Monday, 1 June 2020

Holidays with Jane: Spring Fever - Review

Book cover: Holidays with Jane: Spring Fever by various authors
Today I’m bringing you my review of the anthology Holidays with Jane: Spring Fever. This has stories from Jessica Grey, Cecilia Gray, Melissa Buell, Rebecca M. Fleming, Kimberly Truesdale and Jennifer Becton.

I’ve read this book more than once but I’ve never got around to reviewing, and as it’s seasonal, once you’ve missed the opportunity to post, you have to wait a whole year for it to be the right time of year to review. So this year, although I’m late, I thought that I would post the review or it will never happen! I’ll give you the blurb (or part of the blurb because the whole thing is very long!) and then I’ll move on to my review of the book.

Book Description

Winter's almost over and Jane Austen's got a case of spring fever! The authors who brought you Holidays With Jane: Christmas Cheer return to bring you six modern adaptations of Austen's classics. So put up your parasols and prepare for sunshine, smiles, and, of course, happily ever afters.

Book cover: Holidays with Jane: Spring Fever by various authors
Holidays with Jane: Spring Fever – Review

The Holidays with Jane anthologies feature short stories from 6 authors, each taking on a modern short story tied to a different one of Austen’s 6 novels. The common theme for this anthology was the spring.

In Extra Innings by Jessica Grey we meet Annie Elliot, who broke off her engagement to minor league baseball player Rick Wentworth ten years ago. Now he’s returned to coach the team she works for. Annie has two loves – Rick Wentworth and baseball. She went viral a couple of years ago in an impassioned speech about the beauty of baseball, and how every day is another chance to play your best game. It’s understandable that she loves that aspect, because that is just what she would like from life, another chance. She works hard at her job, but has checked out from life, trying her best to blend into the furniture:

“I wasn’t sure that you were still in there,” he commented, studying me. 
I gasped. That hurt. I realize he hadn’t meant it to hurt, that he was actually trying to compliment me… I think, but it still felt like a smack across my face.

I liked this story of second chances. Annie was quite a wallflower but she had a spark and some humour to her, which was good. I was in danger of being lost in some of the baseball terminology, as it’s not a sport I know anything about, as it’s not really a spectator sport here, but when I realised the significance of extra innings it all made sense!

Miracle at the Abbey by Cecilia Gray is the Northanger Abbey story of the anthology and I loved the slant taken to mirror Catherine Morland’s belief in the gothic. Here, our heroine Kathia is a TV paranormal investigator. For the show’s 100th episode the programme makers want Kathia to revisit her past.

At the age of 17 Kathia went to live at The Abbey. Her mother had been killed in a car accident and with no other family the Trang family fostered her. The Abbey, which is run as a guest house, is a place where miracles happen; every Easter, a guest has one of their dreams come true. 

Kathia is a believer, and the Trangs’ son, Henry, is a sceptic. Kathia has been avoiding Henry since his betrayal of her beliefs, many years ago, but now she will have to face her memories:

It’s not the average person who calls the show hotline claiming to have encountered an otherworldly presence. It’s always someone who is haunted, not only by ghosts, by the memories, by the past or by themselves.

This was such a sweet story. I loved how Kathia had Catherine Morland’s wholeheartedness. The gothic aspect can be hard to update, but making it a paranormal tv show brought it believably into the modern world. We look back at Kathia and Henry’s relationship on the road to the big fall out and it was just lovely.

In Whine and Wineries by Melissa Buell we have a Sense & Sensibility update. After the death of their father, the Dashwood sisters’ half-brother John and his wife Franny move in… and start pushing them out. Luckily a relative of Mrs Dashwood has a winery which has a spare cottage, and he offers her the use of it. Sadly, this takes Elinor away from Franny’s brother, who seems very nice:

“You should listen to Marianne occasionally and let yourself fall in love.” 
“I’ll think about it,” Elinor said with a hollow laugh. The problem is that I already have.

Barton Winery turns out to have some unexpected business opportunities for the Dashwood ladies, coordinating weddings. Edward comes to visit, which coincides with the wedding of a Miss Steele and brings to light some truths and some lies.

There were some bits of this story that I didn’t quite buy and parts which seemed a little old fashioned in a modern story, I wouldn’t think that a modern young woman would be expecting a proposal straight away. The Steele sisters were something else though!

In Emma's Inbox by Rebecca M. Fleming we get an Emma update told via texts and emails between Emma and various other characters. Emma writes a human interest column in the local paper. When singer Frank Churchill returns unexpectedly to town, the mayor Noah Knightley ropes in Emma and PR specialist Jane Fairfax to put a spin on the story while trying to set up the local reverend with his new Business Manager.

Emma and Knightley are good friends, although he’s always giving her advice which she feels she doesn’t need:

It still makes me laugh, his being mayor. I’m not sure why – it’s the perfect position: he can boss everyone around instead of being stuck only bossing me.

I liked the idea of Emma doing this sort of newspaper column, it seemed right up her street. She and Noah were very sweet together too. My only reservation with this story really was the text speak used, it seems quite dated.

