  5. Has large houses
  6. She had to absent from society for two years but that was okay as she didn’t really care for “society”.

Life was solitary but it wasn’t bad.

However, everything changed when her husband’s best friend came to visit after a year and a half. Mr. Colin Hargreaves came to speak to Emily about her Greek villa-all is in order, and she is free to go there anytime, just let him know and he will arrange the trip for her, Kallista.

Emily is completely surprised as her husband never said any such thing about villas and he never called her Kallista.

What?

Emily is baffled by this and even more when her butler let’s her know that he fired a footman who was digging in her late husband’s desk. She starts looking to see if anything is missing, although how would she know as she has never been in there really, and discovers a threatening note.

What the heck?

This is just the firsts in a series of instances that makes Emily realize she knew very little, if anything, about her husband. It turns out that he was an avid collector or Greek art and throughly knowledgeable of it and Greek history.

She also finds his journals and reads about his love for her (in incredibly sweet journal entries).

So cute!!

Emily’s interest is piqued and she begins reading Homer’s The Odyssey and researching into Greek art and mythology.

She discovers more things do not add up and that her husband was caught up in a fake antiquary ring. Could it be that he was duped, with all his knowledge and expertise? Or was he the ringleader?

Hmmm…

Emily cannot believe the later, as she reads her husband’s journals, she starts to fall in love with him, and remembers the wonderful and romantic gestures he would do, but took for granted at the time.

Emily isn’t sure who to trust, besides her old friend Ivy and new friend Lady Cécile du Lac. Colin Hagreaves spends a lot of time around her, and then she discovers that he has been watching her. Why? Could he be the ringleader?

Hmm…

Emily meets another friend of her late husband, Andrew Palmer. Andrew is fun, light, sarcastic, and likes to party and go out. He gives Emily a lot of attention and she enjoys it, as anyone who has been sent to the sidelines would. He is from noble stock, but no money. Could he be after her wealth, or is he really interested in her?

Colin and Andrew were both on the hunting trip with her husband, could one of them have killed him?

Hmmm

Then Emily gets a note about her husband being alive! Is he a criminal hiding out? Or was he betrayed by a friend and desperately in need?

Hmm…?

Emily sets off a plan to Africa, and will she be happy with what she finds? Or is she heading into a trap?

Hmm…

I really enjoyed this mystery as I liked that Emily was an independent woman with a strong personality and ideas about what she wanted, but at the same time she was still a woman of her times. I hate when people write historical fiction and the people are so much a product of our time. It makes zero sense.

So why would an Austen fan enjoy this? Well first of all, Lady Emily’s mother could be Mrs. Bennet. Both are soooo similar in the way they try to maneuver and manipulate their daughters into getting a good match. Both are driven by fear-Mrs. Bennet of Mr. Bennet’s death and no home or income; and Emily’s mother fears that her daughter will grow old single and childless. Emily and her mother; along with Elizabeth and Mrs. Bennet-do not have a very good relationship.

The book has these wonderful journal etries of Phillip’s love and his pursuit of her.  I LOVE how we see the total love he has for her. Those scenes were to me, very reminiscent of Captain Wentworth’s letter of love-both extremely romantic.

One theme throughout the book is how we can see one view of a person and think we know them, when in reality we know nothing as to who they really are. With Emily-she believed her husband was a hunter and hunted her, she never took the time to see more of who he was, We see the same thing in Jane Austen from Marianne seeing Willoughby do a few “romantic things” to believing he had a completely different character: to Emma believing from the stories about Frank and his few letters that he was noble and true; to Elizabeth and everyone disliking Mr. Darcy and loving Wickham. All saw one side of a person and believed they knew his true character only to in the end be wrong as there was much more to this men that what was seen at first sight.

Emily, Colin, and Andrew Palmer all remind me of several Austen triangles. Emily meets Colin and at first thinks him kind and interesting, but after he tries to warn her off her investigating she becomes angry and dislikes him. Instead she gives all her attention to Andrew Palmer, a pretty party boy who has name but no cash. He flatters, imbibes, resists tradition, has fun-but isn’t an honest or upstanding man. He paints a bad picture of Colin, something Emily should be wary of as she hardly knows Andrew, while Colin and Phillip were friends since boyhood. It reminded me of Elizabeth not liking Mr. Darcy, and believing Wickham’s view of Darcy instead of Bingley.

