Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Michael Thomas Ford shows just how hard Jane Bites Back

Jane Austen fans have seen her beloved characters go thru quite a bit of reimagined reshaping lately and the iconic author herself has not been immune to being fictionalized as well.

Many of her faithful followers were in doubt when it was announced that Michael Thomas Ford's new novel, Jane Bites Back,would have Our Dear Jane become a vampire living in the modern world and while I shared some of that concern,this book has turned out to be a rather amusing romp that Austenites with a gothic sense of humor can truly appreciate.

At the beginning of the story,we meet Jane Austen who currently goes by the name Jane Fairfax and runs a independent book store charmingly called Flyleaf Books in Brakeston,NY. There she bonds with her assistant Lucy,whose lively spirits put her in mind of her dear sister Cassandra and maintains an on-again,off-again relationship with Walter,a local carpenter and house restorer who admires her greatly but refuses to push Jane into a romance she's not ready for.

Part of the reason for her reluctance in allowing Walter to court her is that Jane is a vampire(one who only feeds on humans when necessary and takes only enough to exist on)and while direct sunlight has no directly dangerous effect on her,she is fearful to let him in on her secret.

Jane became an immortal blood drinker at the hands of the infamous Lord Byron,who has for mysterious purposes of his own come back into her life. Now calling himself Brian George and taking up residence in Brakeston,his dubiously ardent determination to have Jane all for himself threatens not only her somewhat serene lifestyle(she is a tad annoyed at not being able to collect any royalties on her previous published works and their various spin-offs and tie-ins)but her new found friends as well:

If things weren't complicated enough,Jane finally gets her long time rejected novel Constance accepted by a publisher and sets off on a whirlwind PR campaign to promote her new book which promises to be an instant bestseller.

Her promotional travels lead Jane to a trendy talk show appearance and a romance writers' conference in New Orleans where she encounters new challenges,including an attraction to her publisher Kelly Littlejohn,another run-in with Byron and several mysterious occurrences that may or may not be connected to Violet Grey,a vindictive Bronte blogger who issues a blackmail demand that endangers the release of Jane's book.

Jane is torn in numerous directions,both emotionally and career-wise but decides to use her intellectual and otherworldly abilities to set the situation right:

Michael Thomas Ford clearly knows his English Lit and gives us a vampire version of Jane Austen that is as clever,vulnerable and sharp witted as the lady no doubt was in real life. Satirical points are made about the latest trends in cashing in on Jane's public domain status,supernatural cross genre books and the perils of publishing and all of them are subtle in their sting as they hit the mark.

Jane Bites Back is a delightful read,one that respects the literary figures that it playfully parodies and creates an interesting inventive stage with both original and classic characters for them to entertain us on. Plans are already in the works for at least two more JBB sequels(the next one will be titled Jane Goes Batty) and judging by the success of the first book, folks may acquire a thirst for more.

These books do have the potential to be as addicting as the gothic novels that Catherine Morland devoured to feed her overactive imagination,only difference being that today's fantastical readers are hopefully more rational to take these tomes with a suitable grain of satirical salt:

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