What I’m Reading: The Deception at Lyme

I always feel a little guilty when I find myself devouring the pages of a Jane Austen pastiche, continuation, adaptation or whatever you call them. I usually allow myself fifteen minutes of reading before sleeping and if rereading one of the six books, that usually means just a few pages actually get read.

For instance that chest-crushing Annotated Pride and Prejudice I keep by my bedside puts me to sleep pretty quick, despite the pain of all that weight (added to the weight of the cat on my chest). Even if I’m reading Emma for fun, one page of Miss Bates knocks me out faster than a Michael Wood or Simon Shama documentary.

So when I’m reading something like The Deception at Lyme: Or the Perils of Persuasion by Carrie Bebris, I feel a little guilty that an Austen pastiche should have me so captivated. After all, I consider myself something of an Austen addict, so shouldn’t reading Austen be the high point of my Austen activities?

Unfortunately it’s not. For me, reading Austen is a grown-up pleasure, like eating a steak covered with a fine cheese at a fancy restaurant and denying myself a liberal dousing of A-1. I’d secretly prefer the A-1 on top of the fine cheese, but I know that the better appreciation of that expensive cut of beef is without the aid of the award winner of the 1862 International Exposition in London.

You actually have to think really hard when reading Austen, which is in no way denigrating the many Austen pastiches, continuations, etc. When you’re not reading the Canon (to borrow from Holmes), there’s this marvelous short hand you can use to enjoy something like Deception at Lyme, which mixes the Nick and Nora Charles of Elizabeth and Fitzwilliam Darcy with the icky Elliots of Persuasion, all covered in A-1. I’ll have a full review later; right now I’m hungry.

By the way, I am reminded that A-1 was created by Henderson William Brand, a chef to King George IV, he of the Regency, so maybe I shouldn’t feel so guilty for using my favorite condiment to liven up my Austen.

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