Review: Sanditon: S1 E02

In which: Charlotte attempts to apologize to Sidney only to have him rebuff her. Lady Denham’s luncheon turns into an awkward lunch when Lady Denham prods Miss Lambe about her fortune and pointing out Miss Lambe’s mother was a slave to the astonishment at the table. Arthur cuts open Lady Denham’s pineapple to find that it is rotten and filled with maggots. Miss Lambe attempts to flee to London only to not afford the price as she does not make it a habit of carrying cash and makes friends with Charlotte instead. Tom badgers Sidney to work on Sidney’s fashionable friends from London much to Sidney’s distaste. Lady Denham threatens Edward, and in turn Esther, not to cross her.

Lots and lots goes on.

I was thankful that we discover that Edward and Esther’s relationship are as step-brother and sister rather than full blood. I was quite shocked last week to think that Edward’s caress up Esther’s arm while they were playing cards was hinting at incest but no, just a conniving pair looking to be supported by Edward’s future wife. Who knows what goes on in their leaky home but no one seems to be of mind that they are alone together. Where is the chaperone? Was it okay for unrelated siblings such as step-children to live openly together without retribution?

What is with Sidney coming out of the sea naked? Why is it in most Jane Austen adaptations there must be a male lead who is coming out of water to show off his physique? I don’t mind as I appreciate the female gaze as much as the next but it’s just interesting to point out.

I also have reservations about Sidney and Charlotte pairing because you know this is the way but he looks far too old for her even though a: It was typical for older more “experienced” man and a young lady to couple up and b: Yet the actors are ten years apart. Only if Sidney didn’t look 20 years older that it would make character sense but nope.

But we all know, as this is an Austen story, they will get together in the end. Or at least some variance of it since Theo James isn’t coming back for season two.

I’m glad to see the inclusion, albeit so far only in Miss Lambe, of a person of color in Regency era.  People of color did live, breathe, make money, and love in Regency England. I’m hoping that future episodes bring more people of color characters in such in the vein of Bridgerton and it’s color blind casting.

Will Charlotte break Young Stringer’s heart? (Of course she will.)

I’m enjoying the slight sexing up of Edward/Esther (though it is creepy) and Sidney/Charlotte. It’s important to show, even if it seems to be against what we’d expect of Austen, that people were attracted to each other and desired one another during the Regency era. However, it was kept on the down low. Men were allowed to tom cat around, as Lady Denham points out, but a woman had to remain virtuous until marriage and succumb to their husband’s demands in the bedroom.

Overall, good episode and a lot was packed in. Subplots are beginning to emerge and hinting at what’s to come. I’ll give it a 3.5/5.

The Courtship: S01 E01 First Impressions

It’s being referred to as Bridgerton meets The Bachelorette.

Formally known as “Pride & Prejudice: An Experiment in Romance,” NBC’s The Courtship, where swiping is out and courting is in, kicked off on Sunday March 6 with the premier episode entitled First Impressions.

Of course.

In the premier episode, we’re introduce to Nicole Remy, a software engineer from Seattle. Her family, and bestie, are also there with her to act as chaperones of sorts as Remy navigates Regency era courtship.

(The word “Regency” is doing a lot of heavy lifting in that last sentence, but be warned, the only thing “Regency” era about the show is, well, nothing.)

And while I know 99% of my dear readers will know when and what the Regency era refers to, before I continue for those who don’t, Regency refers to early 19th C England. It’s a niche of a mere 20 or so years that fits between the Georgian and Victorian periods. Attitudes, economics, and politics all changed near the end of the 18th C and the years of “mad” King George III. He was deemed unfit and his son, soon to be known as King George IV, ruled as prince regent. Some continue to call that period from 1790s ish to 1820s ish as Georgian and the truly barbarians refer to Austen and her contemporaries as Victorian, which I assure you the Brontes would have a word or two to say about that!

Now I continue.

In the opening scenes, Remy is handed 16 letters from her suitors. The gentlemen, and I’ll try and refrain from calling them dude bros, took calligraphy lessons for this challenge. As Remy opens up each letter, she and her entourage ooh and aww over which letters capture her heart and what letters didn’t make the grade like the gentlemen who wrote about wanting a “best friend with sexual passion” (that was read by Remy’s mother).


