Happy Wednesday, readers!! I am very excited to welcome back Jayne Bamber to Austenesque Reviews today! Jayne, as you might remember, released her debut novel Happier in Her Friends Than Relations, not too long ago. And today she is back to celebrate her newest release – Unexpected Friends and Relations. While we haven’t read this series just yet, we have enjoyed all that we have heard about it and our exchanges with Jayne! Jayne planned an extra fun post to share with you today and we were thrilled to take part in the discussion with her. We hope you will share your thoughts with us too!
Villainy & Vindication
By Jayne Bamber
The Friends & Relations series imagines a world where all of Austen’s characters from her six completed novels, and the unfinished fragment Sanditon, are all connected through either friendship or family relation. Familiar heros and heroines are thrown together in unlikely ways, and though Lizzy and Darcy get their happy ending, a lot of other couples are re-imagined, and get a HEA with someone from an entirely different novel, or even an original character. All the familiar villains of Austen’s works make an appearance, too, though many of them have rather different story arcs. Some are painted as even worse schemers than we had even known them to be, some are surprisingly redeemed, and some are ruined or even killed off!
The villains Jane Austen imagined are, to me, some of her best characters, and I’ve had a wonderful time toying with them, even getting into their heads a little too much, at times. In the first book, Happier in her Friends than Relations, which largely focuses on Elizabeth Bennet and Marianne Brandon nee Dashwood, I have a great time getting into Wickham’s head, and the scenes with him reacting to both Lydia Bennet and Evil Jane were some of my favorites to write.
In Book 2, I took a closer look at two more P&P villains, Lady Catherine and Caroline Bingley, and actually fell in love with both of them. While not all of Austen’s villains are worth redeeming, I do think a lot of them have remarkable potential, and as an avid reader of JAFF myself, I love seeing the creative things other authors do with the typical Bad Guys.
With that in mind, I’d like to challenge you to a few rounds of a game I like to call “Scheme, Redeem, or Ruin” in which we can consider what fate we prefer for all the usual suspects. Do you like to see these characters presented as the true monsters they are, would you rather see them mend their wicked ways and turn over a new leaf, or should they get exactly what they deserve – possibly even be killed off?
Readers, feel free to play along in the comments below!
Ok, first off, the Bad B!tches:
Caroline Bingley, Lydia Bennet, Lucy Steele
Jayne: every instinct screams TOTAL DESTRUCTION for Lucy Steele, and spoiler-alert, I do kill her off in Book 1. However, as a reader rather than a writer, I would love to see some author manage to redeem her, that would truly be quite a feat! Lydia isn’t so much a villain, just misguided, but I’d love to see her actively trying to just be as horrible as possible. Is she smart enough to be a villain? Who knows! And Caroline, I have grown rather fond of her, but out of these three I think I like her scheming the most, so I say turn her into a Supervillain, and let her crash and burn!
Meredith: Oh you chose so well, Jayne! I would definitely love to read all those possibilities. But I have to say out of these three, Lucy Steele is my least favorite and I think I’d choose for her to get exactly what she deserves! I’ve seen Caroline Bingley and Lydia Bennet both as a super villains and redeemed a few times, and I’ve enjoyed both, but I think I’d prefer to see Caroline Bingley ruined and Lydia Bennet as a supervillain. 😉
Mary Crawford, Maria Bertram, Isabella Thorpe
Meredith: I definitely want to see Mary Crawford redeemed, I want to see her have the romance she truly deserves. And since technically Maria is already ruined at the end of Mansfield Park, I’d choose for her to be a supervillain and for Isabella Thorpe to ruined.
Jayne: Maria Bertram doesn’t seem at all redeemable, to me. My first reading of MP made me so frustrated that she didn’t simply give up the luxury Rushworth could offer, and choose her love of Henry Crawford, so no redemption for her, and she already does get ruined at the end of the book, so I’d like to see her take her villainy to the next level and really wreak some havoc. Mary Crawford might deserve redemption a little more than Isabella Thorpe, who deserves, like, a cartoon piano falling on her head while she’s at a secret rendezvous with her lover.
