So I have heard people say how much they enjoy Joan Aiken’s books. I have put all on my to-read lists and when I came across her book Jane Fairfax a retelling of Jane Austen’s Emma, I jumped at the chance to grab it and read it.
However, I didn’t like it.
Aiken is not a bad writer, but the style didn’t suit me. I tried reading this book three times and could not get involved in it, forcing myself to finish it so I could review it.
The book is told from Jane’s point of view, but while I thought this would be interesting…it was not.
The book starts off with Jane growing up in Highbury, angry and upset with Emma as she has money, a sister, a father and mother-then later a governess, clothes, etc. She can’t stand Emma as she wishes she had her life-after all Emma is rude and doesn’t deserve what she has.
She also has a humongous crush on Mr. Knightley, on that grows with every gift of apples, every horseback ride, every moment with him, etc.
She is given the opportunity to live with her father’s old friend. Life in the Colonel Campbell home is not what she expected: the Colonel is a mean and grouchy man who is always yelling at his daughter; his wife is a woman who is uninterested in anything regarding her child; Colonel Campbell’s mother-in-law is grouchy, gives unneeded advice, and is rude to Jane.
Her only friend is the mousy and insecure, Rachel Campbell.
When the girls are young they meet the Dixon boys who are annoying at first but then they grow on the girls. Jane also meets Mr. Knightley, Mr. Weston, and Frank Churchill occasionally in London. And every time Jane’s heart goes thump-thump when she sees Mr. Knightley.
When the girls are older they go to Weymouth and spend time with the Dixons, Jane realizing she is in love with Matthew. Unfortunately, Rachel is too.
But then Matthew reveals his love for her, Jane-and it is all she can do to refuse it. You see Matthew has debts that need to be paid and Jane has nothing-no money, no connections, and definitely no dowry. She convinces him to marry Rachel, he proposes to her, and the two leave for Ireland while Jane will be sent back to Highbury.
To her surprise Frank Churchill, who she thought little of, has fallen for her.
What are you talking about??
As she lost her real love and knows that Mr. Knightley is not likely to be with her she says yes to his engagement.
And then we enter the Emma story as Jane is sent to Highbury waiting for Frank’s aunt to die so they could be together.
I didn’t like this as Jane seemed so cold and calculating, choosing Frank not because she loved him, but because she wants money, security, a home-basically she is Charlotte Lucas.
Reading Emma, I never cared for Frank Churchill and thought he was a total jerk, and that Jane deserved better. Whenever I read it all I can think is she must have really, really loved him to put up with all the crap he does-romancing Emma as a smokescreen, talking about her to Emma, making fun of her, etc.
So having her not really care for Frank is…weird. I mean she is sooo practical through the whole thing. At age six she knows she will never get married but is destined to be a spinster and governess (that is what Aiken writes), so for her to enter an engagement that has very little chance of coming to fruition seems like a weird choice for someone so practical and logical.
Now if she was in love with him, well love is blind that makes sense.
But as she isn’t, why would she even think this would work? If anything her character makes more sense to believe that as soon as she leaves London his ardor for her will too.
Anyways, she comes to Highbury, Frank is a jerk, she moons over Knightley which I also thought was weird. If she was interested in Knightley, why not make a play for him over Frank? It is far more likely that Mr. Knightley would marry her than for Frank to.
I mean for real!
And Jane is just horrible to Emma. I think the author wanted to go with past hurts can color your current behavior, and that Jane is still upset over the behavior of the Emma when she was a child-but I couldn’t stand it. Every time Emma enters the room Jane is all look at the disdain she gives me, she doesn’t care. She’s pretending to be kind and she’s really a snake.
This makes this a not a very fun read as she is just mad all the time. I don’t like characters that are just mad all the time.
The part I did like was when Jane goes to Highbury and has a hard time fitting in as she was in a different position as Colonel Campbell’s ward versus Mrs. & Miss Bates’ ward. That isn’t something you really think about or see in the movies and I enjoyed that view.
Most of the story is about Jane having a crush on Mr. Knightley, this continuing until she is heartbroken to find him marrying Emma her longtime rival.
The only part I enjoyed was at the end when Jane and Emma talk and Jane apologizes for being cold and distant as she realizes she was angry and jealous of Emma; and Emma apologizes for ignoring her and being distant as she was jealous of her. They both realize that Mr. Knightley was right and they would have been good friends, regretting that they didn’t listen to him when they were younger.
Told you so
But that was at the end and I had to wade through the whole book to get there. I don’t recommend this and say hard pass.
Dangerous to Know: Jane Austen’s Rakes & Gentlemen Rogues edited by Christina Boyd
So it’s that time again, bring out the bad boys:
So I had been planning to finish these posts last year, but then the holidays come and you know what that’s like.
So I had to trade it out with posts I had written earlier. But now we are back on track.
For those of you who missed posts 1 & 2, Dangerous to Know is a compilation novel of the bad boys of Jane Austen-Mr. Willoughby, Mr. Wickham, Captain Tilney, General Tilney, Mr. Elliot, Mr. Thorpe, and more.
