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Bespelling Jane Austen

Mary Balogh, Colleen Gleason, Susan Krinard, Janet Mullany 

Introduction

Two and a half years ago I was thinking about Jane Austen. And vampires.

I’d been writing paranormal novels for fifteen years, and had been a Jane Austen fan for much longer than that. I’d read Emma many times with great pleasure, had seen every version of Pride and Prejudice that had ever appeared on big or small screens.

Today, the combination of Austen and paranormal may seem an obvious one. But in January 2008, as I sat on my couch near midnight and began scribbling my story idea longhand on a steno pad, it was one of the most exciting notions that had ever popped into my head. The words flowed as they had seldom flowed before, and I found a story taking shape…the retelling of Pride and Prejudice as a contemporary vampire story.

Who was better qualified to be an urbane, handsome, slightly arrogant vampire than Fitzwilliam Darcy? And Lizzy would be a modern woman, with all the concerns of a modern woman but the same family problems and romantic qualms. Lydia would still be a troublemaker. Jane would still be the sister everyone would love to have. I could see the retelling as a first-person narrative, presented in the modern Lizzy’s affectionate, wry and sometimes acerbic voice.

And so “Blood and Prejudice” was born.

The rest happened quickly. I knew there was a great anthology here, and so I approached my agent, Lucienne Diver, about a prospective collection of Austen/paranormal novellas. Each author would choose an Austen novel to reimagine in the paranormal milieu, and we’d call it Bespelling Jane Austen.

My agent was enthusiastic. Now it was a matter of finding the right authors! I was joined by Janet Mullany, who calls herself a writer of “funny romantic historicals,” including Improper Relations, a “rakish Regency romance” and Colleen Gleason, author of the Gardella Vampire Chronicles, featuring a Regency-era vampire huntress.

But who should be our headliner? Among my favorite romance writers of all time is Mary Balogh, whose many Regency-set historicals have given pleasure to millions of devoted readers. When I approached Mary, she was enthusiastic about the idea…but she had never before written a paranormal. There was no doubt in anyone’s mind, however, that this fine author could write anything she put her mind to. And so she agreed, to the great delight of the rest of us.

Mary Balogh chose to reimagine Austen’s novel Persuasion. In “Almost Persuaded,” Jane Everett finally learns, after several lifetimes of trying and failing, that when it comes to love, all the advice and persuasion in the world from trusted friends and relatives are no substitute for what the heart knows.

In Janet Mullany’s contemporary “Little to Hex Her,” based on Austen’s Emma, vampires populate the Hill, elves run the Pentagon and there’s a witch on retainer at the White House. “Witch without a cause” Emma Woodhouse runs her family’s dating agency and finds trouble and love among the paranormal population of Washington, D.C.

Colleen Gleason revisits Northanger Abbey in “Northanger Castle,” where it’s vampires instead of madmen who lock their wives away. Caroline is so highly influenced by popular Gothic novels that she sees danger and intrigue everywhere. But it’s not until she comes face-to-face with a vampire that she realizes how inaccurate her instincts really are!

Whether modern or historical, the tales in Bespelling Jane Austen will, we hope, intrigue traditional Austen readers as well as those who love the paranormal. If Miss Austen knew how far our love for her works would take us, how much we would want to make her world our own, I don’t think she would be displeased.

Susan Krinard

Almost Persuaded

Mary Balogh

Introduction

Dear Reader,

Paranormal literature is something I read, not something I write. And so I told Colleen, Janet and Susan when they asked me to contribute a story to this anthology. But I loved the concept and really wished I could drum up a vampire or a dragon or a werewolf or two in my writer’s imagination.

Susan was not willing to take no for an answer. I mentioned to her that the only paranormal topic I could handle, since it is something in which I believe, was reincarnation. That would be good enough, she said, and I realized (with some terror) that I had talked myself into being a part of this very exciting project. Of course, I still feel like a fraud when I compare my story with the other three! But you must be the judge.

Jane Austen’s Persuasion has always been my cofavorite with Pride and Prejudice. There is something very poignant about Anne Elliot, who rejected the man she loved as a young, hopeful girl because her family opposed the match and her late mother’s best friend, whom she respected and trusted implicitly, advised against a marriage that could not promise her financial security or the social position suited to her upbringing. And so Anne had to wait many years for Captain Wentworth to return as a successful man, though this time all her hopes, if not her dreams, were long dead.

My story does not use the same characters. But the situation is similar. And I asked myself what if love had found my heroine many times, over numerous lifetimes, but each time she had lost it because she had not trusted her heart more than the advice and persuasions of her loved ones? What if that lesson is still to be learned and yet again she has a chance to learn it—or be persuaded yet again to reject it?

I hope you enjoy my slightly paranormal story based upon the same premise as Jane Austen’s classic but with a totally different twist.

Mary Balogh

Chapter 1

MISS JANE EVERETT, MIDDLE DAUGHTER OF SIR Horace Everett of Goodrich Hall in Hampshire, did not call as often as she ought at the vicarage in the village nearby. She called everywhere else—on tenants and laborers and others, on those who were sick or elderly or in need of any sort. She took her duties very seriously.

Mrs. Mitford—the elder Mrs. Mitford, that was, great-aunt of the vicar—was definitely in need since severe rheumatics prevented her from going much farther from the vicarage than the garden, and even that was a great effort on most days. And she liked company. Perhaps she would have liked more of Jane’s.

Louisa, Jane’s elder sister, called at the vicarage far more often, though her visits elsewhere were rare and were always accompanied by such condescending pomp that Jane doubted anyone regretted their infrequency. But she went to the vicarage to see the younger Mrs. Mitford, the vicar’s wife. Amelia Mitford was quite happy to pay obsequious homage to the eldest daughter of a baronet, and since Louisa was always delighted to be worshiped and adored, it was in many ways a friendship made in heaven.

Edna, Jane’s younger sister, almost never called at the vicarage or anywhere else unless it was to attend an evening party that promised lively entertainment, preferably dancing. Social calls were nothing but a dead bore, she always declared, when they must perforce be made on the same people, who invariably talked on and on about the same old things. Charitable calls were even more tedious because all the recipients wanted to talk about was their health, or rather their ill health.

Edna positively lived for the day when she would be married and have her own home and could expect other people to call upon her. However, the only really eligible gentleman in the neighborhood was William Burton, eldest son of Mr. Edward Burton of Highfield House, and William was far more interested in Jane than in Edna. He would not, of course, even consider Louisa since Sir Horace had always made it plain that he expected his eldest daughter to ally herself with no gentleman lower on the social scale than a baron. Louisa herself aspired to an earl at the least.

     

 

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