While this is going on, Mr. Edwards, the host, meets the gentlemen at the entrance of the castle where they are all saying. Introducing themselves, Mr. Edwards asks what would make them stand out from the others and most offer up the usual answers: “I’m fun.” “I’m kind and loving.” Etc ad nauseum. Some have dance moves and others sing (badly).

The men make their way and meet Remy and her chaperones. Just like The Bachelorette’s cocktail hour, the guests mingle and chat while Remy tries to figure out which ones she likes best.

Later, like the rose ceremony in Bachelor Nation,  a grand ball is held. Remy has singled out the guys she likes least by putting them on her dance card. The rest of the evening follows Remy and her suitors as she gentle tells them, “I appreciate you but your carriage awaits” to those she’s not clicking with.

Some choice quotes:

  • “Ever been in love?” “With cake maybe, not with people.”
  • “I’ve taken girls in my van to places … Not in a creepy way!”
  • “Where can I get a corn dog around here?”

I joked with Erika that The Courtship was bad, but not really. Mostly. The Regency era, thanks to Bridgerton, is having a renaissance so I can see the appeal of show. The gimmick, courtship and chivalry, will appeal to many as long as they understand the Regency era, for all the beautiful gowns and handsome men in cravets, was wholly different then what is being shown on TV. I worry that Regency and Austen purists will clutch pearls watching the show but it’s harmless fun. We’re not curing cancer here, we’re having a good time watching people make fools of themselves.

The Courtship is filmed at Castle Howard, a 145 room “manor house” located in Yorkshire, UK. The home is a private residence but has been open to the public since the 1950s.

145 rooms! Heck, my partner and I live in a open plan condo and we can barely keep that clean.

The Courtship airs Sunday nights at 8PM ET on NBC and the following day on Peacock.

(I hate commercials so I am watching on Peacock the following day so recaps may be a day or two behind.)

Review: Sanditon: S1 E01

I’m shocked to find out it is “Sand-eh-ton” and not “San-dish-ion” which is how i’ve been pronouncing it for years. No one ever corrected me. Kristin says I’m going to lose my status as a Jane Austen fan and be mocked mercilessly for this.

Please forgive me.

In E01, we meet Charlotte Heywood, eldest of 12, who lives with her family in a small estate. One day, while out shooting rabbits for fun or food, it’s never made clear, she and her brothers and sisters watch a runaway carriage lose a wheel and toss about Mr and Mrs Parker of Sanditon. After rescuing the Parkers, and introducing them to her family, it is decided that Charlotte, as a way of thanks, will travel to Sanditon with the Parkers for a visit.

(There is no way in hell this would happen in the 21sC.)

Mr Parker has huge plans to turn Sanditon from a small fishing village to a five star resort town to entice the ton from London to come visit.

We meet most of the main characters in the first episode. We have Charlotte, Lady Denham, Mr Parker’s benefactor, her ward Clara Brereton who becomes fast friends with Charlotte. Mr Parker’s two brothers, Arthur and Sidney, as well as their sister Diana. Of courses we have to have the villains, Sir Edward Denham, Lady Denham’s nephew, and Edward’s sister Esther.

Action ensues.

My second confession, other than mis-pronouncing the name, is that I have not read Sanditon the unfinished Austen book so I’m not up to speed on the plot so I have nothing to compare it to. I’m not terribly upset by this since it gives me leave to learn the plot as it unfolds rather than comparing it to the book.

But no matter. The set-up already has all the hallmarks of an Austen novel: innocent and often naive young  woman who struggles with romance with someone she’s not sure she quite likes as well the class distinctions that hangs over her. We know from the beginning, when Charlotte rightly points out to Sidney the capabilities of his brothers, that his dressing down is a matter of fliration. He’s been hurt you see, says Tom Parker, and hasn’t recovered from whatever it is.

The best heroes are always the brooding ones.

Sir Edward and Esther are a whole ‘nother kettle of fish. Was Edward flirting with Esther during that card game or was it another lady? Could Andrew Davies be so obtuse to throw in some incest? Either the lighting was poor or the actresses too similar in looks but we couldn’t quite figure out what’s going on.

