Charlotte’s Story

Charlotte’s Story: A Novel from the World of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice

by Carolyn Korsmeyer

I was on Instagram when I came across a post by Heather Moll, in which she was looking for Jane Austen fans to read an ARC of her newest book. I of course am always looking for new things to read (even though my to-read list is crazy long) and reached out to her.

We discussed when she would like the review posted, but after we messaged each other something kept niggling in the back of my mind, I had forgotten something? But what?

After I received Moll’s ARC it suddenly hit me! Back in December, Wiley Saichek had reached out to me to review Carolyn Korsmeyer new book Charlotte’s Story. With him emailing me at the beginning of the holiday season it had completely slipped my mind.

From Clueless

Feeling all kinds of horrible for promising to review the novel and having not done it, I decided before I could check out Moll’s work I needed to read and review this immediately.

When I first read the premise of the the novel, I was intrigued as I have always liked the character Charlotte Lucas and I do not feel she gets enough appreciation. She is often seen as the “what not to do” character, but for a woman with limited options she was cunning and wily. She may not have married for love, but she also didn’t have a disastrous marriage like in The Buccaneers. While she married a man that isn’t passionate, she was for it ate to marry one who wouldn’t hurt her, abuse her, or cheat on her. And while he is silly and bumbling, Charlotte could have had it much worse.

For those of you who have never read or watched Pride and Prejudice, or may not know the character of Charlotte Lucas I will give a brief summary. The story of Pride and Prejudice revolves around the Bennet family, a large family consisting of five daughters living on an estate that is entailed (can only be inherited by a male relative). Mr. and Mrs. Bennet always believed they would have a boy and didn’t plan for an outcome of only girls nor have they been very prudent with their money. Mrs. Bennet is eager to marry all her children off ASAP, as when Mr. Bennet dies they will have a very different lifestyle and it will be harder to find them suitors. Two men come into the neighborhood, along with English officers and a distant cousin who will inherit when Mr. Bennet passes. Mrs. Bennet tried to ensnare marriage proposals but things do not go as planned. There is comedy, drama, and more!

Charlotte Lucas is the best friend of Elizabeth Bennet (second eldest Bennet daughter), and when Elizabeth rejects their distant cousin, Mr. Collins’, marriage proposal Charlotte swoops in. She invites Mr. Collins to move into Lucas Lodge and ends up engaged to him! After their marriage Charlotte moves to Hunsford, to Mr. Collins’ parish. When Elizabeth, Maria Lucas (Charlotte’s sister) and Sir William (Charlotte’s father) visit the Collinses, they are invited to dine with Lady Cathrine de Bourgh who not only is Mr. Collins’ patroness but also Mr. Darcy’s aunt; Mr. Darcy being one of the gentlemen who Mrs. Bennet was originally trying to snare and one that Elizabeth can’t stand.

After this vacation, Elizabeth returns home and we do not hear of Charlotte until the end of Pride and Prejudice. So there is a lot of wiggle room to create a “new” story.

This novel starts off with Elizabeth’s rejection and Charlotte deciding to net Mr. Collins. The two are quickly wed and then go to his home. Charlotte begins busying herself with taking everything into hand (as a bachelor does not always keep the best house). She tries to start a friendship with Lady Catherine’s daughter, Anne, but finds it difficult as Anne has a low constitution and a bulldog of a companion.

Charlotte finds it lonely in her new life, missing her friends and family and is also sad not to be pregnant as soon as she wishes. She also finds herself regretting aspects of her marriage, such as the fact that she was not wooed, won, or worked for. It reminds me of Milly in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, and how her husband did not understand the value of his wife as she was won “without effort”. Charlotte also realizes that in her quest for marriage, home, stability, etc.-she never really thought about what type of man she should be looking for.

Hmm…?

When Elizabeth and Maria arrive, Charlotte becomes the viewer watching the scenes unfold, being told later by Elizabeth what has happened-from Darcy rejected proposal to Darcy’s secret.

In this adaptation Darcy and Anne are close cousins, although he has no desire to marry her. It was nice to see it as in Austen’s original piece all is told from Elizabeth’s point of reference (colored by her dislike of Mr. Darcy and Lady Catherine). From Charlotte’s point of view Anne is very nice, although naive, and the two eventually become friends.

The relationship between the Collinses become fractured when Charlotte falls extremely ill and while appreciative of the care Mr. Collins gave Charlotte is furious that Mr. Collins never contacted her family about it. Mr. Collins apologizes and shares about his childhood and that his parents never planned for children, his mother died in childbirth, and he has no familial bonds with anyone. It never occurred to him to notify her family. Charlotte forgives him, but everything splinters over the Lydia/Wickham and Elizabeth/Darcy situation. Mr. Collins wants to distance himself from his family (and rebuke them for their actions); while Charlotte wants to support her friends. After the dust has settled, and a quick visit to Hertfordshire, with no children on the horizon Mr. Collins sends Charlotte to Bath to partake in the waters. She journies with Mrs. Bennet, Mrs. Norris (Mrs. Bennet’s sister), Maria, Kitty, and Mary. Anne and her nurse/companion Mrs. Jenkins also plan to meet them there.

In Bath, Charlotte partakes of the water and again becomes a spectator into the lives of her party. Kitty, Maria, and Mary enjoy concerts, balls, parties, and young suitors. Anne is thrilled with being free from her mother and finds her own suitor, also being followed closely by Colonel Fitzwilliam. *Wink, wink*.

Colonel Fitzwilliam

Eventually their time in Bath ends and they all must return home, Mary joining the Collinses-and with one more twist in life’s plans will Charlotte eventually finds happiness or just sorrow?

