Tag Archives: Jane Austen

Thirty Days from Now…

Thirty Days from Now…

Thirty days from now, I’m getting married. I’m excited and scared and hopeful, all at the same time. It’s going to be a quiet civil ceremony—just my immediate family and the judge will be there. Adam sees this moment more as a legality, the prelude to the joint clan celebration we have planned for Mexico next year.

As a woman whose life has been plagued with legalities and little pieces of paper, though, it’s been nerve-racking. A little piece of paper earmarked me as an American, even if I’ve lived most of my life outside the country. During my childhood, some family members sued each other—just a little matter of fraud and disinheritance, due to forged little pieces of paper. Now little pieces of papers tell me I can’t be in the same country as my husband-to-be, unless we get more little pieces of paper to supersede everything else.

Little pieces of paper are the very devil.

Despite all my anxiety, I’m still giddy. So many things are going to change. I’ve spent too many hours contemplating my new name and my new byline (Rachel Anne Epp? Rachel Calabia-Epp? Rachel Anne M.C. Epp? Rachel McEpp?) and looking for shoes that fit (winter fashions aren’t kind to brides looking for white close-toe heels.) I can’t concentrate on anything for long before my mind reverts to bridal details, and the word count for my novel has dwindled to nothingness.

It’s almost impossible to craft a happy ending for my long-suffering characters when I’m trying to get to my happy beginning.

Did I just type that? Oh God, shoot me now. I hate it when I wallow in clichés.

 

2. There are so many other things I wanted to talk about but I always feel as if I’m running out of time. It’s been months since I wrote any new entries for this blog, and I feel as my pop culture backlog has become a monster. I’ve wanted to discuss so many things:

  • the first two seasons of Hiromu Arakawa’s awesome Silver Spoon
  • the current episodes of One Punch Man
  • recurring character tropes in Rumiko Takahashi (sorry, I just started watching Inuyasha with my nephew)
  • the second season of Knights of Sidonia (good grief why is this show so messed up?)
  • RIPPER STREET <3 (all caps are necessary because this show is great)
  • ZOMG David Tennant’s evil stalker with a crush in Jessica Jones

Also, my list of unanswered romance writer novel questions keeps growing:

  • Does Julia Quinn have better book sales when her books have one deflowering scene vis-a-vis those with multiple sex scenes? (no seriously, this is an important question)
  • When is Courtney Milan going to write another historical?
  • Will Marion Chesney’s backlist on Kindle ever go on sale?
  • In historical romance quartets, why does one book always feature a rape survivor? Like, seriously. It’s annoyingly predictable. It’s usually the third book in the series. Why does the traumatized ice queen heroine always have to be a secret rape survivor? There are other physical and emotional traumas to write.

I think it’s unfair that the heroes get an infinite variety of traumas to overcome. Usually it’s PTSD and gentlemanly limps but I’ve also encountered:

  • blindness (Theresa Medeiros’s Yours Until Dawn)
  • sensory issues (an old Amanda Quick novel whose title I can’t recall) 
  • mental illness (Loretta Chase’s The Mad Earl’s Bride
  • illiteracy (one of the recurring male characters in Anne Gracie’s Devil Riders Quartet) 
  • dyslexia (Miranda Neville’s Confessions of an Arranged Marriage, Julia Quinn’s The Lost Duke of Wyndham

I have yet to read any historical romance in which the heroine suffers and overcomes these things!

(Incidentally, I listed some examples beside each affliction. Highlighting the titles might spoil the plot of the novels, though.)

Perhaps it’s time for someone to write a Regency romance in which the wallflower debutante had a childhood accident with a hand axe and she now suffers from phantom limb pain. The hero, a secret rape survivor, must find the proper way to waltz with her when she doesn’t have a hand to gracefully drape over his shoulder.

Yeah, I’d read that.

 

3. I don’t know when it’s going to happen but in a couple of months, I’m also going to revamp this blog and probably get a new domain name, something that will reflect my new coupled status. Adam used to have a blog, and once we’re married I’d love to him to start writing random things again. We used to write random things together. Obviously, if we do that now, the current title of this blog will have to go. I’m still wracking my brains for a clever new name. Hmm… It’s difficult to think of something all-encompassing, he might alternate between Legend of Zelda fanboy rants and scholarly discussions on Charles Dickens, you know? Between my anime observations and historical romance stuff, it might be a cornucopia of crazy. (But a good kind of crazy.)