Lady Catherine, Lady Russell, Mrs. Norris
Jayne: Someone please just kick Mrs. Norris into the stratosphere. Lady Russell wasn’t so very bad; she gave Anne some bad advice, but she had her reasons. I say let someone paint her as actively malicious, I’d read that. Lady Catherine has been villainous a thousand different ways in the adaptations I’ve read, and it’s always so much fun, but I say let’s give her a shot at redemption.
Meredith: oohhh, there are definitely some baddies here. I do carry a strong dislike for both Lady Russell and Mrs. Norris, even though Lady Russell means well…I still blame her and don’t like her haughty ways. But since we already have seen Mrs. Norris at her absolutely worst (I mean…could she BE any more villainous???) I’d like to see her ruined. And I agree with you, let’s see Lady Russell as a super villain for a change instead of Lady Catherine. Which leaves Lady Catherine to be redeemed, and since I am fond of the 1940’s Pride and Prejudice adaptation I do like seeing Lady C’s soft side!
Now for the Rakes, Rogues, and…Others!
Mr. Collins, George Wickham, Willoughby
Meredith: I definitely want Willoughby to be redeemed…and for him to have a HEA…maybe not with Marianne…or maybe yes with Marianne?…I’m not sure! I am Team Brandon, but I also would love to see what would happen if Willoughby didn’t break Marianne’s heart. I think I’d enjoy seeing Mr. Collins ruined…but I’m pretty tired of Wickham to be honest! He is always ruining things for Darcy and Elizabeth, and I’ve seen him partially redeemed, ruined, and as supervillain so I’m giving him a pass! 😉
Jayne: Gosh, Willoughby is just so pretty. I want him to be good, but Collins would be the most long-shot for redemption, I think. I’d sooo read that. Things can’t get much worse for Wickham, so maybe next-level scheming for him, and ruin for poor pretty Willoughby, while I walk the countryside in the rain, whimpering his name.
General Tilney, Henry Crawford, John Thorpe
Jayne: Crawford gets off scot-free in MP, so ruin for him. Redemption for General Tilney, because John Thorpe is just disgusting, but potentially capable of being even worse. Ugh.
Meredith: I have such a soft spot for Henry Crawford so I’m definitely choosing redemption for him. 😉 I think it would be interesting to see General Tilney, who is so proud and severe, brought to ruin and John Thorpe, who is just plain annoying, turned into a super villain.
Robert Ferrars, Fanny Dashwood, Mrs. Ferrars
Jayne: Hahaha, can we just throw them all into a volcano together?
Meredith: LOL! That’s not a bad idea…it truly is like splitting hairs between them. Let’s push Fanny in first!
Mr. Elton, Mrs. Elton, Mrs. Churchill
Meredith: Hmmm…I think it would be interesting to have Mrs. Churchill become a super villain…I sometimes think Jane Fairfax deserves better than Frank Churchill anyway. Let’s try redeeming Mr. Elton and ruining Mrs. Elton.
Jayne: You’ve gotta think his wife is probably punishment enough for Mr. Elton. Mrs. Elton is totally a schemer, she could really wreak some havoc elsewhere in the Austen universe, if the Eltons got sick of being around so many happy people in Highbury. Mrs. Churchill gets a bad rap, I think. She took in Frank, and her health is bad, so I say redemption for her.
William Elliot, Sir Walter Elliot, Elizabeth Elliot
Jayne: Seriously, volcano.
Meredith: LOL! I’ve never seen Sir Walter as a super villain, that might be fun! How about we ruin Elizabeth Elliot and redeem William Elliot…because that seems like such a stretch!
What about the folks from Sanditon? It’s pretty clear who Jane Austen meant to be the baddies in that tale.
Lady Denham, Sir Edward Denham, Esther Denham
Meredith: Hmmm…compared to the other characters, I feel less acquainted with this group since I’ve only read one Sanditon continuation so far. I remember disliking Sir Edward Denham so I vote ruin for him, redeem for Esther Denham, and super villain for Lady Denham.
Jayne: OMG, I’ve been obsessed with this book ever since I read the version completed by ‘a lady’ in the 1970’s. So stoked they’re making it into a series. Lady Denham is definitely the best positioned to really do some damage, so I say scheme for her. Redeem for Esther Denham, but only because I say total ruination for Sir Edward. He’s soooo ridiculous, and probably besties with John Thorpe. Two peas in a really gross pod.