A pretty party boy with no money-we see this in Willoughby, Wickham, and Frank Churchill. All men care about the dollars and any way to get them-and all are sarcastic, critical, full of laughs-but laughing at other’s expense.

Plus, our main character loves Jane Austen:

“Finally I [Lady Emily] happened upon a bookstall that had a ragged secondhand copy of Pride and Prejudice, which I promptly bought. Phillip, engaged in some business of some kind, did not accompany me. Back at the hotel, I showed him my purchase and settled in for a nice read. The next morning at breakfast, he presented me with a beautifully wrapped parcel containing a first edition of the book.” -pg 141

Sounds like my kind of gift!

For more Non-Austen Reads for Austen Readers, go to Book Club Picks: Julie

For more book reviews, go to Jane Austen: Her Heart Did Whisper

Jane Austen: Her Heart Did Whisper

Jane Austen: Her Heart Did Whisper by Manuela Santoni

So we added this at the library and I was jazzed for it-Jane Austen biography? In graphic novel?

It seems like a win win to me!

But it wasn’t-I did not like it.

I’ve read several Jane Austen biographies, books and online, and I really enjoyed read Just Jane last year. I do not know everything about Jane, but I feel enough to know that this had quite a bit of historical inaccuracies it.

Hmmm

It also felt like they wanted to make her “ahead of her times” but it just feels like something we have seen before and not as if the author really was trying to show Jane, who this book is supposed to be about. Like how Nostalgia Critic words it in the Alice in Wonderland review.

It starts off with Jane sick at the end of her life writing a letter and thinking back on her life.

Hmm…

We go back to them as girls and Jane hates the piano playing:

But in reality, she enjoyed piano playing. From The Jane Austen Centre:

“Jane, studied with the respected composer and organist, William Chard well into her twenties, long after most girls would have given up their lessons. After that point, it was up to the student to progress if she wished, on her own. Jane owned a small piano at various times during her life and, when this was not an option, rented one. She played for her own enjoyment and would rise an hour before the rest of the family in order to get her practicing done.”

And Santoni has her hate doing embroidery:

But she was extremely talented at it, most likely loved it. From Jane Austen’s House Museum:

“Like all women of her time and class, Jane Austen learnt to sew in childhood and gained a life-long skill. Sewing was something she was particularly good at. In 1796 Austen wrote in a letter that she was “the neatest worker” of a group making shirts for one of her brothers. Edward Austen-Knight remembered of his aunt that “Her needlework both plain and ornamental was excellent, and might almost have put a sewing machine to shame. She was considered especially great in satin stitch.”

And I am currently reading Praying With Jane: 31 Days Through the Prayers of Jane Austen by Rachel Dodge and she shares this in Day 5:

“From this description, we see that while Jane sat and worked (needlework) quietly, lines, descriptions, and plot ideas for her novels came to her in delightful bursts.”

“She [Jane Austen] could have declared needlework a boring, repetitive task and herself too intelligent for such menial jobs. Instead she appears to have spent the time in happy reflection.”

I am so sick and tired of authors being like, oh I want my historical character to be modern and powerful so she will hate embroidery. Why? Why is music revered, painting treated as a superpower, sewing something to be proud of-but embroidery is treated like dirt. Embroidery is a lot of hard work, amazing art, and takes blood, sweat, and sometimes tears to create.

Santoni gives Jane unruly curled hair that just seems to show again that she is “modern” eschewing society’s idea of how women should be.

So the story has Jane proposed to twice and she turns them both down, but in real life she only officially ever received one formal proposal, when she was 27, from Harris Bigg-Wither-but the next day refuses him.

Santoni also has Jane fall in love with Tom Lefoy, he propose, she accepts, and then turn him down as she can’t be a wife and mother but has decided to be a writer. Now there is a bit of leeway here as Cassandra Austen destroyed a lot of Jane’s letters, but she seems to ignore what history we do know.

