Mini Book Review ~ Definitely Not Mr. Darcy, by Karen Doornebos

Chloe Parker was born two centuries too late. A thirty-nine-year-old divorced mother, she runs her own antique letterpress business, is a lifelong member of the Jane Austen Society, and gushes over everything Regency. But her business is failing, threatening her daughter’s future. What’s a lady to do? Why, audition for a Jane Austen-inspired TV show set in England, of course.

What Chloe thinks is a documentary turns out to be a reality dating show set in 1812. Eight women are competing to snare Mr. Wrightman, the heir to a gorgeous estate—and a one-hundred-thousand-dollar prize. So Chloe tosses her bonnet into the ring, hoping to transform from stressed-out Midwestern mom to genteel American heiress and win the money.

With no cell phones, indoor plumbing, or deodorant to be found, she must tighten her corset and flash some ankle to beat out women younger, more cutthroat, and less clumsy than herself. But the witty and dashing Mr. Wrightman proves to be a prize worth winning, even if it means the gloves are off…

[from the author’s website and publisher’s release]

 I often have trouble with sequels, and there are so many lately that my head spins just looking at the booklist! – I do marvel at the originality of all these writers wanting to re-tell in some fashion all that Jane Austen left unsaid, but in all honesty I want Austen’s characters left alone, to be returned to in their original state with a good solid re-read when I choose [though I am also of the school that says ‘no criticizing if you haven’t read the book’…!].  I find more to my taste the Austen-inspired fiction the likes of “Lost in Austen”, where the plot offers new characters, fresh dialogue, and inspired plots, where you are taken into Jane Austen’s world, either as a 21st century soul trying to adapt to what we think we know of the Regency Period and on that endless search for a character like Mr. Darcy, or Henry Tilney or Captain Wentworth (sigh…) – or perhaps a Willoughby if you are so inclined! – or where we are taken into her world where we meet a fictional Jane herself, as in Stephanie Barron’s creative mysteries.  Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict and Bridget Jones Diary, Austenland and The Man Who Loved Jane Austen  are all of this genre, and thankfully, all leave the original works quite at peace. 

The problem is that these too all start to look alike – the klutzy independent Heroine with “life issues” somehow transported into the early 1800s and found struggling against the social (and fashion!) restrictions of the times.  Definitely Not Mr. Darcy is the latest entrant in this genre:  I quote Publisher’s Weekly

Doornebos gives the historical romance a hilarious update in this delightful debut… The amusing secondary characters, sidesplitting faux pas, and fiery romance will make Doornebos an instant hit with readers.

 And from Romantic Times

Doornsbos brings readers a fresh take on Jane Austen’s world.  Mixing reality television with Regency-style romance, this tale combines a fun plot with witty dialogue, charming characters and a strong-willed heroine.  It will leave you laughing in delight and reluctant to put it down until the last page is read.

And “fresh take” though it is, one can’t help feeling “I’ve been here before.”  Ms. Doornebos states herself in the acknowledgments that she was mostly done with her writing before she even knew about the reality show “Regency House Party.”  And far too many of the characters do seem clichéd: the handsome Lord and Hero; his almost-but-not-quite dorky brother; the glamorous but really nasty American-bashing contestant; the side players with their own back stories that continually confuse the Heroine as to the truth vs. the play script; the borderline cruelty of the producer; and the Heroine, the all-American with a messy life who just needs to win the money (and a Lord on the side would be nice…), caught between this reality and her need for True Love.  Sound familiar??

Well, that’s ok – even Georgette Heyer rewrote her own formula fiction over and over again and alas! it is summer, and what better way to spend such a summer’s day than laying about with a quick read that has an engaging plot with a few twists, a Heroine you do root for as she falls into one mishap after another (she is often very wet and suffers various fainting fits!), and that irresistible Regency setting! And you will laugh out loud – the Cook, the Chaperone, the Maid, and a Footman or two who instruct and keep our Heroine in strict social compliance round out the story – you will learn the “language of the fan”, various fashion secrets, letter-writing etiquette (though this one glaring error: the constant reference to “envelopes” – yikes!) – the hated needlework assignments, side-saddle riding, a few archery lessons, the rules of dining and enough about Regency era food to turn any committed carnivore into a vegetarian, and several opportunities for dancing (the waltz!). 

