Jane Austen, Contemporary Author? Jayne Fresina Schools Us

Authors surely wish for a career with as much longevity as Jane Austen’s — a master who still captures our attention today! But what was it like for Jane back in the day? Jayne Fresina is here today to tell us. Jayne’s Regency romance Once Upon a Kiss, stars a heroine after our own hearts, she’s a member of the Book Club Belles, who are reading Austen in real time! We had to know more. Take it away, Jayne!

During the Regency period in England, several authors were making names for themselves with popular novels. Among them, of course, was Jane Austen — although she did not put her name on her work and was known simply as "A Lady.” When her first books were published, rumors abounded as to the actual identity of the author. One reader (a man, obviously) even refused to believe Pride and Prejudice was written by a woman as it was "much too clever"!

What a surprise it would be to Miss Austen if she knew her books were still enjoyed today, and were constantly re-imagined in various film and TV versions.

To readers in the early nineteenth century, books by Austen and her peers — including Fanny Burney (Evelina and Camilla), Maria Edgeworth (Belinda and Castle Rackrent) and Mary Hayes (The Memoirs of Emma Courtney and The Victim of Prejudice) — were contemporary stories, of course. We usually think of Austen's books as romances, but back then they were more likely to be analyzed by haughty critics and reviewers for any beneficial moral lesson a young lady might find in their pages — the anguish brought about by Lydia Bennet Wickham's elopement and Maria Rushton's adultery with Mr. Crawford, for instance. 

I like to think that most readers were far more absorbed by the romance, however, regardless of whatever lesson they were supposed to be learning.

We can't forget that this was also the era of Lord Byron, whose very name conjures an image of romance, silk cravats and knee breeches. Beethoven was composing great, sweepingly romantic symphonies. The waltz was still indecent, but it wouldn't be many years before it was danced in ballrooms everywhere. It was a world of changing ideas, political upheaval, war and revolution, yet in the books of Austen and her fellow Regency authors, love and human relationships were still the most important thing of all. 

It's one subject that really hasn't changed in popularity from the authors of that time and today.

- Jayne Fresina

Which contemporary titles of today are destined to be the classics of tomorrow? It’s fun to imagine, isn’t it? Once Upon a Kiss will be available in print and ebook next week, be sure to take a look. And in the meantime, why not visit our Everything Romance page?