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Lady Vernon and Her Daughter: A Novel of…
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Lady Vernon and Her Daughter: A Novel of Jane Austen's Lady Susan

by Jane Rubino

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Borrowing the framework of Jane Austen’s unfinished work Lady Susan, this novel tells the story of Susan Vernon and her daughter Frederica. When Susan’s husband Frederick dies unexpectedly, his brother Charles inherits both his estate and his entire fortune. Charles is a grasping and selfish man, so although honor demands that he provide for Susan and her daughter, Charles refuses to do so. Susan and Frederica are therefore left virtually penniless, and soon their entire social circle is speculating about what Lady Vernon and her daughter will do next. Marriage is the subject that mainly occupies everyone’s minds, but both Susan and Frederica are determined not to marry men they do not love.

I have a weakness for Austen-themed fiction, but most of it doesn’t tend to be very good. So I was pleasantly surprised by this book; while the style is certainly not identical to Austen’s, it does have an authentic period feel. I don’t think I’ve ever read Austen’s Lady Susan – or if I did, it was years ago – so I wasn’t bothered by any deviations from the source material. I have the impression that Austen’s Lady Susan was much more cold and manipulative than the Susan Vernon in this book. However, since Susan is meant to be one of the heroines here, I can’t really blame the authors for the change! The romances in the book are satisfying enough, though they’re not given much depth. Rather, the novel’s focus seems to be on immersing its readers in an Austen-esque world, and on that basis I really enjoyed it. I’d recommend this to fans of Austen or 19th-century literature in general.
2 vote christina_reads | May 19, 2012 |
A mother/daughter writing team have taken Jane Austen's epistolary novella, Lady Susan, filled in a back story, and turned it into a novel worthy of Jane Austen herself. It's not like some Austen-inspired fiction, where Austen's beloved characters speak and behave according to 21st century standards. I didn't notice any anachronisms in the story. The authors do engage in a bit of name-dropping. Sir Walter Elliot's family is mentioned a couple of times, including his middle daughter. Mrs. Ferrars also gets a shout-out. Although I have a print copy, I ended up listening to the audio download from the public library. The narrator is outstanding. The only thing missing from the audio version is the genealogical table at the front of the book. My only quibble with the story is that it changes Susan Vernon's character from one that readers love to hate to one that readers will root for. Highly recommended for fans of regency novels. ( )
1 vote cbl_tn | Jan 8, 2012 |
Many of Jane Austen first drafts were heavily revised by the author before becoming the novels we know and love today. So First Impressions became Pride and Prejudice and Elinor and Marianne became Sense and Sensibility. For whatever reason, however, Lady Susan remained a manuscript that was never fully polished. In Lady Vernon and Her Daughter, mother and daughter team Jane Rubino and Caitlen Rubino-Bradway imagine what could have happened if Jane Austen had revised Lady Susan, updating it from an epistolary novella to a full-length narrative novel.

I’ll admit that I struggled a bit with the beginning of this book. The first few chapters were hard to follow with all the characters and places (i.e., Ealing Park, Vernon Castle, Churchill Manor, etc.) being introduced in what seemed like rapid-fire pace. There is a family tree at the beginning of printed book (and available through Amazon's preview the book function for audiobook listeners) that does help with this though. It also took some getting used to that the deliciously wicked Lady Susan is now the honest, clear-thinking Lady Vernon because part of the charm of reading Lady Susan was that she was not the "good girl" heroine. (Although Charles Vernon is so scheming and wicked in this version that you feel delighted whenever he is foiled in the slightest bit.)

However, once getting into the book, I was sucked in and immediately compelled to like the characters and care about what would happen to them next. It does feel very much as though Jane Austen could have written a novel like this one. Especially after I had the opportunity of meeting the authors and hearing them describe how painstakingly they researched Jane Austen's works to make sure that every word they used was acceptable and similar to Austen's prose, I realized just how much like Jane Austen this particular book is, particularly when compared to the myriads of less-than-stellar and outright bad fan fiction out there. The first line, for example, is wonderfully Austenesque – “A woman with neither property nor fortune must ward off this affliction by cultivating the beauty, brilliance, and accomplishment that will blind a promising suitor to the want of a dowry.”

In addition, while perhaps not to the full force of an Austen novel, there was a fair share of Jane Austen’s wit. Furthermore, the characterizations, especially of the minor characters, seem so delightfully Austen - like the ridiculous and gossipy Mrs. Johnson, the flirtatious and avaricious Mr. Manwaring, the scheming and greedy Charles Vernon, the insipid and vain Catherine Vernon, and so on. There are also lines pulled directly from the original novella and inserted here, which often makes them all the more clever or poignant.

There are also some delightful “Easter eggs” in here for Austen fans – for instance, Mrs. Smith from Persuasion is a minor character here as well and other minor references to Persuasion with Miss Elliot at school and a potential visit to Kellynch Hall alluded to at one point.

