Jane Austen joins the undead to counter a French invasion of Britain, in the latest from Mullany (The Rules of Gentility, 2007).
Stung by the rejection of her first novel, Miss Austen attends a tea-dance with her sister Cassandra, hoping for a diverting if dull afternoon. But wait…who are those louche-looking roués accompanied by some extremely svelte and soignée ladies who make Jane feel even dowdier than usual by comparison? Although she suspects the strangers are vampires, Jane lets one get her alone. She awakens a few quarts low, hungry for blood. Jane confides her new status to her father, who suggests that the family travel to Bath, so that Jane can take the cure. Also touring Bath are her vampire acquaintances, collectively known as the Damned, including Luke, who offers to become her Bearleader or vampire mentor. Luke shows her the vampire ropes (how to retract tell-tale canines in public, how to heal with a drop of her blood, etc.) and explodes myths—garlic, crucifixes and daylight are annoying, not deadly, to the undead. Jane is loath to choose immortality over her family, and worse, although her senses are more acute and she’s telepathic, she finds that vampire life induces writer’s block. She’s ready to ingest the healing waters, which cause terrible pain to vampires trying to reverse their condition, when Napoleon’s army invades Great Britain. Soldiers take over Bath, imposing French bureaucracy, making everyone carry identity papers and address each other as “Citizen.” When Jane, now endowed with superhuman strength, kills a French invader, she resolves to stay Damned—the vampires are Britain’s only hope against the French. As she earns her stripes in the fanged militia, she begins falling in love with Luke, making his former mistress dangerously jealous.
Not as articulate as a Jane Austen parody needs to be.