Today I am so pleased to welcome J.L. Merrow to Joyfully Jay. J.L. has come to talk to us about her latest release, Played!. She has also brought along…. Please join me in giving her a big welcome!
Jane Austen’s Bad Boy
Hi, I’m JL Merrow, and it’s great to be here today as part of the Played! blog tour.
It’s fairly obvious that in writing Played!, I took inspiration from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. It’s perhaps less apparent that another classic I had very much in mind was Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park.
Mansfield Park is one of Austen’s more difficult novels to like, although it’s always been one of my personal favourites (because I’m like that). To be blunt, the heroine, Fanny Price, is a total prude and a bit of a drip:
Fanny is almost totally passive [and] never, ever wrong – Tony Tanner, Introduction to the Penguin Classics edition of Mansfield Park.
[Fanny is] a monster of complacency and pride – Kingsley Amis
The makers of the 1999 film Mansfield Park felt driven to deal with the unlikableness of the heroine by in essence replacing her with the wittier, more mischievous Miss Austen herself, in a sort of reverse Mary Sue. I haven’t seen the 2007 version, but given the casting of the irrepressible Billie Piper I imagine they took a similar path. So much for Fanny.
But what of the “villain”, Henry Crawford? Speaking personally, I always found him much more interesting. He’s lively and witty enough to make up for any deficiency in the looks department, and it’s he who suggests the amateur theatricals which Fanny regards with such horror in the book. Fanny worries such shenanigans will lead to inappropriate intimacy between persons not engaged to one another—the horrors! (And she’s actually dead right on that.)
Henry is not one to hide his light under any bushels with regard to acting ability:
“I feel as if I could be any thing or every thing, or rant and storm, or sigh, or cut capers in any tragedy or comedy in the English language.” – Henry Crawford, Ch13, Mansfield Park
He sets out to seduce Fanny merely as a way of amusing himself and his equally lively sister—and, of course, ends up getting his comeuppance by falling in love with her. She refuses his proposal of marriage, having been all her life in love with her rather dull foster-brother Edmund. Henry determines to win her, and actually behaves in a very kind and thoughtful manner to her and to her ill-mannered, lower-class family (of whom Fanny is priggishly ashamed) right up until he commits an unforgiveable lapse with her cousin Maria and virtue (i.e. Fanny) is seen to triumph. She weds Edmund.
I always rather thought she’d have had more fun if she’d married Henry after all. So I created Tristan, who has some very Henry-like qualities, and set out to have him learn by his mistakes before all was lost. But what of Con?
Well, clearly I wasn’t going to pattern him after Fanny: Con’s no prude and he knows how to have fun. Although he does share one or two qualities with Fanny, such as a determination to do the right thing. And a mortal fear of being called upon to act, although for very different reasons:
“Indeed you must excuse me. I could not act any thing if you were to give me the world. No, indeed, I cannot act.” – Fanny Price, Ch15, Mansfield Park
“Yeah, well, you know that’s not gonna happen. I don’t do acting, all right?” – Con, Played!
Unlike Fanny, Con is, as on this occasion, sometimes wrong!
Question: I think it’s fairly clear from the above that I prefer my protagonists flawed, not perfect. But what about you? Do you like your heroes good, or bad?
All the world’s a stage…but real-life lessons are hidden in the heart
Though Tristan must join his family’s New York firm at summer’s end—no more farting around on stage, as his father so bluntly puts it—he can’t resist when Shamwell’s local amateur dramatics society begs him to take a role in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
The bonus: giving private acting lessons to a local handyman who’s been curiously resistant to Tristan’s advances. Not only is Con delicious, there’s fifty pounds riding on Tristan getting him in his bed.
A late-diagnosed dyslexic, Con’s never dared to act, convinced he’d never be able to learn his lines. But with Tristan’s help, he takes the chance. Trouble is, the last time Con fell for a guy, he ended up getting his heart broken. And with Tristan due to leave the country soon, Con is determined not to start anything that’s bound to finish badly.
Just as Tristan thinks he’s finally won Con’s heart—and given his own in return—disaster strikes. And the curtain may have fallen forever on their chance for happiness.
Warning: contains a surfeit of Bottoms and asses, together with enough mangled quotations to have the Bard of Avon gyrating in his grave.
Amazon US | Amazon UK | ARe | Samhain
JL Merrow is that rare beast, an English person who refuses to drink tea. She read Natural Sciences at Cambridge, where she learned many things, chief amongst which was that she never wanted to see the inside of a lab ever again. Her one regret is that she never mastered the ability of punting one-handed whilst holding a glass of champagne.
She writes across genres, with a preference for contemporary gay romance and mysteries, and is frequently accused of humour. Her novel Slam! won the 2013 Rainbow Award for Best LGBT Romantic Comedy, and her novella Muscling Through and novel Relief Valve were both EPIC Awards finalists.
JL Merrow is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, International Thriller Writers, Verulam Writers’ Circle and the UK GLBTQ Fiction Meet organising team.
Prizes! I’m offering a prize of an ebook of the winner’s choice from my backlist to one lucky commenter at EVERY stop on the tour, plus a grand prize of a signed copy of Caught!, the first Shamwell Tale, which comes out in paperback on 4th August. I’m happy to ship worldwide, and I’ll throw in some small goodies as well. 🙂
Please remember to leave an email addy in your comment so I can get in touch with you if you win. I’ll be making the draws for all the contests around teatime on Friday 10th July, GMT. Good luck! 😀
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