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Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Austen's Best Heroes (for 2019) — guest post from Jennieke Cohen!

Today's post (likely, a controversial one) comes from Jennieke Cohen, whose debut novel, Dangerous Alliance, comes out this December. She's taken on the Herculean task of ranking Austen's men, not by who's the swooniest, or the handsomest, or the best at the quadrille, but by who best suits our modern sensabilities. Take a read through her reasoning below, and then let us know how much you agree or disagree and why, in the comments!

Greetings, Austenites!! I’m delighted to be taking part in Austen In August this year! Thanks, Misty, for having me and for letting me take on the question that Austen fans have debated for two hundred years: Who are Jane Austen’s best male characters??? No doubt EVERYONE has their own personal strong feelings on this subject, but I want to talk about who the best men are if we judge their personalities by 2019 standards. In this challenging, mixed-up, postmodern world of ours, I really think we ought to have some standards for judging the people we swoon over, so let’s pretend Austen’s men are magically transported into our time (and that they understand how everything works so they’re not wandering about staring at our modern conveniences as though they were magical) and see how they measure up. Here goes!

  1. Henry Tilney (Northanger Abbey). He’s friendly, good at making conversation, likes to dance, has a sense of humor, and he actually thinks about other people’s feelings! Oh, yeah, and thanks to his sister, he understands how to buy muslin, so he’d be happy to help you on a shopping trip if you think that’d be fun. And best of all, even after realizing you’re naive and flawed, he’ll still defy his father to be with you. Not sure how you top that?!

  2. Colonel Brandon (Sense and Sensibility). Yeah, he’s not flashy, but he’s the kind of upright guy who’ll take care of your kid if something happens to you, fight a jerk for your honor, and do whatever he can in your hour of need (including getting a friend of yours a job even if he’s never met them). And, he’ll even give you space when he thinks you need it. If those aren’t praiseworthy qualities, I’m not sure what are!

  3. Mr. Bingley (Pride and Prejudice). It might seem a bit controversial to put Bingley so high on this list, but he’s another friendly type who isn’t fake and likes to get along with everyone. He’ll throw a party just so he can spend time with you, won’t try to make life complicated, and be generous to your family members (even the annoying ones). Does his good nature mean he’s sometimes too easily influenced by his friends and family? Sure, but that doesn’t mean he won’t eventually learn to listen to his own inner monologue and make decisions for himself.

  4. Captain Wentworth (Persuasion). Can he hold a grudge for a long time? Maaaybe, but he’ll still make sure to get his family to drive you home if he sees you’re tired, talk up your abilities to others, and buy you your own car so you have some freedom. And really folks, he writes the best love letters! “I have loved none but you.” Swoon!

  5. Edmund Bertram (Mansfield Park). You might make the argument that Edmund is a bit boring when the landscape of Austen’s men includes Tilney and Darcy and Wentworth, but he’s kind and compassionate, so he’ll cheer you up when you’re feeling forlorn, find books you’ll like, and come up with some exercises to keep your mind off your sad situation. He’s also generally accepting of others (though sometimes of people you might not approve of). If it turns out he’s a little too ready to accept and/or be influenced by some people, he’ll eventually see them for who they really are, and, hey, nobody’s perfect!

  6. Mr. Knightley (Emma). Knightley’s another stand-up guy who’s generous, kind, will try to get along with everyone, and will treat your friends and family well. Will he take an interest in improving your character? Probably yes, if he’s known you since childhood, and he may seem a bit judgy, but hey, most of his judgements turn out to be pretty accurate (and helpful…if you listen to them).

  7. Mr. Darcy (Pride and Prejudice). Full disclosure: I love Mr. Darcy as much as anyone, but he’s brooding, quiet, and just might think he’s better than you because your social standing doesn’t match his. Are these super desirable traits in 2019? Not so much. Thus, his ranking here. But Darcy is honest (though that might anger you if you’re anything like Elizabeth Bennet), he’ll go to great lengths to fix his mistakes when he realizes he’s made them, and he’ll be really nice and accommodating to your relatives if you show up on his doorstep unannounced. You may have to put up with some mood swings, but he’s honorable and caring—if you have the patience to peel back some of his layers.

