Saturday, May 23, 2015

What I Read in January Part VI . . .

What I Read in January Part VI . . .

Jane Austen Takes the South by Mary Jane Hathaway -- Austenesque Christian Romance

Pride, Prejudice and Cheese Grits (Jane Austen Takes the South #1)Pride, Prejudice and Cheese Grits by Mary Jane Hathaway

Shelby Roswell, southern girl, Civil War scholar and Associate Professor had left her small town and marriage-minded mother for a career. She's on track for tenure and she's certain her new article will earn tenure soon, despite the poor review her book received from noted historian Ransom Fielding. When she discovers Fielding is Visiting Professor and teaching to a packed lecture hall, she's furious. How dare he come to her territory no doubt to ridicule her more. The gloves come off when she encounters him humiliating a student. She's determined not to let him get the better of her. Ransom vows to himself to avoid Shelby at all costs. She's fiery and fiery women are dangerous. Since the death of his wife several years ago, he's been content to date only superficial women who won't ever mean anything to him. Why does he let Shelby get to him? Should he let her? Shelby's Jane Austen loving friend Rebecca is convinced Shelby has her very own Pride and Prejudice story going on. That would imply Shelby and Ransom end up together in the end. Shelby would never marry HIM - would she?

I liked this update to Pride and Prejudice. It wasn't a direct adaptation but it had similar characters and situations. Not enough to be too close to the original but enough for Shelby's friend to get a good laugh out of it. The plot moves quickly. It's not super long - I read it in one night, but drags on a bit at the very end. The timeline is too rushed at the end to be believable. I wasn't aware this was a Christian book before I read it. Shelby's Faith is important to her and it kind of turned me off. Forgiveness is a huge theme of the novel. I would have read this book anyway because I couldn't resist a story about Civil War historians :nerd freak out: and a literary best friend :double nerd freak out.: (I'm both a literary scholar and an historian). I wasn't super crazy about the southern setting. Are people in the south really like that or is this book populated with negative stereotypes? Shelby's mother is so bizarre. What century is she living in? I'm a Yankee and the constant references to "the war" and those Yankees. The setting is a bit too local color.

The bad guy doesn't equal Wickham. Wickham isn't evil or really bad per say. He has bad judgement and hes lazy and greedy. This villain is truly criminal evil and thus the story lacks some of the first impressions that made Jane Austen's story so exciting.

My favorite character is Rebecca, Shelby's literature professor roommate and best friend. She loves Jane Austen and Elizabeth Gaskell and makes other literary references. I loved that about her. I also love her Darcy obsession and her sense of humor about it. She's also interested in fashion which I could care less about, I still liked her. My second favorite character is Shelby. How could I not like her, a Civil War historian? Her new research project involves Civil War and Reconstruction diaries. Diaries are my speciality! What kept me from really loving her is her blind, almost childish Faith. I had a tough time accepting her belief in God's involvement in human lives. That and her lack of interest in good literature (She watched the BBC Pride and Prejudice and read the book once but has no interest in reading it again) kept me from fully loving her.

This Darcy - Ransom Fielding - is brooding. He has good reason to be. His story is hinted at and finally revealed when he's ready. It didn't really make me love him. I liked him OK. He has some gentlemanly qualities but he can also be harsh. Like Darcy, he's human and has flaws. His plot seemed a little improbable when he finally comes around in the end. The misunderstanding was so stupid and unbelievable it pretty much ruined the story for me.

This isn't a bad update but it's not one I'd read again.

Emma, Mr. Knightley, and Chili-Slaw Dogs (Austen Takes the South #2)Emma, Mr. Knightley, and Chili-Slaw Dogs by Mary Jane Hathaway

This story is an update of Jane Austen's Emma with far fewer characters. Caroline Ashley gave up a career with the Washington Post to come home and stay with her mother after the death of her father. Three years later, Caroline's mother still isn't well enough to be on her own and Caroline has settled in comfortably, aside from her mother's Bridge parties, pink lemonade and failed chocolate triple-layer cakes. Her best friend, Brooks Elliott (Mr. Knightley) lives next door with his widowed father. Brooks comes by every day to offer comfort, chili-slaw dogs and advice. Caroline is content until she meets Lexi Martinez, a budding artist from a working class family who is about to go off to college to study accounting. Caroline also meets Franklin Keene, an up and coming publisher of manga who wants to offer her a job. Suddenly, Brooks begins acting strangely around Frank and giving Caroline advice she hasn't asked for. He couldn't be in love with Caroline, could he? Not little Caroline who has always been like a kid sister to him. If he is in love with him, she would never see him as anything other than her big brother. Franklin's sworn enemy, Lauren Fairfield, returns to her grandmother's native Thorny Hollow to photograph the antebellum mansions for a coffee table book. Caroline begins to feel jealous of the time Lauren gets to spend with Brook at his family home. Brooks still visits almost every day when he can so why should she be jealous?

This is a fabulous update of Emma. I liked it much more than Hathaway's Pride and Prejudice update. This one is less Christian. The characters go to church on Sunday and believe in God and there's a brief mention by a secondary character about God's plan for us but that's the extent of the Christian content. The story flows smoothly until the big misunderstanding, which I didn't think worked as well as it does in the original. Jane Austen's characters are limited by the conventions of their time which limit their actions. Modern Caroline and Brooks are not constrained. They should be able to have an open conversation about things. That was the only part of the story I didn't really like.

This is more of a direct adaptation than Pride Prejudice and Cheese Grits and like the previous book, most of the references are to the BBC mini series. I found that one well acted and visually stunning but it used little of Jane Austen's amazing writing. I especially liked the Regency dance scene but the ladies should have been wearing 4 layers too. There's no mention of undergarments under their dresses, which were made to fit them.

The characters in this novel are wonderful. I really liked Caroline and could relate to her being stuck in a comfortable place. I felt for her that her mother wouldn't let her out of sight easily and longed for her to find herself. She's not as annoying as Emma. She interferes with a young woman's life but I agreed with her to a certain extent. I also agreed with Brooks. Caroline is more willing to admit her mistakes and accept them. The thing I did not like about her is that she is an educated woman who worked at the Washington Post and she can not read a Jane Austen novel? That sounds a little far fetched. Brooks is a swoony sort of hero. I never liked Mr. Knightley because he was always telling Emma what to do. Brooks listens and sometimes offers advice and sometimes teases. He's always there for Caroline when she needs him. Plus he's always accompanied by his dog.

Frank and Lauren are stereotypical characters. Those who know the story can easily see who Frank is supposed to be. Even his name is basically the same. I didn't like him from the first. Lauren annoyed me with her superior attitude and slinky clothing. She was a more complicated character to figure out and I was surprised at her story a bit. Blanche is the best secondary character. She may be Brooks' grandmother but she's not a typical Granny. Unlike the other ladies of Thorny Hollow, Blanche spends her days on a singles cruise! She's a hoot. I also loved Absalom, the Golden Retriever. He's very sweet though he doesn't have a lot to do. I felt bad for Debbie Mae. My best friend can sort of relate. Shelby and Ransom make a brief cameo appearance and are mentioned a few times.

The local color stuff is still here but less annoying than in the first book. The antebellum mansions are the most prominent southern feature, crazy women who sound like they're from The Help appear briefly and there's some Confederate reenactment but no one is Yankee bashing in this book.

I highly recommend this book to Mr. Knightley's biggest fans. It's very sweet.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Leave comments and or suggestions for QNPoohBear, the modern bluestocking.