Bad Jane

Bad Jane

One of the best things about Jane Austen inspired fiction is its variety.

If you’re in the mood to read a story about Anne Elliot and Captain Wentworth that has a little (or a lot) of angst, there’s a JAFF novel for that.

If you’re looking for sweet and wholesome stories about the Dashwood sisters, or hot, erotic plots involving Darcy and Lizzy, there are JAFF novels for that, too.

So I wasn’t too surprised to come across this Facebook post from a Jane Austen fan fiction reader:

It wasn’t the first time I had seen a post about “Bad Jane,” but this one really caught my eye—and not just because the person who posted it took the time to make an eye-catching meme.

What interested me was the number of replies to the post from people recommending different JAFF books in which Jane Austen’s perennial good girl was portrayed as “bad” in a Pride and Prejudice variation. It turns out plenty of readers enjoy stories about Jane Bennet behaving badly, and happily recommend them. I found like-minded readers on Facebook, Goodreads, Amazon, and other sites.

One reader enthusiastically wrote:

I have read other variations where Jane is not the sweet character we are accustomed to, never have I read one with such an evil Jane. I really enjoyed this book.

Another reader recommended a title because it had “bad Jane, bad Bennets, bad Georgiana.”

Jane Bennet (played by Maureen O’Sullivan) and Charles Bingley (played by Bruce Lester) in the 1940 production of Pride and Prejudice.

Many years ago, when I began reading P&P variations they were true to canon. Altering plot and setting was fair game, but the characters remained essentially the same as Austen’s original portrayals: Mary Bennet was always bookish; Lady Catherine de Bourgh was always bossy and intrusive; Lizzy Bennet was always spunky and witty.

And Jane Bennet was always pure of heart, kind, and arrow-straight in her affections for her family and friends. Even when she was firing pistols and wielding swords to ward off zombies in 2009’s Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (and in the movie version that followed), Jane Bennet was “good.”

Bella Heathcote as Jane Bennet in the 2016 movie, “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.”

But bad? Who would want Jane Bennet to be bad or evil? And why?

One reader answered the question this way:

I like a bad … evil Jane just because no one is as good as she is portrayed.

Another reader equated Bad Jane with strength of character:

I also like stories where she has more of a back bone.

I get that. Even Mr. Bennet foresaw trouble for Jane and Bingley because of their placid, easy-going natures:

“You are each of you so complying, that nothing will ever be resolved on; so easy, that every servant will cheat you; and so generous, that you will always exceed your income.”

Jane, played by Rosamund Pike in 2005’s Pride and Prejudice.

Those book recommendations piqued my interest, so I dove into the Bad Jane pool and read the novel where she has a back bone. Then I read a few more Bad Jane books that were recommended on the different sites. The stories really opened my eyes!

There was selfish Jane and Jane the mercenary; there was even a Jane Bennet who was jealous of her sister Elizabeth and set out to thwart her budding romance with Darcy.

In fact, I found so many variations that featured Jane Bennet behaving badly that I wondered how I had never come across her in this guise before.

Susanah Harker portrayed soft-spoken Jane Bennet in the 1995 BBC production of P&P.

I’m glad I went looking for Bad Jane, and I enjoyed seeing a very different side of her. But I think I prefer to go back to the safety of the Jane Bennet I know and love—the one Jane Austen originally envisioned.

I wonder what you think of the Bad Jane idea?

Do you enjoy JAFF stories that strictly adhere to Austen’s original characters? Or do you like to read stories that show her characters in a different light?

Have you ever read a Bad Jane story? What about a novel with a silly Elizabeth? Or an angelic Lydia?

Sabina Franklyn as Jane Bennet in the 1980 BBC production.

 

36 Responses to Bad Jane

  1. Love the stories where Jane has had finally enough and blows! A modern setting 1-shot was just recently posted on a fan site that I really enjoyed. Am hoping the author decides to expand beyond the 1-shot!
    Would like to see a list of all the other instances of Jane acting out -of-character – did anyone compile it?
    Thank you to all you authors out there – keep on writing!

      • Reading the previous comments about NSNJ, I already have all the mentioned stories!
        Realized I have all your books in my Kindle! Will you be republishing your older books/short stories for Kindle?

        • I am, indeed, Patricia. They’re going through some rounds of edits and updates, first, and I hope to have them all on Kindle soon. Stay tuned for updates, and thank you for asking!

  2. I’ve read stories that portray Jane Bennet as being bad. I can’t say that I enjoyed them, especially when she was mean to her sister, Elizabeth. I do enjoy the portrayal of Jane with a backbone who goes off with Colonel Fitzwilliam, and leaves weak Bingley alone, or the one who puts Carolyn Bingley in her place,(as in “Bingley’ Bride”).

  3. I’ve read a couple with a ‘bad Jane’ and have to say I didn’t care for them. I adore ones where she develops a backbone, though, none more so than my ‘Jane the Valkyrie’ from Infamous Relations, where she goes so far as to slap Mr Darcy heartily across the face!

    (I’ve still to write a follow-up for that book where she and Colonel Fitzwilliam make a go of it!)

  4. I didn’t know we could ever make a bad Jane! I’ll have to think about that for a while. I’m not sure if I’d like it. I do like a Jane with more backbone, though. We’ve written that. Once we wrote a Jane who didn’t end up with Bingley. Some readers got quite upset about that. I sort of agree with Mr. Bennet, though. Jane and Bingley together is too much niceness for them to ever be happy in the world. Then again, Jane Austen said they only remained in Netherfield for a year before moving away to escape Mrs. Bennet, so maybe they’re nice but even they, eventually, will act.