So what did I think of the book? I thought Korsmeyer did a great job at trying to mimic Jane Austen’s style and stay true to the novel while putting her own spin on it. The only part of the book I really disliked was that several times Charlotte was moved to observer instead of an active member of the story. For a book that is supposed to be about her, at times I felt she felt became part of the scenery instead of staying the main player.

Korsmeyer does take liberties with creating her own story and some changes to the characters will not appeal to everyone. While I don’t agree with her depiction of some of the characters I did not feel that she did anything that was too contrary to the character’s “possibilities”. One example is the character change of Mary Bennet, who people seem to disagree with the most. In this version, Mary is taken to Bath and after she receives positive attention from her mother (and young men) with a new style of dress and a different way of acting; she embraces a new personality. For someone who is often only tolerated, left out, and the source of jokes in her family, I could see that with this change to actually being wanted, Mary would try to do whatever she could to keep it. Such as, completely changing her personality and making decisions she previously would not do. After all, I have known people in my life who have behaved like that. It might not be the route I would have taken, but I do not feel it is out of the realm of possibilities for the Austen character.

Parody of the none for Gretchen Weiners meme

Reading this book there were two points Korsmeyer made that I found extremely fascinating. The first is that Mr. Collins and Mr. Darcy are the same amount of socially awkward, but in different areas on the spectrum. While Mr. Collins covers his insecurities with a constant stream of words, Mr. Darcy covers his with silence and scowls.

“At one point, I had the oddest impression that in their own ways each man [Mr. Collins and Mr. Darcy] was evincing his discomfort with company. How very strange to speculate that my garrulous husband and this stern statue might both be simply ill at ease in society.

Charlotte’s Story: A Novel from the World of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice by Carolyn Korsmeyer

It is a fair comparison to make as we see Mr. Darcy react different when in company he knows/likes-however in the original novel we never see how Mr. Collins reacts when he is at home just with Charlotte.

The other point I found really thought provoking was when Mr. Collins discusses his childhood. In this adaptation, Mr. Collins’ mother died in childbirth, his father hated/blamed him + ignored him, and Me. Collins spent his whole life trying to get people to like him. Then one day he meets Lady Catherine who actually listens to what he says and enjoys his company. If this backstory were the case then in a way Lady Catherine has filled that vacant “parental” slot in Mr. Collins’ life. He now has someone who will “rear” him, give him advice, financially care for him (she’s his patron), etc. And not only does he have a “parent” in his life, but has gained “family” with Lady Catherine’s family. Just to be clear I’m not saying that Mr. Collins actually believes the de Bourgh family and relations to be his family, I’m saying that subconsciously he’s adopted them and believes they feel the same about him. Also if he never really had family growing up it would explain why he has no idea how to act with the Bennets, talking to them like he read a book on how to converse with one’s relations. But again, this is all supposition.

I found Korsmeyer to be a talented writer who is able to write a story that can hold your interest. This book will not be for everyone but I do believe that if you enjoy Pride and Prejudice adaptations it is well worth a read to see a different view into the Collinses and a deepening of characters that are often at the back of the action. Besides having more Charlotte, I really enjoyed the fleshing out of Anne de Bourgh, Maria Lucas, Kitty Bennet, Mary Bennet, and Colonel Fitzwilliam. Whether or not you agree with everything in the story, I still think most will enjoy the stroll down a “what if” path in the Jane Austen universe.

For more Pride and Prejudice, go to Lean on Me: Austentatious (2015)

For more Pride and Prejudice adaptations, go to Can The Shop Around the Corner Be Considered A Pride and Prejudice Adaption?

For more on Charlotte Lucas, go to Rational Creatures: Elizabeth Bennet & Charlotte Lucas

For more Jane Austen adaptions, go to Is You’ve Got Mail Really an Adaption of Pride and Prejudice?

L.A. Theatre Works Pride and Prejudice Audio Adaption

So I like listening to audiobooks when I get ready in the morning, drive to work, clean, etc. I was searching through Overdrive’s online system (a free program provided by the library) and spotted this one. As I love Pride and Prejudice, I couldn’t resist and borrowed it.

However when I started listening to it I found out that this isn’t an audiobook, but is an audio adaption of a theater production of Pride and Prejudice, recorded in front of a live audience.

The cast is small, but just perfect for this. We have the following:

I really enjoyed this production as it was a lot of fun and extremely comedic, I was laughing so hard. For me the one that stole this entire show was Mrs. Bennet, her timing and spirit were spot on. I loved it. Jane Carr you were just wonderful!

Like when I listened to Northanger Abbey, read by Anna Massey, this did have me look at something of Pride and Prejudice in a new light. This was an abridged version of course, so events take place sooner then they would, but this adaption got me thinking about the motive behind Elizabeth’s muddy walk. In this adaption Elizabeth overhears Mr. Darcy say she is tolerable, but not handsome enough to tempt him and is really upset. Afterwards, Jane goes to visit the Bingleys and gets sick with Elizabeth strolling to see her sister and walking through the mud.

I always thought her mud walking was just her in a hurry to see her sister, not paying as close attention, or caring if she walked in mud or not as she was worried about Jane. BUT what if that was only part of the reason. I mean she knows that Mr. Darcy is going to be at Netherfield, and the last time she saw him he called her not attractive. Do you think that she partly walked in that mud to show Darcy, that if he is going to consider her only tolerable then she’ll really show him what tolerable is.

I totally believe her wanting to see her sister is the prime motivation for Elizabeth, but do you think a small part of her was trying to shove the country in his face? Like if this is how they view those from the country, if he finds me not handsome, then I’ll really show him. Like when people insult that you about being too much of something so you go overboard about it? Like just a little part of her did it on purpose, maybe even just a subconscious part thought that coming in disheveled and dirty was a way to kind of prove to Mr. Darcy his words didn’t affect her, a kind of “forget you” move? I think so.

