I bring you a collection of stories and novellas edited by Christina Boyd, from The Quill Collective, whose works I have reviewed before, and here they revisit one of my favourite Austen characters. Perhaps because she’s headstrong as obstinate, and so am I. Oh, I’m participating in the blog tour for the release of the book, so apart from my review, there’s also a feature by one of the authors, J. Marie Croft, and a giveaway. Don’t miss them!
Elizabeth: Obstinate Headstrong Girl (The Quill Collective) by Joana Starnes, Amy D’Orazio, Jenetta James, Karen M Cox, Christina Morland, Elizabeth Adams, Beau North, J. Marie Croft, Leigh Dreyer, Christina Boyd, Tessa Dare (Foreword)
“Obstinate, headstrong girl!” For over two hundred years, the heroine of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, Elizabeth Bennet has enchanted and inspired readers by being that “obstinate, headstrong girl” willing to stand up to the arrogance and snobbery of her so-called betters. Described by Austen as having a “lively, playful disposition,” Elizabeth embodies the perfect imperfections of strong-willed women everywhere: she is spirited, witty, clever, and loyal. In this romance anthology, ten Austenesque authors sketch Elizabeth’s character through a collection of re-imaginings, set in the Regency through contemporary times. In ELIZABETH: OBSTINATE, HEADSTRONG GIRL, she bares her most intimate thoughts, all the while offering biting social commentary about life’s absurdities. Elizabeth overcomes the obstacles of others’ opinions, not to mention her own flaws, to find a love truly worthy of her—her Mr. Darcy—all with humor and her sparkling charm. “I think her as delightful a character as ever appeared in print…” wrote Jane Austen in a letter to her sister Cassandra, January 1813―and we think so too! Foreword by NY Times & USA Today bestselling author Tessa Dare. Stories by: Elizabeth Adams, Christina Boyd, Karen M Cox, J. Marie Croft, Amy D’Orazio, Leigh Dreyer, Jenetta James, Christina Morland, Beau North, and Joana Starnes.
I thank Christina Boyd, the editor and also one of the authors of the collection, for sending me an invite to participate on the launch blog tour and for the ARC copy of the volume, which I freely chose to review. I have read and reviewed some of the other anthologies The Quill Collective has published and loved them, so I was delighted to be asked and to be able to participate.
I’ve decided to talk a bit about each one of them, because they are all quite different in style (some written in the first person, some in the third, some quite humorous, some more serious, some set in the same time period as the original and others not, some shorter and some longer) but somehow manage to live up to the spirit and the wit of one of Austen’s best-loved characters.
Each story/novella is introduced by a quote from the original, which highlights an aspect later explored in more detail in the text, and it is also signposted by an individual cover, all of them beautiful.
Foreword: Tessa Dare
Witty, clever, and a very fitting introduction to the subject matter and to the stories. Mark Twain gets a mention!
Resolution: Amy D’Orazio
Set within the period of the novel, this short story plays on the ‘what if’. What would have happened if somebody close to Darcy had decided to take things in their hands? How would that have influenced the outcome? And what if Liz had finally succumbed to life’s harsh realities and forgotten her prejudices? An interesting turn of events and an amusing (but romantic) short story, aimed at readers familiar with the details of P&P. Thank God for alcoholic beverages and meddling maids!
The House Party: Jenetta James
I have read short and long fiction by Jenetta James and she delivers, once more, in this short story/vignette, that moves forward the events to early XX century, in the setting of the Suffragist movement, and rewrites a memorable party and visit to the Bingley’s home. Wickham is up to his old tricks! A great story that could be read without previous knowledge of Austen’s novel, although it will be greatly enjoyed by fans of the original.
Atmospheric Disturbances: Christina Morland
This is, in a way, a Much Ado About Nothing situation, at least on the surface of it, when readers get to eavesdrop (well, and also get inside Elizabeth’s head) on an argument between Elizabeth and Darcy, after their engagement. For those of us who love the witty interactions between the two and the pull and push of their relationship, any opportunity to see them, and hear them, when they are in each other’s company is a pleasure, and so it is here, in a vignette that explores the dynamics of their relationship and we get to see a more vulnerable, but still reserved and proud, Darcy, and an Elizabeth prone to making a fuss, worrying, determined to know her future husband, and oh, so headstrong!
