Stephanie Burgis is the author of The Unladylike Adventures of Kat Stephenson, a trilogy of romantic fantasy adventures set in Jane Austen's Regency England. Book One, A Most Improper Magick, was published in the UK in August 2010, and will be published in America as Kat, Incorrigible, in April 2011. She lives in Wales with her husband, their son, their crazy-sweet border collie, and her massive collection of Jane Austen books, DVDs, and other Regency paraphenalia. You can find out more (and read the first three chapters of her novel!) on her website: http://www.stephanieburgis.com
I'm so thrilled to welcome Stephanie to my blog today...
Lessons Jane Austen Taught Me About Love
I fell in love for the first time when I was eight years old. My dad said, “I think you’ll like this book…” and took out Pride and Prejudice to read to me, one chapter a night. That was it: I was a goner.
Oh, the banter between Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy! Oh, the crunchy conflict! The laugh-out-loud humour! The romance! I read P&P over and over again and lapped up every single movie and TV version. I devoured every book Jane Austen had written, adding Sense and Sensibility and Persuasion to my list of Favourite Books Ever.
And along the way, I learned some things about romance. Real romance, I mean, not just the fictional fantasy. Here are the top five rules I learned:
1) First impressions are not to be trusted. The guy who looks like your dream man (Wickham!) may turn out to be a total sleaze (oh, Wickham). The guy who acts like a stuck-up jerk on your first meeting may turn out to be your perfect romantic partner in the end (ohhh, Darcy!).
2) Don’t get married (or get a boyfriend, for that matter) just for the sake of Having A Man. It’s so not worth it. Elizabeth’s mother nags her daughters non-stop throughout Pride and Prejudice to Get A Man, Any Man, No Matter What It Takes! She’s furious when Elizabeth turns down her awful cousin’s proposal of marriage, because: how could anyone choose being single over being married, no matter awful the guy is? But we, the readers, cheer on Elizabeth for her decision, and so does her very smart dad, who begs her never to marry a man she can’t respect. It is so much better to be single than to be with the wrong guy.
3) Never, ever sell yourself short. Elizabeth, a girl without any money or important connections - a girl who really, really needs a husband for practical financial reasons - turns down the proposal of the wealthiest, smartest and most gorgeous man she’s ever met when Mr. Darcy announces that he loves her against his better judgment and even though “everyone knows” that he’s too good for her. No way is she going to marry a man who’s ready to spend the rest of his life reminding her that her family isn’t as good as his! That’s just a recipe for disaster. She doesn’t accept his proposal until the second time around, when he proposes to her as an equal, admitting that he was wrong, wrong, wrong to have ever looked down on her. Successful marriages - and relationships - have to be founded on a basis of true equality and respect.
4) Sometimes, tossing away everything for love, no matter how romantic, is just stupid. The two oldest sisters in Sense and Sensibility, Elinor and Marianne, both fall in love with men they can’t have. Elinor suffers just as much as Marianne, but she keeps her dignity and her self-respect and works on taking care of her family, making a life that’s worth living despite her disappointment. Marianne, on the other hand, makes life a nightmare for everyone around her through her endless - and very public - hysterics. That’s not romantic, that’s just self-centred and immature. More than that, she’s so intent on the tragic romance of it all that she becomes dangerously self-destructive, to the point where she makes herself intensely ill and nearly dies. Guess who gets her long-time dream man in the end? Elinor. Whereas Marianne…well, on to the next lesson:
5) Your first love may feel like it will last forever - but it doesn’t have to. Marianne moans that she will Never Love Again after she loses her dashing, gorgeous dream man (who, by the way, turned out to be a total sleaze who secretly got another girl pregnant, then abandoned her and the child to flirt with Marianne and then marry a rich heiress). But guess what? As soon as Marianne starts to get her common sense back, she realizes how dumb she’s been. And as time goes on, she finally realizes that the plain, kind, honest man who’s been there for her all along, someone she’s previously sneered at for being “old” and unromantic, is the man who is truly worthy of her affection…and that friends can make the best and most romantic husbands after
I’ve heard a lot of literary snobs and other “concerned adults” claim that girls who read romances will end up having “unrealistic” expectations about love, but my experience has been exactly the opposite. Growing up with Jane Austen’s novels taught me that to have a true romance, I would have to respect myself, balance love with common sense, and look beyond a pretty face and surface charm to judge the real man underneath. I can’t imagine any better lessons in love.
Oh, fantastic post Stephanie! I too learned a lot about love from Jane Austen, but you put it in words better than I ever could. Thank you! Everyone, please do visit Stephanie's website to find out more about her and A Most Improper Mackick!!