Anyway, what ever happens to the future name, design, and content of this blog, please wish us luck on our new journey.

 

Side Comments of the Month XIV: What I Did during my Blogging Hiatus

Side Comments of the Month XIV: What I Did during my Blogging Hiatus

I know I haven’t updated my blog for almost two months. This is when I tell people that 1) living can get into the way of blogging and 2) this is the real reason my blog is called “The Return of Lucky Parking Girl.” I’m always returning from something or somewhere. Sometimes I disappear into a haze of work, without time for contemplation; sometimes I just get lost in the corridors of my mind.

I do find my way back out again.

This amuses me so much.

1. Since I last updated, I spent a couple of weeks in Canada, visiting my boyfriend. We took a road trip to Edmonton, which is a six-hour drive from where he lives. Among the usual things that couples enjoy—superhero movies and Japanese food—we also went to a giant water park, and attended the harvest festival at Fort Edmonton.

I’ve been to Fort Edmonton before and I’ve always thought it to be a charming place. There are tons of other outdoor museums that try to capture the feel of living in the past, but somehow I adore the enthusiasm of the staff at Fort Edmonton.

For instance, we entered one of the smaller houses and found three staff members—in full costume!—slaving away on a 19th century wood-burning stove, arguing about the best way to make their fruit jelly. The girls’ aprons were stained, and their male companion took off his bowler hat. All of them had that caught-in-the-act look on their faces! Full points for verisimilitude.

 

This Constantine needs to smoke more and be less nice. Otherwise, he's a dead ringer for his comic book incarnation, a.k.a. a young Sting in a trench coat.

2. In the past few months, I’ve also gorged on pop culture. My viewing hours seem firmly divided between two genres: animation and live-action shows that feature British guys stranded in America.

For the latter, I’m all caught up with Forever (I’m so glad this is getting a full season, it’s a guilty pleasure) and Constantine (as a Vertigo fan, this show makes me happy; if they ever run out of Hellblazer canon, I hope they consider cameos from Death or Timothy Hunter). I’m a little disappointed that John Oliver went on vacation so early. His show gave me my weekly fix for investigative journalism, so I hate that it’s suddenly taken away from me! I’m not sure if re-watching the salmon cannon in action will make up for it.

Maybe I should just crawl back to Jon Stewart now that he’s finished Rosewater. I doubt if Stephen Colbert will take me back.

For all the animation I’ve watched, re-watched, and caught up to current episodes, here’s a partial list:

  • Steamboy (beautiful but exhausting)
  • Samurai Champloo (a modern classic)
  • Mushishi (Zen poetry and fake folklore, be still my heart)
  • The Legend of Korra (interesting plots)
  • Kill La Kill (good grief fan service)
  • Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works (let’s see if this can overcome Fate/Zero as my favorite version of the franchise)

 

A Mansfield Park AU. Based on an old joke that kicked around the Republic of Pemberley for years.

3. I finally finished listening to the ten-part radio drama adaptation of Mansfield Park. Produced by BBC 4 back in 2003, it features two now-famous actors: David Tennant and Benedict Cumberbatch. Felicity Jones happens to voice Fanny Price, and while she’s not as well-known as the guys, well, maybe The Theory of Everything will change that.

I tend to stay away from Mansfield Park adaptations because, quite frankly, modern writers don’t know what to do with Fanny Price. For instance, the 1999 film version tried to make Fanny a feminist. It also made Tom Bertram a soulful tortured artist, instead of a spoiled heir! I thought it was awful.

So I’m really happy to report that this radio drama is probably the best adaptation so far. All the actors just nailed it. Cumberbatch made such a sweetly befuddled Edmund Bertram while Jones just had the delicacy to give life to Fanny, who retains all her hesitation and shrinking violet tendencies.

Given the limitations of the medium, Fanny has new lines and scenes that don’t appear in the book. (For instance, she tries to comfort both Julia and Maria during their romantic disappointments, only to be rebuffed.) While I feel that book-Fanny was wholly incapable of reaching out to her snobby cousins like that, compared to the changes made in the 1999 film, I think it still worked out.

Tom Bertram’s role is also expanded in this version. I suppose the writers thought it an awful waste if they didn’t give David Tennant more speaking lines. (I originally wondered why they didn’t cast him as Henry Crawford, but James Callis did a bang-up job with that role. He just oozed with charm and sleaze.)