With this being on rakes and rogues…they aren’t the best of men or respectful…so some of the stories are going to be more sexy.
And I just want to say thank you to Christina Boyd for including this little chart to help you:
Mature Content Guidelines:
None: Possible kissing and affection.
Moderate: Some sexual references but not explicit.
Mature: Some nudity and some provocative sex.
Erotic: Explicit, abundance of sex.
Because not everyone is interested in books like this:
It’s nice giving us a head’s up so those that aren’t interested know to skip or skim, or those that do can enjoy.
Something for everyone
So far I have reviewed the none posts, which has stories on Captain Fredrick Tilney, General Tilney and John Thorpe from Northanger Abbey; along with Sir Walter Elliot from Persuasion. I loved these stories as some of these men I love to hate and it made me hate them ever more: And some men I have hated and actually began to like them:
Last time I reviewed the mild posts. I was really surprised with these stories as they were on Tom Bertram from Mansfield Park and Colonel Fitzwilliam Darcy from Pride and Prejudice. I had never thought of these two as rogues, mostly because they have two of the biggest, baddest Austen rogues-Henry Crawford and George Wickham. The stories were really good and sucked me in, making it very hard to stop reading.
So just to remind you, these are the moderate posts-some sexual references but not explicit.
Oh Darcy, you aren’t a rogue. Get out of here.
Sorry I didn’t have any “sexy” pictures/gifs.
So before we start, let me say one thing…
A great thing about this book is that with these men, besides Wickham, we don’t know that much about their past or who they are. Most only play a small role-but have a big impact. This allows the authors a ton of wiggle room and almost anything can happen.
An Honest Man by Karen M. Cox
Ugh, Frank Churchill from Emma. Argh, I HATE this guy. Frank is the son of Mr. Weston and was sent away as a baby when his mother died to be raised by her wealthy relatives. He never sees his father or even visits. When he finally does it is because his secret fiance has moved the country. He then is such a jerk flirting and leading Emma on, in FRONT OF HIS FIANCE Jane. Urgh, argh, ugh…I just dislike him so much!
So in this story Frank first discusses how he became a “Churchill”. His father was of lower birth and his mother’s family disowned them when they married. When his mother died, Mr. Weston sent Frank to be raised by them and he stayed there. In order to inherit, he changed his name to Churchill and has towed her line ever since.
Frank has finished his studies, gone on his grand tour of Europe (brothels more than anything else), and goes to Weymouth to visit with friends. He runs into a beautiful girl in the post office, using some lines and double entendre to see if this “flower” is ripe for the “plucking” but no dice.
I’ll find someone else, no problem.
Later Frank and his friend Hayward run into a friend of Hayward’s, Dixon. Mr. Dixon is about to marry Miss Campbell, introducing them to his fiance and his fiance’s companion, Jane Fairfax-the girl Frank ran into in the post office.
Frank is very interested in her, especially after he hears her beautiful voice. In that moment of her song, he becomes convinced she is the woman for him and proceeds to go after her. The shark.
He follows her on one of her walks-wow stalker.
There he kisses her as it rains and poor Jane is putty in his hands. He takes her to a nearby cottage they find and convinces her that he will marry her, the two sleeping together.
After that they take as much time as they can to run off together, Frank “promising” that he will marry her, but not delivering. Then Jane gets pregnant. Uh oh…this is loser doing nothing to help her.
Now I know you hardcore fans are going to aghast, pregnancy? In Jane Austen? That’s not in the story. It’s okay, slow your roll-she ends up having a miscarriage and goes to Highbury-ruined and alone.
This is so sad. Poor Jane, seduced and taken for a ride.
So Frank keeps promising, taking what he wants from her, and then…!!!!…flirts with Emma in front of her. OMG I wanted Frank to be flesh and blood so I could give this jerk face loser a beating.
And this for good measure:
Frank’s aunt dies and the two marry, but will Jane really have a happy life with him or will being married to Frank be the same as being “secretly engaged.”‘
How I believe Jane will feel after she marries.
Thoughts After Reading:
I liked it. Even though I “knew” how the story would end-I mean I’ve read Emma-I still found myself invested and flipping through to find out what happens next. And I have always HATED Frank Churchill and now I really, really, really do. That jerkface lying weasel rat. You deserve the worse of the worse to be done to you.
The Lost Chapter in the Life of William Elliot by Jenetta James
William Elliot-ugh. William Elliot is Anne Elliot’s cousin. He is next in line for the baronetcy, but he and his uncle Sir Walter argued long ago and split ways. He was fine with it, as Sir Walter only has girls which can’t inherit, but when he discovers Sir Walter spending time with Elizabeth’s friend, widow Mrs. Penelope Clay, he jets down there to make amends as the last thing he needs is for Sir Walter to marry and have children. He then woos Mrs. Clay to keep her away, and Anne as he wants to marry her.
