I love, love, love Jane Austen. I have read every one of her novels, as well as a lot of the sequels, prequels, inspired-bys, etc. When the opportunity arose for me to read this anthology of Austen-inspired stories, I jumped. Some of them were better than others, but they were all different and interesting in their own ways.
I liked how these various authors played with Austen names, and when they used actual characters, they stayed true to the original. One of the ones that I thought was creative was "Intolerable Stupidity" by Laurie Viera Rigler. In this story, Lady Catherine de Bourgh is a judge in a hidden court, but what's interesting is that the Austen characters (specifically Mr. Darcy) change appearance based on the perceptions of the audience. So while he always shows up in a dripping wet shirt, sometimes he has fangs (as a vampire hunter), sometimes he doesn't. However, that story was kind of hard to keep everything straight; but part of that may be because I read it over two days.
I also liked "Mr. Bennet Meets His Match" by Amanda Grange. It tells the purported story of how Mr. Bennet came to meet and marry Mrs. Bennet. A relationship that almost all think is a horrible one comes about in an interesting way. "Letters to Lydia" by Maya Slater also tells a hidden side of a tumultuous story. It's the story of Maria's letters to Lydia when they are apart, especially when Lydia is eloping. Interestingly enough, Maria knew where Lydia was before Lydia's family knew. I like to think about how that would have changed the story if Jane had added it.
Several stories are told in the present day - with characters who are Austen fans looking for their "Darcy", and the supernatural (or coincidence) plays a part in their relationship. One of those stories is "The Mysterious Closet: A Tale" by Myretta Robens that tells the story of Cathy and Henry and how they meet in a mysterious room in a castle. Another is "A Night at Northanger" by Lauren Willig, one of my favorite authors. It tells the story of Cate's experiences hunting ghosts at Northanger Abbey and how her experiences lead her to look at her life and what she wants out of her future.
I would say there are more hits than misses in this anthology. I don't usually read anthologies because just when I get into a story, it ends. I didn't really have any issues with this one; my schedule is busy enough that I would read one or two stories at each sitting.
I received this book from the publisher through the NetGalley system. I was not required to write a positive review. All opinions expressed are my own.
This review originally appeared on my blog: http://jenpeterson.wordpress.com