In any case, Tennant played Tom with a jaunty bounce in his voice; during the “Lovers’ Vows” rehearsals, he just kept stealing the show. His scene near the end—where he confesses his “sins” to Edmund—was also quite touching.

So, yeah. If you want to listen to this adaptation, it can be downloaded right here. You can thank me later.

Buy, Borrow, or Bash: Round Three

Buy, Borrow, or Bash: Round Three

This month’s installment features two early novels from my favorite romance writers, and a new title from someone I haven’t read before.

There are some spoilers in these reviews. To read the spoilers, highlight the invisible text. 

What do my final ratings mean? BUY means I’d cough up the cash for the book. BORROW means it’s worth checking out. While I wouldn’t buy it, another reader might want to borrow it  from the library or read a sample chapter online before making any rash purchases. BASH means no! Don’t waste your time. Go re-read Jane Austen or something. 

 

Loretta Chase’s Knaves’ Wager (1990; reprinted 2013)

Knaves’ Wager focuses on a seemingly intelligent man making a stupid bet.

Lord Robert’s embarrassing the family by living with Elise, his scheming French mistress. Everyone thinks she’s just out to con the family and Lord Julian, the Marquis of Brandon, is finally called in to control his younger brother.

In his attempt to separate the two lovers, Lord Julian makes a dumb wager with Elise: if Lord Julian can seduce the virtuous Mrs. Lilith Davenant in eight weeks, Elise will leave Lord Robert and return all of his blackmail-worthy love letters. If Lord Julian fails, Elise will get everything she wants: marriage, perhaps, but most definitely money.

Lilith, however, might be the last woman to succumb to Lord Julian’s charms. She’s a virtuous widow who blames Lord Julian for her husband’s early death by dissipation. It doesn’t help that her husband owes Lord Julian thousands of pounds, and Lilith feels obligated to re-pay the debts despite her dwindling finances. To top it off, Lilith just accepted her perennial suitor, Sir Thomas Bexley, a baronet with political ambitions.

Lord Julian, however, relishes the challenge that Lilith presents. As the London season gets underway, Lilith keeps bumping into Lord Julian—whether by accident or not—and despite her better judgment, she’s attracted to him.

All these encounters brings Lilith’s spunky niece, Cecily Glenwood, to Lord Robert’s attention. He begins to realize he may not want to marry his mistress after all!

Knaves’ Wager might be more complicated than the average romance novel: it has well-developed characters and two love triangles. It somewhat reminds me of Mansfield Park. I think the connection is a deliberate one, as Lord Julian gives Lilith a copy of the book with the inscription “may life with your ‘Edmund Betram’ be truly happily ever after.” (I’m not sure if that’s a dig at Edmund―I love Edmund!―Fanny Price really loved Edmund!) Perhaps the “evil” of not marrying for love is the whole point of the literary reference.

I digress, though.

Knaves’ Wager is a quaint artifact from Loretta Chase’s early career. Like The English Witch, I dug this book out from the bowels of the Oakland Public Library, and once again I was surprised by the lack of sex. There were ample opportunities to insert sexy scenes into the novel without wrecking the plot, but I get the feeling that Chase was being held back (by an editor or a publisher) regarding the amount of sensuality allowed. If anyone out there ever wants to write Loretta Chase fanfiction, Knave’s Wager would be the place to start.

heat meter: one           final rating: borrow

 

Carola Dunn’s Angel (1984; Kindle edition 2010) 

Angel might be Dunn’s homage to Jane Austen: the eponymous character has twice the schemes of Emma Woodhouse and half the brains of Katherine Morland. It’s a truly frightful combination.

Lady Evangelina Brenthaven’s gotten eighteen marriage proposals and yet she’s  rejected them all. Bored with polite society and eager to find out if anyone would like her if she wasn’t titled and rich, Angel disguises herself with drab clothes and an assumed name. With her indulgent parents’ permission, Angel passes herself off as plain Evelyn Brand while on a country holiday with her cousins.

Angel finds play-acting fun until she realizes her cousins expect her to stay in character—they want her to do house chores and defer to the social rank of their neighbors! Not much can keep Angel’s spirits down, however, as she starts making matches for her cousin Catherine and Lady Elizabeth Markham, the daughter of a local lord.

