Feeling especially glad to be writing novels which take place long, long before the invention of the Internet.
In honor of one my all-time favorite authors, whose birthday is today, I’m reupping a little think-piece I wrote with great pleasure for Bookish. Hope you enjoy it!
How Jane Austen Continues to Inspire Romance Authors
More than 200 years after their publication, Jane Austen’s books still speak to us — still make us think, laugh, and swoon a little, too. The novels themes of love and marriage also continue to inspire historical romance novelists everywhere. What is it, exactly, that keeps her work so relevant to us writers, as well as to the romance community at large? I suggest it’s because Austen embeds her stories with enduringly powerful ideas and motifs. Here are a few of them.
Intelligence is a game-changer
Set in an era during which women were all too often viewed as decorative objects, Austen’s heroines — despite intense familial and social pressure to conform — think their way through things. For Mansfield Park‘s Fanny Price to reject Henry Crawford? Astonishing! Today’s historical romance readers expect heroines to make self-affirming choices too, whether it’s through book smarts, emotional intelligence, business acumen, or any of the other various qualities that denote solid brainpower.
Appearances can be deceiving
Oh, that dashing John Willoughby in Sense and Sensibility, literally sweeping Marianne Dashwood off her feet. But, alas, he’s got a rotten core. And what about cold, condescending Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice? Turns out he’s hiding a good heart and a passionate nature. In the high-stakes game of love, people can go to great lengths to conceal their flaws, fears, and desires. Our historical heroines often struggle with the same dilemma — how to sort out the real from the false — as they fight for what they want and deserve.
Laughter is sexy
Among Austen’s wide range of characters, those who deploy humor are often cited as favorites. Consider witty, playful Elizabeth Bennet in P&P who famously declares, “I dearly love a laugh,” and Northanger Abbey‘s adorable Henry Tilney. As “Advice Goddess” Amy Alkon says, we’re instinctively drawn to people who make us laugh: “Humor is a reliable, hard-to-fake sign of genetic quality.” Today we still love a laugh, as the many fans of Julia Quinn, Eloisa James, and Tessa Dare — three of the best-known purveyors of fun historical romps — will attest.
People can change
Austen herself said that Emma Woodhouse was “a heroine whom no one but myself will much like.” Emma is a tough sell. She’s annoyingly smug and bossy. But not only does Emma learn some hard lessons about herself, she’s able to take this information and become a kinder, wiser person — leaving us confident that she really has earned her happy ending. And that’s what we want from our historical characters too. We love seeing them change, grow, and flourish, both as individuals and as a firmly bonded couple.
Still waters run deep
My two favorite Austen heroines — Persuasion‘s Anne Elliot and Mansfield Park‘s Fanny Price — are quiet, sensitive, and deeply emotional. Others may think they’re pushovers or take them for granted, but it’s their unwavering moral compass, their steadfast inner strength, which ultimately gains them their hearts’ desires. This trope is an eternally popular one, and for good reason: Who doesn’t root for the wallflower, the introvert, the underdog? There’s something very special about the against-the-odds happily-ever-after.
In Austen’s day, marriage was often a woman’s only bulwark against deprivation, degradation, or worse. That her books are wedding-obsessed reflects a very real and practical response to her world. Yet she also, radically, makes the case for personal happiness over pragmatism. Elizabeth Bennet really should accept icky Mr. Collins’ proposal for the sake of her family’s security. But she doesn’t, and that is a stunning act of subversion. This bold championing of happiness over every other consideration is why romance novels continue to not only outsell other genres, but also to joyfully illuminate the human heart and mind.
These images via Wikimedia commons.
How flattering to see The Redemption of Philip Thane among such fabulous books in this listicle including (gasp) Pride and Prejudice!
“From romance novels to collections of love poetry, here’s our edit of the best romantic books about love, the perfect Valentine’s Day gift for any booklover.”
Click here to check it out!
Love this quote from Ryan Reynolds!
Ryan Reynolds says there’s no big secret behind the success of his and Blake Lively’s marriage, just a really solid foundation of friendship.
The actor revealed in an interview with Entertainment Tonight published on Monday that when it comes to his relationship with his wife . . . “Falling in love is great, but do you like each other? That’s kinda the question you gotta ask yourself, you know, going into it. We’ve always liked each other. We grow together. We learn from each other. So yeah, I’m lucky to have a buddy in that.”
Sounds pretty darn romantic to me. ♥
LOL! This is why I wrote The Bride Takes a Groom!
“Lisa Berne takes all the classic elements of a Regency romance and turns them upside down. The most charming surprise is the hero himself, Hugo Penhallow, who stands out from the legion of Regency leading men before him by being kind, pleasant and affable. Hugo is not a cad or a rake, nor is he the relentlessly proper image of decorum. He’s not cold and bitter from a broken heart, nor sarcastic and snide from a chilly upbringing. Instead, Hugo is a genuinely sunny soul, reared by a delightfully quirky family he adores.”
Fellow Jane Austen fans! Frock Flicks asks the trenchant question here . . . Colonel Brandon or Willoughby?
. . . what he’s thinking, don’t you?
An excellent word!
I used it with pleasure in The Laird Takes a Bride, the second book in my Penhallow Dynasty series. Here, my hero Alasdair, who’s been forced into marriage with my heroine Fiona, has come grumpily into her morning-room with the express purpose of picking a fight:
“It’s stupid to quarrel about taste. I prefer furnishings that are less ornate.” Fiona pulled away the tartan shawl that had remained tucked over her, revealing a simple day-dress made in a singularly beautiful shade of lavender that even in his peppery temper Alasdair had to acknowledge as strikingly flattering to his wife’s pale complexion, dark-lashed blue eyes, silvery-blonde hair, even her slim figure. Why, she almost looked —
She almost looked —
For a moment there, he had thought her lovely.
Don’t be daft, man, he told himself harshly. Such sentimental thoughts were a trap, the chain around the ankle that jerked and tightened and dragged you down into the depths.
His dog Cuilean lifted his head and fixed those intelligent eyes on him, ears pricked as if questioningly, and Alasdair said shortly to Fiona:
“Is that a new gown, madam?”
There was a silence, during which Alasdair fought within himself. Why was he being so churlish? He ought to tell her how bonny a dress it was. But it felt like he would be giving away something he wanted — needed — to hang onto.
For more info about The Laird Takes a Bride, including ordering options and to check out some of the nice things people are saying about it, click here.