I winced when Lady Denham said that Edward was a catch. He, to me, looks like a messy rake and not an attractive one at that. Lady Denham confides to Charlotte that he must marry a fortune, which Charlotte most certainly does not have. And impresses upon Charlotte to keep her crush on Sir Edward on the quiet side. Nuts to you Lady Denham! Charlotte, a keen observer we have learned, already knows that Sir Edward is a rogue and is not privy to his felicitations.

We’re also introduced to Miss Lambe with the fortune: £100,000 which in today’s market is worth $10M USD.

(Kristin and I were comparing Caroline Enys, from Poldark, fortune of £200,000 which makes her worth about $20M USD in today’s money. These women are not broke.)

The viewer is left to wonder, however, her connection to Sidney Parker is since there were some tense words at the ball. Is Sir Edward going to make a play to Miss Lambe or remain the rake that he already is? Are we ever going to learn what Sidney’s past is tainted with (a woman, it’s always a woman)? Will Lady Denham live forever? What was Clara ensuing when she mentioned to Charlotte (I think the viewer got it (Sir Edward was abusive towards her)) but will Charlotte understand what that means?

There isn’t an Andrew Davies production I haven’t liked so I’m sure I’ll adore this show. He’s left a lot open to speculation (see above) so it is with great curiosity to see how he approaches the open plot lines and I hope to dear god we were not seeing Sir Edward flirt with his sister!

Until next week!

Book Review: A Certain Appeal

Title: A Certain Appeal
Author: Vanessa King
Page Count: 352
Publication: November 2021

[Amazon | Indie Bound | BN | Find it at your local library]

(Other reviews: Kirkus, Publisher’s Weekly (starred review))

Pride and Prejudice  retellings are a crapshoot. They can either be really good or really terrible (hello Pride and Prejudice and Zombies) and you really don’t know until you get into the story.

But Austen’s Pride and Prejudice is ripe for retelling. The story of a couple who can’t stand each other, realise how terribly wrong they are about the other, and then have a HEA is a story of all times. It’s one of most popular tropes in the romance genre.

So, what make a story an exact Pride and Prejudice retelling? Honestly? It’s the use of names. The heroine is Elizabeth Bennet and the hero is Fitzwilliam Darcy.  Somehow the four sisters are wrapped into it, as is Wickham, and Pemberly and Meryton become name of places or villages.

Enter A Certain Appeal which takes the Pride and Prejudice trope for a refreshing and sexy spin. Lizzy Bennet is a struggling interior designer currently working as a glorified admin assistant and works at Meryton, a burlesque club, at night. Will Darcy is in wealth management and whose family line stretches back far and wide and the owner of Pemberley, the New York possible hot spot event space. Jane is Bennet’s (as she preferred to be called) best friend who also happens to be gay. He falls in love with Charles Bingley, Darcy’s best friend and may one day happen to be an investor at Meryton.

While I’m not a fan of doing summaries in my book reviews, that’s what other reviews and summaries at the back of books are for, it’s important to understand that this is a super inventive, and very sexy, way of telling the timeless story. ED is a family friendly blog and it’s important that a head’s up about salacious sexy times is given.

There is a lot to recommend A Certain Appeal. It’s a fun and soapy read, the book has very nuanced touches of Pride and Prejudice including the meet cute at Pemberley the event space. Swapping in the sisters for burlesque dancers, having a gay best friend named Jane, their mother is the club mother, and there is even a sleazy Wickham.  King really knows her story and it shows up on every page. There is a lot of dedication to this story and that is incredibly admirable.

The only thing that I hesitate from giving A Certain Appeal five stars is the language. King tries really, really hard to capture the language of 20-somethings and it shows that kid of desperation.  Even authors who are in their 20s don’t drop slang that much. It was a distraction which was such a shame for how well developed and written the story is.

tl;dr: If you are tempted into a new sexy romance based on Pride and Prejudice in the world of burlesque, definitely give this a read.

Book Review: Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe

Title: Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe
Author: Melissa de la Cruz
Pub date: 2017
ISBN:  978-1250141392


First impressions: A fun, frothy book perfect for curling up with a hot cup a tea, comfy clothes while a fire roars and snow falls.

