What to read when you’re stuck in an Austen circle.

The details on this ongoing project, and the factors I’m taking to heart.

Readers told me 3 books they loved, 1 book they hated, and what they’re reading right now. In turn, I’m recommending 3 books for each reader. (Or more, if I can’t help myself.)

This week we’re choosing books for Emmy Cecilia, whose books are:

Love: Anything Jane Austen (though I’m meh on Mansfield Park), Anne of Green Gables series, His Good Opinion by Nancy Kelley (still Austen-related)
Hate: Angels in America, which is technically a play. Forced to read it in college and I hated it. Or anything heavy like Anna Karenina.
Last read: Pride and Prejudice; currently reading: Emma. As you can see, I’m stuck in an Austen circle and am looking for new things to read. 

Emmy Cecilia says she’s stuck in an Austen circle—an experience many MMD readers are familiar with. (Although if you’ve never read Pride and Prejudice, you’ve got plenty of company. But seriously, what are you waiting for?)

Emmy Cecilia’s love for Jane Austen is the strongest factor in these picks—noting that she loves a good Austen spin-off—but I’m also taking her love for Anne-with-an-e into consideration.

I’m giving more options than usual, because I think the likelihood of her having already read some of these is high.

What to read after you finish Jane Austen's novels. Again. | Modern Mrs Darcy

My picks: 

Classics: Middlemarch, An Ideal Husband, Elizabeth Gaskell, Dorothy Sayers
And more classics: the Shoe books, Louisa May Alcott, Betsy-Tacy
Contemporary Fiction: The Grand SophyNone But You
More by L. M. Montgomery: The Emily series, The Blue Castle, Jane of Lantern Hill
Nonfiction: What Matters in Jane Austen, What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew

Let’s start with a few classics that any Jane Austen fan should think about reading next: I chose MiddlemarchAn Ideal Husband, and Dorothy Sayers (of which Gaudy Night is my favorite) for their wisdom and wit, and we’ve already established that Gaskell is an obvious next step for the Janeite who ran out of Austen novels. Louisa May Alcott’s books also have the bright feel of Austen’s novels.

The Shoe books and the Betsy-Tacy series are good choices for Anne fans, but before you move on to those, make sure you’ve explored some of Montgomery’s other works: the Emily seriesThe Blue Castle, and Jane of Lantern Hill are my personal favorites.

Emmy Cecilia’s professed love for His Good Opinion helped me choose two contemporary novels for her: Georgette Heyer writes smart and funny Regency romances; The Grand Sophy is one of her best. None But You does for Persuasion what His Good Opinion does for Pride and Prejudice: it’s a retelling of Persuasion from Captain Wentworth’s perspective. A warning: fans who love these love them. But there are fans who will never forgive Kaye for a few of her imagined plot points.

And if you haven’t yet, indulge in a little Jane Austen nerdery and pick up What Matters in Jane AustenWhat Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew for a very readable look at the era.

Please share YOUR recommendations for Jane Austen fans in comments. Thank you!

View all the literary matchmaking posts here.

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  1. Gervy says:

    An English writer called Jude Morgan (a man!) has written a few novels in the vein of Jane Austen and they are terrific: An Accomplished Woman, Indiscretion, and A Little Folly.

  2. Tuija says:

    Anne, I’m an Austen nerd and I think your suggestions are really good. (Too bad I’ve already read almost all of them. 😉 ) I have a couple more recommendations for Austen-related fiction:
    – Pamela Aidan’s Darcy trilogy (Pride and Prejudice from Darcy’s perspective, but in three books)
    – Georgiana Darcy’s Diary by Anna Elliott.

    Emmy Cecilia’s list of favourite and not favourite books makes me feel we might like same kinds of books. So here are a few more novels that I’ve enjoyed – perhaps there might be something for her, too:
    – Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day
    – I Capture the Castle
    – The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
    – Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand.

    • liz n. says:

      Yes, yes, yes to Miss Pettigrew! What did you think of the film? I loved Frances McDormand as Miss P!

      I’ve been back and forth on the Darcy trilogy: I want to read it, I’m afraid I’ll hate it, but I want to read it….I think, based on your recommendation, that now I shall read it!

      • Melanie E. says:

        I love the Aidan trilogy! When you think about it, Mr. Darcy is hardly in the book! This kind of fills in what he was thinking/feeling when away from Elizabeth, etc.

        • Anne says:

          That’s exactly what Davies said when he adapted P&P for the 1996 BBC series—there’s surprisingly little Darcy in the book. He compensated for that with his film, obviously. 🙂

          • Liz says:

            I really enjoyed the Aidan trilogy. Book 2 was a bit silly, but Books 1 and 3 were lovely. They always make me turn to my husband and tell him he’s my Mr. Darcy. He just smiles and nods.

    • Anne says:

      Thanks for the further recommendations, Tuija! I think Miss Pettigrew Lives for a day is spot-on in tone, and the others are likely to be embraced by Austen fans.