Love in Limelight: Beau North
North here transports the action to Hollywood in 1934. Elizabeth has become Eliza Bennett (her stage name) and she and Jenny are actresses, now in Hollywood. Charles Bingley is a film director, Darcy is, of course, the head of the studio, Pembley, and Georgina is Gigi, who was a child star and now is trying to move on to adult acting roles. There are misunderstandings and confusions at every turn, Wickham’s incarnation works extremely well, and I loved the use of expressions and language of the period, the bright and bubbly setting, the headlines and snippets of gossip news included in the story, and, well, everything.
The Uncommonly Busy Lane to Longbourn: Joanna Starnes
This short-story/novella reads like one of those movie outtakes included as a bonus in the luxury edition of a Blu-ray disc, or an alternative ending, where it is difficult to decide which one you prefer. It is set in the same time period as the original; the characters behave pretty much as we would expect them to, down to the long walks, the witty conversations, Elizabeth’s poor opinion of Darcy and her strong support of Wickham, but Darcy is a bit more forceful in his attempt at warning Elizabeth against the rogue and this sets in motion a chain of events that slightly alter things but do not derail the overall story where it matters. It also has pretty funny moments.
It felt as if this story could have pretty well replaced what actually happens at that point in the original (no, I won’t go into details), and it would have fitted perfectly well. This could well have happened in an alternative P&P universe.
Resistive Currents: Karen M Cox
I am a fan of Cox’s writing, both her Austenesque stories and novels and also those that stride away from the Austen universe, and this short story/novella delivers again. This is one of the stories in the collection that I think can be enjoyed by readers who have no particular knowledge of P&P, although Austen’s readers will get a kick out of it.
Cox offers us two stories, of two women in the same family, separated by several generations (one a teacher in rural Colorado at the beginning of the XX century, the other her great-granddaughter, in the 1980s, a girl studying engineering at university, a profession still dominated by men) and how their own prejudice towards men whom they think don’t value them or see their worth because they are women causes them to misunderstand and misjudge them. I would have been happy to read a whole novel about these headstrong girls and their beaus, and I’m sure I won’t be alone in this.
Something Like Regret: Elizabeth Adams
The author explores in detail an episode that is a favourite of many of us who are fans of the BBC series. Yes, I am talking about Lizzy’s visit to Pembury with her aunt and uncle, and her surprise meeting with Darcy (Sorry, no wet shirt here). Adams allows us a peep into Elizabeth’s mind, and we follow her train of thought, her doubts, her regrets, and get to experience first-hand her gradual change of heart. Although this story would not work for those who don’t know P&P, it would easily fit into the novel, down to the direct addresses to her “reader”, and I am sure Austen would have approved.
The Last Blind Date: Leigh Dreyer
Elizabeth and Darcy are here transported to modern-day Oklahoma. Elizabeth is a hardworking student who also waits tables, and Jane and Charlotte are her friends (although we only get snippets of it, their relationship is the stuff of chick lit and they are great together), and Darcy is an heir to a big oil company who has spent much of his life studying abroad. Neither of them is what the other expects at their blind date, and the reasons behind their behaviours are soon evident.
One of the shorter stories that could be read independently from the original, particularly recommended to football fans.
The Age of Nescience: J. Marie Croft
This short-story/novella would again fit into what I’ve referred to as the outtakes of a Blu-ray, or an anniversary luxury edition of P&P with added materials. Here, we get an insight into Elizabeth’s past, her life and experiences before we meet her in P&P, from her first attendance at a ball (at the tender age of fifteen), to her visit to Pemberley, and this allows us to enjoy more of her family life, learn about her dreams as a young girl, her disappointments in love, her interactions with her mother, sisters, and especially her father (we experience both his wit but also his lack of backbone and his unwillingness to challenge his wife and daughters, all in the name of a quiet life), and like her, we gain a greater insight and understanding of how she came to be how she is and why this visit is so momentous for her.
Again, a beautifully observed and written story (such attention to language!), and one Austen would have approved of, including the reference to the similarities of the characters and situations to those of Oliver Goldsmith’s The Vicar of Wakefield.
A Mate for Life: Christina Boyd
In this short-story/summary, we have an elderly Elizabeth talking to her granddaughter —who shares more than a few characteristics with her granny (she’s headstrong and obstinate as well)—and telling her about her love story with Fitzwilliam Darcy. Her granddaughter has found her own Mr Darcy (he’s proud and handsome as well), and the story seems to repeat itself, although thankfully it runs a bit smoother this time. The narration works beautifully as a summary and introduction to the original for those who might not have read it (I’d encourage them to consider reading this story first, perhaps), and although, but its own nature there’s a fair amount of telling, the interaction of Elizabeth with a woman of the new generation, Darcy’s imagined commentary, and the setting and freshness of the scene make this a delightful and perfect story to end the book with.
