Sep 152012
 

I used to keep my Austenesque books in a drawer, but after I won a few giveaways, they suddenly no longer fit. So then I stacked them on the top of a bookcase, spines facing towards the wall. That worked until the pile reached the ceiling. I’d intercept the packages marked “media rate” before my husband came home. I’d use my e-reader with the cover tilted up to ward off my neighbor’s curious glances.

You see, I was a closet Austenesque fan. To the world, I was a purist, but it was becoming too hard to keep up the pretense, between the giveaways coming in the mail, the library calling to say the Austen sequel I asked them to buy was in, my pink cheeks whenever someone asked me what I was reading.

For years, I thought Austen wasn’t for me. I’m an avid reader, and if there was a classic that you had to read, I probably read it because I wanted to. And I probably liked it. I even have a fondness for British authors. But when I tried to readEmma in high school, I hated it. Or, more to the point, I hated her. Miss Emma Woodhouse was spoiled, meddlesome and I never finished the book.

That’s all right,” I thought. “I’ll stick with the Bronte sisters, with Dickens, Verne, Stevenson. Plenty of 19th century British authors in the sea!”

And then, my husband, a closet romantic if there ever was one, wanted to see the 2005 Pride and Prejudicemovie. Well, I was not about to see a movie based on a book without reading the book! So I checked it out from the library. And I fell in love. Head over heels, all-consuming love! I adored the dialogue between Darcy and Elizabeth, I loved Austen’s humor, her clever wit, the romantic ending for two flawed characters who become better people and then find true happiness together.

I read Austen’s other works; Pride and Prejudice will always be my favorite, followed by Persuasion. I’ll never like Emma Woodhouse, but I appreciated her more at 24 than at 14. But what else was there? I read literary criticisms, joined JASNA, and I own multiple copies of my favorites just for their unique introductions and annotations. What else is there for the fan of an author who has been dead for nearly 200 years?

Full disclosure: My husband once had to drag me from a bookstore while I was ranting and raving about Austen reimaginings. Wait! Let me explain: I wanted a particular edition of P&P. Not only did this national chain not have my edition, but there was no edition in stock. None. There was a rumpled Northanger Abbey and Persuasion paperback and at least 3 copies of S&S. So I was irritated. Then I turned a corner and what do I see, but 2 shelves of sequels and retellings, with the name Darcy in every title, and a sultry woman in regency dress on each cover. And I snapped. Not my finest moment, I admit. So, you see, I was not predisposed to become an Austenesque fan.

And then, while working the desk at the library, a patron told me she had enjoyed Jane Eyre and were there other authors who continued her story? “Well, there’s the Wide Sargasso Sea that tells the story of Bertha Mason … but, umm,” I floundered. I had no idea if the concept was a popular one. I had to know: did anyone write a continuation about Darcy and Elizabeth’s life at Pemberley?

When more discerning eyes weren’t watching, I typed ‘Darcy, Fitzwilliam fictitious character’ into the catalog’s subject field. In 2007, there were not nearly as many titles as there are today, but I was surprised to see how many were available. I skipped over the modern ones and those with more provocative cover art and chose from what was left: a trilogy of three books by Pamela Aidan that retold Pride and Prejudice from Darcy’s perspective. I requested the first one and devoured it. That night, I requested the second one. Then, horror of horrors, the library didn’t own the final book! Waiting a week for a copy from a neighboring library was nerve-racking, even though I knew how it ended.

Amanda Grange, Abigail Reynolds, and Sharon Lathan regencies followed, and of course there was no way to avoid the vampyres and zombies. When my husband noticed a book I had foolishly left out in the open, he teased me for reading Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. “They’ll revoke your JASNA membership for that.” I gave a shaky laugh and decided to be more careful about where I left my books. Pretty soon I had read most of the available books in our library system.

Foolish me, for thinking those few books were the end of Austen retellings and sequels! Last summer, in that serendipitous way of blogs, someone had a link that directed me to Austenesque Reviews and Austenesque Extravaganza!

Oh. My. Goodness. Pages and pages of reviews of Austen fan fiction, links to authors’ websites and blogs, and what is this? Giveaways! Through Meredith’s site and last year’s Extravaganza, I discovered a rich world full of people who cherish Jane Austen, her novels, and the world that she lived in. It made me realize that I was hardly alone in my appreciation of Austenesque books. There were others who also loved retellings through Darcy’s eyes, mysteries solved by Jane Austen, what if variations, and on and on.

So I no longer hide my Austenesque books and pretend that I’m a Jane purist. I love participating in a large community who find as much enjoyment from the expanding world that Austen created as I do. I think Jane would tell me that the person who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid; so instead of limiting myself to her 6 novels, I’ll happily read whatever good Austen paraliterature novel I can find.

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  41 Responses to “Ardent Admirer – Heather”

  1.  

    I love Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion as well. 🙂 It was nice hearing about you! Hope you have fun for the rest of Austenesque Extravaganza!

    🙂
    twitter: rosefire15

  2.  

    This was really interesting. When I was in high school I took British Literature against my guidance counselors advise because I found it interesting. I love reading books based on Jane Austen’s books, especially Pride and Prejudice. Have a great day & thanks for sharing.

    crystal_dark[at]att[dot]net

  3.  

    Great to see that you were finally transformed!
    Lovely to meet you!

    @samjaymc

  4.  

    LOL–congratulations on coming out of the closet! I enjoyed your story 🙂

  5.  

    I love your story! This is awesome. I am sure that you are glad you tried to discover new books for your patrons, and found books that you have enjoyed.

  6.  

    Hello, Heather. Nice to meet a fellow passionate fan. Glad you came out of your closet and become a full-fledged Austenesque admirer. 🙂

    evangelineace2020[at]yahoo[dot]com

  7.  