There are some minor differences here from an Austen novel. One was that there felt to be greater emphasis here (as opposed to Lady Susan) on how hard it was to be a gentlewoman in a time period when a woman's primary option to support herself was to marry well ... and how even marrying well could not be a constant source of comfort as there is always the prospect of a woman outliving her husband without having a male heir and thus being thrust out on the world again without a home, finances, or the hope of marrying well again if she is past her “bloom” as well as now being saddled with the addition of child(ren) to support. Also, interestingly, there is more here on the “inner workings” of the household - not that you ever see from their perspective, but you do see and hear more about housekeepers, cooks, etc than in any Austen novel I can recall. And there seemed to be even more on the machinations of everyone - so and so wishes for the trip to London to keep person A away from person B while person B wants the trip to keep person A nearer to person C and so on. Everyone has their own little plan and if only they would just lay out what they wanted, maybe much grief could be spared! But there would be far less amusement for the reader that way....

The book ends with a brief authors' note about how they got from Lady Susan to Lady Vernon and the inclusion of the first quarter of the letters from Jane Austen’s original Lady Susan. These are great add-ons to have, although I wish they could include all of Lady Susan, although the text of that work can be easily found on Project Gutenberg for any who want to read more.

For the audio book lover, I was a bit wary of the audio book narrator at first, finding her a bit too placid for my taste, but she grew on me – especially with the voices for various minor characters – and I quickly came to appreciate her narration and wish for no other reader.

To sum up, Lady Vernon and Her Daughter is not quite Jane Austen but is much closer than any other Austen-derived work I've read. In fact, like the best works (including those of Austen), this book strikes me as more than worthy of a re-read at some future date. ( )
3 vote sweetiegherkin | Jul 2, 2011 |
I am usually very skeptical of any book that tries to copy or mimic an original author especially one as amazing as Jane Austen. But with Lady Vernon and Her Daughter, I was pleasantly surprised by how well these contemporary authors were able to recreate Austen's world. While Austen portrayed Lady Susan as conniving and mean spirited, the Rubinos have created a very lovely character who is able to rise above the small mindedness of her immediate surroundings.

Lady Susan, a reputed beauty in the local county, meets and marries Sir Frederick Vernon. Not all rejoice at the match as Sir Frederick's brother chooses to feel scorned, pretending hurt feelings and love deprived. But he never loved Lady Susan and was only interested in her because he was hoping to become part heir of the inheritance that he assumed her rich uncle would settle on her. From this incident, he holds Lady Susan and her daughter, Frederica, in contempt and when his brother dies in suspicious circumstances, he sees it as an excuse to exact revenge on them. As his brother's heir, he casts them aside into reduced circumstances. Much of what follows is typical Austen fare: financial and somewhat social demotion, malicious gossiping, sarcasm, wit and an end that has our favorite characters coming to a good end. I enjoyed this book and was pleasantly surprised. There were a few problems here and there like the fact that I sometimes could not remember who was related or connected to whom. This made it sometimes hard for me to realize the full import of certain circumstances. But all in all I did not regret picking up this book as the characters were well developed and multi-dimensional.

No one can replicate Austen but these ladies make a worthy try.

*Review copy provided by Amazon.com's Vine Program ( )
1 vote TrishNYC | Aug 5, 2010 |
Lady Vernon and Her Daughter is an adaptation of an early Jane Austen work called Lady Susan (actually the work had no title when Austen wrote it - years later it was given the title of the main character). Written by a mother and daughter (one was a mystery writer and i hear that the other is a literary agent!) this is by far the best of the recent works that evolved from Jane Austen literature.
In the original work Lady Susan Vernon is a beautiful and conniving recent widow with a 16-year-old daughter she keeps under her thumb while trying to force her to marry a wealthy man. In this book, the writers - Jane Rubino and Caiten Rubino-Bradway - flesh out Lady Vernon and her daughter and their motives that come off in a very authentic Austen fashion. Making a good match and having money to live on if you are an unmarried woman are at the center of all of Austen fiction and they pull the story closer to these themes. Lady Susan Vernon does not lose any of her cleverness for being more like a real Austen character than a character of some 18th century gothic novel - and it makes the finale more of a triumph when she wins out over the brother-in-law who inherits the family estate and cheats her out of her intended fortune.
All of the characters appear or are talked about in the original except for the mother of Sir James Martin and the brother of Sir Reginald deCourcy (and a brief appearance of Lady Vernons parents) - but it is with Sir James that there is a real triumph - he is a witty and chivalrous delight - there is a touch of Henry Tilney about him but I think I like Sir James even better, and his banter with Lady Susan and with his mother had the true Austen spirit. ( )
2 vote LibrarianBarb | Jun 16, 2010 |
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A woman with neither property nor fortune must ward off this affliction by cultivating the beauty, brilliance, and accomplishment that will blind a promising suitor to the want of a dowry.
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After the death of Sir Frederick Vernon, Lady Vernon and her daughter, Frederica, confront the surviving heir of her husband's estate, Charles Vernon, about his treatment of his family. They are faced with Charles's indifference, his wife Catherine's distrustful animosity, and a flood of rumors that threaten to undo them all. Will Lady Vernon and Frederica find love and happiness--and financial security--or will their hopes be dashed with their lost fortune?… (more)

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