Which of the villains and villainesses do you love to hate the most?
Meredith: Definitely Mrs. Norris with Fanny Dashwood as a close second!
Jayne: Mrs. Norris, no contest!
Which do you secretly have a soft spot for?
Jayne: Most of them, hahaha. I think Caroline the most. I paint her as a heroine in Unexpected, and way too deep into her head, and now I’m in love!
Meredith: It might be a very Jane Bennet thing to say, but I do feel that most of Jane Austen’s villains and villainess-es have some small goodness in them and can be redeemed. I’ve read stories that have completely made me sympathize and root for Elizabeth Elliot, Caroline Bingley, and Lydia Bennet – so I think I am agreement with you about having a soft spot for most of them…the one exception being perhaps Mrs. Norris! 😉
Lydia and Wickham absolutely deserve each other – so do Robert and Lucy, and Maria and Henry Crawford. If you could make a match between any 2 of them, what would it be? Which 2 really deserve one another the most?
Meredith: How about Lady Catherine and General Tilney? I’ve seen Lady Catherine with Sir Walter (thanks to Laura Hile!) and I loved it!! Also, I’d be interested to see Isabella Thorpe with Henry Crawford…I think they would do a number on each other!
Jayne: Lucy Steele + John Thorpe 4Ever!
Bad Jane is a trope that’s having a moment right now, and something that gets taken to the extreme in Book 1 of the Friends & Relations series. What other hero or heroine would you like to see cast as a bad guy?
Jayne: Anne Elliot – least likely thing ever! Hahaha, not really, but maybe Catherine Morland? I could see her being a tabloid reporter in a modern adaptation! Kind of a Rita Skeeter type?
Meredith: Oh my goodness…those would be very interesting!! LOL! Let’s see, how about a bad Edmund Bertram or Edward Ferrars…since they are often listed as the least favorite Austen heroes anyway…
Whew, that was fun!
Thanks so much, Jayne! I really enjoyed this!!! Such fun possibilities. 🙂
Excerpt from Unexpected Friends and Relations
I have an excerpt below showing the fate of one rather notorious Austen villain that fans love to hate – one whom I love to love! This is the reader’s first glimpse of Caroline Bingley, now Caroline Sutton, a few months after we see her at the end of book one, being forced into marriage….
Caroline stared at her brother, hardly recognizing the broken man in front of her. There were blisters beginning to form on his face, he was thin and gaunt, his eyes absolutely lifeless. “You might take the cure, Charles.”
“I do not want the cure. I do not want anything. I hate this wretched estate; I never wanted to be a landowner. It is what Father wished for me; all I wanted was to find the right woman and have a happy life. Now look at me. I do not belong here, nor in London either. I do not know if I belong anywhere, Caroline. I suppose it matters not, I am for the grave soon enough.”
Caroline didn’t know what to say to her brother. He had turned her away, holed up inside his dilapidated castle, every day since Jane had passed. There had been no funeral, no observance of any kind. She was not even sure if Charles had written to his wife’s family. Apparently, he had spent the entire fortnight drinking and wallowing in his own misery, while Caroline had been fighting a battle of her own. It was difficult to be angry with him at such a time, but a part of her was.
“If you do not belong anywhere, then where will you go when you leave this place?”
“I’ve no idea. Italy, perhaps. Someplace warm. I never want to be cold again, for what’s left of my life.”
“Charles, please do not speak like that. It may not take you as quickly as it did Jane.”
He finished his drink and poured another, taking a long swig before he set down his glass and looked at her. “She was with child, you know. That is probably why it took her so quick. Therefore, in some way, it was my fault. I have regretted her, but I did not wish to cause her death.”
“Charles, you did not do this. Jane contracted the disease before you married her.”
Charles scoffed. “Fool that I was.”
“We have both been fools,” Caroline murmured.
He looked away, gazing into his whiskey glass as he swirled the amber liquid around a few times before taking another sip. “We have both gotten what we deserve, have we not? After that nasty business in September….”
Caroline sighed. It felt like a lifetime ago. How could one evening, one mistake, lead to such a terrible course of events? “We should never have gone to that ball.”