And to me what makes it even more enjoyable is at that moment Darcy doesn’t see the mud or dishevelment but is thinking about how beautiful she is.

If you have an opportunity to check out this audio adaptation, it is well worth a listen as it is extremely enjoyable.

For more Pride and Prejudice, go to I Was Asked to Be a Guest on the Podcast P.S. I Love Rom Coms + My Review of their Bridget Jones’ Diary Episode

For more Pride and Prejudice adaptions, go to Elizabeth: Obstinate, Headstrong Girl Audiobook

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

For more Jane Austen adaptions, go to Incense and Sensibility

Non-Austen Reads for Austen Readers: Homespun Bride

So this is something I started a while back. We all love Jane Austen and it is such a bummer that there isn’t more of her works to read.

Variations are a ton of fun, and there are great ones out there, but sometimes you don’t always want to read the same story. You want Austen-like works, but what to read?

Hmm…

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

Homespun Bride (The McKaslin Clan Historical #2) by Jillian Hart

Thad McKaslin has returned home after being away for eight years. He always wanted to live in Montana-dreaming of owning a plot of land and having a ranch for him and his wife-who he hoped to be Noelle Kramer. There was no happier day than when he proposed and she said yes.

How sweet!

But it was not to be as her father, the banker who owned the mortgage on Thad’s family farm, threatened to evict his family-including his sick mother-if he didn’t leave his daughter alone.

Choosing not to meet to elope with Noelle at their meeting place, he instead left for the West and cattle drives-planning to never return, but did when his family needed help-his younger brother (who got into trouble) has just been released from jail and his older brother widowed.

Aw, that’s sad.

He expects Noelle to be married to her father’s choice, have children, and to never run into her. But as he is out running an errand, a runaway horse almost plunges two women and their carriage into a river. He helps them and is surprised to see they are Noelle and her Aunt Henrietta, and Noelle is blind!

Huh?

Noelle was heartbroken when she went to meet Thad and he wasn’t there. When she returned him crying, she confessed to her father who assured her she was better off than to be with that cad-probably persuaded by the thrill of going out West and sowing oats than being married. Noelle had given up on love and planned on marrying her father’s choice as she didn’t care anymore…

But then Noelle was in an accident that killed her mother and father and left her permanently blind.

Her fiancé didn’t want “damaged goods” and left her-her aunt and uncle (and their four girls) moving from the East to take care of her. Noelle has never stopped loving Thad but having him back makes her anger come out-how could he have been persuaded by the Wild West, how could he have left her.

Thad realizes that Noelle doesn’t know the truth of what happened, but decides to not say anything as he knows how much she loved her father and he doesn’t want to taint her image of him. He decides to stay far away, but her matchmaking aunt who worries about all her girls being settled and her uncle Robert who has no horse sense and is in severe need of aid, keep him coming around.

After Robert has an incredibly dangerous fall, Thad joins the household by taking care of the ranch and spending more time with Noelle, his love reigniting. Will the two be able to move forward? Or be stuck in the past? Will each be able to overcome their insecurities of not being enough (Thad’s “lower class background” and Noelle’s blindness) or will they let that keep them far apart?

So the first reason why I recommend this for Austen fans is that it instantly made me think of Persuasion. Two people in love, separated by youthful persuasion, reuniting wiser and more experienced, a bad fall bringing them together, etc.

In this, Thad is like Anne Elliot- In Persuasion Anne wants to marry Frederick Wentworth, but is persuaded by the fear that he could die, she’d be left alone, etc outweigh her love and she refuses him-him thinking that it is because he is lower than her, not knowing really how Anne loved him. Thad is the same way as he knows the full reason why the engagement ended and has both hurt and pain, but not anger or bitterness.

Noelle is more like Frederick. Both have misunderstood the reason why the person they loved left and start the first half of the book angry and bitter, but then after a bad fall (for Noelle, her uncle Robert and Fredrick, Louisa Musgrove) they realize who they love and want to be with that person. While Frederick writes a letter of his love for Anne, Noelle anonymously sells the land she owns that Thad has been dreaming of buying to show her love for him.

Aunt Henreitta reminds me of a combination of Mrs. Bennet, Mrs. Jennings, and Aunt Gardiner. Aunt Henrietta is the mother of four girls and is constantly worrying about marrying them off, providing dowries, etc.

Hardly a page goes by when she isn’t plotting some sort of matchmaking, but unlike Mrs. Bennet she isn’t silly or has gauche behavior. Like Mrs. Jennings she wants to marry off any eligible man or woman she likes and has a forceful presence. Like Mrs. Jennings, Henrietta will back and protect anyone she cares for, so don’t mess with either one’s girls.

But unlike those two ladies, Henrietta is also very sensible and has a great relationship and love with her husband Robert. She reads the emotions of Thad and Noelle early and tries her best to get them together.

I thought it was a cute story and recommend it for Jane Austen fans.

For more Non-Austen Reads for Austen Readers, go to Non-Austen Reads for Austen Readers: The Unlikely Adventures of the Shergill Sisters

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

For more Westerns, go to Will We Survive the Night?: Rawhide (1951)

Elizabeth-Obstinate Headstrong Girl: Part II, Other Eras

Elizabeth: Obstinate Headstrong Girl edited by Christina Boyd

So first of all-let me apologize.

I have been calling this book by the wrong title this WHOLE time. This book is ELIZABETH: Obstinate Headstrong Girl. Like I don’t how I missed that. I mean “Elizabeth” is in huge giant letters.

I will be fixing that in the other post. I…I don’t have any words…

I don’t know what to say…

So moving on from my faux pas:

Hurry!

