I loved the premise of this book as soon as I heard it: Jane Austen, a vampire! Yes, OK. It does sounds like it would go against my dislike of the monster-mashes that are in vogue right now, but it’s not really. I don’t mind the idea of a historical figure as a character in a book, but I am not fond of remixes of original work. Is this distinction weird? Nah, I make perfect sense.
The Premise: Jane Austen is a vampire and the owner of a bookstore in the upstate town of Brakeston, New York. Of course she can’t tell anyone who she is so she goes by the name of Jane Fairfax, and she spends her time working at her store with her assistant Lucy, turning down a suitor named Walter Fletcher, and reading rejection letter after rejection letter for her manuscript, entitled Constance. Then one day, a publisher is interested, and Jane is pushed into the spotlight again. Suddenly, amidst the publicity of her new novel, the man who turned her shows up, and a crazy Brontëite accuses Jane of plagiarism.
My Thoughts: This was a pretty fun story. The humor isn’t overplayed, it just nudges you as you read. The obvious joke is that Jane can never reveal who she really is. She can’t really set people straight when they just don’t get it and think that Pride and Prejudice is all about waiting for a Mr. Darcy, or who see Austen as a cash cow. Jane’s vampire nature takes care of a more offensive author using her name, but Jane can’t do that to everyone (Jane let’s Pride and Prejudice and Zombies slide when she reads it and finds it funny). The worst part is seeing how much money people are making off of her work in related merchandising, spin-offs and modernizations, but no one wants her unpublished manuscript! There’s something amusing about Jane’s work being treated the same as any other poor schlub’s, and Jane’s depression over all her rejections.
Each chapter of Jane Bites Back begins with a small excerpt of Constance which ties in with the rest of the chapter, and I liked the excerpts themselves as they were written in Jane Austen’s style. Jane’s life seems to match that of her manuscript as she wants to be with good guy Walter, but the vampire who turned her has his draw, even though she knows she should not like him.
When Jane finally gets an offer for Constance, things turn around very suddenly. I that think in the spirit of fiction, her path from an offer to publication is preternaturally fast. Suddenly Jane is going to New York and meeting her editor (Kelly Littlejohn), her book has a cover and she’s off to a convention to sign copies. All within what seems like a couple of months. In the meantime, Jane’s past comes to her door in the form of the cad who made her what she is now. She wants to protect the people she cares about (Lucy, Kelly, and Walter) from this vampire’s bloodthirst so she’s got a big dilemma. More problems arise when Violet Grey, the world’s premiere Brontë scholar, says she has the original manuscript of Constance, and Jane plagiarized it.
The way things are resolved is entertaining to read, but not all the story threads have a conclusion. We’ll find out more in Jane Goes Batty, the next book in this series.
Overall: A quick, amusing read. Fans of English literature will appreciate the gentle humor as long as they don’t take the book too seriously. A couple of fun twists, and cameos from literary greats keep the book fresh and pleasurable. I liked it.