Austen Adjacent

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Jane and the Damned by Janet Mullany

“Jane and the Damned” is set in the late 18th century when English society is tense with the threat of a French invasion and occupied with the issue of how to deal with the Damned—the fashionable, high society vampires who are seducing the local populace left and right.

Hot off the heels of her latest literary rejection, Jane Austen is looking for a diversion. She finds it in attending a ball with her sister Cassandra, having no idea that the night will change her life. What appears to be an innocent flirtation ends with Jane being turned into a vampire. She agrees to go to Bath with her family to take the only known cure for the condition, but upon arrival discovers that the decision to reverse the vampirism isn’t as black and white as it seems.

Jane’s desire to live up to her family’s expectations and wishes often competes with her need to keep them safe; and the world of the Damned is alluring in itself.

While I have some criticisms, overall, “Jane and the Damned” was an entertaining read and I’m curious to know where the story goes in its sequel, “Jane Austen: Blood Persuasion.”

The setting of the Napoleonic War was a great addition that increased the stakes for the plot and the characters. This could have easily been a book only about Jane keeping secrets from her family and bumbling her way through learning how to be a proper vampire. The war added a level of depth and urgency that was sorely needed.

I really enjoyed the portrayal of the Damned as having their own brand of polite society. There are a plethora of skills and abilities that Jane gets to discover as a vampire, a more sophisticated portrayal than mindless bloodlust. And certain etiquettes must be observed, a protocol for feeding appropriately, for example.

While there are some well-written scenes with engaging dialogue, I did think the book lacked something in relationship building. We’re told that Jane and her sister have a close relationship (something Janeites know historically to be true), but it doesn’t come across in the writing. There’s also a romantic relationship that, to me, lacked all chemistry—I honestly didn’t know the relationship was heading toward romance until a jealous third-party character brought up the issue explicitly.

There was also one line that made me groan, though I’m sure the fandom would probably be split on whether they appreciate or dislike this nod to Pride & Prejudice: “She is not vampire enough to tempt me.”

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Keep an eye out for my upcoming review of the sequel, Jane Austen: Blood Persuasion.