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Tag Archives: Pride and Prejudice

Two_women_are_arguing_in_the_street_watched_by_a_crowd._Etch_Wellcome_V0040755How better to start 2016 at Risky Regencies than with a cat fight? Not a real one, of course, but a literary one pitting Jane Austen against Charlotte Brontë.

I just read Why Charlotte Brontë Hated Jane Austen by Susan Ostrov Weisser (Daily Beast, 10/19/2013) and, intrigued, looked around and found The Austen vs Brontë Smackdown on the blog Austen Pride (5/16/2009). I also found a long discussion of Austen vs the Brontës on Goodreads, which I skimmed, but did not read.

Apparently Charlotte Brontë had never read Jane Austen until a critic suggested she do so after she’d written Jane Eyre. She studied Pride and Prejudice and, among other things had this to say:

She ruffles her reader by nothing vehement, disturbs him with nothing profound. The passions are perfectly unknown to her: she rejects even a speaking acquaintance with that stormy sisterhood…

Austen Pride makes the point that Austen, who had passed away a year after Charlotte Brontë was born, could not rebut this accusation. In Northanger Abbey, Austen did, however, parody the emotional excesses of gothic tales, of which the Brontës’ books could be included.

Of course, those of us who love Austen would also argue that there is plenty of passion in Austen’s work, although it is brimming beneath the surface. How could you not think so of Persuasion?

Austen Pride concluded that the two authors were writing from different perspectives. Austen was writing about her keen observations of the world in which she lived; Charlotte and her sisters, on the other hand, wrote what was in their imagination.

Me, I was never a huge fan of Jane Eyre. I loved the beginning when she was in the orphanage, but I never believed in the romance between Jane and Rochester. And the coincidences of falling in a ditch and being found by her long-lost cousin didn’t work for me. I also hated how Rochester treated Jane. And don’t get me started on Wuthering Heights. Heathcliff and Cathy have to die to be together? And who would want Heathcliff anyway? I preferred Edgar to Heathcliff.

I think I hold my fictional heroes to very high standards, ones that the Rochester and Heathcliff don’t quite meet. I understand the forces driving the Brontë heroes, but I much prefer heroes I can admire and even fall in love with. Heroes like Austen creates.

I also love all the finely drawn characters in Austen’s books. Their actions and feelings are much more believable to me and that gives me the sense that I’m in a real place, among real people.

But that is me, thinking on the surface of the stories, which is mostly how I read books.

What about you? Do you prefer Austen or the Brontës? Or do you like both for different reasons?

  How did you fall in love with historical romance stories, as a genre? Last weekend’s “Fall Back in Time” campaign had a lovely nostalgic twist to it when people posted photos of beloved old historical romances that set them on the path to addiction –oh, wait, I mean, that introduced them to the genre.

Those included Jane Austen novels and the now-classic Kathleen Woodiwiss romances like The Flame and the Flower, as you might expect, but also a huge range of other books and authors. We writers never know when one of our own stories may serve as the “gateway” book for a new historical fiction fan’s addiction. Of course, we take a kind of evil delight when that happens. Hooked another one! Heh-heh. It’s a lovely validation of what we do.

Readers seem to fall into one of three camps with how their interest started. Where do you fit? Did you discover historical fiction first, perhaps in childhood? Or did you discover romance novels first, then the historical ones as a subgenre? Or did you find historical romance as a new type of story to love, all at once?

I fit into that first category, hooked on historical A Little Maid of Marylandfiction very early. As a young reader I devoured the “Little Maid” series written by Alice Turner Curtis (American history). Originally published in the 1920’s, those fired up my imagination and influenced some of my early attempts at writing. I was lucky to have a mom who knew about them. Despite how dated the writing seems now, I would still buy the reissues on Amazon if I had any young girls in my family! From there, I loved to read any story that was set before the 20th century.

Earthfasts coverThen there was Earthfasts by William Mayne. It mixed contemporary and historical time, fantasy and reality and the supernatural, and it is set in the Dales in England –who could resist a book like that? I still take this book out and re-read it from time to time, still plunged right into the story by Mayne’s vivid writing.

I stumbled upon Pride and Prejudice on the library shelves (I do so miss browsing, don’t you?) in 7th grade. Even though I didn’t understand half of it at the time, I couldn’t get enough. The combination of historical setting with romance mixed in was intoxicating. I started reading my mother’s copies of Mary Stewart and Victoria Holt/Phillippa Carr, and then I discovered Barbara Cartland. (I know.) I read everything. I was on a quest. But the Regency time-setting very quickly became my favorite, along with authors like Edith Layton, Mary Jo Putney, Joan Wolfe and Mary Balogh. Now my list has too many authors on it to name them all!

So, what authors got you started, and how did you start? Who were your favorites? I’d love to know. If you want to post pictures, we might be able to have some of the discussion over on our Riskies’ Facebook page, which I tend to forget about. But please comment here first, and then let us know if you are going to post there! In the meantime, happy reading!!


eatingC.S. Lewis really nailed it. I’m someone who’s never thrown herself out of bed for eating crackers, and I’m a chronic eater/reader.

The idea for this post came when I was getting ready to watch Call The Midwife (brilliant series) and I was compelled to drink tea (nothing unusual about that) and eat a slice of bread and jam. Why? Because they’re the flavors of my childhood and that show evokes the time and place so brilliantly.

Chocolate and romance is something of a cliche, but check out this review I received for my book Improper Relations in which the reviewer says she:

… sat down in the snuggliest corner of my couch with a cup of earl grey and a piece of shortbread. Upon beginning the book, however, I realised that perhaps I should have started with a glass of claret and a plate of figs.