When it comes to Pride and Prejudice variations, it’s not so much how true to the story the author remains but rather how do the characters “sound.” Are they funny? Witty? Do their behaviors match the time period they are in? Can we see the original characters within the variations? Can the author create characters that not only resemble their origins but most of all, are the characters fun?

These are all very serious questions that take hold in my mind when I read a variation. Whether or not I like a book is not so much how the setting is placed, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies anyone?, but rather can I see the traits within the characters are they were originally written and can I or do I give a damn about them? Make no mistake, most of the variations come under the unfairly genre umbrellaed as Chick Lit which usually gets pounced on by snobby lit reviewers but as someone, that would be me, who’s spent more than half their life somehow entrenched in books professionally, I thumb my nose at these assholes because what is important is that someone is reading and not what they are reading.

A bit of a rant there.

This brings me up to Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe. I am not afraid to say my opinion once lost is not lost forever as variations come in all shapes and sizes. What drew me, and eventually charmed me, about Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe is the following:

  • Darcy Fitzwilliam is a female high powered hedge fund manager and not some simpering female character with no mind of her own
  • She’s from Pemberly, Ohio. Any book where the setting is connected to the Midwest always appeals to me
  • Darcy’s best friend, Bingley Charles, is gay
  • Luke Bennet and his ideals and mores closely match Lizzie Bennet
  • it is Darcy’s father that is the shrew and not her mother
  • de la Cruz sets updates the book to current times so we easily relate to the characters
  • Fitzwilliam Darcy came from money. Darcy Fitzwilliam was disinherited and made her own way in the world. This is important because Darcy does not need a man to make her happy or to save her. Her choices are very deliberate and show the expanse of the character’s emotional and mental worth.
  • Darcy is not a female archetype that permeates through most of Chick Lit.  You know the type: The heroine is wronged in love but she remains pure of any responsibility for her decisions and actions. One of the big reveals in these stories is the heroine suddenly “discovers” her faults and works to change them. Darcy, on the other hand, knows her faults form the get-go and her struggles are yes, the prejudices of what she is and what she is perceived to be.
  • Also, Darcy says “shit” a lot which I really enjoyed.

Oh yes, the story:

Darcy Fitzwilliam is called home when she finds out her mother has cancer. Her relationship with her father is thin and much of Darcy’s interactions with her family, including her mother, have been strained for a number of years. During the family’s annual Christmas party, she comes across Luke Bennet who she has sworn to hate forever since he taunted and teased her all through school. There is one drunken night of did they or didn’t they which sets the course as Darcy and Luke battle it out over: is this the real deal, an infatuation, or some kind of revenge? There are almost marriages, break-ups, misunderstandings abound through the secondary characters. We know already where the story is heading so nothing is a big surprise here and de la Cruz is certainly not creating new ground but the book is a fun, a fast read, and enjoyable.

Even with this very positive review, I would be remiss in not mentioning the book is maligned over at Good Reads and LibraryThing even though it was given a positive review in Publisher’s Weekly which typically is a good indicator on how well a book sells.

What are the complaints?

  • Bingly and his boyfriend contemplating moving in with a few days of meeting each other is “unbelievable” and “not realistic.” (Lydia and Wickham.)
  • Darcy’s on and off relationship with her boyfriend since high school is also not plausible and how dare she drag him around. (No one has ever, ever been in a relationship that went off and on for years? Only me? Ok.)
  • Luke’s younger brothers are terrors that destroy school property and Darcy swoops in to pay for it, and the complaint here is how DARE the principal take the money from Darcy. (Male Darcy tracking down Lydia and paying everyone off so she doesn’t lose her reputation.)
  • Darcy and her dad having an acrimonious relationship for eight years? Also not believable or realistic. (My mom and I had an acrimonious relationship for most of my adult life. So why is this unrealistic again?)
  • Darcy’s dad to push her to marry her high school boyfriend was also seen as “how can that really happen?” (Mrs. Bennet, anyone?)