Elizabeth Bennet

Whether or not she is you favorite character or Austen heroine: we all love her. After all, who can resist her wit and confidence?

Now some people may think, hasn’t there been enough written about her? What else could be said? Does she need an anthology? Well I think Meg Ryan answers that question perfectly:

Yes, Elizabeth is a fantastic and complex character and Christina Boyd, Elizabeth Adams, Karen M. Cox, J. Marie Croft, Amy D’Orazio, Leigh Dreyer, Jenetta James, Christina Morland, Beau North, and Joana Starnes have written 10 different stories on her.

In the last post, I reviewed the five stories that are set in the Regency time period; whether before the novel, after the novel, or taking a new path from some point in the story. They were five amazing and different stories that really captured the spirit of Elizabeth and the theme of “obstinate headstrong girl”-I  think Jane Austen would be proud.

This post is going to be on the five stories that are set in different time periods. Usually I review this from the farthest back in time to the most recent, but we are switching it up a bit. This time we are starting with the most recent time period and working our way backwards as I promised Christina Boyd that her story would be last. So without further intro, buckle up in your delorean:

Because here we go:

 

The Last Blind Date by Leigh Dreyer

Circa: Present Day

Elizabeth is a grad student at University of Oklahoma, waitressing at Bennets to put herself through college. Others who work there are her best friends Jane and Charlotte.

Friendship goals!

And an odd guy, Bill Collins also works there. Collins keeps asking her out but Elizabeth turns him down each time.

For the thousandth time

But she is going on a date tonight. Her best friend Jane and her boyfriend Charles have set Elizabeth up on another blind date.

Change Highbury to college.

This time it is with Will Darcy, CEO of Pember Oil and Charles’ best friend from boarding school. Elizabeth fought it, but finally agreed to go on this date, her final blind date (especially as they are seeing her favorite football team.)

Ugh. This is the last one.

The day comes and Elizabeth has no idea what yo wear so of course:

While they get her ready, Elizabeth’s friends encourage her to be not so obstinate and headstrong that she lets her preconceived notions paint a picture of who the guy is when they haven’t even met. Already by looking at his photo and hearing about his business Elizabeth has assumed he is a player, workaholic, emotionally stunted, a jerk, etc.

Here friends remind her of some other quick judgments she has made in the past about men.

After they leave, Elizabeth straightens up her house and takes out the garbage. While doing so-she overhears her date complaining about the blind date. Elizabeth is mad, understandable, but at the same time-weren’t you just doing that with your friends a little while ago?

Darcy comes to her door and he has a slight stutter. At first I thought maybe it was surprise, but after I realized it was a stutter and of course this popped in my head:

I mean Mr. Darcy + Colin Firth + Stutter = The King’s Speech. I’m I the only one? Anyways, Elizabeth is surprised that Darcy isn’t as awful as she thought he was, and is trying to be angry with him still-but has a hard time as they have prime seats for football, and Elizabeth is a giant football fan! Plus Darcy knows zero about football and isn’t intimidated in having her tell him what it is all about.

The two begin to talk, and football is a game where something can happen and turn the whole game in an instant. Will Darcy and Elizabeth come out a team? Or will their misunderstandings cause further issues?

Hmmm…

So I like that this book was set with Elizabeth in college as I haven’t read too many Pride and Prejudice retellings set in college. Usually Elizabeth and Darcy are in high school or out of college. This was a new view.

The other thing I thought was interesting was to have Darcy have a speech impediment. It is one author’s interpretation of the story but I think that adds to his quiet stoicism, although in this he isn’t so broody-it turns out that he is actually shy and used to not saying much.

It was a cute story and they were very cute together. Darcy is so bashful and sweet.

Resistive Currents by Karen M. Cox

Circa: 1980

I love the ’80s-film, music, clothes. When I was reading this I was trying to imagine them in full ’80s clothes. And you know what that means-’80s cosplay of Elizabeth Bennet is a go!

Beth Bennet is studying engineering at Fordyce University, and you know that’s a hard field-especially in 1980…especially for a woman.

Yes, Elizabeth has to deal with a lot of crap from guys mostly as she has to work harder to prove herself.

The story starts off with Beth on break and attending a funeral for her great grandmother, Elizabeth Alton Gardiner. There they see other family members and Beth’s father tries to show off Beth’s accomplishments to everyone. It’s nice that he is proud of her, but at the same time it is upsetting. Is she going to be living her life for that? Or will she be able to do her own thing? That really resonated with me, and I think it will with other readers.

I think this is an extremely on point mark as well-as I think we can all agree that Mr. and Mrs. Bennet are not the best example of a good marriage or good parenting. Most people talk about how Elizabeth and her father are close-he finds her the only one worth talking to- but at the same time while his sarcasm isn’t turned on her like the other children, it doesn’t mean everything was perfect between them.

Grandma Alice tells Elizabeth about her mom, Beth’s great grandma (who passed), and how she had traveled West and was a teacher at the turn of the 20th century. She shares a little about how Great Grandma met Great Grandpa and at first couldn’t stand him, but in the end love came softly and they fell for each other.

“It pays to judge slowly, sweet girl. You mark my words.’ Out of respect Beth didn’t disagree, but in her soul-in her very being-she knew Beth Bennet’s first impressions were d*** near infallible.”

Back at school, Beth is relaxing with coffee and a good book at the local coffee shop when she looks up and sees a very handsome guy. They share a few words, and she hopes to run into him again, but doesn’t. Darn!

Beth meets up with her friends-Charlotte [Lucas], Charles [Bingley], and Rene- they talk about class and how much they really dislikes her cranky professor Dr. De Bourgh [Lady Catherine]. It seems like things have just gotten worse as they have a new T.A. who seems to be just as difficult.