Can’t tell more – would ruin your fun – just go and get yourself “lost in Austen” for a few hours and discover just how Doornebos fashions her Darcy for this latest Austen-obsessed Heroine. You won’t be disappointed! 

4 out of 5 Full Inkwells 

Definitely Not Mr. Darcy, by Karen Doornebos
New York: Berkley, 2011
Release date:  September 6, 2011
ISBN:  978-0-425-24382-4 


 Copyright @2011 Deb Barnum, of Jane Austen in Vermont 

Hot off the Press! ~ Jane Austen’s Regency World Magazine ~ Issue No. 53

News direct from the publisher – the latest issue of Jane Austen’s Regency World Magazine, No. 53 September / October 2011 is in the mail!

  •  KATE MIDDLETON AND JANE AUSTEN ~ How the Duchess is related to our favourite author 
  • STETSONS FOR JASNA ~ The AGM is comingTexas – and here’s a preview of all the exciting events in store
  • GORGEOUS GAINSBOROUGH ~ A new exhibition of the portraitist’s landscapes
  • THE MEDICAL REGENCY ~ Illness and death in Jane Austen’s time
  • WORDS OVERHEARD ~Maggie Lane looks at how Jane Austen uses eavesdropping as a literary device [think Miss Steele!]
  • BIRD MAN OF LYME REGIS ~ The ornithologist who became a success inAustralia
  • PENNY FOR YOUR THOUGHTS ~ A lack of low-denomination coins caused a headache for Jane
  • AN A-PEELING TALE ~ Tackling the scandal of child labour in Georgian England
  • Plus: All the latest news from the world of Jane Austen, as well as letters, book reviews, CD reviews quiz, competition and news from JAS and JASNA. 

Jane Austen’s Regency World will be at the following events, and look forward to meeting many subscribers, old and new: 

  • Sept 17, 2011:  Jane Austen Festival,Bath,UK (country fayre) 
  • Oct 13-15:  JASNA AGM,Fort Worth,Texas,USA  [hurray!!]

 For further information, and to subscribe, visit:

[Image and contents courtesy of JARW Magazine]

The Jane Austen Made Me Do It Website Unveiling!

Congratulations to Laurel Ann of Austenprose fame on today’s unveiling of her new website!  Laurel Ann is the editor of a new Jane Austen anthology,  Jane Austen Made Me Do It – follow her tale on the journey to publication!  meet with the 22 authors included in the anthology!  read the short story summaries! subscribe to the blog! enter to win a copy of the book!  Click here to become part of the story yourself!

Best wishes to you Laurel Ann! – cannot wait for the official launch in Fort Worth at the JASNA-AGM! Offical release date is October 11, 2011 – but you can pre-order your copy now:

Ballantine Books
Trade paperback (464) pages
ISBN: 978-0345524966
Available: 11 October 2011

Pre-order the book at your local book store, or:

Barnes & Noble
Book Depository
Random House

Copyright @2011 Deb Barnum of Jane Austen in Vermont

The Penny Post Weekly Review ~ All Things Austen!

The Penny Post Weekly Review

  22 August 2011 

News & Gossip: 

-The Austenesque Extravaganza continues on a daily basis at the  Austenesque Reviews  blog – stop by to participate in the fun and comment to win the various giveaways ! through August:

-The Jane Austen Fan Kit for your iphone: an absolute must-have! 

-The BBC Four: Elegance and Decadence: Age of the Regency – how I hate we don’t get BBC Four; you can get more information to whet your appetite and /or get really depressed you don’t live in the UK at Lucy Worsley’s blog

-But do not completely despair: we do have this on BBC America – The Hour -a six-week series – I loved the first one aired this past week [wednesday night at 10 here in Vermont] – it is peopled with Austen “graduates”: Juliet Stevenson [the perfect Austen narrator], Anna Chancelor[Miss Bingley in 1995, following her role as “Duckface” in Four Weddings and a Funeral [Hugh Grant], and Romola Garai, the latest “Emma’ …

-More on the Pride and Prejudice,  The Musical – this time a lovely personal story with a military twist – a tale of Jane Austen bringing people together [as she does do well…]:

Frances Burney

-The Frances Burney Society invites submissions for the Hemlow Prize in Burney Studies,

… named in honour of the late Joyce Hemlow, whose biography of Frances Burney and edition of her journals and letters are among the foundational works of eighteenth-century literary scholarship. The Hemlow Prize will be awarded to the best essay written by a graduate student on any aspect of the life or writings of Frances Burney or members of the Burney Family. The essay, which can be up to 6,000 words, should make a substantial contribution to Burney scholarship.  The Prize will be awarded in October 2011.  Submissions must be received by September 1, 2011. 