Thats not right!

It even says at the end of the book “many suitors asked for my hand…” I found this hard to believe as there is no historical proof to confirm this, along with the fact that she had no dowry and very little to entice someone to marriage. I felt like did Santoni do any research? She says she is a Jane Austen fan, but it seems she was making up her own story and characters.

Yeah, not as good as Just Jane

For more Jane Austen biographies, go to Just Jane

For more Jane Austen inspired books, go to Rational Creatures: Catherine Morland, Eleanor Tilney, & Lady Susan

For more Jane Austen inspired work, go to Northanger Soapworks Review

This Is Fate We’re Talking About, and If Fate Works At All, It Works Because People Think That THIS TIME, It Isn’t Going to Happen!: Dead Again (1991)

This is fate we’re talking about, and if fate works at all, it works because people think that THIS TIME, it isn’t going to happen!

So many of you say, hey where is the Jane Austen in Horrorfest? Well, we have had Death by Persuasion and Non-Austen Films for Austen Fans TV show High Seas/Alta MarBut I thought I would throw in another film with a Jane Austen connection. Because, you know:

Yes, while they were filming this-producer Lindsay Doran discovered that Emma Thompson loved Jane Austen. They spent a lot of time talking about Austen and her books:

“I got to know Emma very well over the course of the twelve-week shoot, and it wasn’t long before we discovered our mutual passion for Jane Austen. It was clear that she knew the books by heart, and that her appreciation of them was not of the dry, academic sort she enjoyed them, and she loved their wit as much as she admired their intelligence.” Lindsay Doran, from The Sense and Sensibility Screenplay and Diaries: Bringing Jane Austen’s Novel to Film

Doran than watched Emma’s show Thompson, and after seeing the writing and acting there-asked her to write Sense and Sensibility. Yes, without this film, this film never would have been born-or a less wonderful version would have been created.

So let’s review Dead Again

This film struck my interest when a patron checked it out at the library. So, of course, when it came back I had to check it out and watch it. It is a film-noir, murder mystery romance.

Film Noir

So the film starts off in black and white in the 1940s-amazingly with newspaper stories and headlines about the Musical Murder of Margaret Strauss by her Conductor Killer, Roman Strauss. Actress Margaret (Emma Thompson) was stabbed by scissors and her conductor husband Roman, (Kenneth Branagh) put on death row for the murder. As he approached the electric chair, journalist, Gray Baker (Andy Garcia), goes to hear the last words-Roman saying that this is far from over.

Now in color it is 50 years later-a woman (Emma Thompson) with no memory and can’t talk is in an orphanage.

The nuns and priest have been taking care of her-but it appears the help she needs is much more than what they can offer. They hire Michael Church, (Kenneth Branagh) a private detective who was raised at the same orphanage, to take her to the asylum and discover who she is.

Laura

Michael Church (Kenneth Branagh) is known for being able to find “anything” and “anybody”. He has just found Dr. Cozy Carlisle (Robin Williams) psychologist turned store owner who’s been hard to discover. He gets the call and heads to the orphanage.

Ready for any case

Michael inspects all that they know about the unknown woman and discovers she has a Claddagh ring-an Irish ring which represents love, loyalty, and friendship-but only one band, the other is missing. He takes her to his friend at the newspaper who takes her picture and they plan on it being printed in tomorrow’s edition. Church then goes to take the woman to the asylum, but after seeing how horrible it is-takes her to his home. Just because it looks bad-like it has nothing to do with the fact she is a pretty woman?

The woman experiences nightmares, a fear of scissors, and screams out Dysher. The next day, Church gets all kinds of calls about the woman-but all are just cranks. But then, Franklyn Madson (Derek Jacobi), comes calling. He is an antique dealer and hypnotist who wants to help. He regresses the woman and we shift to black and white-to the Strausses.

Los Angelas Late 1940s

Margaret was an actress-beautiful, English, and beloved by all. She went to a concert and saw conductor Roman Strauss and was struck by him. Roman was from Europe, and escaped the Nazis, his wife dying in the escape.

Roman is just as struck as her and the two date, fall in love, and marry. Roman gifts her the Claddagh ring, with a matching one, and a very expensive anklet.

