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Every Jane Austen book, everImage result for jane austen novels

I took a Jane Austen in Literature and Film class this semester, which meant I read through all of her books, including some of her teenage writings that I hadn’t read before. After all of this, I can say that Emma firmly remains my favorite Austen novel, but the big surprise was how much I loved Sense and Sensibility this time around–it’s never been my favorite, but in the five or so years since I first read it, I’ve discovered that it’s so, so much better than my younger self thought.

The Miller’s Girl // Nina Clare34876030

I haven’t read many “Rumpelstiltskin” retellings, so when I was in the mood for a fairy tale and saw this one was free (!) on Kindle, I snatched it up and started reading it immediately. I really liked it; it was pretty true to the original story, but was fleshed out and expanded with distinct characters and political drama. In my Goodreads review I mentioned the feel of it struck me as very reminiscent of the German TV show Sechs auf einen Streich (which is a compliment, because it’s a lovely show). The author has also written a retelling of “King Thrushbeard,” which I’m now very interested in reading!

Goodreads / Amazon

The Beast of Talesend // Kyle Robert ShultzThe Beast of Talesend: After Beauty and the Beast (Beaumont and Beasley Book 1) by [Shultz, Kyle]

I’m honestly embarrassed at how long it took me to get around to reading this book! I follow Kyle Robert Shultz on Twitter and we run in a lot of the same fairy tale-loving circles, so I’ve seen a lot about the Beaumont & Beasley series. It’s basically a 1920s detective story in a world where fairy tales exist, so obviously I’m going to love it, right? I’m pretty conservative when it comes to what magical content I’m “okay” with, so it did walk the line a little bit, but overall it’s an incredibly fun read with with lots of banter and humor, so A+ stuff.

Goodreads / Amazon

306841Old Friends and New Fancies // Sybil G. Brinton

Being in such a Jane Austen mood, I figured it was time to tackle Sybil G. Brinton’s 1914 “imaginary sequel” to Austen’s books. I enjoyed a lot of the connections she made between characters (like connecting William Price to the Wentworths because Navy™ and all that) but there were definitely some things I wasn’t keen on. I took particular offense of her portrayal of Emma and Mr. Knightley; I don’t think Brinton really understood the characters at all (and they’re my favorite, so I’m biased). Also, the decision to cast Mary Crawford as a victim in Mansfield Park was equally puzzling and not to my taste (a reformed Mary would have been an interesting thing; however, this novel didn’t really seem to fully grasp the horridness of some of her actions in MP). However, I liked Brinton’s decision to cast Georgiana as heroine, and it was interesting to see how Jane Austen’s characters were viewed by an author a hundred years ago.

Goodreads / Amazon / Project Gutenberg

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Why I Love Historical Fiction

For as long as I can remember, historical fiction has always been my first love. It started with Little House on the Prairie and the American Girl series, and only continued to grow as I got older. During my middle school and early teenage years, I pretty much read historical fiction exclusively. I just wasn’t interested in anything else. While occasionally a fantasy or science fiction book would catch my interest, anything remotely connected to today’s life and culture had no appeal. A large part of this was due to the fact that I related much more to characters in the classics and in historical fiction, and found their problems ones I could better sympathize with. (Even to this day, most contemporary characters—especially in romance—always end up striking me as annoyingly ridiculous.) While I do read more genres now, historical fiction is still my favorite and what I always gravitate to for a cozy comfort read. So what are my (many) reasons for loving historical fiction so?

Variety

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Contemporaries have the misfortune of being just that: contemporary. While they may take place in a variety of locations (which is great) by definition their time period is the same as ours. On the other hand, historical fiction can take you to any time period. While I definitely have my favorites (The Victorian Era, Roaring Twenties, The Regency) it’s always nice to know that if I fancy a jaunt to Ancient Greece or a ride with Genghis Khan, it’s fully possible to get there within the pages of a book. Whatever you’re interested in—or whatever mood you’re in—there is a wide variety of times to choose from.

Morality

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This certainly isn’t always true, but I fully appreciate the morality of historical fiction, because to be honest, many times the morals upheld as an ideal in times past is more in line with my own than modern sensibilities are. In the Victorian Era, women and men of good standing didn’t live together before marriage, didn’t swear, and respect for parents and authority was more widely held. There was sin, crime, and hypocrisy, of course. But these are generally seen as bad things by the main characters, whereas most modern novels find sexual sin and promiscuity, profanity, and “progressive” morals as things to be celebrated. Of course, this is only in as so far the modern author portrays them to be, which is why sometimes I find certain historical fiction novels just as maddening as any other type of book. (But classics are always nice. Jane Austen never fails me in that regard. I like my heroes to be heroes and my cads to be cads, and not the other way around, thank you.)

Costumes!

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Romantic medieval dresses. Luscious 1880s ballgowns. Sparkly flapper frocks. Chic 1940s suits. It’s shallow, but true.

The Names

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I’d much rather have my protagonists named Henry or Charles or Edward or Frederica or Clara or Margarethe than whatever trendy names are out there these days. The more obscure-but-historically-accurate, the better.

More Possibilities

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This is especially good for Mystery because I feel like murder was a lot easier to get away with back in the good ‘ole days. Also, history is full of weird customs and strange laws and crazy “true-story” events that can really spice up writing. I mean, if hatters really did go mad from using mercury in their millinery, then why wouldn’t you write about it? (And did you know that the mercury exposure would turn their hair red? Why would you not write about that?)

The Adventures

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I love old-fashioned adventures, and sometimes I feel like we just know too much in this day and age. I love stories about visiting uncharted waters and lands (something hard to do in a world of satellites, airplanes, and space stations). I love a good battle or action scene filled with archers and swordsmen, rather than a man with a machine gun.

When all is said and done, whatever the reasons are, I’ll always love historical fiction. It’s my safe, cozy reading…the reading that I do when I’m feeling down or blue, or what I read when I’m happy and want to read something that I know I’ll enjoy.

Actually, I find historical fiction is good to read anytime. 🙂

Fellow fans of historical fiction, what are your favorite time periods to read about? What is it you most like about historical fiction? Favorite historical fiction book?