 See here for more details: [scroll down for the information]


-The JASNA-Vermont September meeting, when we will be hosting JASNA president Iris Lutz, will be once again part of the Burlington Book Festival  Iris will be presenting her talk “ ‘in proportion to their family and income’: Houses in Jane Austen’s Life and Fiction.” Join us if you can [more information forthcoming]

-Laurel Ann at Austenprose attended the 20th anniversary of the Puget Sound JASNA Region and tells the tale here:

The Circulating Library:

House of Lords - Pugin & Rowlandson - Ackermann print

see the Rudolph Ackermann information at the Town and Country in Miniature online collection at Augustana College Special Collections:[see the other parts of this exhibit as well]
Websites  & Blogs:

-The Rice Portrait website

-Prinny’s Tailor: a blog by Charles Bazalgette about his ‘many greats’ grandfather Louis Bazalgette who was tailor to the Prince Regent for 32 years.  This blog follows his research – the book is due out next year:

-Jane Austen week of old fashioned dolls and Regency dresses:

-Georgian Gentleman blog You can find information on his “Journal of a Georgian Gentleman” here: 

Robert Rodi of Bitch in a  Bonnet:Reclaiming Jane Austen from the stiffs, the snobs, the simps and the saps  seems to be back in full swing blogging about his take on Mansfield Park: visit if you can and see Fanny redeemed! –

Regency Life & Fashion:

-Fashion:  Getting Dressed in the 18th Century:  love this! [[from the Jane Austen Centre Newsletter]

-Colonial Williamsburg’s online exhibition: just a lovely compilation!
Historic Threads: Three Centuries of Clothing

 [Courtesy Colonial Williamsburg website]

-An exhibition at Fairfax House in York:
REVOLUTIONARY FASHION 1790 – 1820 [from August 29 through
December 31, 2011]:


Book Thoughts:

-Hurray! Stephanie Barron’s latest Jane Austen mystery: – this one featuring her brother Edward:

-The Twelfth Enchantment, by David Liss:  this one I could not resist ordering and it arrived today in my mailbox! – will let you know how it fares…

Lucy Derrick is a young woman of good breeding and poor finances. After the death of her beloved father, she is forced to maintain a shabby dignity as the unwanted boarder of her tyrannical uncle, fending off marriage to a local mill owner. But just as she is on the cusp of accepting a life of misery, events take a stunning turn when a handsome stranger—the poet and notorious rake Lord Byron—arrives at her house, stricken by what seems to be a curse, and with a cryptic message for Lucy. Suddenly her unfortunate circumstances are transformed in ways at once astonishing and seemingly impossible.

With the world undergoing an industrial transformation, and with Englandon the cusp of revolution, Lucy is drawn into a dangerous conspiracy in which her life, and her country’s future, are in the balance. Inexplicably finding herself at the center of cataclysmic events, Lucy is awakened to a world once unknown to her: where magic and mortals collide, and the forces of ancient nature and modern progress are at war for the soul of England. . . and the world. The key to victory may be connected to a cryptic volume whose powers of enchantment are unbounded.

Now, challenged by ruthless enemies with ancient powers at their command, Lucy must harness newfound mystical skills to prevent catastrophe and preserve humanity’s future. And enthralled by two exceptional men with designs on her heart, she must master her own desires to claim the destiny she deserves.

[From his website: ]

But see this interview at The Big Thrill where he talks about Jane Austen [and why we are here after all…] :

What is it about this time and place that compelled you to use it as the background for your story?

