REVIEW: Jane Bites Back by Michael Thomas Ford


Jane Bites Back by Michael Thomas Ford We know what you’re thinking: OHGODNOTANOTHERMONSTERMASHUPMAKEITSTOOOOOOOOOP! ANDHOWDARETHEYDOTHATTOJANEAUSTENANYWAY? While normally we might feel the same way, to tell the truth, we were intrigued by the description of Jane Bites Back the first time we read about it in Publisher’s Lunch. Admit it, Vampire Jane getting revenge on those who take advantage of her literary legacy kicks all kinds of butt in concept. It remained to be seen whether the author could follow through on that amusing premise. Fortunately, Michael Thomas Ford pulled it off; Vampire Jane is much more human and enjoyable than the chocolate-box saint that many Janeites have created in her image. She’s a lady—but with a bite.

Jane, now using the last name Fairfax (what? Not Anne Elliot?) owns a bookstore in upstate New York and has been trying for nearly two centuries to publish her novel, Constance. After 116 rejections, she is beginning to think that she’ll never be published again, even while a parade of other authors make millions off her work. She has turned into the stereotype of her own fans: a single woman of a certain age, sitting home at night drinking wine, eating chocolate, and talking to her cat. Then an editor falls in love with Constance and publishes it; it becomes a literary sensation, forcing Jane into the public eye and dredging up some things—and some people—she thought she had long since left behind.

Romantically torn between a mysterious stranger from her past, her hunky editor, and a nice guy from the neighborhood, Jane seems perfectly human and quite up-to-date, perhaps with a touch of neurosis, though fear not: she is not turned into Bridget Jones. Hiding her background gets her into a few scrapes, which help drive the narrative. She isn’t a “vegetarian” vampire, but only drinks enough to put her victims in a stupor, not kill them—and her victims tend to be the kind of people upon whom the Editrix exercises the Cluebat of Janeite Righteousness, so we’re down with it. This Jane is quite lovable and only a tiny bit intimidating. We’d like to hang out with her.

We tend to read this kind of thing hypercritically (or as our critics like to to say, we are a tar-hearted humorless dried-up spinster purist), so we rolled our eyes over some things like the rather cliched identity of the Mysterious Man From Jane’s Past; but he proved to be such a roguishly charming character that by the end of the book we had grown quite fond of him. We were tripped up by some minor biographical errors, but realized we couldn’t remember them when we were done reading, so how bad were they, really? The only thing we can complain about is the excerpts from Constance, which quite frankly reads like some kind of dreadful melodrama and not at all what Jane Austen would have written. We think she would have abandoned it somewhere around 27 rejections and written something much more fun. But it’s not especially important to the story, and is meant to reflect the incidents going on in Jane’s own life, so no biggie. Perhaps the Editrix has had a vampire glamour placed upon her, or maybe we just really liked the book. We are leaning toward the latter. Yes, we really liked the book, and look forward to the sequel(s) and watching Jane deal with the parasites and philistines in her own special way. In the meantime, Jane, we’ll keep swinging the Cluebat of Janeite Righteousness on your behalf.

If you’ve read the book, please try to avoid spoilers in the comments. Thanks!

14 thoughts on “REVIEW: Jane Bites Back by Michael Thomas Ford

    • Mags

      Why? Because I liked it? You said I would like it. So did Allison (who sent me about 50 emails begging me to read it so we could discuss). Really, though, it’s exactly the kind of thing I *do* like.


      • Um … well, I hoped you’d like it. It is wity, smart and funny. Jane is a vampire, but that is not the main jist of the story. It was satisfying to see some of the people that had used her get theirs. Tee hee. That, I knew you’d root for!


    • Laurel Ann: Just a note: aromatic is does not have an “e” in it. If you spell it aeromatic you are saying that it has something to do with air (eg: aeroplane, aerobic, aerodynamic), although it does give me some interesting visuals about what it does…..:-)


      • LOL Carey – I was always the last one chosen on the spelling team in grade school. Still can’t spell. Thanks – though I do like the notion of flying smelling salts!


  1. Allison T.

    Yes, I loved this one! Some really funny and snarky insights into the nature of fandom–and, hey! that’s why we’re here, isn’t it? plus some insights into the works of Austen and a few others who shall not be named. Sly and witty, this book caused me to burst into actual audible LOL’g in a crowded public venue! Ford knows what so many of the Austen sequelers forget: Jane Austen is funny! She made herself laugh (her niece remembers her sitting quietly by the fire and then laughing and jumping up to write down whatever tickled her funny bone). She made her family laugh with her writing. She makes us laugh today–if we read her own actual words.

    I generally resist the temptation to rank the numerous (read: mind-boggling number) contributions to AustenLand, but Jane Bites Back floats effortlessly to the top 1% of the pile.


  2. LynnS

    Oh yay! I bought this a couple of weeks ago because I, too, thought”Vampire Jane getting revenge on those who take advantage of her literary legacy kicks all kinds of butt in concept.” I put off reading it, but now am excited about getting to it!


  3. Of all the rubbish we are suffering, this is the only thing that catches my curiosity, so it’s good to know that it’s not bad. I hope they publish it in my country.


  4. a german austen addict

    oh come on, thats one of the funniest ( parallelausten) books i read for months! i got it from in the first week of 2010 and guess what – now only six weeks later the german translation ist out – nowadays i think everything connected with vampyres is a license to print money!


  5. Ann Haas

    I loved this book. It was a riot and so outrageous to think of Jane in these terms but she was Jane nonetheless. My sister in law and I share a love of Jane Austen and all the recent “sequels” to Pride and Prejudice. I read this book in one sitting and hope this author writes a follow-up book. I’m not sure what the connection is with recent books and zombies, vampires, sea monsters, but they are still worth reading for their I witticisms and offbeat take on Jane’s observations and humor. I am not familiar with this blog but found it through a link from the Cleveland Playhouse where a musical production of “Emma” is currently playing. Glad I tuned in!


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