Show Me the Romance

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Archive for the tag “Jane Austen”

Friday Frivolity: Title Inflation in Regency Romances

What is up with the proliferation of dukes in the Regency romance genre?

This is a terribly unscientific observation, but it seems like the last few novels I’ve read in the genre have all featured dukes as heroes. I’m currently reading The Last Hellion by one of my favorite authors, Loretta Chase (hero: the Duke of Ainswood). I’m also halfway through YA Regency The Season by Sarah MacLean, which features the daughter of a duke. The count for other ducal characters in The Season is up to five, and I may yet find more. I just read another novel by Loretta Chase featuring a ducal hero, and another one of my favorite authors, Eloisa James, seems to make a good 75% of her heroes and heroines dukes, or duchesses, or both.

Okay, I get it. The power is attractive. But it’s horribly unrealistic when the rest of the aforementioned novels boast brilliant characters and bear the hallmarks of painstaking research.

Jane Austen knew that world better than any of us could. Mr. Darcy doesn’t need to be the Duke of Darcy to exude wealth and power. The highest ranking character mentioned in any of her novels is the Dowager Viscountess Dalrymple in Persuasion—and in the hierarchy of English ranks, a viscountess is a good three steps lower than a duke.

Dukes are supposed to be rare. That’s part of the reason people fawn all over them. Besides, isn’t a “Mr.” who is powerful and influential without an inflated title far more interesting?

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Book Review: Darcy’s Passions

Darcy’s Passions
Novel by Regina Jeffers
A retelling of Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice

So in case you haven’t noticed the ballooning words over in my tag cloud, I’ve been on a Jane Austen kick lately. When I wasn’t able to find the retelling of Persuasion I was looking for, I decided to investigate the author by settling for the only one of her books I could find in our local library: Darcy’s Passions by Regina Jeffers.

And I do mean settle. This is an awful book.

The Premise

I think everyone with even a passing interest in romance knows the plot for Pride & Prejudice (if not, check out the Pride & Prejudice Wikipedia page) and this is a retelling told almost entirely from Darcy’s point of view. I say “almost” because the author frequently slip-n-slides between her characters’ heads, all the while pretending she’s sticking only with Darcy. Also, Jeffers gives us almost 100 pages after the second proposal. Sound like a smorgasbord? Imagine how you’d feel after eating two entire double-fudge chocolate cakes in less than a half hour. Groan.

The Pain

Let’s breeze by the wrong word choices (things frequently “peak” her characters’ interest and one even says “perspective bride”) and go straight to the fact that after the second proposal the real Darcy and Elizabeth vanish from the pages (probably to go enjoy each other in private) and leave behind two sappy, chatty, PDA-prone doppelgangers. My mush-tolerance got maxed out some 90 pages before the end of the book, but I kept reading just to see how deep the rabbit hole went. The answer? Pretty darn far.

The Payoff

When you ignore those word choices, and Jeffers’ tendency to write like the academic she is, the parts of the novel that mirror Austen’s plot can be entertaining. I enjoyed seeing more of the friendship between Darcy and Colonel Fitzwilliam.

Yeah, that’s about it.

Rating:

1 out of 5 arrows

Miniseries Review: Emma (2009)

Emma
BBC Miniseries, 240 minutes (4 one-hour episodes)
based on the novel by Jane Austen

Every few years, someone in the movie industry decides it’s time to remake an Austen film. Hollywood did it in 2005 with the Kiera Knightly version of Pride & Prejudice—or, as my friend Katie calls it, “Emily Brontë’s Pride & Prejudice.” Naturally, filmmakers want to try their hand at the biggest women’s franchise ever (try to argue Twilight has eclipsed Austen, I dare you).

Sometimes, I wish they’d do something other than P&P or Emma. There isn’t a decent Northanger Abbey, and though I adore the Amanda Root/Ciaran Hinds Persuasion, there’s ample room for another entry there, too. But did I say any of this when Katie invited me to a “new Emma” viewing party? Of course not. It’s a new Austen film, yay!

The Premise

For the uninitiated, Emma is about a smart, wealthy young lady in 1810’s England who decides she’s a brilliant matchmaker and proceeds to meddle in the lives of her friends and neighbors—with funny and sometimes disastrous results. Her behavior puts a strain on her friendship with Mr. Knightly, who is her only intellectual equal. Emma may think she’s a great matchmaker, but she knows nothing about her own heart.

The Pain

Most women my age picture Jeremy Northam (from 1996’s Emma) as Mr. Knightley, so Jonny Lee Miller (aka Edmund Bertram in 1999’s Mansfield Park) takes some getting used to in the Mr. Knightley role. The Brontëan darkness shoehorned into parts of the miniseries stand at odds with Austen’s usual social satire. Lastly, Emma’s occasional anachronistic behavior will be jarring to anyone familiar with the mores of the period.

The Payoff

As Emma, actress Romola Garai is an elegant imp who has so much fun with the story that I almost forgave her those anachronisms. As Emma’s father, Michael Gambon is fabulous, and even Jonny Lee Miller comes through on the romance.

Rating:

4 out of 5 arrows

Miniseries Review: North and South (2004)

North and South
BBC Miniseries, 235 minutes (4 one-hour episodes)

based on the novel by Elizabeth Gaskell

From the way people describe this story, you’d think it was called Pride and Prejudice and the Industrial Revolution in Victorian England. To a certain extent, that’s an accurate pigeonhole. The romance is of the “I hate him, I hate him, I hate him, oh crap I love him!” variety—one of my personalfavorites—and instead of satirizing society (Jane Austen’s forte), Elizabeth Gaskell goes after issues of social conscience, contrasting the stark differences between pastoral, agrarian southern England and the bustling, hardscrabble mill towns transforming the north of England in the 1840’s.

The Premise

When spirited middle-class southerner Margaret Hale (played by Daniela Denby-Ashe) has to move with her family to Milton, a sooty, every-man-for-himself northern city that’s nothing like the beautiful village she’s known all her life, she hates everything about it. The city’s dirty air hurts her mother’s health and the people are pushy and hard. To her, attractive mill owner John Thornton (Richard Armitage) epitomizes everything that’s wrong with the North, and when she befriends one of his workers, a girl whose health has been damaged in the mills, Margaret knows exactly who to blame. If you’re wondering how The Man could possibly be a sympathetic hero, all I can say is Gaskell knows her romance.

The Pain

A drab gray palette suffuses nearly every bit of the movie. You keep expecting spring to arrive, and with it some color, or flowers, or something, but it would seem that there are no beautiful days in the North.

The Payoff

Is John Thornton. He’s full of restrained passion and out-smolders Darcy, if you can imagine that. I highly recommend.

5 out of 5 Arrows

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