There are a number of factors that drew me here.  For a long time I’ve wanted to write a novel that was in communication with Jane Austen, but which deal with the economic and political issues that are absent, or at least at the margins of, her novels — the war with France, a series of devastating harvests resulting in food shortages and grain riots, an on-going economic recession, and, most importantly, changes in the labor market brought on by the industrial revolution.  This novel incorporates elements of the supernatural — specifically folk and scholarly magic as actually practiced by people who actually believed it worked — and there’s really no better time to write about such beliefs since the early industrial revolution was a period of profound change.  I wanted to write about a world that was on the verge of a major alteration, and England, at the beginning of industrialization and before the end of the Napoleonic Wars, works perfectly.

[I’m adding this because I like this answer!]  If you could meet just one historical figure, who would it be?

I have a great deal of affection for Henry Fielding, who helped pioneer the novel and the modern police force, was a brilliant legal mind, a wide-ranging intellectual, and a guy who could hang out and enjoy several bottles of wine (yes, several bottles!) while chatting with his friends.  My kind of guy.

-For a good read of something that Jane Austen read, try Patronage by Maria Edgeworth (1814) recently reviewed in The Guardian

-A book review of Revolutionary Imaginings in the 1790s: Charlotte Smith, Mary Robinson, Elizabeth Inchbald, by Amy Garnai (Palgrave Macmillan, 2009), about other writers that Jane Austen read and admired:

Articles of interest:

-This late edition news:  from Tracy Kiely of Murder at Mansfield Park fame [and other Jane Austen mysteries], Battle of the Bonnets– get your fightin’ gloves on for Bronte v. Austen, legal style!  [with thanks to Kerri S for the link]

Museums / Exhibits

-National Portrait Gallery: Art for the Nation: Sir Charles Eastlake at the National Gallery – 27 July – 30 October 2011: “This exhibition illuminates the life and work of the Gallery’s first director, Sir Charles Lock Eastlake (1793–1865), a man described by one contemporary as ‘the Alpha and Omega’ of the Victorian art world.”


The “Keep Calm & Carry On” theme that has been splattered everywhere from cards to books to wall hangings and t-shirts – here is a new contender!×10?ref=sr_gallery_8&ga_search_submit=&ga_search_query=jane+austen&ga_view_type=gallery&ga_ship_to=US&ga_search_type=handmade&ga_facet=handmade

-and one of my all-time favorites:

For Fun:
[what! SHOPPING isn’t fun?!]

-These are past our time period but How to Be a Retronaut offers this great collection of Victorian photographs, sure to bring you a daily chuckle:  don’t an awful lot of these husbands and wives LOOK ALIKE?! [not to mention a tad grim?]

Better Book Titles – I already posted on this about Mansfield Park, newly titled: “I Couldn’t Even Finish the Spark Notes” – – but add your comments for other Austen titles here:

Signing off – stay tuned for the next edition…

Copyright @2011 Deb Barnum of Jane Austen in Vermont

A Better Title for Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park?

There is a fabulous and funny blog out there called Better Book Titles, by Dan Wilbur, a comedian and writer – he says:

This blog is for people who do not have thousands of hours to read book reviews or blurbs or first sentences. I will cut through all the cryptic crap, and give you the meat of the story in one condensed image. Now you can read the greatest literary works of all time in mere seconds!

A new Better Book Title will be posted every weekday. Every Friday a reader’s submission will be posted. Redesign and titles by Dan Wilbur unless credited otherwise. Please use proper credits when reprinting.

 It is well-worth your time to sort through the posts [you can also search for an author – go to bottom of page and click on “Archives” and a search screen will appear at the top of the page] – as expected, the Brontes are quite funny and spot-on:

[Charlotte Bronte – Jane Eyre]

as is Thomas Hardy’s The Mayor of Casterbridge:

Here is one of my laugh-out-loud favorites:

[Roald Dahl – James and the Giant Peach]

and this:

 [Norton Anthology of English Literature ]

and who can resist this by Virginia Woolf?

[ Virginia Woolf – The Waves ]

But what of Jane Austen? – well, she has only one title represented, and this a reader submission [ by Henry Schenker ] last November:

 [ Jane Austen – Mansfield Park ]

…which we can all appreciate! But surely Mr. Wilbur can come up with something for Austen’s other titles! – is it perhaps that he just can’t bring himself to read her books? – at any rate, what might you submit for an Austen “better book title”?? – put on your thinking caps and comment below!