The neighborhood is abound with eligible gentlemen, so Angel has many candidates for her friends: there’s Sir Gregory, Lady Elizabeth’s cousin; Lord Welch; Gerald Leigh, the nice but poor vicar; and the mysterious limping Mr. Marshall.

With so many men introduced as potential love interests, Angel becomes an entangled mess. Not content with a simple love triangle, this novel has a love dodecahedron. Throw in a ton of Shakespearean references, a priest hole, an attempted murder, a missing heir and voilà! Subplot madness.

This is the first Carola Dunn romance that disappointed me. Perhaps I should have lowered my expectations, seeing that Angel was only her second novel and that I had read her more polished historical romances first. Angel lacks the passion of Miss Jacobson’s Journey, the fleshed-out characters of The Improper Governess or Lord Iverbrook’s Heir, or even the elegant conceits of The Frog Earl or Crossed Quills.

I still like Carola Dunn. I haven’t called off my hunt for her other romances. I probably just won’t purchase Angel if I find it in a bookstore.

heat meter: one          final rating: bash 

 

Anne Stuart’s Never Kiss a Rake (2013) 

The Russell family is in deep trouble. A shipping tycoon known for his honesty, Russell died in a suspicious accident and became the scapegoat for his company’s bankruptcy. His eldest daughter, Bryony, suspects foul play after inspecting his papers. Bryony decides to send her two sisters away so she can infiltrate the households of her father’s old business partners. With her face lightly scarred with smallpox marks, Bryony thinks she’s ugly enough to pose as the perfect housekeeper while searching for the truth.

Adrian Bruton, Earl of Kilmartryn, has secrets of his own that can land him in jail, so he’s immediately on the alert when his new housekeeper isn’t quite like the other servants. Stuck in a loveless marriage to a cruel beauty, Adrian thinks Bryony is fair game, especially if the government sent her to spy on him. What follows is a titillating cat-and-mouse game, sandwiched between bouts of domestic politics worthy of Remains of the Day or Gosford Park. 

If this book was set in contemporary times, Bryony could sue Adrian for sexual harassment and win a million-dollar settlement―he continually makes suggestive comments while Bryony’s working, and at one point he pins her against the bed. The guy’s a sexual predator, and I don’t think that’s a compliment. Since this is a romance novel, however, we’re supposed to find this all charming, especially since Byrony’s always making excuses to search her boss’s bedroom for incriminating evidence.

The mystery and intrigue bits of Never Kiss a Rake are handled well, although it’s frustrating that some elements are deliberately left at a loose end. I hope this doesn’t mean that Anne Stuart’s recycling her villain for the sequels starring Byrony’s sisters! I assume they will be investigating their father’s other shady business partners. Ah, well. Some days I miss the era of standalone novels.

This is the first Anne Stuart novel I’ve read. While I do have some quibbles, Never Kiss a Rake was an enjoyable read. I’m not sure if I’d actually want to buy a copy, but I liked it enough to consider reading the author’s other novels.

heat meter: three           final rating: borrow

 

Henry Tilney as a Grammar Nazi

Henry Tilney as a Grammar Nazi

Presenting Mr. Henry Tilney, snark master and Grammar Nazi.

In this passage, my favorite Austen hero teases our dim-witted heroine, Katherine Morland:

 

“But now, really, do not you think Udolpho the nicest book in the world?”

“The nicest; by which I suppose you mean the neatest. That must depend on the binding.”

“Henry,” said Miss Tilney, “You are very impertinent. Miss Morland, he is treating you exactly as he does his sister. He is for ever finding fault with me for some incorrectness of language, and now he is taking the same liberty with you. The word ‘nicest,’ as you used it, did not suit him; and you had better change it as soon as you can, or we shall be overpowered with Johnson and Blair all the rest of the way.”

“I am sure,” cried Catherine, “I did not mean to say anything wrong; but it is a nice book, and why should not I call it so?”

“Very true,” said Henry, “And this is a very nice day; and we are taking a very nice walk; and you are two very nice young ladies. Oh! it is a very nice word, indeed! It does for everything. Originally, perhaps, it was applied only to express neatness, propriety, delicacy, or refinement; people were nice in their dress, in their sentiments, or their choice. But now every commendation on every subject is comprised in that one word.”