  8. Edward Ferrars (Sense and Sensibility). He’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but he’s not mercenary or class-conscious. He’s also really honorable, though probably not in a way you’ll understand. He’ll love your family, though he can rarely come to visit, and you may find yourself wondering why he just can’t tell you that thing that’s clearly on the tip of his tongue. Guess that’s why he’s at the bottom of the list. 🤷

So there you have it! My ranking of best Austen male personalities for 2019. Do you agree? Did I leave someone out? I’ve pointedly ignored the male antagonists for what I think are obvious reasons—if they were morally disagreeable two hundred years ago, I think there’s little hope for them today, but you may feel differently. Let the discussion commence! 😉

Jennieke Cohen, Dangerous Alliance, Austentacious Romance, Jane Austen, Jane Austen fanfiction, JAFF, Austen In August, The Book Rat, BookRatMisty
Jennieke Cohen (JEN-ih-kuh CO-en) is used to people mispronouncing her name and tries to spare her fictional characters the same problem. Jennieke is the author of the Jane Austen-inspired YA historical novel DANGEROUS ALLIANCE, which will be releasing December 3, 2019 from HarperTeen. She studied English history at Cambridge University and has a master’s degree in professional writing from the University of Southern California. When not writing or researching little-known corners of history, you'll find her singing opera arias and show tunes, over-analyzing old movies, or discovering the best foodie spots in her native Northern California. Read more on Jennieke’s website www.JenniekeCohen.com or find her on Twitter or Instagram @Jennieke_Cohen

Jennieke Cohen, Dangerous Alliance, Austentacious Romance, Jane Austen, Jane Austen fanfiction, JAFF, Austen In August, The Book Rat, BookRatMisty, ya books, historical young adult
The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue meets Jane Austen in this witty, winking historical romance with a dash of mystery!

Lady Victoria Aston has everything she could want: an older sister happily wed, the future of her family estate secure, and ample opportunity to while her time away in the fields around her home.

But now Vicky must marry—or find herself and her family destitute. Armed only with the wisdom she has gained from her beloved novels by Jane Austen, she enters society’s treacherous season.

Sadly, Miss Austen has little to say about Vicky’s exact circumstances: whether the roguish Mr. Carmichael is indeed a scoundrel, if her former best friend, Tom Sherborne, is out for her dowry or for her heart, or even how to fend off the attentions of the foppish Mr. Silby, he of the unfortunate fashion sensibility.

Most unfortunately of all, Vicky’s books are silent on the topic of the mysterious accidents cropping up around her…ones that could prevent her from surviving until her wedding day.

Jane Austen, Austen in August, blog event, Jane Austen fan fiction, JAFF, The Book Rat, BookRatMisty
Click here to return to the master list of Austen in August posts!


  1. I've often wondered how Jane Austen's characters would translate into modern times and I can always see them here even if their circumstances might alter with the times. Fun to see how you rank them Jennieke. I do love seeing who made the top of the list. :)

    1. Thanks, Sophia! It's always fun to think about, isn't it? :D

  2. I wouldn't call your list controversial. I love Darcy as well but someone so haughty and unsociable would be disliked by many people. I like your list very much.

  3. I think a lot of Austenites just *want* Darcy to be at the top of every list (or at least not so close to the bottom), but you're absolutely right! Glad you enjoyed it, Kate!! ;)

  4. I think Mr.Bingley should be lower, in the last 3 places. Yes, he is good natured, but he is spineless and so easily influenced, that couldn't be trustworthy. Mr Knightley should take his place, he is much better and you can always count on his excellent judgment. Edmund is soooo boring and has poor judgment, he should share the 3 last places with Edward and Bingley

  5. Enjoyed reading your list and your rationalizations for your choices and agree with most of them. I would have ranked Bingley beneath Wentworth and Edmund because I see him as being too fickle and easily swayed by his friends. When I read the introduction, I immediately thought of Henry Tilney being the best but Darcy being the worst so I was surprised to see Edward below him and would have them switched.


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