Fans of Pride and Prejudice are the harshest critics when it comes to variations because if it is not on point, it’s worthless trash. This is frustrating because yes, it’s not Austen but it doesn’t make the story any less fun to read. I just don’t get this mentality when it comes to deviations of Austen’s work. For Pete’s sake,  The Davinci Code is given nearly 4 stars and it reads as a misogynistic piece of trash written by a third grader.

Take all of that information as you will but I would give this a solid would recommend to fans of P+P variations and those looking for a fun read that won’t strain the brain too much.

P.S. The Hallmark Channel is releasing a movie of the same name for their holiday season titles. As I recall, Luke becomes a personal chef at the end of the book which doesn’t jive with his work as an award winning carpenter he’s touted to be through the book. In the movie, Luke is a personal chef who owns a restaurant so maybe a mistake in book editing is now a major plot point in the movie? Whose to say! Movie will be shown on November 23 on the Hallmark Channel.


Book Review: Jane Steele

Title: Jane Steele
Author: Lyndsay Faye
Pub date: 2017
ISBN:  978-0425283202


First impressions: A brilliant mash-up of Jane Eyre and serial killer novels, Jane Steele is an utter original in both plot and scope. I cannot gush enough on how much I love this book.

First, I cannot tell a lie. I started this book in the summer of 2017 but my own laziness that summer in reading was heightened when the print copy of the book was due back to the library before I finished. Sometime in the early spring of this year, I prowled through my library’s ebook collection and lo! Jane Steele was available to check out. Again, laziness intervened and finally, I gave myself a stern talking on checking out titles and not reading them, sat myself down and read. (I read seven books the week we were on vacation in May.  Feast or famine!) I am kicking myself for not finishing this last year!

Jane Steele tells the story of Jane Steele whose life runs parallel to Jane Eyre’s. Once Jane Steele’s father dies, she and her mother are whisked from their grand house by Jane’s aunt and creepy son to a small cottage on the property. One day, Jane accidentally kills her cousin who attempts to rape her and not long after, Jane’s mother succumbs to her madness from long held grief and dies. While the house was to be inherited by Jane upon her father’s demise when Jane was a toddler, her mother leaves behind no document or paperwork listing as such. Jane is shuttled off to a girl’s school where she accidentally murders the head teacher and this is when the story takes off.

When you think “Jane Eyre mixed with serial killers” as a pause in the material you will read, I can assure you it’s not as trite as it sounds. Faye takes very good care in honoring Jane Eyre, in fact, Jane Steele mentions much throughout the book Jane Eyre is her favorite novel and quotes from the book begin each chapter as well as Steele’s fondness for noting the parallels in their lives.

It’s meta upon meta.

Steele, for I must call her that to prevent further confusion, pulls herself up by her proverbial bootstraps, killing others until her body count is up to five, and attempts to win back her home. She changes her last name and presents herself as a governess to the new lord of the manor, Mr. Thornfield, for Thornfield’s adopted charge. The secrets that bound Thornfield are not a mad woman in an attic, but PTSD of sorts as well as secrets from his time in the Punjabi war. Coupled with Steele’s secrets including those dastardly murders of hers, Steele must reconcile her feelings for Thornfield along with her past. Will he accept her if he knows she’s a murderess?

You might be thinking, “No! She’s a murderess!” which yes, she is but she has very good reason to do so. She’s not a female Jack the Ripper but rather she kills accidentally and for good reason. Sorta like Dexter.

Jane Steele‘s subtitle is A Confession which it very much is with occasionally breaking the fourth wall as the story progresses. This plot device does not feel contrived or heavy-handed which was a bit of concern when I started reading and I was relieved to find out Faye handled that device with deft and care.

The book comes in at a hefty 500 pages which can be daunting to some but I promise the story will fly by quick. Steele is very much a character with whom you can empathize and hell, even cheer for. For its originality, character development, and unique take on Jane Eyre, I highly, highly recommend this book.

