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.”
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.”
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.”
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.
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?