My review is posted on Joyfully Reviewed: http://www.joyfullyreviewed.com/new-reviews/bespelling-jane-austen-antho
“Almost Persuaded” by Mary Balogh - 2 stars
Jane Everett has always had memories of a life not her own, yet she has long convinced herself that she’s just imagining things. But when Jane meets Captain Robert Mitford, Jane knows she has known him, though they’ve never met. How is that possible?
Robert, too, recognizes Jane. He knows she is his soul mate; his other half that he has lost over and over again throughout their various lifetimes. Each time, one of them is persuaded not to overcome the obstacle in their path to a perfect union. This time, however, Robert is determined he will not lose Jane. Can he persuade her to risk her family’s censure so their relationship can finally have the happy ending it has long deserved?
“Almost Persuaded” is a slightly paranormal spin on Jane Austen’s Persuasion. Though the obstacles Jane and Robert face are similar to those Anne Elliot and Captain Wentworth must overcome (without the paranormal bent, of course), there’s a spark missing from Jane and Robert that their more famous counterparts possess. Jane and Robert are nice characters, but they never rise above being more than simply likeable. “Almost Persuaded” is missing the energy and liveliness of the book it pays homage to, and thus I was disappointed. I’ve not yet read any other stories by Mary Balogh, but I hope to give a different book of hers a try soon in the hopes that a wholly original tale by her is more interesting.
“Northanger Castle” by Colleen Gleason - 4 stars
Caroline Merrill knows that vampires lurk among us, just as they do in Dr. Polidori’s horrid novels, and she’s sure she has spotted one in the Pump Room. But before Caroline rescue Bath’s inhabitants from Thaddeus Blanchard, she must wade through social mores, handle a persistent suitor, and perhaps find love where she least expected it.
Colleen Gleason perfectly captures the spirit of Northanger Abbey in her absolutely wonderful Gothic novella “Northanger Castle.” “Northanger Castle” is my favorite story in the anthology, and it’s not hard to see why. Ms. Gleason brings all the joy of the Austen novel she pays homage to, but delivers a completely different story, making the whole tale feel fresh and new.
Caroline is an utter delight. She sees fantastical dangers everywhere and oftentimes blurs the line between reality and horrid novels. She is, quite simply, a fun heroine. As for her hero…ah, who else could it be but Thaddeus? I won’t say who or what he is, but fans of Ms. Gleason’s Gardella Vampire Chronicles are sure to guess right away. I haven’t yet had the pleasure of reading the Gardella novels, but after finishing “Northanger Castle” I am chomping at the bit to read more of Ms. Gleason’s work.
“Blood and Prejudice” by Susan Krinard - 3 stars
It’s 21st century Connecticut and Bennet Laboratories is in danger of being taken over. Elizabeth Bennet knows that Charles Bingley, owner of Bingley Pharmaceuticals, isn’t the takeover mastermind – it’s his infernal friend Mr. Darcy who’s behind it! There’s something about the sneering, haughty Darcy that Lizzy knows is not quite right. And when the all-too-charming George Wickham comes to town, Lizzy discovers the secret Darcy has been trying so hard to hide: Darcy, infuriating man that tempts her like no other, is a vampire.
Pride and Prejudice has, perhaps, been adapted more times than any other Austen novel, so one might be tempted to think there could be no fresh spin on the novel yet. Susan Krinard proves that this is not the case in “Blood and Prejudice.” I enjoyed Ms. Krinard’s modern paranormal twist on Lizzy and Darcy’s romance. “Blood and Prejudice” has all the bickering between the spirited, intelligent Lizzy and the seemingly-cold Darcy that we’ve come to expect, but the heat level definitely goes up with Darcy’s vampirism. Hidden dangers up “Blood and Prejudice’s” energy level and I finished the story a well-satisfied reader.
“Little to Hex Her” by Janet Mullany - 3 stars
Emma Woodhouse has had very few things in life hex or vex her. But when she takes over her sister’s dating service, things suddenly go awry. Her werewolf assistant Harriet using a spell to turn Elton into a frog is only the beginning. The lovely witch soon has her hands full of dating service disasters and soon her only hope is George I-hate-my-first-name Knightly, a wizard who aggravates Emma – and turns her on – like no one else.
“Little to Hex Her” is a bewitchingly good spin on Emma. Janet Mullany’s Emma is, I dare say, quite a bit more likeable than her namesake, as is Knightly (in deference to him, I’ll leave off the “George”). They’re still flawed, but both are a bit more aware of their shortcomings and honestly try to do their best to help people. There’s a sprightly energy to “Little to Hex Her” that charmed me and Ms. Mullany definitely made me feel bad for all the craziness Emma had to deal with (and no, I won’t spill – it’s much more fun to find out for yourself). All in all, I adored “Little to Hex Her” and I’m looking forward to Ms. Mullany’s next paranormal, this one about Ms. Austen herself, Jane and the Damned.Bespelling Jane Austen
is certainly an intriguing collection of adaptations. Despite the plethora of Austen paranormals running around, I think it’s rather brave of Mses. Balogh, Gleason, Krinard, and Mullany to put their own spins on such famous works. I’m not an Austen purist, but I admit I was slightly unsure when I started whether the stories in Bespelling Jane Austen
would be as spellbinding as their source material. To my delight, for the most part they were, and on the whole I adored Bespelling Jane Austen