    I think I’d prefer to do a bad Mary. Like a really evil, manipulative, the persona we’ve seen is a facade, sort of Mary.

    Fun post, Nancy. Thank you 🙂

  5. At times, I get tired of “angelic Jane” and like to see “bad Jane” pop up. Even when it is simple things like in “Rain and Retribution” where she tries to convince Elizabeth it is a good thing to have to marry Mr. Collins, and things go downhill for Jane from there on. It is like those times when you meet someone that seems so perfect and wouldn’t swear to save their life — makes me want to cuss up a storm and say or do something to fluster them and bring them back to earth. No one is that perfect.

  6. Enjoyed your post, Nancy. I don’t mind the characters being more one way than the other. My ‘Darcy Versus Series’ has at least one character a little more extreme in negative qualities. ‘Darcy Vs Elizabeth’ has Darcy a little more snobbish and Elizabeth more unyielding. Having Jane with more backbone or being less sweet is okay by me. But ODC must get their HEA, one way or another. 🙂

  7. I love variety and am glad that bad Jane stories exist. So far, I’ve only read one and I absolutely hated her and didn’t understand how Elizabeth could be so devoted to her sister when she was so unlikeable. Although I liked the story as ODC still end up happily together, I didn’t enjoy the Jane parts of the book and didn’t enjoy her being so jealous and manipulative. So although I would like to read more bad Jane stories, I am not sure if they are my cup of tea.

  8. What a delightful post. I resisted reading a NSNJ [not-so-nice-Jane] story until my curiosity got the best of me and I loved it. I have read at least half a dozen NSNJ stories now including several from the unpublished fan fiction sites. I do have my limitations though on how her character should behave. That almost sounds like an oxymoron. I know!! Thanks for recognizing this phenomenon. I am like Sheila… D&E have to be together. I mean… that is nonnegotiable.

  9. I’ve read few bad Jane stories on the forums but never finished. I love variations but actually prefer a Jane with a kind heart.

  10. I have not read any bad Jane stories either. I think Jane could be a little jealous of Lizzy perhaps. I don’t have Facebook either. Any recommendations for bad Jane reads?

    • For recommendations, look no further than your Austen Authors! You can try “He Taught Me to Hope” by P.O. Dixon; or “In the Wilds of Derbyshire” by Jann Rowland, in which Jane shuns her family after her marriage to Bingley. Who else has a recommendation for Cindie?

  11. Like Sheila, I am not on Facebook either. I have read a couple of ‘Bad Jane’ stories where she is selfish and more manipulative, but not a fan of ‘Evil Jane’. I do like stories where she has more of a backbone or is not as trusting or thinking well of people all the time. I don’t mind if she doesn’t end up with Bingley but at the same time, I like when he has a backbone too. I enjoy stories where certain secondary characters are given redemption if they are cast in a poor light…Lydia, Kitty, Mary (loved ‘Mary and the Captain’). Even secondary characters in ‘Persuasion’ like Elizabeth Elliot has been done…Laura Hile’s ‘Mercy’s Embrace’ series is an excellent one for redemption that I loved. Like others, I do love my P&P sequels and variations that always have E&D together in the end…even when they have been married before. I guess it all boils down to ‘growth of character’.

  12. I can’t say that I have read any “evil” Jane stories but I have read ones in which she is not supportive of Elizabeth and/or her romance with Charles does not have a happy ending, which in turn affects her relationship with Elizabeth. I must have Elizabeth and Darcy end up together and loathed the one in which he was compromised by Lydia and ended up married to her. I also refuse to read those in which Elizabeth marries Wickham or in which she is a surrogate for Anne and Darcy. I prefer P&P variations above all others whether they be paranormal or modern, time travel or set in the depression era. I am not on FB so cannot “check out” that one you mention above. Meredith does a wonderful job on Austenesque Reviews in posting lists of all the various types of Jane Austen stories and keeps her lists up-to-date. Thanks for sharing. I

    • Austenesque Reviews’ post of new JAFF titles is my monthly shopping list for books to purchase and read. I’ve read some where Darcy ends up with a different Bennet sister, or Lizzy ends up with Collins or Wickham, but my favorites give D&E their HEA. 🙂

    • Sheila, I read one where Darcy was compromised by and had to marry Kitty. (I didn’t like that either.) Which one had him marry Lydia?

  13. I have read a couple and would like to read more. I prefer to read more about the different minor characters and I found them much more interesting tan the Darcy and Elizabeth HEA

  14. What an interesting premise. I have never read such a variation before.
    I like the idea of seeing Austen’s characters in a different light.

    For my debut novel, I altered Marianne Dashwood’s personality. Similar to the books listed above, she could be called bad Marianne. One reviewer even commented she was “mean-spirited and heartless”.

    There is a market for every conceivable JAFF out there 🙂

  15. That would be quite interesting changing the main attributes of our characters. i think i would like it. I know there are 2 books which Lizzy will contend with one of her sisters for Darcy’s affection.I am not sure if you would call that as a bad Jane (since i am solid with L & D – that would be a bad jane for me). That woud be funny if you have a foolish, not so smart Lizzy, wonder what Mr D will do?

    I am partial to P & P stories. I guess as long as L & D ends up together, i will always like (love) it. Also no violence/killing between the two (L & D) – that one story gave me a nightmare.

Comments are precious!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.