 

— from Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey (1817)

 

 

Sir Thomas on Inadequate Parenting

Sir Thomas on Inadequate Parenting

….He gradually grew to feel that it had not been the most direful mistake in his plan of education. Something must have been wanting within, or time would have worn away much of its ill effect. He feared that principle, active principle, had been wanting; that they had never been properly taught to govern their inclinations and tempers by that sense of duty which can alone suffice. They had been instructed theoretically in their religion, but never required to bring it into daily practice. To be distinguished for elegance and accomplishments, the authorised object of their youth, could have no useful influence that way, no moral effect on the mind. He had meant them to be good, but his cares had been directed to the understanding and manners, not the disposition; and of the necessity of self-denial and humility, he feared they never heard from any lips that could profit them.

— Sir Thomas Bertram’s parental reflections in Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park (1814)

 

 

Series Review: Pride and Prejudice (1995)

Series Review: Pride and Prejudice (1995)

A slightly different version of this post first appeared on my old blog on November 13, 2008.

 

I just finished watching the BBC mini-series version of Pride and Prejudice (1995). I borrowed it from Paul, who shares my passion for Jane Austen. Is anyone else interested in watching Colin Firth go all ga-ga over Jennifer Ehle? Damn, the eye sex between Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet was so intense I thought my laptop was going to burst into flames.

Jennifer Erhe and Colin Firth, ignoring each other. A BBC image.

So did I enjoy it? Yeah. Is it better than the others? Hmm. Read on.

It’s not the first adaptation of Pride and Prejudice I’ve seen, of course. I first read the novel in grade six and I’m a rather jaded Janeite. I already had high expectations since the hardcore fans at the Republic of Pemberley seem to like this version best.

I knew it had to be better than the 1940 film version starring Laurence Olivier. *heavy shudders* Oh, that godawful tripe! The story was highly compressed, the era was completely wrong—damn it, Elizabeth shouldn’t be wearing Victorian hoops!—and all the Bennet sisters get husbands in a patchy ending. Ugh.

What I found adorable about this version was its fidelity to the text. It devoted many scenes to Wickham’s friendship with Elizabeth, which is hardly touched upon in the 2005 film version starring Keira Knightley. It was great in delineating Lydia’s unconscious descent into folly, and it took great pains to show Elizabeth’s relationship with her eccentric father and her friendship with the Gardiners. (In Patricia Meyer Spacks’s The Female Imagination, she mentions that the Gardiners are the only stable, mature relationship in the novel. So I find it nice to see them portrayed decently. They are usually reduced to bit parts.)

And Mr. Darcy. Oh, Mr. Darcy. No wonder Bridget Jones’s Diary was written. I wonder if Jane Austen would have wanted so much screen time spent on her most famous male lead. The script pandered to its female audience by devoting many scenes to Colin Firth’s Mr. Darcy, trying to shed light on the hidden aspects of his character. Fencing practice? Check. Swimming half-naked? Check. Strange flashbacks where he shows up in Elizabeth’s mirrors? Check. I found the last bit a little too much for my taste. I’d love to marry Mr. Darcy myself, but no ghostly apparitions, please. Matthew Macfadyen may be the most yummy Mr. Darcy, but Colin Firth is more… combustible?

And a word on Mr. Collins. Oh God. That has to be the creepiest Mr. Collins I’ve ever encountered! It was not just his ugly comb-over either—it was the combination of pompous buffoonery and lecherous glares. It was like a strange mixture of Wormtail and Padre Salvi.

I didn’t watch this to compare versions but it’s almost impossible not to do so. If you ask me how much better I like it better than the 2005 film version, I’m going to hem and haw about it. The Janes were both sweetly angelic, the Lady Katherines were both menacing, and the Marys and Kittys all ridiculous in their own ways.

It’s difficult to say which version is superior. Both adaptations wanted to go to completely different places in the audience’s mind. The 2005 film captured the romance and imagination of Elizabeth Bennet’s wit, humor, and self-doubt. I loved the film for strange things, like Elizabeth’s swing being kept near the pigs and, oh dear, Mr. Darcy drenched in the rain, and Mr. Bingley’s awkwardly endearing proposal…

But the 1995 miniseries has so many good moments, too. Maybe it all boils down to how much time you have? If you only have a passing interest in Jane Austen and two hours to spare, I suggest the Keira Knightley film. If you’re a bit more patient and want to know exactly why Colin Firth has a huge female fan base, the miniseries is the place to start. It’s debatable whether he’s the definitive Mr. Darcy, but he sure does has a pair of fine eyes.