Beth is waiting outside for Lab with the new T.A. and overhears Dr. De Bourgh talking about her. The Dr. calls her an “obstinate headstrong girl”. The T.A. tells Dr. De Bourgh that he thinks an ECE education is really difficult to take if he is just looking for her MRS degree or wanting to please her dad. To make it worse-she sees it was the hot guy from the coffee shop.

Beth is angry and hurt! Although, in his defense-T.A. Darcy didn’t say anything horrible about her, he actually seemed to be defending her. If anything that ire should be pointed at Dr. De Bourgh. Beth begins to fume and believes Darcy is going to treat her like every other misogynist guy does, but instead of making fun of her-he seems to ignore her. He never calls on her or looks at her.

Beth waits as long as she can, and then she meets with Darcy and let’s him have it. I really liked this exchange between them as it was funny with all the misunderstandings and twists but how Cox laid it out.

Things get better as Darcy listens to what she said and starts calling on her. In fact, everything is great until Elizabeth gets sick and faints in class right over Thanksgiving break, Darcy takes her to the hospital and stays with her-but as her family can’t come right away and all her friends are not answering their landlines or out of town, the only one who can take care of her is Darcy. Will this time together cause something to bloom? Or will they continue to clash?

Hmmm…

This is technically a double story as in this as Beth reads the diary of her great-grandma Elizabeth Alton Gardiner from 1906. Elizabeth Altonlost her family and is alone. She worked hard to get a teaching degree and applied for the position in Colorado under the name of  E.M. Alton. She knew they probably would’t want a woman (typically settled Western towns wanted women as teachers or in the town so this must not be a very settled place.) She hopes that when she gets there, they will keep hr because the needs is so high.

She meets Sheriff Gardiner-who wants her to go back home, as he doesn’t think she should be here. But Elizabeth is angry and determined to stay. Later, she visits with Jane and Dr. Bingley and overhears the sheriff and the Doctor talking about her, the sheriff saying that it is going to be extra work for him to protect a single woman living alone.

With a greeting like that, Elizabeth is set dead against the man. What can be done to change her mind?

Hmm…

All the interactions between Beth and Darcy were so refreshing and spot on. They were just so darn adorable together, I just loved every minute of it.

So romantic!

I love Pride and Prejudice, I love the ’80s, and I love the Old West-so this one was an obvious winner for me as it blended all these themes I loved.

For more by Karen M. Cox, go to “A Nominal Mistress” from Rational Creatures: Catherine Morland, Eleanor Tilney, & Lady Susan

Love in the Limelight by Beau North

Circa: 1930s

So I love movies, especially old movies: you may or not have noticed.

I watch them, I read about them, I just love them.

So when I saw that this was 1930s Hollywood inspired story of Pride and Prejudice I was super excited.

Elizabeth Bennet is a theater actor who landed a huge Hollywood role! How did this all happen? Well that’s the story Caroline Conway, reporter, is after. Elizabeth Bennet is a smart girl and doesn’t want to talk to her, but has to. Of course, she won’t give her the real story…but we get to read it… A year earlier, Elizabeth was ending her seven years time in London. She loves the city and is sad to leave, but leave she must. After getting her heart broken and money stolen, the only thing she can do is go to stay with her sister Jane in California.

All her money is gone, jewelry gone-the only things shs had left was some clothes, a few photographs, and a handful of cards from a mysterious admirer. Reading them always made her feel better, now more than ever.

On the boat she spots Gigi Duvall, former child star who has been transitioning into a full-fledged actress. She had had trouble in Hollywood making the jump and decided to try out in London, where she did well. But now Gigi seems to be fighting with a handsome men. Ugh Elizabeth is so over men-all are big dump brutes or dopes.

She watches as Gigi accuses the man of not caring about her, only money and he promising to start over.

Ugh.

They all say that.

The couple move on their way and Elizabeth goes back to mourning leaving her beloved city. Now in California, Jane and Elizabeth are running lines for the new picture, The Headstrong Girl, as Jane is trying out for the main lead. That night they are going to a party and Jane is eager to get to Charles Bingley as she wants to impress him and get the part.

Elizabeth goes to help be her wingwoman, but she isn’t really needed as Charles has no eyes for anyone else than Jane.

Elizabeth finds herself bored and pushed in and steps outside where she runs into Gigi Duvall. The two talk and enjoy each other’s company when they are interrupted by the man on the boat, William Darcy head of Pemberley Pictures. Darcy and Gigi argue and Elizabeth gets mad seeing him bully Gigi. Who cares that he is the head of the studio. She let’s it rip at him-which surprises both Gigi and Darcy.

Darcy threatens her not being able to work in Hollywood, unless she apologizes, and Elizabeth doesn’t care. When he brings up her sister, Elizabeth apologizes in gritted teeth, after he leaves she vows to one day make him pay!

Elizabeth tells her sister about the party and meeting Mr Darcy, and hearing him and Bingley talk about her. But she doesn’t share that Mr. Darcy isn’t planning on hiring Jane. He thinks she isn’t right for the picture and as Charles has a thing for her, the gossip eags will say she slept with him to get the part, and he will not have is company dragged through the mud. Elizabeth is angry, but what can she do now. Nothing-powerful men suck! She never wants to see him again. Of course Jane asks Elizabeth to come with her to her audition, and as all good sisters she does. There she just has to run into Mr. Darcy-today is not her day, week, month, or year.

They have a exchange and Darcy mentions that he has heard of her and seen her perform in London-leaving Elizabeth stunned. He then tries to get her to audition, but she refuses. She doesn’t want to be in pictures, she’s just here as support. And she would never steal a part away from her sister.

Later, Elizabeth and Jane are talking about Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth finds herself very puzzled. Who is this man? The night before and with Gigi he was a beast and now in the studio-kind, charming, funny?