    Ha, glad I’m not the only one who started out as a closet fan! 😀 Thanks for sharing!
    araminta18 at gmail dot com

  8.  

    So funny! I read and wrote in that closet for so long, too. Your tale definitely strikes a chord with many of us, I think. 🙂

    T..

    tegeirian at hotmail dot com

  9.  

    Yay Heather for coming out of the closet! Husbands will always look at you oddly for owning a whole bookshelf full of Mr. Darcy, Capn Wentworth, and even Col. Fitz. ;D

    You have a fun writing voice to read. Thanks!
    Sophia
    sophiarose1816(at)gmail(dot)com

  10.  

    Hi Heather! Your story made me laugh. I think a lot of us were, or are, closet Austenesque-ophiles. Yeah, I just made up a word! My library is a big help to feeding my addiction. They let patrons request to purchase up to 5 things per month and I do, every month, without fail. Almost all of it is Austenesque and very few they’ve rejected. Has your husband read any of your Austenesque books – have you caught him peeking?

    Monica
    @jaffobsession

    •  

      I’m pretty sure the librarians see me coming and say, “Hey, that Jane Austen girl is back again. $10 says the book she wants us to buy has ‘Darcy’ in the title.”

      Dear Husband hasn’t read any of my Austenesque books. I’m still trying to convince him to read Pride and Prejudice. He did watch the BBC miniseries with me, so he’s not beyond all hope 🙂

      Heather M.

  11.  

    I loved this, I can sympathize with your bookstore drama. It kills me how little of the classics they carry these days, especially in the small town I live in. All my friends know all trips out of town require a bookstore stop.

  12.  

    Hi Heather. Good to meet another Austen FANatic.

  13.  

    That was a fun story!
    arjanne.boneschanscher (at) gmail (dot) com

  14.  

    Laughed so hard because this is my story too and I am always reading one of the great literary classics and
    one of the Austenilia at the same time!

  15.  

    Loved reading your story! P&P and Persuasion are my favorites, too, but I just finished reading Emma and I loved that one, too.

  16.  

    Thanks for commenting!

  17.  

    Nice to meet you, too, Mary!

  18.  

    Isn’t it awful when you go into a bookstore and there are so few clasics on the shelves? So irritating. Shouldn’t all trips out of town involve visiting a better bookstore than the one at home?

  19.  

    Yeah, my husband thinks I’m a weirdo, but I look at him oddly for being obsessed with Michigan football. He tells me it’s not the same thing . . . something about football being ‘real’.

  20.  

    It’s been so refreshing to realize that I wasn’t the only one hiding my Austenesque bookshelf!

  21.  

    Maybe someday I’ll step out into the light about writing Austen fiction 😉 Thanks for commenting!

  22.  

    Thanks. I’m very happy to be an acknowledged, card-carrying member.

  23.  

    Thanks, Kate. You’re right, working in the library exposed me to wonderful books I would never had read before, even beyond Ausen fan fiction.

  24.  

    Thank you *takes a bow* It’s nice to be out here in the light 🙂

  25.  

    Lovely to meet you, too!

  26.  

    I would love to have taken a British Literature course! I don’t even remember having that as a possible option. I’m a little bit jealous 🙂

  27.  

    I hope you have fun, too. I can’t believe the month is already half over 🙁

  28.  

    I love the “closet Austenesque fan”. Thanks for sharing your opinions!

    Felicia

    felicialso @gmail. com

  29.  

    Thanks for your thoughts! I don’t recall ever having to read Austen in high school – mainly Shakespeare, but isn’t it funny how times change where something you ‘have’ to read becomes something you ‘want’ to read?!

    Funny you mentioning Pamela Aidan – I am an new Austenesque reader and currently have the first book in her trilogy at the library, waiting for me 🙂

    Whitby1734 (at) aol (dot) com

  30.  

    It’s nice to meet you Heather. I loved reading your story! I just finished An Assembly Such as This and I am so excited to begin book two! Thanks for sharing!!=))
    kellik115(at)yahoo(dot)com

  31.  

    So nice to meet you, Heather! 🙂 It’s fun to learn what other Austen fans are reading & how they love their books – thanks for sharing your story!! 🙂

  32.  

    What a fun story you told! I am glad that you no longer feel you must hide your obsession. Isn’t it great to be free! 🙂

    I did not fall in love with Austen on my first reading of PnP when in High School. It was many years later and then I fell hard! I can’t seem to get enough of the many wonderful Austenesque books out there.

    Thanks for sharing you story!
    jbtaylor12(at)gmail(dot)com

  33.  

    Glad you’re part of this wide community, Heather!
    great Ardent Admirer journey =) Thx for sharing it with us !..

  34.  

    Hi Heather! I have to say I was like you. I didn’t use to read Austenesque books but once you start, you can’t stop!

    newyorkgirl82(at)gmail(dot)com

  35.  

    Oh, I love it! My mom’s a purist that I have tried (in vain) to convert and for a while I sort of put my Austenesque books in hard-to-see places, but now I keeps titles like Mr. Darcy’s Obsession and Only Mr. Darcy Will Do in full view in hopes that a friend will ask about them. 🙂 Nice to meet you!

    liedermadchen(at)hotmail(dot)com

  36.  

    I took one in both High School & College. They were really interesting and I even got to do a project on Pride & Prejudice for the High School class. That was also the school year after I got really interested in Jane Austen.

  37.  

    Both my daughter & I are huge fans of P&P and its many variations / sequels. I am a big fan of Amanda Grange as well as Abigail Reynolds. Another book I love is “The man who loved Jane Austen” by, Sally Smith O’Rourke.

    castlefan[at]att[dot]net

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