I am thrilled today to be part of the blog tour for Jean Burnett's new release, The Bad Miss Bennet Abroad. My thanks also goes to Hayley Steed for inviting me to take part.
When I searched for a literary heroine in the swashbuckling mode to write about, I was reminded that there was no female equivalent of the picaresque novel where the protagonist strutted around having adventures and making his mark.
There were obvious reasons for this, women didn’t get around much in earlier times and their adventures, if any, tended to be via the boudoir. Leaving aside the few documented cases of female pirates and women enlisting as soldiers, the possibly mythical Amazons and a few feisty queens, the page is bare.
Jane Austen wrote on her “inch of ivory” about her near neighbours and their goings on because that was her small world. When I chose Lydia Bennet, the youngest sister in Pride and Prejudice I decided to keep her more or less within the confines of her time. Lydia endeavours to stay respectable, outwardly, at least. I also used the language and customs of the period as far as possible. Even so, purists will sneer at the liberties I have taken.
It’s a tribute to Jane’s eternal popularity, surely, that her characters are now being toyed with in remarkable ways. American writers are leading the way in making the well-known Austen heroines more exhilarating. They may still be corseted but they can still destroy a room full of the undead with some nifty sword play. There is no reaching for the sal volatile here. This is a genre known as ‘mashup.’ One can only imagine what Jane would have made of it all.
In Pride and Prejudice and Zombies the Bennet sisters still find love alongside their fighting partners as they deal with a plague of the walking dead in Regency England. Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters finds the Dashwood sisters living among tentacled mayhem with ghastly human/sea creature combos lurking around. In Mrs Darcy versus the Aliens, another demented P&P spinoff, Elizabeth remains unflappable as Darcy turns very strange, Mr Collins becomes dastardly, and Lydia is abducted by aliens. In another version Elizabeth is forced to decapitate Darcy when he turns into a vampire, although she hopes to have him resurrected later! It’s all good, clean, wacky fun but Austen purists will gag in horror.
There will be many people who will ask, ‘why can’t you create your own characters instead of stealing Jane’s?’ This a whole other argument, but one answer is the fun of seeing what can happen to a classic plot or heroine when they are taken in a different direction – usually a fantastical one. Modern readers tend to demand more action from their heroines and the classics of literature are now fair game.
I’m afraid that reading some of these versions can be infectious. I’m contemplating writing something similar, but I think I will choose an author or a heroine who hasn’t been trifled with as yet.
I have always thought that the Lady of Shalott got a very raw deal in Tennyson’s poem. Why couldn’t she escape from her castle, jump on to Sir Lancelot’s horse and ride off with him to slay a few dragons? She could use the spindle from her spinning wheel as a weapon. Of course, she would have whiled away some of the time in her castle practising unarmed combat for just such an event.
The Bad Miss Bennet by Jean Burnett is published on 23rd May by Canelo, price £3.99 in eBook.
Hold on to your bonnets: Lydia Bennet is back
Miss Bennet Abroad
Miss Bennet Abroad
by Jean Burnett
To be published on 23rdMay by Canelo,
price £3.99 in eBook
price £3.99 in eBook
“High-spirited, great fun and full of rackety Georgian atmosphere”Daily Mail on Who Needs Mr Darcy?
At the end of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice16-year-old Lydia Bennet had just begun married life to the roguish Mr Wickham. But after some risky gambling and a liaison with an Austrian count in Jean Burnett’s Who Needs Mr Darcy?, Lydia decides to leave London.
Lydia sets sail for Rio, accompanying Austrian noblewoman, Dona Leopoldina, who is travelling there to marry heir to the Brazilian throne and notorious womaniser, Dom Pedro. But troubled waters lie ahead when Dom Pedro sets his sights on wooing Lydia instead.
Finding his flirtatious ways impossible to resist, Lydia is thrown out of the court for her indiscretions. On discovering she is pregnant, Dom Pedro sets Lydia up in the coastal town of Paraty where, in boredom, she begins writing a gothic romance. But things soon liven up when a pirate ship anchors in the bay and kidnaps Lydia and her baby…
Lust, love and kidnapping…The Bad Miss Bennet Abroad is the story of the naughtiest Austen character as she travels between Brazil, Jamaica and England.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jean Burnett grew up in London but has also lived in Canada, the US and Mexico and previously worked for the University of Bristol. After her children left home she decided to become the ‘world’s oldest backpacker’ for a year and later wrote about her adventures in Vagabond Shoes, winning the novel prize at the Winchester Writers’ Conference. Who Needs Mr Darcy?, Jean’s first spin-off novel starring Lydia Bennet, was published in 2012.
Jean lives in Bristol and is available for interview and to write features.
My thanks again goes to Jean for this great post, and I wish her all the best with this release and any future books.
Your affectionate friend,