Who is this guy?

That evening they get a call from their uncle and agent Edward Gardiner. Jane didn’t get the part but she does have a part in the new Cagney film-but only IF Elizabeth signs a contract to be the lead in The Headstrong Girl. Apparently, Darcy wanted to sign her after seeing her perform the year before but didn’t for some reason. OH NO, NO WAY is Elizabeth doing that. Never!

But then Gardiner lays down the amount of money she will be getting, the guilt of her mother and sisters struggling on the apple farm, Jane’s chance at being a star, etc; and of course she says yes.

Ugh!

Elizabeth starts production and actually finds herself enjoying it. Charles is a great director, her costar Rollo Fitz is fun and friendly, Cat-Darcy’s personal assistant and cousin is eccentric and kind,-the only one she doesn’t like is Darcy.

Ugh, he may be “gallant” and “charming” to others but she knews he was a jerk the moment she saw him on the boat. Maybe he acted nice in the studio, but that must have been a weak moment as she is still upset and blames him for blackmailing her into this rile. NO siree she will never, ever like him.

One day on set Darcy wants to talk to her. He gas seen the papers and how she and Rollo have been going out (they are just friends). He wants her to end it (and this kind of thing happened a lot with studios back then) and Elizabeth of course flat out refuses to. The two exchange witty banter and almost…kiss? What?! NO! No, no, no she IS NOT interested in him.

They go to an after party for the Academy Awards at Darcy’s home, Ashwood Manor. Things are going good until Darcy asks her to speak to him in his library. Which Darcy will she get the jerk demanding things? Or…the one that makes her blood boil not in anger but passion? Actually neither. He compliments her, her acting, and offers her a contract.

Huh?

Elizabeth is furious! That’s what he wants to talk about-not them? Not about them being together?!!!! OMGoodness I laughed so hard!!! I love the screwball comedies if the 1930s-Cary Grant and Irene Dunne, Claudette Colbert and Clark Gable, Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn, William Powell and Carole Lombard, Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell-and this made me think of them so much. I wish this was a real movie. I could see Cary Grant as Mr. Darcy and Irene Dunne or Rosalind Russell as Elizabeth shouting at him.

Elizabeth realizes that she likes him, both give into their feelings-but are interrupted by Cat relaying that “George” has been seen trying to get into the house. Oh drat, blasted Wickham!

Darcy and Cat leave to deal with it and protect Gigi, Darcy asking Elizabeth to wait for him. After they are gone our plot takes a swerve as it appears George has been hiding in the library the whole time! And George isn’t just Gorge-but Buster! The louse who stole Elizabeth’s money, jewels, and broke her heart.

Gigi and Darcy return and revelations are dropped right and left, I don’t know if anyone can survive the things coming out this night. But as with every good picture we need a storm before we can end on a perfectly lovely note. This was fantastic! If I had money I would turn it into a movie. And that ending with Mr. Darcy and his attempts to woo women-priceless!!

I also love how when North describes the picture they are filming a lot of the descriptions bring to mind Pride and Prejudice (1940). The gowns, the hair, the archery. I don’t know if she did that on purpose (I hope she did) but I love it either way.

For more by Beau North, go to The Colonel

The House Party by Jenetta James

Circa: Fall 1913- Early 1914 (No mention of WWI)

Do you like Downton Abbey?

Have you ever wished for a Jane Austen Downton Abbey fusion?

By God, yes!

Well then here you go! Jenetta James’ story takes place roughly 1913-1914 England (my guess based on an event she mentions that happened in 1913 and no talk of WWI) in an old manor house, Netherfield Park-just like Downton Abbey!

Yay!!!

Jane and Elizabeth have been invited to join in on the hunt and the weekend house party. It looks to be a grand affair and Elizabeth notices a handsome man-handsome but stern.

Look at that guy…

They go to their rooms and get ready for the evening, discussing Mr. Charles Bingley, who only has eyes for Jane, and on the way downstairs meet a friendly girl with a lisp, Mary King, visiting from Northampshire and feeling a little lost and alone. Elizabeth immediately befriends her.

Jane and Mary go off with Charles and Elizabeth finds herself alone. Not for long as she is entered into conversation with Caroline Bingley and the stern man-Mr. Darcy. Mr. Darcy seems friendly enough but Caroline keeps changing the conversation and starts talking bad about Elizabeth’s sisters, you know how she rolls:

The Bennet girls are trying to get votes for women, being leaders in their community’s women’s suffrage movement.

Elizabeth continues this conversation believing:

“Give votes to women. Then there would be fairness all around and no broken post office windows.”

Mr. Darcy disagrees  saying that such a sentiment is “unlikely” and Elizabeth is incensed. How dare he.

Now truth be told I was thinking the same thing? How on earth can he rebound from this? But after reading their exchange a few times I was like you got me good James. I see what you did.

Wow!

Elizabeth and Darcy part ways-Elizabeth continuing to be furious, but at dinner she doesn’t help but notice that Caroline sits Darcy next to her. And it kind of makes her upset. But why should she feel this way? He’s a jerk.

She’s seated next to George Wickham, writer, working on his first novel. They talk and he shares about how Darcy is a jerk and an antiquarian-he;s living in the past and can’t stand the modern age. Wickham shares more on how Darcy treated him, and Elizabeth decides not to give this jerk another thought. The next day is the hunt, with Elizabeth being one of the few ladies who is riding.