  3. danielle says:

    North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell! I recommend it to my stuck in Austen friend and she really liked it. Plus it has a really great movie version made 🙂

  4. Stacey says:

    Maybe she would enjoy the Austen Project series? It’s six contemporary authors each doing a modern retelling of one of the Austen novels. There are only two out so far – Sense and Sensibility (I thought the new version was meh) and Northanger Abbey (this one was slightly better). I’m hoping the Emma version is good, since it will be retold by Alexander McCall Smith, one of my favorite authors. Anyway, something fun if you want to stay in an Austen circle. 🙂

  5. Arenda says:

    This is my favourite of your Literary Match-making posts yet! I love Jane Austen, too, and love a bunch of the authors/books you suggested here (Gaskell, Alcott, Montgomery) – but there are also lots I haven’t read & am now very much looking forward to! Thanks Anne!

  6. Molly says:

    How fun! I have seen An Ideal Husband as a movie but didn’t realize it was a book (same with Miss Pettigrew) so now I nee to go find it. Thank goodness for Goodreads to help me keep track of all these titles. I did read What Matters in Jane Austen this summer and loved it. Any book that helps me understand the time period better piques my interest. I own the other non-fiction book you recommended but have yet to read it. Please let us know what you think.

  7. Sherri says:

    Some of you might enjoy the Lucia/Mapp novels of E.F. Benson, which he wrote in the 1920’s. I can’t do justice to his humorous and witty portrayal of village life but if you get hooked, you’ll have hours of good reading. When I visited Rye (Tilling in the novels,) I loved seeing Lamb House, which he used as first Miss Mapp’s, and then Lucia’s home, Mallards. (Henry James lived there before Benson and Rumer Godden lived there after–unfortunately the Garden Room, which is the scene of much social intrigue in the series, was destroyed by bombs in WW II.)

    I have the collection in one volume, Make Way for Lucia, and I don’t know about the quality of the free kindle editions.

    • liz n. says:

      A friend gave me this series several years ago, but I have individual books. I didn’t know they were available in a single volume. These stories are charmingly witty and sprinkled with sarcasm that made me laugh out loud.

  8. Anna says:

    I would recommend The Diary of a Provincial Lady and its sequels by E.M. Delafield. They are hilarious, British, and centered on relationships within households and small towns. Gaskell is the best recommendation for Austen fans – especially North and South which is similar in some ways to Pride and Prejudice. I’ve never read Georgette Heyer but I think I’ll give it a try soon.

  9. Laurie says:

    This may sound outrageous, but hear me out, ladies: The Aubrey-Maturin novels of Patrick O’Brian. Yes, these are seemingly manly, seafaring tales, but there is a good reason why O’Brian has been called “Jane Austen for men”. The tales are set in the same time period as Austen’s works, but more importantly, O’Brian can develop complex characters and relationships that will take your breath away. His two main characters are flawed, and yet one loves them anyway. There’s a great deal of naval jargon that one should just let pass over them without worrying too much about the difference between a topsail and a mainsail; just read them for the characters! There are 20-odd books in the series, so there’s plenty there to keep a reader occupied. Most of the POB fans I’ve met are women who love Austen- you might find that you will enjoys these books as well.

    • Sherri says:

      How I love these books! Since today is the 200th anniversary of the burning of Washington by the British, I was thinking of re-reading The Fortune of War, the Aubrey/Maturin novel which takes place during that conflict. But that would mean I’d end up re-reading the entire series again and I can’t escape from the world for 2 weeks just now.

      These books are simply superb. I also loved the Master and Commander movie and thought that Russell Crowe did justice to Jack Aubrey.

      • Laurie says:

        I so agree! I can’t imagine anyone else playing Lucky Jack! I have to confess this was a rare case where I watched the movie first, then read the books, but it didn’t impair my enjoyment of the books one bit. I’ve read the entire series twice, and, like you, I am just looking for the time to start again because you can’t read just one! They’re like potato chips that way! LOL

    • liz n. says:

      Excellent series! I think you really need to start with the very first book. I read the third book first, was very confused, and started over with the first. It’s not a pick-up-anywhere-in-the-storyline-and-go series.

      (I thought Paul Bettany was perfect as Maturin.)

  10. Your suggestions of Gaskell’s work are right on, in my opinion. Also add my votes to the Jude Morgan books. So good!

    Also, more votes for: Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and Miss Pettigrew,

    Other Brit picks: D.E. Stevenson, Elizabeth Cadell, and don’t forget Forster (A Room with a View, Howards End).

    A fantasy pick might be Stardust by Neil Gaiman.

    The Confession of Fitzwilliam Darcy by Mary Street is my favorite Austen spin-off.

    My husband loves the Patrick O’Brien books. He says they remind of a “more masculine Austen” (he’s read Pride and Prejudice).

  11. Tracy says:

    I’d like to suggest the books of Elizabeth Goudge especially gentian hill, the deans watch and the Eliot family trilogy. I second Jude Morgan, just read a little folly and it was very Austen like.

