Armed only with her vampire powers, 192-year-old Jane Austen hits the publicity trail to promote what fond readers think is her first novel.
Though the standard reference works agree that the author of Pride and Prejudice and Mansfield Park died in 1817, they’re all wrong. After being turned into a vampire by a bite from a contemporaneous celebrity author, Jane Austen faked her own death and went into hiding. At first she sought the company of her own kind, but she drifted away from vampires and ended up as Jane Fairfax, owner of Flyleaf Books in cozy Brakeston, N.Y. The only blots on her happiness have been her inability to return the love of widowed carpenter Walter Fletcher—what would she tell him when he grew older but she didn’t?—and the 116 rejection slips awarded her novel Constance. (There’s some justice here, since excerpts employed as chapter epigraphs are rather overripe for Austen.) Now, however, the second of these trials seems to be at an end. Kelly Littlejohn of Browder Publishing loves Constance and wants to publish it in time for the beach-reading season. Jane promptly scores a spot on the TV show Comfort and Joy and an interview with Entertainment Weekly. Soon after she’s invited to a conference on romance fiction and Constance debuts as #1 on the NYTBR list. But Jane’s Cinderella story is comically curdled by her discomfort with airplanes, makeup and publicity, the need to keep her private life private, dark accusations of plagiarism—not to mention her thirst for the blood of an English professor, one of the talk-show hosts and, most satisfyingly, the philistine author of a self-help volume entitled Waiting for Mr. Darcy.
Ford (What We Remember, 2009, etc.) approvingly cites Seth Grahame-Smith’s Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, but his own mashup is better integrated, more knowledgeable about Austen and considerably funnier—although not quite as funny as his gorgeous premise might suggest. First of a promised trilogy.