Thursday, January 14, 2010

What I'm Reading Now: Jane Bites Back


I would normally have avoided this book like the plague if it hadn't been for Sarah over at Reading the Past who reviewed this book on her site. I normally avoid Austen prequels, sequels, etc. like the plague. I've never read any of the Jane Austen or the Mr. & Mrs. Darcy mysteries either. However, I was intrigued by this book. Particularly the cover.

From the back cover:

Two hundred years after her death, Jane Austen is still surrounded by the literature she loves—but now it's because she's the owner of Flyleaf Books in a sleepy college town in Upstate New York. Every day she watches her novels fly off the shelves—along with dozens of unauthorized sequels, spin-offs, and adaptations. Jane may be undead, but her books have taken on a life of their own.



To make matters worse, the manuscript she finished just before being turned into a vampire has been rejected by publishers—116 times. Jane longs to let the world know who she is, but when a sudden twist of fate thrusts her back into the spotlight, she must hide her real identity—and fend off a dark man from her past while juggling two modern suitors. Will the inimitable Jane Austen be able to keep her cool in this comedy of manners, or will she show everyone what a woman with a sharp wit and an even sharper set of fangs can do?

After reading that how could I resist? The best part is that Jane was turned into a vampire by Lord Byron which is completely believable. If any 19th century author was going to be an actual vampire it would be him. After all his doctor, John Polidori, wrote a book called The Vampyr that most people assumed was based on Byron. Although Jane Austen still struggles with her altered nature, she doesn't spend alot of time whinging on about it. Yes, she's a vampire and she has to feed, but she finds remarkably clever ways of doing it. The supporting characters, especially her assistant at the bookstore, Lucy are warm, and witty, people that you want to spend more time with. Ford has managed to write a book that should appeal to both Janeites and lovers of vampire fiction. I'm sure there are die-hard Jane Austen fans who will think that their heroine doesn't appear particularly Jane-like but remember she's 234 years old. Ford also doesn't spend alot of time setting up the vampire mythology in his book. Although Jane and Byron go to a vampire restaurant in New Orleans, Jane admits that she hasn't spent a great deal of time with her kind.

The best part are the intriguing snippets from Jane's book Constance that are included at the head of each chapter. I hope that Ballantine at some point decides to publish Constance the way that Avon published the romance that Princess Mia was writing (with a little help from Meg Cabot). There is a sub-plot involving a literary rival of Jane's that I had thought was dropped half-way through but came roaring back towards the end.

The only negative criticisms I have are that most books aren't rushed out as quickly as they are depicted in this book. And I was a little annoyed at the depiction of the Romance Writer's Guild conference. It's a little too easy to poke fun at romance writers. Still, I thought this book was thoroughly enjoyable although slight and I'm intrigued enough that I would be willing to read the next two books in the series.

You can read more about the author at http://www.janebitesback.com/ or at http://www.michaelthomasford.com/