  12. Anna says:

    I forgot to mention Barbara Pym! I would recommend her works to any Jane fan. They are subtle, humorous, character driven novels set in both English small towns and London. I would start with Excellent Women, Jane and Prudence, or Some Tame Gazelle. And I might also suggest The Enchanted April by Elisabeth Von Arnim.

  13. Breanne says:

    I just read the Emily trilogy this month and found them to be my new favourite of LMM’s books. I identify so much with Emily over Anne.
    Coming back to this post (and comments!) when I feel stuck.

  14. Angela says:

    The Emily books are aome of my favorites of all books. I would also recommend the Story Girl. I haven’t actually read any Dorethy Sayer so need to do that.

    Interestingly, I used to hate Russian authors when I was assigned to read them but have begun to read them now and they are different.

  15. liz n. says:

    Anne, this is the #1 thing I love about your blog: look at all the comments from people sharing the books they love with people they don’t even know! Look at how many readers are finding new things to love!

    I love how you bring us all together. Good on you!

  16. Raela says:

    Georgette Heyer is one of my all-time favorites! I will happily discuss any of her books to great length with Emmy if she decides to pick one up. The Grand Sophy is a great choice! Cotillion is one of my faves 🙂

    • Raela says:

      And, I should add, Clare Darcy is another great Regency read. Not quite at Heyer’s level, but still quite enjoyable. Lydia is a good one to start with.

    • Nell says:

      If Emmy Cecilia hasn’t read any Georgette Heyer, boy! is she in for a treat! I love Jane Austen, too (favourite is Persuasion) and Georgette is the perfect follow-on. I once heard, on BBC radio, Georgette Heyer described as, ‘Jane Austen on roller skates,’ a perfect description. My favourites are Cotillion, The Grand Sophy, Friday’s Child, Frederica, Arabella and on and on – all twenty-three (I think) Regency novels. They’re beautifully written and funny! Heyer’s meticulous research is renowned for it’s depth and accuracy. All so delightful – I’ve re-read them all countless times over to visit my friends who live inside these books – and they are the ultimate ‘comfort’ books in times of trouble. Hope Emmy Cecilia loves them, too – how could she not?

      • Raela says:

        Cotillion, Grand Sophy, and Friday’s Child are some of my favorites as well! I’ll always have a soft spot for the first one I ever read, Bath Tangle.

  17. Jeni says:

    Highly recommend books by Sarah M Eden: Seeking Persephone,Courting Miss Lancaster,Kiss of a Stranger, Friends and Foes,Glimmer of Hope,Unlikely Match,For Elise, Drops of Gold, As You Are– wonderful regency romances, her books NEVER disappoint.

      • Kait says:

        I love these suggestions! Sarah M Eden and Julianne Donaldson are some of my favorites – Kristi Ann Hunter also has a cute series (The Hawthorne House) which is similar 🙂 Rebecca Connolly and Roseanna M White have cute series in a similar style as well.

  18. Karen Osborn says:

    Just stumbled across your site while searching for Jane Austen on Pinterest. I just finished a little book I picked up in the bargain books section of B&N called, “The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen,” by Syrie James. It is a fictional novel based on the idea that Jane Austen’s secret memoirs were recently discovered in a renovation of an old estate in England, telling the tale of where many of her ideas for her books came from. It was a delightful book!

  19. Elise Curran says:

    I was surprised at how few people mentioned Georgette Heyer as a follow-up read to Jane Austen. She is by far the best successor, and was actually the person who started the Regency romance genre. She wrote 30-40 Regency/Historical books (and mysteries, too), and a great one to start with is Frederica. I agree with someone else’s comment that Clare Darcy is similar but not quite on her level. I used to cycle through my Austen, then Heyer, then Darcy, and then I found a modern Regency writer, Joan Smith, who I also liked, though her last few books seemed to have been partly written by someone else. She had that humor that I always appreciate in my light reading.

  20. Mim Müller says:

    I love all Austen books. I can´t stop reading. In German you can say TAGTRAUM… You read, dream with open Eyes.
    I love Dickens Little Dorrit and The old curriosity shop and C. Bronte Jane Eyre and E. Bronte Wuthering Heights, of course.

    I always cry and at the end I´m happy for “my” girls, and begin with the next again and again and again…. and if I`m tired The BBCs are always my friend 🙂

  21. I see people have mentioned Barbara Pym but I haven’t seen Penelope Fitzgerald and Angela Thirkell. Also the spirit of Jane Austen alive and well in some of the early Henry James–The Europeans, for example.

  22. Raela says:

    After bingeing on–and loving–PBS’s most recent Poldark, I went back and found the books. Haven’t quite finished book 1 yet, but it’s a good rec for Jane Austen fans!

  23. Beth says:

    I would recommend the Stephanie Barron books that feature Jane Austen as an excellent sleuth. Her fine perception of her society meshes with discovering murderers very well, and combines my love of Jane Austen with my love of detective fiction. The first book in the series is Jane and the Unpleasantness at Scargrave Manor, and they get nothing but better from this beginning.

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