We start this story after Mr. Elliot’s wife has died, but before he enters Persuasion. One day, Mr. Elliot is out on the town, taking in a show of The Taming of the Shrew when he is hit by love’s arrows-the lead actress, Sarah Light.
At a party he gets to meet her, William is one who always has the upper hand, but finds his brain mush with her.
He then goes to see every performance, sending flowers and sweets to her room.
Every night he offers Miss Light his carriage and accompanies her to all the events she has to attend after her performances. One night she has nothing planned and the two walk together. Later they ride in the carriage and she asks if Mr. Elliot will be her dear friend, and call each other by their first names as friends do…
“Friends”, yeah right.
Then she kisses him, they go to her place and ….
The night turns into weeks, until they develop enough of a relationship that Mr. Elliot is considering making her his mistress. He’s already married for wealth and his wife’s death has given him riches and the ability to marry or be with whoever he may please.
But then Sarah refuses to see him any longer, And soon she has gotten a wealthy benefactor. It turns out that she already has a guy on her hook, and when he wasn’t delivering what she wanted-she used Elliot to make him jealous.
Elliot is crushed, but joins his friend for a holiday in Lyme and the source story. And he carries on…
Smarming and plotting away.
Thoughts After Reading:
This was good, as it gave us a softer side of Mr. Elliot and a look into his heart. I also liked him getting his heart pricked and prodded and-a little bad treatment as he treats others bad.
Ugh, Willoughby. This urgh-I really dislike him. He just does whatever, never thinking of how it affects others. He’s like Chuck Bass from season one of Gossip Girl.
He is with a woman and ruins her life, runs around with Marianne-making her think he is going to ask her to marry him-and then takes off to marry a wealthy woman-cutting Marianne in public! What a major, gigantic jerk.
Argh, I hate him…but let’s move on
In this story, it takes place before the events of Sense and Sensibility. Willoughby is in love with an older woman, Isobel, but she does not want to marry a plaything-she is marrying a wealthy, old, man.
Willoughby is angry, but Isobel quickly seduces him…
Isobel is expecting to keep Willoughby on the shelf to meet her needs that cannot be met by her husband, but Willoughby is angry and storms out.
He storms off into the park where he runs into old schoolmate Bingley, his wife and family, and friend Mr. Darcy. Seeing the men in love with their wives sours him even more and he storms off.
I hate everything!
Willoughby ends up in Bath when he assists a woman who has lost her pages for a letter. As he goes after them, he collides with a woman. He meets Miss Eliza Williams, Miss Martha Matthews, and Miss Emmeline Malcolm, escorting them to their lodgings.
Miss Malcolm is rich and beautiful, just the thing for Willoughby. Miss Williams is very interested in him, she is beautiful but is not rich enough to suit his needs.
Willoughby works hard and woos Miss Malcolm, they settle on a secret engagement when he discovers that she is Lord Cambourne’s daughter-Isobel’s new husband. He confesses that Isobel does not like him, and will object to the marriage-skipping over his relationship with Isobel.
We will keep that relationship secret.
Miss Malcolm responds as most young women do, the no makes her want him more and they plan to elope to Gretna Green. Willoughby claps himself on the back as he is getting the girl, the money, revenge, and a Golden Bowl situation.
When Miss Malcolm does not come as expected, he goes after her and finds out that Lady Isobel Cambourne is there. She told Miss Malcolm everything and ended the relationship and engagement.
Willoughby tries to speak to Miss Malcolm but she refuses him, now knowing his sordid secret. Miss Williams, seeing her opening, makes a play for him. Willoughby enjoys her, but has no plan whatsoever to marry her.
He returns to Devonshire, where a new family is living at Barton College. They are dull, but the middle daughter fawns over him and is a distraction. Miss Williams was upset at seeing him go as she wanted to marry, but hopefully he’ll be lucky and she won’t be pregnant.
Thoughts After Reading
I love, love, love the references to all the other Austen characters-Lady Susan told him of the affair, he is friends with Captain Fredrick Tilney, Mr. Bingley an old schoolmate, running into Bingley’s wife Jane, sister-in-law Elizabeth, and brother-in-law Mr. Darcy, Mr. Elliot being a friend of Captain Tilney: it was great. The story was also good as we see Mr. Willoughby in true form-all about him.
So now that we have reviewed the stories let’s talk about the other question on people’s minds: How sexy was the sexy parts?
So it wasn’t crazy out there but it was pretty sexy. In each one of these the men are with the prospective ladies and we read about it. The nice thing is that those aren’t the whole story so if you like it, you’ll enjoy it-and if you don’t, you can skim/skip.
So I really enjoyed these as well. I thought the authors did a great job putting their own spin and creating backstories for these characters, while staying true to what happened in Jane Austen’s books. They all captured the soul of the character and in my opinion, had you hate them more than you already do. I couldn’t stop reading.
But will I continue to enjoy it?
I guess we will find out in the final installment MATURE.