I recommend the collection especially to lovers of Pride and Prejudice, although it is not necessary to be an expert in it (and some of the stories can be read independently from the original), and to those readers who enjoy thinking of what else could have happened or wonder what went on behind the scenes. The writing is superb and I am sure all the fans of the many writers taking part will enjoy the stories and will be happy to discover new writers with similar tastes and interests. I congratulate The Quill Collective and hope they’ll keep coming up with new ways to keep Austen and her characters alive.
Here I introduce you to J. Marie Croft (and I truly loved her story):
Why Elizabeth? by J. Marie Croft
When Christina invited me to submit a story for Elizabeth: Obstinate, Headstrong Girl, I was already in the midst of writing a series of Pride and Prejudice vignettes, from Mr Darcy’s perspective, beginning in 1806. While writing those, I wondered what might have been going on in Elizabeth’s life during her adolescence. Contributing a piece to the anthology presented a wonderful opportunity to find out.
Beyond her formative years, what shaped Elizabeth’s outlook on life? In “The Age of Nescience”, I speculate on events and influences that might have determined the nature of her prejudice before Darcy and the Netherfield party even entered the picture.
For me, Darcy’s POV is far easier than getting inside Elizabeth’s head. Not having Austen’s genius, it’s a daunting task to come up with anything resembling her—hence Elizabeth’s—quick, forthright wit. I’m pretty much Elizabeth’s diametrical opposite. My verbal comebacks always come far too late. So, while I think of it, I say, “Brava!” to the other writers in this anthology for so perfectly capturing our feisty heroine’s spirit.
Elizabeth Bennet certainly has esprit. And—in addition to being lively, vivacious, and witty—she is a self-confident, independent, opinionated young lady who tempers aplomb with polite, respectable manners. Those are but a scant few of the attributes making her such a beloved character and why we, as fans, want to write stories about her.
“I must confess that I think her as delightful a character as ever appeared in print, and how I shall be able to tolerate those who do not like her at least, I do not know.” ~ Jane Austen (from a letter to her sister, Cassandra)
Elizabeth’s creator needn’t have worried. And those of us who do love Elizabeth are in good company. After all, her greatest fan is an intelligent, discerning gentleman who finally looks beyond her flaws and her family’s background and beyond fine eyes and light, pleasing figure to discover the fertile mind and the delightfully charming, impertinent, honest, loyal character within.
Within the pages of Elizabeth: Obstinate, Headstrong Girl, may you find even more reasons to love her. –J. Marie Croft (Joanne)
J. MARIE CROFT is a self-proclaimed word nerd and adherent of Jane Austen’s quote “Let other pens dwell on guilt and misery.” Bearing witness to Joanne’s fondness for Pride and Prejudice, wordplay, and laughter are her light-hearted novel, Love at First Slight (a Babblings of a Bookworm Favourite Read of 2014), her playful novella, A Little Whimsical in His Civilities (Just Jane 1813’s Favourite 2016 JAFF Novella), and her short stories in the anthologies Sun-kissed, The Darcy Monologues, Dangerous to Know, Rational Creatures, and Yuletide. Joanne lives in Nova Scotia, Canada. Connect with Joanne via Facebook / Twitter / website
Here, the giveaway.
⭐️Giveaway: The #OmgItsOHG (Oh-my-gosh, it’s Obstinate Headstrong Girl) Blog Tour began February 18 with announcement and cover reveal at Austenesque Reviews, and we hope you will continue to join us and connect with each author about their “Elizabeth” story. We’ve included a Grand Prize package giveaway (a book of your choosing from each of the eleven author’s backlist) as well as additional giveaway: my Silly Austen-inspired blank note cards and coordinating coffee mug. Open worldwide, so be sure to participate. 1) Enter the Rafflecopter for the Grand Prize package of books, and 2) comment on the blog stops to be counted for the additional giveaway (you need not comment everywhere to be entered in that drawing but we hope you’ll have your share of the conversation.) Ends March 31.
And the mugs:
And, although I know this is a very long post, I couldn’t resist…
Thanks to Christina Boyd, to J. Marie Croft and to all the writers for the book, thanks to all of you for reading, remember to like, share, comment, click, review, take part in the giveaway, and always, always, be smiling!