George saddles up next to her and they talk about horses and races and he shares he was there the day Emily Davison threw herself on the tracks to raise awareness for votes for women. Elizabeth shares how she felt saddened by her sacrifice but admires her bravery to fight for what she believes in. She wants to know how George feels, but they are interrupted…but she is sure such a good man would be. He’s not going to be like Mr. Darcy…

They ride out and Elizabeth loses track of George and later she realizes she hasn’t seen him for a while. She searches for him and finds that he has fallen off his horse, his face bleeding, and arm hurt. Darcy comes upon him and at first she is glad for his assistance, but when he wants her to return to he hunt-ugh all she can think is what a horrid man. She refuses to go and he rides off for help. But weirdly-he should have been more concerned with George’s heath but seemed solely focused on her.

Elizabeth is amazed at Darcy’s swiftness in retuning especially as he doesn’t like George, that much is certain. Darcy tells her that he does’t care for George, but that he was worried about her. The two argue with Elizabeth not believing how he could be so cruel to an injured man, a man he has known forever, and calling him a rogue-when he is a sweet and charming guy.

But Darcy doesn’t say anything on that and leaves.

Later, Mary King visits with Elizabeth and she is legit one of the cutest and sweetest characters in this. She is embarrassed because she ate the jar of biscuits given to them and left in the bedroom, but doesn’t want Caroline to  find out and think badly of her. Elizabeth doesn’t really see it as an issue, but shares hers so it looks like Mary only ate a few. Mary is so precious. Mary decides that to thank Elizabeth she will reveal something she knows about George, who she noticed Elizabeth spending a lot of time with. She reveals that George is a ruthless “yellow” journalist. He will trample on anyone and do anything to get his story. He’s been doing a serious on the women suffragists who have gone to prison and are doing hunger strikes. Most of them go by an assumed name and he has ben revealing who they really are in the hopes to embarrass their well-to-do-families and paint them as princesses playing at politics. One woman he really ran through the ringer was Georgiana Darcy, Mr. Darcy’s sister. Oh no. Elizabeth was so wrong about him-and Darcy’s anger at George it all makes sense. Oh no, what is she to do? Can she fix this?

I really enjoyed this story and not just because I git to trot out the Downton Abbey memes and gifs I’ve collected (although that was fun). It was the same story of Pride and Prejudice that we love but told in a different, new, and fun way. Plus I really liked the way she wrote the misunderstandings of what was said. I deeply applaud you!

For more by Jenetta James, go to “What Strange Creatures” from Rational Creatures: Fanny Price & Mary Crawford

A Mate for Life by Christina Boyd

Circa: 1852

I was so excited to see that Christina Boyd included a story. I always suspected she had one brewing inside her.

So I have been made to promise not to reveal certain things as to not give away the ending…

So in this Elizabeth Bennet is a grandma, (that’s why I believe it to be the 1870s), and her granddaughter has fallen for a man. Elizabeth knows her daughter-in-law only cares if he is wealthy and from a good family so she has decided to check on whether this man is really the right guy. She gives excellent advice, some that everyone who is single should take to heart.

 

This was so cute as Elizabeth shares her story with her granddaughter, about Mr. Wickham, the misunderstandings, Mr. Darcy-the whole thing.

How sweet!

That’s all I’ll say on that. I don’t want to ruin the story.

Oops! Wrong book!

I loved it and thought it was adorable. Although I will say one more thing…when her granddaughter’s beau comes over, this meme did pop in my head LOL.

So no lie, when I finished the last story this was literally how I felt:

I was like where’d the book go? How did I read it so fast? Why isn’t there more? Where are the rest of the stories?

I had to go back and count to see if I had actually read all ten stories. It just seemed to be over so quickly.

Each story was a delight and I loved them and the book.

Just one of these stories is worth the amount you pay for the book and you don’t get just one you get 10!!! Why don’t you head over to Amazon and order a copy?

Each story took the theme of obstinate headstrong Girl and created their own tale of Elizabeth Bennet. I recommend it to any Jane Austen fan!

 

I suggest you do! 🙂

For more on Elizabeth: Obstinate Headstrong Girl, go to Elizabeth-Obstinate Headstrong Girl: Part I, The Regency

For more on Elizabeth Bennet, go to Modesto Jane Con: Defining the Definitive Darcy and Lizzie

For more on Pride and Prejudice, go to P.S. I Like You

For more edited by Christina Boyd, go to YULETIDE: A Jane Austen-inspired Collection of Stories Audiobook

P.S. I Like You

So if you are following me on Instagram, you know that I am reading Obstinate Headstrong Girl edited by Christina Boyd but as I haven’t finished the book yet, I’ll tide you over with one of these. I had thought this was a Non-Austen Read for Austen Readers, but after rereading my review-I realize this is closer to a retelling of Pride and Prejudice.

Hmm…

So without further ado-let’s get onto the review!

P.S. I Like You by Kasie West

So I like to buy books for people as gifts, especially those under 18 as they have more free time and I want to encourage reading. All my nieces and nephews know this and expect it.

This past February marked the 15th birthday of one of my nieces and I found myself falling into a problem. I haven’t read as much new Young Adult novels and I knew there that if I got her one from when I was her age she wouldn’t be interested. They would be talking of razors and sidekicks, etc-terms they don’t know.

What?

My coworker and I had been talking of different books for young adults and she brought up Kasie West, that she supposedly writes clean young adult romances.

Hmmm…

So flash-forward six months, I’m trying to figure out what book to get my niece when I remember Kasie West. Only West has written a lot of books, so I wasn’t sure which one to get her.

Huhhhhhhh

So I googled “best Kasie West books” picked a list at random, Awkwordly Emma: Emma’s Definitive Ranking of Kasie West’s BooksThe number one book was P.S. I Like You and as it was on sale on Amazon I bought it. You know I cannot resist a deal.

The book order came with a snippet to read on your kindle immediately, which I did, and then the next day when Amazon dropped the book off, I was hooked enough to peruse it.

I started reading, just planning to check out a chapter-but instead I was sucked in.

