Sunday, March 31, 2013

“Pride, Prejudice and Cheese Grits: Jane Austen takes the South” – 5-Stars!


Remarkable 5-Star Romance with a Silly 1-Star Title! 

Mary Jane Hathaway 
Kindle Edition -267 pages

Don’t get me wrong! This is a wonderful, fun filled, witty, romance!  I even can’t wait to read the next book in the series. However, in the interest of honest disclosure, I feel it necessary to first mention the title: 

To begin with I think this title is a great example why editors don’t let writers choose their own titles. Let’s look at some of the expectations that this title could create in the reader’s mind – as it did in mine.

1. Is Jane Austen a character in this book?
(A)  as a real person living in her own time, as Jane Austen is a character in Stephanie Barron’s mysteries? No. 

(B) as a contemporary character like Sherlock Holmes is in the tv show, “Elementary”? No.

2. Is this book a funny parody of Pride and Prejudice? No.

3. Does this book mirror the events in Pride and Prejudice the way James Joyce’s “Ulysses” mirrors the event’s in Homer’s “Odyssey”? No. (However, in both books the hero does something unkind that greatly upsets the heroine.)

4. Do you have to have read Pride and Prejudice and/or like Jane Austen to enjoy this book? No.

5. Do cheese grits play any part on the story? No.  (But I do understand the new edition has recipes for cheese grits at the end. My edition did not have these and I didn’t miss them.)

6. Does the story at least take place in the south where grits are a staple? YES! 

7. Does the story have anything to do with Pride and Prejudice? Yes: at the start of each chapter there is a quote from Pride and Prejudice which sets the mood for that chapter. I enjoyed these quotes but then I like all books to have interesting quotes at the start of each chapter.

What would be a good title?  I would pick: “Pride, Prejudice and an Academic Affair of the Heart”.  This is not going to happen. As I understand it, there is a whole series of silly titles waiting in the wings. The next book is called: 'Emma, Mr. Knightley, and Chili-Slaw Dogs' due in May 2013.  That’s not far off but it still seems like a long time when I’m in the mood to read it right now! 

I prefer my title because the story is all about college professors and is very true to life as it is lived in academia. As a former college teacher myself, I found the events in the story to be highly realistic. The college in the story even seemed to mirror, Tulsa University, where I once taught.  Even the building in the story has the same name as where I taught!  This story is very close to me. The hero and heroine are even history teachers and I have a teaching minor in history!  Now back to the story.

What makes this a 5-star romance?

1) The very fine writing.  The book is well written and well edited. The author also writes for one of the largest publishers in the world.

2) The psychological insights and the wit. You can experience the wit at the start of every chapter, of course, a lot of that wit is Jane Austen’s – who I love anyway.  

3) The genuine conflicts keeping the hero and heroine apart. This book is original. The conflicts are real. I’ve seen them in action in academia.

4) Very strong secondary characters. This is not a short book. The author makes very good use of the opportunities the length provides for fleshing out secondary characters.

5) The fast pace of the story action. As in Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice”, the chapters are very short. There is a lot of action just like in P&P.

6) The high level of  ‘page by page’ reading enjoyment – (The Austen quotes play a big part in this).

7) a realistic portrayal of the ‘pettiness’ of the insulated ‘ivory tower’ academic life.  I had the feeling on every page that the author was reporting on academic life that she actually experienced.

8) A rich appreciation of history. (I have a teaching minor in History so I may be more likely to enjoy this feature.)

Both the hero and heroine are history teachers in the same department. He is very famous and is just visiting. She is not famous and is up for tenure. The famous hero has trashed the heroine’s one little book in a high  profile review. She is very angry with him. (Sound like the start of “Pride and Prejudice”?)  Darcy would make a very good arrogant college professor.


I experienced a rather new feeling while reading this book. I found myself reading as fast as I could to find out what was going to happen next but at the same time I did not want to story to end. So I rationed the book to only a few chapters a day. I don’t think I’ve ever done this before with a book. But then, I have never read a romance like this one! The second book is coming out in a few months and that seems like ages to me. I’ll be the first to buy the new book!


If You Love Jane Austen, You’ll Love This Book. If You Don’t Like Jane Austen, You’ll Still Love This Book!




  1. Oh, Vince, this whole review made me so happy! And now we can debate that whole point of weather a bad title might get as much attention (or more) than a good one. It IS silly. But the originals were so bland. Okay, sharing this. :)

  2. Hi Virginia:

    When I think about book titles ‘good’ and ‘bad’ have a marketing meaning for me. A good title (which could be very silly, indeed) is one which will attract the favorable attention of those readers who would most like the book and buy the book. It is very important to get their attention because they are your best prospects.