(I cannot leave this post off without quoting the following from the author’s note in the book because I genuinely lol’d

…if (Emily) Brontë lived today, it wouldn’t be impossible to picture her replying to troll tweets and one-star Amazon reviews…)




Book Review: The Madwoman Upstairs

Title: The Madwoman Upstairs
Author: Catherine Lowell
Pub date: 2016
ISBN: 978-1501126307


First impressions: A wholly unique tale of the last remaining fictional survivor of the Bronte family, their legacy, as well as her grief of loss, a tiny bit of romance, and a mystery to bring closure to very important things(tm). I was captivated by the story and found myself falling in love with Samantha Whipple within the first few pages. An engaging and clever read that I was ultimately disappointed it had to end.

Whenever I read a book review on an upcoming or new published book, “unique,” “original,” or “clever” get thrown around a lot which makes me pucker my lips. I’m a firm believer there is rarely any “unique,” “original,” or “clever” works.

Reader, I was wrong. (I was so wrong, the next book I review also is unique, original, and clever.)

Samantha Whipple is a first year at Old College, Oxford University. Her mother left their family when she was a teen, her beloved father had recently died, and she was the last inheritor to the Bronte legacy only there isn’t a legacy to be inherited and if there is, no one in the Whipple family have any idea what it is despite the insistance of Bronte scholars and academics.  Even with the romance as one of the subjects, this book is not chick lit or a romance but it is a woman’s story of how she works through grief, romantic love, academia, redemption, and finally forgiveness.

The Madwoman Upstairs was published a few years ago but it’s only recently I’ve seen it pop up in my internet reads as comparisons to new Bronte related fiction. I had a blase attitude towards it—the summary does the book no favors but once I got into the story, I became obsessed with finishing the book ASAP. Samantha is feisty, snarky, and in emotional pain—all the things I, and perhaps many, can relate to. Her relationship with her mother is fraught as she reconciles her mother’s relationship with not only her own but with Samantha’s father. Samantha is academically gifted and is often compared to her father who was a brilliant novelist and academic but gives two nothings about her place in academia.

Then there is the Bronte legacy.

The Madwoman Upstairs is many things and surprisingly does not get lost in its many things, but its heart is a mystery of Samantha reconciling and understanding her father more after his death and the dogged pursuit of Bronte scholars absolutely intent on the Whipple family to cough up an imaginary legacy. Samantha is on the hunt for the last remaining pieces of her father’s life, set up as a treasure hunt reminiscent of her childhood, and as she digs deeper into the mystery, Samantha not only learns much about her father and family but also about herself.

It’s rare for a debut to come out of the gate so strong with a finely tuned plot, the writing is sharp and clever (I tell you, I live for Samantha’s dialogue), and there is not a word wasted. At times the story is heart-breaking and uproarious and if you enjoy Bronte related fiction it’s a book not to be missed.

Book Review: Texts from Jane Eyre: And Other Conversations with Your Favorite Literary Characters

Title: Texts from Jane Eyre: And Other Conversations with Your Favorite Literary Characters
Author: Daniel Mallory Ortberg
Pub date: 2014
ISBN: 978-1627791830


First impressions: Imaginary and imaginative text messages from fictional and non-fictional characters that will have you in stitches.

Originally appearing on The Toast (RIP), Daniel Mallory Ortberg cultivated a following with their insightful, witty, and often painfully funny recreations of texts as if the characters and persons from the literature and history were writing them. Ortberg takes no prisoners covering from Gilgamesh to The Wife of Bath to Gone With The Wind. From Scarlett’s drama with Rhett and Ashely to William Blake’s texting his wife that no, he did not draw anything horrifying for her.


Jane Eyre
Jane: I’m taking a walk / be back before dinner
Jane: do you really want me to describe my walk with you
Jane: it’s fairly cloudy out / looks like rain soon
Jane: all right

Even Jane is included:

Pride and Prejudice
Mrs. Bennet: You must see to it your sister invites Mr. Bingley, Lizzie
Lizzie: He isn’t here, Mother
Mrs. Bennet: isn’t here? / He must be here / The ball is in seven days / and if he is not here then how will we convince our Mr. Darcy to attend?
Lizzie: Mr. Darcy is not here either
Mrs. Bennet: no? / But I thought he was in London / for business / and return in time for the ball
Lizzie: No / he’s not in London / he is on a ship / he is going to war
Mrs. Bennet: but this is terrible news
Lizzie: There is an actual war going on right now / against Napoleon
Mrs. Bennet: How could this have happened
Lizzie: He was commissioned months ago
Mrs. Bennet: And Mr. Bingley?
Lizzie: Probably yes

Texts from Jane Eyre is an anthology of sorts that you can dip in and out of and the chapters are well marked if you’re looking for a particular text to make the dipping in and out of easier. Clocking in at 240 pages, it shouldn’t take you too long if you read them from start to finish (which I did).  90% of the texts are hilarious while some are obviously Ortberg phoning it in but overall, whether if you’re an avid reader, like satire, or need a gift for someone who seems to have it all, you can’t go wrong with Texts from Jane Eyre.

