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Friday, March 27, 2020

Elizabeth: Obstinate, Headstrong Girl anthology, edited by Christina Boyd | Review

Today, I'll be talking about my thoughts on a Jane Austen short story anthology, because basically, that's all I want to read anymore. I'm gonna be honest, I originally had a slightly different review written, but over the month or so since I wrote it, the world went to hell, I got really sick, I barely even looked at a book, much less picked one up, and it made me ponder a bit over what it is I prize in books — and anything else I devote my time and brain-space to — which has in turn wormed its way into this slightly revamped review.
So check out my thoughts below, and make sure to stop by Christina's guest post & giveaway, if you haven't already done so. There's a chance to win 11 books!!

Elizabeth: Obstinate, Headstrong Girl, edited by Christina Boyd
Retelling / Short Story Anthology, 350 pages
Published March 2nd 2020 by The Quill Ink, LLC
With timeless verve, the heroine of Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth Bennet, bares her intimate thoughts while offering biting social commentary through a collection of romantic re-imaginings, sequels, and prequels, set in the Regency to present day by ten popular Austenesque authors. “I think her as delightful a character as ever appeared in print…” wrote Jane Austen in a letter, January 1813―and we think so too!

Foreword by NY Times & USA Today bestselling author Tessa Dare.

Stories by: Elizabeth Adams, Christina Boyd, Karen M Cox, J. Marie Croft, Amy D’Orazio, Leigh Dreyer, Jenetta James, Christina Morland, Beau North, and Joana Starnes.

When I originally wrote this review, it was very glowing and praising and very much smitten-kitten with another excellent entry in Quill Ink's series of Pride & Prejudice-themed anthologies, and yes, still all those things. I continue to be impressed with Boyd's tight curation of stories from a strong selection of authors who present interesting and varied takes on otherwise well-trod territory. I've long said short story anthologies are a great way to discover new authors, and these anthologies (The Darcy Monologues, Dangerous to Know: Jane Austen’s Rakes & Gentlemen Rogues, Rational Creatures, and Yuletide, which was an utterly delightful Christmas-themed collection) are an excellent illustration of that point. Each author really does bring a completely different perspective and style to the table, which means there's likely something for everyone, and maybe a new perspective or style or author that readers may find themselves taken with. (I did.)

So all of those things I would normally say about an anthology I enjoyed (all of those things I did say in my original review) hold true here. Though there were times the collection fell flat for me (and of course, with an anthology, one person's flat is another person's favorite), there were also stories here that I know I'll return to and reread, potentially many times. Stories I'd love to see get the full-length treatment, even. I'm enthralled with the idea of Darcy and Lizzie amidst the glitz and fast-talking of Old Hollywood, in love with Lizzie-the-Suffragette, and surprisingly smitten with near-contemporary* tech-nerd Darcy and Lizzie. There are stories that are poignant, stories that are fun and flirty, stories that are traditional, stories that are modern. Really, there truly is something for every type of Janeite.

But over the last few weeks, I've realized that Elizabeth: OHG — and other strong anthologies like it, and really, the entire genre of retellings/fanfiction — are important. Collections like this are transportative; they're quickly-immersive, and (surprisingly importantly) they're low-pressure. In times like our current, chaotic ones, it can be hard to focus on reading (or on anything), ├ánd it can be really tempting to just turn on Netflix and binge The Office for the 17th time (don't judge me). We're all collectively stressed right now, and we want something to take our minds away to a happier place, but the emotional investment that 350 pages of a single story demands can feel like too much.

350 pages or short stories, however, that we can read in our few moments of calm, that we can start in the middle of, that we can consume in bits and pieces and still have it feel complete -- that is a balm. That is something a lot of us could use right now.  And when those stories are familiar and comforting and romantic and leave you feeling warm and fuzzy, so much the better.

As I said, I haven't been reading much lately. I just don't have it in me. But when I do read, books like Elizabeth: Obstinate, Headstrong Girl are what I'm craving, what I'm needing. I'm sure this is not what any of you expected from today's review.  But consider this not only my recommendation of Elizabeth: Obstinate, Headstrong Girl, but also my (continued) push for more anthologies, more retellings, and more happy stories. I think they'd do us all some good.

*I'm not calling the 80s "historical," dammit. I refuse!


  1. Thank you, Misty, for this thoughtful review. I am glad that this collection has been a balm, even a temporary relief to escape to something familiar while at the same time new. I think that is part of why so many continue to love Austen inspired fiction because her characters are like old friends; we expect certain outcomes but love the often clever twist to reach a satisfying outcome.

    My anthologies have all been a labor of love. Will there be another anthology project from me? I’d say no, but then at the end of every blog tour, I feel like it’s a good place to stop. Who knows? Like my silly faux magazine cover memes, maybe something will come up to inspire me, and I could start this whole creative process again. Right now, it’s hard to imagine even next week, let alone next year, and all I want to do is hunker down and escape into Austenesque fiction.

    I am very thankful for those who have read and reviewed the collection. The reviews continue to trickle into Amazon and I am glad that overall readers have enjoyed the collection and connected with what we were trying to do as a collective. That cheers me.

    NY Times bestselling author Tessa Dare wrote our foreword and I could not agree more. We all seem to feel like we know Elizabeth Bennet so well, that a little piece of her resides in all of us. That’s why I always go back to Elizabeth (and Darcy) when I want to feel secure and comfortable.
    "This is the gift Jane Austen gave us in Elizabeth Bennet. She created a heroine in which 'obstinate, headstrong girl' inhabits the same space as 'dearest, loveliest Elizabeth'. Four strong qualities all indivisible parts of the whole. She is opinionated and adored, stubborn and respected, imperfect and loved. Is it any wonder she has delighted and inspired readers for over two centuries?" wrote Tessa Dare.

    Thank you again for joining us on this blog tour and wrapping up the official #OmgItsOHG blog tour at The Book Rat. Be well! Happy reading.

  2. Well said! I've been reading and listening to books as usual, but I can't sustain my focus for long periods of time so your remarks resonated with me. I love this antho, too.


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