I consider that a terrific compliment to the book and I’m wondering if it’s possible to enhance your reading with the appropriately chosen food. Think about it: a very alcoholic hot punch, boiled ham, plum pudding for Dickens. Dickens was very keen on telling us what people were eating so you have many choices. For Austen, it’s not so easy. She rarely describes food: the nectarines and grapes and peaches served at Pemberly are there to remind us again that Darcy is super rich with an estate similar to Edward Knight‘s; and Lydia’s cucumber salad may be, as Freud famously said, only a salad.

hepburn I’ve just read a book with lots of ex-military alpha males with tats and I think a big rare hamburger with fries would have been excellent. Or else a huge all-American hot dog. Dripping with … condiments.

If you’re into food and books, and planning a trip to the Baltimore Book Festival this weekend, I’ll be at the Maryland Romance Writers’ tent at 7 pm on Saturday evening on a panel about Sex & Sensuality (condiments optional). It’s a great festival, books, beer, and naturally food, down at the Inner Harbor this year. And also check out the Maryland Romance Writers Online Auction. I’m offering a critique and tea-related goodness and there are all sorts of fantastic items. Check it out!

What have you been reading recently? What food would have gone with it? Or suggest an author-food match!


I’m continuing Myretta’s Jane Austen theme today.

The Christian Science Monitor just published an article on the 200th anniversary of Pride and Prejudice, coinciding with Bath’s annual Jane Austen Festival. The title of the article is “Victorian-era soap opera turns 200: Pride and Prejudice still resonates today.”

Doesn’t that raise your hackles?

My goodness! First to call the book Victorian-era?

One could argue whether the book was Regency, because it was published in 1813, during the Regency, or whether it was Georgian, since Austen first wrote it in 1797, but it is lightyears from being Victorian in time-period and story! One wonders whether the journalist (or title writer) ever thought to check his research on that matter? Ironically, attached to the article is a a quiz about the United Kingdom (more on that later). I suspect the writers would not score well.

PrideandPrejudiceCH3detailThen to call Pride and Prejudice a soap opera? Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

The article compares the popularity of Downton Abbey to Pride and Prejudice. Now, I love Downton Abbey, but it is more a soap opera than Pride and Prejudice ever could be. Wikipedia defines a soap opera as:  a serial drama, on television or radio, that features multiple related story lines dealing with the lives of multiple characters. The stories in these series typically focus heavily on emotional relationships to the point of melodrama.

Pride and Prejudice isn’t a series. True, the book has multiple characters with multiple story lines and is heavily focused on emotional relationships, but never never to the point of melodrama! Austen did not write melodrama. She wrote with a keen observation, wisdom, and wit about people, about their strengths and weaknesses, about how they could change and grow-through love.

Bingley&Jane_CH_55What’s more, Pride and Prejudice is considered one of the greatest books in literature. It regularly appears on lists of the greatest books of all time (except on one list I read yesterday and couldn’t find today to provide a link. And this list of 100 Must Read Books for Men- only one woman author there, Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird). Consider this quote from Anna Quindlen:

Pride and Prejudice is also about that thing that all great novels consider, the search for self. And it is the first great novel to teach us that that search is as surely undertaken in the drawing room making small talk as in the pursuit of a great white whale or the public punishment of adultery. (from Wikipedia)

Other than that, the article is pretty decent with some good observations from people who have the expertise to speak knowledgeably about the book.

It also includes a fun quiz – How Well Do You Know Pride and Prejudice? I scored only 80% mostly because I didn’t know enough about the film adaptations of the book. And I guessed Lizzie’s age wrong.

The article also links to another quiz – Keep calm and answer on: Take our United Kingdom quiz. I scored 80% on this one, too, mostly because I know Regency history, but not much else!

Take the quizzes and tell us how you do!

Do you think Pride and Prejudice is a soap opera?

Happy Labor Day, everyone!

IMG_0146In Virginia, Labor Day is, by law, the day before school starts, so it seems fitting for me to discuss education, specifically the education of a Regency young lady.

Our heroes all have attended Eton or Harrow and on to Oxford or Cambridge, but what of our heroines? There really wasn’t parallel educational paths for women during the Regency. Daughters of the aristocracy were typically educated at home by governesses, like Jane Austen’s Emma, supplemented by music masters, drawing masters and dance masters, of course.

There were boarding schools, many of them in Bath. The better ones catered to the daughters of the ton, but daughters of gentry might attend such schools as well. Not all of these schools gave what we would consider a quality education. Later than the Regency (1840), Dorothea Beale  describes:

…what miserable teaching we had in many subjects; history was learned by committing to memory little manuals; rules of arithmetic were taught, but the principles were never explained. Instead of reading and learning the masterpieces of literature, we repeated week by week the ‘Lamentations of King Hezekiah’, the pretty but somewhat weak ‘Mother’s Picture’.

Being truly educated, a bluestocking, was not a desirable condition for a lady, though. Young ladies were expected to be accomplished, not educated. In Pride and Prejudice, Caroline Bingley gives us a list (Austen’s) of what this means:

A woman must have a thorough knowledge of music, singing, drawing, dancing, and the modern languages, to deserve the word. Mr. Darcy adds, To all this she must yet add something more substantial, in the improvement of her mind by extensive reading.

They leave out needlework, both decorative and practical, another important component of a young lady’s education, as was letter-writing. Young ladies also learned French and Italian. In an ironic way, a young lady’s education could be more varied than a Regency gentleman’s. A Regency boy was expected to learn Latin and Greek and was confined to a Classical education. A young lady could read and study anything she liked. Jane Austen had the run of her father’s library. She never mentions Classical Literature in her books.

Has school started in your area yet? What are you doing for Labor Day?

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