Book Review: Camp Austen: My Life as an Accidental Jane Austen Superfan

Title: Camp Austen: My Life as an Accidental Jane Austen Superfan
Author: Ted Scheinman
Pub date: March 6, 2018
ISBN: 978-0865478213


First impressions (ha!): the book is excessively diverting (double ha!).

I recently decided to get my reading lists in order.  Between books I’ve bought, books I check out from the library, and books I review for No Flying, No Tights and NetGalley, my reading list is a hot mess and I tend to return tons of books I never got around to reading. So one day I sat down and drew up a list of what books I had in chronological order from whom they were from and when the books were due. Not surprisingly this list has been instrumental in finishing titles in quick succession and it was even more helpful when I took MegaBus to Chicago last weekend for C2E2.* As the adventure was 14 hours round trip, I downloaded nearly 20 ebooks for reading. What can I say, I can comprehensively read on average of 75 pages per hour and I was ambitious.

An hour before I arrived in Chicago, I started Camp Austen and found myself surprised we were at the bus stop in what seemed like minutes. While the prose teetered between academic and layman’s terms, Scheinman is at first an academic, this did not deter the book as an engrossing read. While he does make use of popular vernacular such as “Lizzy Bennet dropping the mic on Lady Catherine in Volume II of Pride and Prejudice,”  I did not find distracting or out of place and it seemed appropriate in Scheinman’s balance between pop culture with a bit of high brow thrown in since some academics who write books to appease the general populace tend to get caught up in their $5 words with disregard to their audience. This is not Scheinman as he presents, and sometimes worships, Austen as a lingua franca: that commonality between the academics and fans where scholarship can expand (and yes fun can be had). Scheinman goes on to say he has no desire to protect Jane from the masses nor the masses from her. Take that crusty academics.

The story is thus: Scheinman finds one of his mentors wants to do Jane Austen Summer Camp  (inspired by the Dickens Universe at UC Santa Cruz) where there would be a week of lectures, balls, and other refinements. Additionally, Scheinman’s mother is well thought of through the Austen world and since she was laid up for most of Scheinman’s time with the Janeites with bad knees, Mrs. Scheinman’s popularity granted Scheinman himself easier access to the upper echelons of Janeiteism for this project that may not have been accessible to him without that introduction. Scheinman also splices his easy entryway into the story and is upfront about his easy admittance and it’s clear while he’s doing his mother a favor, he does indeed find himself as an “accidental superfan.” With that in mind, Scheinman as well juxtaposes his work with the camp with his introduction to Austen, via his mother, Austen’s works, and his travels to AGMs which is all research for a series he’s writing on Austen superfans for a magazine (he doesn’t say which).

While Scheinman admits he’s stepped back from the Austen world since his days of dancing and playing Mr. Darcy,  he writes about Janeites with much respect while poking a bit of fun on the superfans who take on Janeitism to a whole new level. He provides the example of an Austen themed tea company whose slogan was a cheeky take Austen was a loose woman (referring to Austen liked her tea loose) and one Janeite proclaimed haughtily how DARE the tea company imply Jane was “loose” (in regards to her morals). Even I rolled my eyes at that one and Scheinman agrees even Jane would have rolled her eyes as well.

Another pleasing theme that runs through the course of the book is Scheinman’s recounting of Austen’s history both personal and professional. He recounts a story of John Wallop, 3rd Earl of Portsmouth, a most unsavory character, who may have been the basis for a few of Austen’s villains in her novels. I did not know this. While granted I am not at a superfan level, I do take pleasure in knowing much about Austen’s personal history so reading Camp Austen was a history lesson that turned out to be much desired and fulfilling.