All images from the Better Book Titles website, which you must visit – check out all the Shakespeare…

You can follow Mr. Wilbur on twitter:!/betterbooktitle

Copyright @2011 Deb Barnum, of Jane Austen in Vermont

Jane Austen Weekends in Vermont! ~ Two of Them!

Well, my traveling co-hort and lover-of-London buddy Suzanne, of the Governor’s House in Hyde Park, Vermont, will be hosting not just one but two Jane Austen weekends in a row:

Governor's House in Hyde Park, Vermont

This coming weekend [August 12-14] will be on Persuasion – come learn about the Royal Navy! discuss Anne Elliot’s dilemma! obsess over Captain Wentworth’s letter! [sigh…]

Then next weekend [August 19-21] the Governor’s House will be treading new ground – a weekend of guests who will each come in the guise of one of Jane Austen’s characters – here is your chance to dress up* [not required, but it helps…], speak, and act, well, act like anyone you want to be:  Mr. Collins, or Mrs. Bennet, or Mr. Darcy; or how about Mrs. Elton, Mary Musgrove, Jane Fairfax or Miss Bates, or can you resist trying a hand at Lady Catherine? – the list an endless one of endearing and annoying characters!  Maybe you will meet your very own Mr. Darcy or Mr. Knightley or find a Henry Tilney to spar with[there shall be no encouragement of the Willoughbys or Wickhams of the world, but we do hope they shall attend for the sake of the interest of all participants…]

Alas!! I cannot go, but shall try to pop in for pictures to share… but if you could go, who would you most want to be?? – remember you must act the part for the entire weekend!

You can view the details here:

And here is the upcoming schedule for future Jane Austen weekends: call early to reserve – they fill up fast.  [There are plans for another ‘in-character” weekend, so stay tuned for an announcement.] 

Special Weekend in Character
August 19 – 21, 2011

Series 4: Persuasion

Brock illus - Persuasion - Molland's


Friday evening talk: Captain Wentworth’s Royal Navy

January 28 – 30, 2011
August 12 – 14, 2011
September 9 – 11, 2011
January 6 – 8, 2012

Book Group Weekend: Pride and Prejudice
February 25 – 27, 2011
(additional availability)

Series 5: Emma

January 27 – 29, 2012
and other dates to be announced


Or come for just an evening and choose from these activities:
  Informal Talk with Coffee and Dessert, Friday, 8:00 p.m., $14.00
  Afternoon Tea, Saturday, 3:00 p.m., $20.00
  Book Discussion and Dinner, Saturday, 7:00 p.m., $35.00
  Jane Austen Quiz and Sunday Brunch, Sunday, 11:30 a.m., $15.00

  All four activities: $75.00


100 Main Street•Hyde Park,VT05655
phone: 802-888-6888 • toll free: 866-800-6888
email: info [at] onehundredmain [dot] com


*If your wardrobe is sadly lacking in proper Regency attire, here are a few links to assist you: 

So, who would you want to be?? if you had this chance, would you want to play the part of one of Austen’s annoying characters or one of her endearing ones?? – and of course that leads to – what outfit would you choose?? Please comment – inquiring minds want to know!

Copyright @2011 Deb Barnum of Jane Austen in Vermont.

Why Jane Austen? ~ and the winner is….

Char Brooks! 

Congratulations Char! – Please send me an email with your address and phone number by next Monday August 15, 2011 [or the names shall be put back in the hat for another random drawing!] 

Thank you all for commenting and sharing “why Jane Austen?” in your life.  For those who didn’t win, you can find the book at your local bookstore, or you can order online from the powers that be!  I highly recommend it!

And again, a hearty thank you to Rachel Brownstein for so gracioulsy visiting us here at Jane Austen in Vermont and sharing her knowledge and love of Jane Austen with us all!

And finally, one of the comments from Lev Raphael posed this question:

Where’s your most exotic locale for reading one of her books?
For me it was in a hammock in my uncle orchard outside Tel-Aviv.

A great question! – Please comment if you would like to share!

Copyright @2011 Deb Barnum, of Jane Austen in Vermont.