No Vacancy at Mansfield Motel by Kimberly Truesdale is a story inspired by Mansfield Park. Fanny Price runs her uncle’s business, Mansfield Motel pretty much single-handed. She dreams of becoming a marine biologist but it seems that her family has forgotten that she might have dreams of her own, since she is keeping the business running. Fanny hopes to enlist her cousin Eddie’s support in broaching this with her uncle, but when he comes home for spring break he brings some guests the Crawfords, and Fanny begins to think her dreams will never amount to anything more.

The dynamic between Fanny and Eddie is more close friends than anything else, it’s not a romantic relationship as it’s a modern and they are cousins. One of the duties that Fanny has at the motel (and actually enjoys) is maintaining the reef near the motel.  This was started by purposely sinking concrete blocks in the ocean, and the wildlife moved in. There are various species there including a very special fish:

As if she was jealous of the attention Fanny was paying to the other fish, Mrs. Norris came swimming lazily out of her hole to say hello.

That gave me a giggle, to see that horrible woman reincarnated as a goliath grouper! This story is quite different to MP, in that Fanny wants to follow a particular vocation rather than having any interest in Eddie so it’s not particularly a romance but more about the aspect of MP that Fanny is entirely overlooked, and her thoughts and dreams are not given any note. I really liked the mirroring of Fanny’s role in caring for the reef / motel. One of the things she needs to do to protect the reef is to get rid of lionfish, fish that move in and disrupt the balance of the reef. They seem remarkably similar to Crawfords!

Lydia Reimagined by Jennifer Becton is the Pride & Prejudice story of this collection. Lydia was a wild girl in college, until she re-evaluated her life after catching her boyfriend, George Wickham, cheating on her with his friend Denny’s girlfriend, Maryanna King.

That was the lowest point in Lydia Bennet’s life.

In that moment, she realised what a foolish girl she was, thoughtless and vain. Wickham had no respect for her. He didn’t love her. He didn’t even care about her.

Lydia reimagined herself after the break up. Now she has a successful career and her partying days are long behind her. She has come to Wickham’s wedding with the view of showing him just what he gave up. However, there is somebody else who has come to the wedding hoping that she hasn’t changed too much. After all:

“Wild and careless is just one step beyond spontaneous and natural.”

As frustrating and thoughtless as she is, I always felt a bit sorry for Lydia in P&P. All of our lives are shaped by our decisions but the course of her life would be set by the decision her teenage self made to elope (and stick with) George Wickham. She was too silly to go back while she still could but it seems likely that at some point she would realise that it was a misstep and by then it would be too late to repair things.

She had so much potential to be better, if only she had been taught to think more seriously by her parents.

Luckily, a Lydia in the modern day would probably have the chance to re-evaluate her views and set off down a better path. But there’s no guarantee that she would see the true worth of herself. This was such a lovely story, my favourite of the collection.

As ever, there were some tiny crossovers between the stories, which helped connect them together, things like Lydia watching the paranormal series that Kathia stars in, and Annie also appearing on the show.

I thought this was another good collection of short stories from the Holidays with Jane authors, and I’d rate it as a 4 star read.

4 star read

Book cover: Holidays with Jane: Spring Fever by various authors
Buy Links

Holidays with Jane: Spring Fever is available in paperback, kindle and as part of Kindle Unlimited:

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  1. sounds like a nice anthology


    1. All the books in the series that I've read have been worth the read. I like them because you get short stories which are quick to read, and also you get stories which are not based on P&P, it's really good to see those.

  2. Love all these authors, but I haven't read the anthology. Thanks for the reminder. Sounds good.

    1. There's just so much to read, isn't there Jen! Some of these authors have released their stories from the 6 anthologies as a separate book. I think Melissa Buell and Jennifer Becton have, not sure about the others. So if the reader had favourite author in the collection they might be able to get a collection of just their stories.

  3. I have enjoyed the books in this series that I have read. I have not yet read this one so...on the pile it goes. Thanks for sharing. Good review.

    1. Thanks Sheila. I hope you enjoy this one when you read it, even if it's not until next spring!

  4. I've enjoyed it several times but certainly missed the crossovers! Thx! Lol, I love baseball although it's in serious danger of not coming back this season. Thanks to Leceister City's miracle run in 2016, I'm also a big fan of The Premier League and looking forward to it's return 6/17!!!

    1. This has not been the year for sports fans has it! Leicester City's run was almost like a work of fiction... and it began the same year that Richard III's remains were properly interred, after being found there, under a car park! Some people saw it as a sign :)

  5. I've read two of the Holidays with Jane and still need to read this one. Thanks for reminding me to get to them. LOL, the seasonal element just makes it still for spring.
    Enjoyed getting your thoughts on each story, Ceri.

    1. Thanks Sophia! I've read the Halloween one but never manage to review it. I think I still have the Thanksgiving one to go too, as that's a celebration we don't have in the UK there's less impetus for me to read that one, as it doesn't have the meaning for me that other celebrations have.

  6. Lovely review, Ceri. It gladdens my Janeite heart to see an anthology inspired by my favorite author. On your recommendation I must give this one a try. Best, LA

    1. Thanks so much for your comment. There are 6 in the series now, themed around valentine's day, Spring, Summer of love, Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas. I need to check whether I've blogged about all of them, but I've read at least five :)


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