“We both know we wanted to see them so much happier than ourselves, and hate them for it. You, I suspect, had other plans….”
“And look where it has gotten me. Seymour… Seymour has fallen ill… with the same illness that took Jane.”
Charles slumped forward over the table, his expression inscrutable as he poured himself another drink, and one for her as well.
Caroline peered hesitantly into her glass for a moment before taking a sip. The taste was unpleasant to her, but what did it matter, when everything was terrible anyhow? “You do not seem surprised, Brother.”
“I suspected that he – that they – I did not know for sure. I had it from Seymour himself that you would not take him to your bed; it must have been only a matter of time before he found someone who would. I would have preferred it not to have been my wife.”
“Had I known it would lead him to her….”
“You would have spurned him anyway.”
Caroline scowled at her brother – did he truly think so ill of her? “I could have at least found him some wench from the village!”
“Well, why did you not?”
“Do not blame this on me. I warned you before we went to that ball, not to look twice at any of the Bennet girls, and what did you do? You absconded with one of them, and she has been your downfall!”
“I know,” Charles burst, pounding his fist on the table. “She deceived me!”
“I always knew you would be taken in by a pretty face, and ruin us all,” Caroline snapped. “I never imagined you would sink us this low, but I did try to warn you.”
“Well, and I suppose I ought to have warned you not to attempt to compromise a bloody viscount!”
Caroline sighed again, turning her body away from her brother. After a moment of angry silence she replied, “As it happens, I regret that very much. I should not have done it.”
“Good.” Charles finished his drink and gestured with irritation for Caroline to do the same; she took another tentative sip and grimaced at her brother. “So,” he continued, “what will you do in London, married to a man dying of syphilis?”
“I will do what I must. In fact, I have taken care of Seymour.”
“Caroline! You didn’t….”
“No! I have installed him in a facility – an establishment that caters to gentlemen in his situation.”
“And he consented to this?”
Caroline hesitated. “You truly do not know? No, I suppose you would not, hidden away up here. There was an incident, on Tuesday. These last two weeks, Seymour has been increasingly… agitated. Mad. I did not know what to do, and you would not see me. There were instances of him speaking to people that were not there, acting strangely to servants. He struck me once. He struck the butler, thinking it was his father, and beat the man very badly. Our housekeeper called the magistrate. Dr. Mercer was there, attending Seymour; he and the magistrate discussed my husband’s condition, and saw fit to remove him to an asylum, where he will be properly looked after. My dowry could easily afford the fee, though I daresay I shall not have to pay it for long.”
“And so you mean to return to London and wait until you are a wealthy widow?”
“That is my plan, yes. Being a widow has a certain degree of respectability to it, and independence. I need no longer be dependent upon your protection, as it seems I shall not have it.”
Charles shook his head sadly. “I cannot do it, Caroline. I cannot go back to London. It would only remind me of my mistakes there.”
“I wish you had never met her.”
“She was the wrong sister,” Charles sighed. “My first mistake was in letting you persuade me to abandon her when we left London for Bath last year. She told me, when she refused me, that she knew you had a hand in it, that your treatment of her made her fear a life with me. I have you to thank for her rejection, but now you have paid for it, for you have driven her away from me, into the arms of the man you wanted yourself.”
Charles regarded her with a smug smile that did not reach his eyes, and Caroline leaned forward across the table, resting her face in her hands. “It is true. Take satisfaction in that, if you will. I have learned from my own folly, believe me.”
“All the better for you, I suppose, for you shall be the only one to walk away from this vile country with the rest of your life to look forward to.”
I will be doing more blog posts over the next few weeks, sharing details about Unexpected as well as excerpts, and will be drawing winners May 20th for an e-book giveaway! For more info, follow me on Facebook!
Jayne is kindly offering an ebook giveaway of Unexpected Friends and Relations, in conjunction with her blog tour!
All you need to do is leave a comment and fill out the Rafflecopter widget below to enter.
Perhaps you might like to join our discussion and share about your favorite (or least favorite) baddies! Or you can pick a group of characters to Scheme, Redeem, or Ruin? We’d love to hear your responses!
- This giveaway is open internationally. Thank you, Jayne!
- This giveaway will end May 20th.