Roman Strauss: The man I bought it from explained to me that, when a husband gives it to his wife, they become two halves of the same person. Nothing can separate them… not even death.”

They marry and at the wedding, a Mr. Gray Baker (Andy Garcia), writer, comes as the date of someone. He is enamored of Margaret and actually tries to flirt and charm her at HER wedding-ugh this dude.

I’m out!

Understandably, Roman is very upset and does not like him.

Margaret “doesn’t” understand his feelings as she loves Roman.

The two are in love and happy-except for one thing. Margaret hates Roman’s servants -Inga and her son Franky. She thinks they don’t like her and they keep usurping her authority. She wants to be rid of them, but they saved Roman’s life. He never would have made it out of Germany without them.

After the regression, the woman can speak. They look over the Strauss story in Life magazine, located in the antique shop. They see a resemblance between the Strausses and them and that the orphanage where they both spent time, was the old Strauss mansion.

Spooky…

Church gives the woman the name Grace, and then goes to see Dr. Carlisle to talk about what happened. Dr. Carlisle tells him some cases where he worked with patients and regression helped solve the issues. He thinks they should continue to see the hypnotist and see what comes of the Margaret and Roman story. 

Hmmm

Grace and Church spend a lot of time together and fall in love.

They have sex and the next day a man shows up claiming that Grace, real name Katherine Sharpe, is his fiance. He has all the answers to Church’s questions, until he catches him in a lie about gloves. The man takes off and Church tries to catch him-but the man gets away.

Why would they want Grace? WHO would want her?

Hmmm

Church and Grace go back to the hypnotist where Grace regresses more…

Los Angeles Late 1940s

They Strausses are having a few cracks in their relationship. As Roman is not involved in Hollywood, he is seen as a “nobody” and is trying to write an opera but suffering from writer’s block. They are at a party and no one wants to talk to “nobody Roman”.

Margaret gets approached by Gray and the two go outside to talk. Gray is so in love with her it is super obvious-and Margaret should not be feeding it. Gray asks to “look” at her anklet, and she obliges-he holding her leg up to take a “closer look”. Really…really now?

Margaret, can’t you see how this is something you as a married woman should bot be doing with a man who is not your husband? Hmmm….?

Seriously

Roman sees them and becomes understandably furious, punching Gray in the face  (not understandable) which knocks him in the pool. They try to make it sound as if Roman is a jealous brute, making a big deal out of nothing-but I have to disagree. This guy started trying to get with Margaret at her wedding-and he’s still trying. Even though Roman shouldn’t have punched him-he totally deserved it.

The Margaret and Roman get in a fight-with it ending as Roman confesses his insecurities.

Later Margaret catches Frankie in her jewelry and tries to get Roman to fire them, but again he refuses. Gray calls Margaret, which Roman accidentally overhears. He questions her abut the call but she lies to him.

Later, Margaret was lying in bed when she is stabbed-by Michael Church!

Grace wakes up from her trance angry, confused, and scared. Michael takes her home but she flips out convinced that he will kill her.

In order to calm her, Church decides to regress as well. What he discovers changes everything. Will they figure out this mystery and solve it before another murder? Or will history repeat itself?

Hmm…

I liked how the movie was in color for the present and then reverted to the past. I thought it was pretty intriguing with a few twists and turns that I didn’t see coming were thrown in very well. And now that I have seen the film, that poster is sop perfect and obvious. It is well worth a view for fans of Spellbound and film-noir

The end is a little cheesy, but Im not sure how else they could have had an ending that satisfied the viewer. I didn’t want to give away the end, so if you’s like to watch it, click here.

For more film-noir, go to Do You Ever Feel Like Your Life Has Turned into Something You Never Intended?: Nocturnal Animals (2016)

For more private detectives, go to Basil of Baker Street: The Great Mouse Detective (1986)

For more on Sense and Sensibility (1995), go to I Don’t Want You Far From Me: Sense and Sensibility (1995)

For more on Lindsey Doran, go to The Sense and Sensibility Screenplay and Diaries

For more on Robin Williams, go to Diamond in the Rough