    A bad title (which may seem great and clever and perfect in every way) is one that attracts no readers or attracts readers who are not prospects to buy the book and in so doing may even drive away the very readers who would enjoy the book, that is, your best prospects.

    This ‘badness’ happens in advertising when the ad and headline drives away the best prospects. Tests show that the advertiser sold more goods to people who never saw the ad than to those who did see the ad.

    As far as your title goes, it may be too soon to know how good or bad it is from a marketing POV. The title and cover art must be much better in a book that is going to be sold online and not as a physical book in stores where readers and see the book and read a few pages.

    A good test would be to show the artwork to readers who know nothing about the book and ask them a series of questions about what they think the book is about. If they think it is about some things which it is not, then that is not good. However, if they think it is about things which it is about, then that is good – as long as they have a favorable impression of the book.

    I thought ‘Cheese Grits” would turn off some readers who want a serious romance – which your book is. In fact, I think you could take out all reference to Jane Austen and still have a first class romance that happens to take place in academia.

    When I get to thinking about marketing, I go on and on. Got to go now.


  3. So true! BUT I tried to take out poor Jane. I tried to cut her from the story that gew from P and P, but it just wasn't the same. So, it's the perfect example of why digital self-publishing is such a boon: a book that doesn't fit anywhere, about several differen subjects at the same time, and will never find a traditional publishing home.
    Originally, the idea of P, P, and G came from the question of Regency manners vs Southern manners. I was reading a Civil War era document and it sounded awfully familiar! So, I started mulling over the plot of Austen in the South. Dear Jane was a satirical genius using very few characters to show the universal silliness of current manners and customs. What better place than the South?
    Correct me if I'm wron, but it seems there is no other place in the US where women are subjected to as many nudges (or shoves) to marry as in the American South, along with a whole range of expectations on what it means to be a Southern woman (like Austen's Regency 'gentlewoman'.)
    I think Shelby is conflicted over her academic success and her attraction to Ransom because of her background. She's not quite a perfectly independent, modern woman. Without the Southern aspect, she would seem really weak and fluffy. I think Camy Tang does this well in her books that have Chinese-American families. A traditional culture would work well for Austen remakes.
    P.S. I can't change the title, but I did just order new covers. :)The cover is much more 'serious romance' than I was ready for, but the test group (of which you should be part) voted overwhelmingly for the very romanic cover.

  4. Well, I for one can't wait to read the book. Vince is very honest always, which I appreciate and VCM's replies just make me want to read it.

    I'd love to see you post the new cover here! Please?????


  5. I can try, but I'm not sure how to attach the jpeg! I think I'll be able to post it on the Pride, Prejudice, and Cheese Grits page as soon as I get the final composition! Covers a tricky thing... And I think romance covers are one of the trickiest!

  6. Hi LA:

    Virginia is right about this book being ideal for digital publication by an indie. It has to make its own way in the world but I do think that there will be a following for this book. And that means for the books like it to follow. I really think that with the right marketing and luck, the series could be a hit with college students.

    I have in mind a series of ‘philosophy romances’ which I would market as “Romances for the very intelligent woman.” This is the kind of romance coeds would not have to hide! ☺ (I would have the names of philosophers in the titles and make the artwork look very academic.)

    Also the conflicts would be intellectual beliefs and reading about them would be educational. Of course, there would be lots of ‘falling in love’.


    1. Oh boy, Vince!! I just re-read 'Major Pettigrew's Last Stand' and was struck once more by the utter beauty of that book. The hero and heroine (both widowed and getting on in years) fall in love over a shared commitment to good writing, sound philosophy, and excellent manners. If that was a pitch, every editor in the world would turn it down. But the writing stands strong and Helen Simonson hits her debut out of the literary ballpark. A book to savor an one that makes me GREEN with envy.

  7. Hi Virginia:

    I’d be happy to post all three covers here on this site. LA also has a site where covers are often an item of discussion. I even think they would be a good subject for a Seekerville post. BTW: I just sent you an email about your three covers.


    1. I got it, thank you! And yes, post away. It was a really odd experience and I felt out of my league. It helped to have advice from avid romance readers to help distinguish the nuances of the cover art. To me, it seems very... swirly. And girly. But it needed to seem more 'serious romance' to off-set the 1-star title!!