Screenwriter Julia Seales’s Austen-esque debut, A Most Agreeable Murder, takes readers to 19th-century Swampshire, England, where 25-year-old Beatrice Steele harbors a frightful secret: she loves solving crimes. Neither she nor her sisters can inherit the family’s estate, and their father’s penchant for practical jokes has led his vile cousin, Martin Grub, to declare him insane, paving the way for Grub to take over the property. The family’s only hope rests on one of the daughters receiving a marriage proposal from a wealthy bachelor at the annual Stabmort Park ball. After one of those bachelors dies during the festivities, Beatrice teams up with private detective Vivek Drake to solve the crime. The intricate plot races along at a sprightly pace, and Seales delights with her sharp humor and accomplished sense of narrative control.
My introduction to Jane Austen was actually through the spoof Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith. It was a strange way to first encounter Austen, but it made me fall in love with her work, nonetheless. That’s how appealing and timeless Austen’s writing is: one can retell her stories, adding anything from zombies to valley girls (Clueless, anyone?), and they still strike a chord. I promptly read all her books, but with only six novels, one is naturally left hungry for more. Thankfully, countless authors have been inspired by Austen’s witty blend of romance, family, and sharp social commentary. Whereas some writers continue her stories in a straightforward manner, allowing readers to continue to live in the world of Elizabeth Bennet and Emma Woodhouse, others take a more unexpected approach. After you’ve read (and re-read) Austen’s classics, here are 10 exciting and intriguing homages to explore.
Vansh Raje, Dev’s gender-swapped take on Jane Austen’s Emma Woodhouse, is clever, handsome, and rich, a bachelor on top of the world. Knightlina has been in a fake relationship with Vansh’s brother, but now she wants to find her distance and work on her microfinance foundation. The duo collide when Vansh has an idea for his own nonprofit, leaving them both vying for funding. This Indian American rom-com retelling of Emma, part of Dev’s wonderful series of Jane Austen retellings, serves up Woodhouse with a twist.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that you can never have enough Pride and Prejudice remakes. This one is set in Pakistan, where our protagonist, Alys Binat, the second of five daughters, is an English teacher. (She even gives her students Jane Austen-inspired assignments—can I take her class?) Alys is determined not to marry, but at a lavish wedding, she meets Mr. Darsee and everything changes.
Jane Austen + fantasy = Heartstone. In this adaptation, Aliza Bentaine encounters dragonrider Alastair Daired. Full of Austen’s signature wit, with added dragons, direwolves, banshees, and more, this magical riff on Pride and Prejudice is a fresh spin on a beloved classic.
Ever wondered about Anne de Bourgh’s backstory? Then this is the novel for you. A Gothic spin-off of Pride and Prejudice, The Heiress imagines Anne’s sheltered life. Her controlling mother, Lady Catherine, is determined that Anne will marry Mr. Darcy, but as Anne comes of age, she must learn to liberate herself. It’s a pensive take on a side character whose tale we have not heard—until now.
Kamila Hussain is clever, handsome, and rich—yep, this is another fantastic adaptation of Emma. Kamila’s family friend, Rohan Nasser, has always been in her life, but when her nemesis casts her sights on him, Kamila must contend with her true feelings for Rohan., Heron’s feel-good version of Emma is perfect for Bollywood lovers.
Snarky and ingenious, Pride is a timely YA take on Pride and Prejudice set in Bushwick, Brooklyn. Zuri Benitez wants to save her neighborhood from gentrification, but the wealthy Darcy family has just moved in across the street. Her sister Janae is entranced by Ainsley Darcy, but Zuri can’t say the same about his brother, Darius. She finds him arrogant and conceited—at first. Zoboi takes Austen’s themes of class, love, prejudice, and of course, pride, and brings them into the modern era.
Where Pride and Prejudice follows the “upstairs” world of Longbourn, the Bennet family’s home, Baker’s retelling focuses on the “downstairs.” Sarah, the Bennets’ housemaid, works at Longbourn doing laundry, cleaning floors, and emptying chamber pots. When a new footman, James Smith, arrives at the house, Sarah becomes determined to learn his secret.
In Appiah-Kubi’s hands, Longbourn becomes Longbourn University, and the Bennet family becomes the Bennet House dorm. EJ, Jamie, and Tessa find friendship and feminism in Bennet House, and they discover love beyond. With an intriguing cast of characters and delightful inclusivity, this starts with Pride and Prejudice and paves its own unique path from there.
9. Sense and Second-Degree Murder by Tirzah Price
Murder and Jane Austen? Sign me up. Price mashes up Sense and Sensibility with crime. Elinor and Marianne’s father dies, leaving the sisters destitute—but in this version, Elinor suspects that Mr. Dashwood’s death is no accident. A killer could be in their midst.
10. Jane Austen Made Me Do It: Original Stories Inspired by Literature's Most Astute Observer of the Human Heart edited by Laurel Ann Nattres
Austen has made a deep impression on the world of literature. In this anthology, a variety of authors celebrate her in many different ways. From spinoffs of Northanger Abbey to poetic musings on Persuasion, this has something for every Austen fan.