A day or two into C2E2, I found myself awake before my roommates so I headed down to the lounge with my iPad and to get coffee and I then proceeded to finish the book as the sun rose in Chicago. It wasn’t too long before the book was finished and I then closed the Kindle app with a sigh. This is the one failing of Camp Austen: it’s only 160 pages long so it makes for a quick read but additional detail would simply be filler.

I give this book a 5/5 and I heartily recommend it to anyone who is an Austen fan or has a passing interest in Austen since it’s a good introduction to Austen’s world and history coupled with a light critique and observation of the world of her fans and admirers. It’s got something for everyone.

*C2E2 is a comic-con held in Chicago every year and with the exception of 2017, I’ve gone every year since 2012. I’ve only cosplayed once (as the Ninth Doctor from Doctor Who) but I am thinking if one of my BFFs and I don’t go as Good Janet/Bad Janet from the TV show “A Good Place” next year, I’m going to see if I can get my druthers up to go as Lizzy Bennet from Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (and yep, I do adore the movie of the same name).

Book Review: Lizzy & Jane

Title: Lizzy & Jane
Author: Katherine Reay
Pub date: November 4, 2014
ISBN: 978-1401689735


Saints preserve us, I am done with this book and I detested every moment I was reading it.

The plot: Lizzy, a chef in New York, has burned out and retreats to Seattle to recharge and take care of her sister, Jane, who has cancer. While in Seattle, Lizzy struggles with who she is, her purpose in life, and how to strengthen, and build, her romantic, familial, and platonic relationships. Which choices will she make and what life will she lead?

(The book does reference Jane Austen but only that Lizzy and Jane are named after the two Bennett sisters and our Lizzy and Jane are Austen fans and often turn to her works for comfort. My mea culpa was I assumed based on the title the book would be a retelling of P&P but I was most certainly wrong.)

At first glance, the plot seems to be your typical chick lit plot which is fine. I do enjoy a bit of chick lit now and then. But ugh. It’s a hot mess.

This book was tedious, boring, and contrved. I nearly threw it against the wall a few times and the only reason why I finished it (five minutes before I wrote this review actually) was because I was hate reading it. Typically I give books the first 50 pages treatment: if you don’t succeed in hooking me within the first 50 pages, I do not finish your book. There are too many good books out in the world that need to be devoured and wasting time on lesser books is a crime.

There was no action. Sure, the characters did things but it was more “we are going to do this” and that lead to “we are going to do that.” The pacing was slow to the point of snooze-worthy and I felt reading this book was like watching paint dry.  I could not connect to any of the characters and I found Lizzy to be a bit on the wishy-washy side and her sister Jane to be a bit of a snot. Sure there are conflicts, like Lizzy and Jane fighting over their relationships with their parents, but it felt forced. The characters seemed to be going through the motion of what they were supposed to be doing rather than feeling what they were doing, you know, like sociopaths.

Note: While this book is not marketed as such, it definitely should be shelved as Christian fiction. I am not against Christian fiction as a genre but I feel the use of God and faith as a plot point should be consistent throughout but here it wasn’t. The first 100 pages were your standard “will they or won’t they” chick lit fare and then BAM! Faith, God, and religion are heavy-handedly thrown in on the characters decision process and I won’t mince words to say this is a bit off-putting.

Reay has a shtick using various Austen and Bronte characters and personalities as the focal point of her books: In addition to Lizzy & Jane, there is The Austen EscapeDear Mr. Knightley, and The Bronte Plot.  I own Dear Mr. Knightley but I have decided not to read it. But! The Austen Escape is time travel to Regency Engand and The Bronte Plot is a nod to my current favorite sisters and both titles are available from the library so I am checking those out and hopefully my mind will be changed on Reay’s writing style.

I’m donating my Lizzy & Jane and Dear Mr. Knightley to my local JASNA group (not only am I a member but also the librarian) in hopes that someone will give them the love I could not. Despite my misgivings, Reay’s books border on 4/5 stars at GoodReads and LibraryThing so her books have some appeal so it’s pretty clear they are not for me.

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