Bibliophile reviews Vanity and Vexation (a kind of romance)

Author: Kate Fenton
Previously published as: Lions and Liquorice
Year published: 1995. American publication: 2005
Pages: 276
Genre: Romance (sort of)

The Story:
A film outfit arrives in a tiny Yorkshire village to film Pride and Prejudice. Local writer Llew Bevan looks on the proceedings with a jaundiced eye as the film’s star sweeps his widowed brother-in-law off his feet, and he himself can not help being attracted to not one, but two of the outsiders: haughty director Mary Dance, and a young woman who has a serious quarrel with Mary.

Technique and plot:
Ring any bells? No? Think Pride and Prejudice in a modern setting with older players and reversed gender roles.

I have avoided reading any of the “sequels” that have been written to Jane Austen’s novels, as I know no-one can do the characters as well as she did. But a modern spin-off is another matter. I read about this book several years ago while browsing the The Republic of Pemberley fansite. Everyone said it was hilarious and I thought it was an interesting idea. But finding it was a different matter. Lions and Liquorice, as it was originally titled, had been out of print for some time. It never came up in Ebay auctions and I was beginning to think I would never be able to read it, when I discovered it had been republished under a new title. I didn’t want to buy the expensive hardcover, so I patiently waited for the paperback and ordered it as soon as it was available. It was with anticipation that I opened the book to read it.

I can’t say I found much funny in the story. There are a few things worthy of a chuckle, but for the most part this is an ordinary novel about love and misunderstandings. It is well written but nothing more than that. It doesn’t sparkle, and it is not the kind of book I want to re-read. Not exactly a dud, but didn’t live up to expectations.

Rating: A decent read that will keep Austen fans guessing who’s who and whether “Elizabeth” will end up with “Wickham” this time around. Other readers will simply enjoy it for the story. 3 stars.


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