Lily Abbot is a junior in high school. She likes reading, music, and creating her own clothes from thrift store finds. She is shy, but hides behind of shell of impassiveness and an “I don’t care” attitude. Inside she secretly lacks confidence.

Pretending all the time…

She’s horrible when it comes to dating as she finds it incredibly difficult to talk to guys, as she freezes or rattles on.

She comes from a large family-older sister, two younger brothers, goofy parents who’s job earnings fluctuate they go from well to lean.

Lily’s best friend is Izabella, they have been friends forever, with only one black spot in their history together, Cade Jennings.

When they were freshman, Lily was doing poorly at P.E. in volleyball, with everyone lobbing their balls toward her. Cade Jennings, handsome jock only made things worse as he nicknamed her magnet-“as she attracts all the balls”, a nickname that continues to follow her around to this day.

Ugh.

So how did he impact their friendship, well Izabella dated Cade and Cade and Lily would go at it like cats and dogs, with Izabella having to choose between them and picking Lily.

It is two years later, and Izabella is now dating the sweet and kind Gabriel-but Lily and Cade still go at it every time they see each other.

Lily is frustrated with her family as she wants to enter this song writing contest, but finds herself without any time to herself to write. She starts writing in Chemistry class, but then is caught by the teacher.

Her precious notebook of possible songs being threatened at being confiscated, she then starts writing on the desk-just a little.

The next class she is surprised to find something written on the desk in response. This begins a friendship between Lily and her mystery pen pal as they write each other little friendship notes every class, hiding them under the desk.

At first Lily thinks it is a girl, but when she realizes that it is a guy she starts falling for him.

Love him.

As she writs out her feelings, when talking to him, she lets her guard down and really becomes herself-no masks, nothing fake, the real Lily.

The same goes for her mystery guy-a guy who completely releases his feelings and becomes true to himself.

Lily does’t want to know who it is as she doesn’t want to be disappointed if it turns out he has a girlfriend or is anything less than the perfect man she built up in her dreams-but she starts trying to find out who it is.

Time to get on the case!

But then she discovers it is her archenemy Cade?! Oh no, what’s a girl to do.

How can this amazing person she writes to be the same jerk she goes to school with? How could she have fallen for her best friend’s ex? Who is the real Cade, the letter writer or the school hotshot?

Sh knows she should give this whole thing up before he realizes who she is, before Izabelle realizes it, before she falls even harder…but can she do it?

So this reminded me of Pride and Prejudice meets The Shop Around the Corner with the way that Lily has a prejudice against Cade and Cade has his pride.

Both have to work through those things-Lily realizing maybe her disliking Cade had a bit more to do with her being jealous that Izabelle’s time being taken up by someone else and one nickname he gave her-and Cade letting his pride be torn down (in front of the whole school).

There is even a scene when Cade and his friend are talking about school stuff and his friend mentions that Lily is at the craft fair and is cute and Cade says she’s tolerable, but not handsome enough for him.  (Okay not in those words, but that just flashed in my head when I read his response.)

We also have Sasha, a popular cheerleader, who is after Cade and does all she can to try and trap him into getting with her, constantly flirting with him nonstop, and even pretending to be his mystery letter writer. Like to me-that sounds like Caroline Bingley, and if she had the opportunity to pretend something Elizabeth did that Mr. Darcy found appealing was her-you can bet anything she would do it. She constantly makes fun of Lily in front of everybody and talks smack of her to Cade.

 

We also have the incredibly kind Izabelle and equally kind and adorable boyfriend Gabriel (hands down Jane and Mr. Bingley) try to set Lily up with a guy that is who I believe is Mr. Collins. Very little personality besides one thing, tries to go after Lily even when she makes it clear she is not interested, and their disastrous date-modern Collins to a T.

I can’t remember the name of this character, and I can’t look it up in the book as it is with my niece, but Lily has a crush on a guy she thinks is “cool” and “artsy”. He doesn’t turn out to be a cad like Mr. Wickham, but Lily does realize she didn’t really “see” him for who he really was. And he makes a promise that he will call someone up to see about fixing her guitar strings, and reneges-just like Wickham promised to come to the ball but then doesn’t show up.

As I mentioned before, Lily comes from a large family with two silly parents. While they love each other and treat each other with respect-they are pretty goofy and their antics of competing, along with other things, often deeply embarrass Lily. The same goes for her siblings.

So embarressed

In Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth starts to view Mr. Darcy in a different light when he’s in his home-seeing what his servants say about him and seeing him more relaxed-in this Lily starts to think she was wrong about Cade being a jerk when she sees him in her home. He is the coach for her younger brother’s team and he speaks highly of him, he is much more relaxed and open in Lily’s house and with her family.

Open and smiling

I loved the letter writing, as that always gets my heart! So in Pride and Prejudice, a letter changes Elizabeth’s mind about Darcy, while in this book it is a series of letters. Of course that part makes me think more of The Shop round the Corner, with Cade and Lily verbally duking it out in the physical world, while falling in love through paper. And then like how Jimmy Stewart’s character, Alfred Kralik, finds out the truth and tries to figure out what to do about it-made me think of when Lily discovers it is Cade.

But then Cade does a final letter to let Lily know how seriously he cares for her-P.S. I like you.

This was a cute adorable read, and if you are an Austen fan-I think you will love it. Or you can use it as the foundation to give a teen, the next one being an actual copy of Pride and Prejudice.

For more on Pride & Prejudice, go to The Jane Austen Book Club (2007)

For more Pride & Prejudice variations, go to The Colonel

For more books based on Jane Austen, go to North by Northanger (Or, the Shades of Pemberley)

For more love letters, go to Love Notes: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before (2018)

For more young adult books, go to Pride, Prejudice, and Personal Statements