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Rational Creatures: Stirrings of Feminism in the Hearts of Jane Austen's Fine Ladies

The Quill Collective, Book 3
Narrated by: Victoria Riley
Series: The Quill Collective, Book 3
Length: 18 hrs and 3 mins
4.7 out of 5 stars (6 ratings)

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Summary

“But I hate to hear you talking so, like a fine gentleman, and as if women were all fine ladies, instead of rational creatures. We none of us expect to be in smooth water all our days.” (Persuasion, Jane Austen)

Jane Austen: True romantic or rational creature? Her novels transport us back to the Regency, a time when well-mannered gentlemen and finely-bred ladies fell in love as they danced at balls and rode in carriages. Yet her heroines, such as Elizabeth Bennet, Anne Elliot, and Elinor Dashwood, were no swooning, fainthearted damsels in distress. Austen’s novels are timeless classics because of their biting wit, honest social commentary - because she wrote of strong women who were ahead of their day. True to their principles and beliefs, they fought through hypocrisy and broke social boundaries to find their happily-ever-after.

In the third romance anthology of The Quill Collective series, 16 celebrated Austenesque authors write the untold histories of Austen’s heroines, brave adventuresses, shy maidens, talkative spinsters, and naughty matrons. Peek around the curtain and discover what made Lady Susan so wicked, Mary Crawford so capricious, and Hettie Bates so in need of Emma Woodhouse’s pity.

Rational Creatures is a collection of humorous, poignant, and engaging short stories set in Georgian England that complement and pay homage to Austen’s great works and great ladies who were, perhaps, the first feminists in an era that was not quite ready for feminism.

“Make women rational creatures, and free citizens, and they will become good wives; - that is, if men do not neglect the duties of husbands and fathers.” (Mary Wollstonecraft)

Stories by: Elizabeth Adams, Nicole Clarkston, Karen M Cox, J. Marie Croft, Amy D’Orazio, Jenetta James, Jessie Lewis, KaraLynne Mackrory, Lona Manning, Christina Morland, Beau North, Sophia Rose, Anngela Schroeder, Joana Starnes, Brooke West, and Caitlin Williams

Edited by Christina Boyd

Foreword by Devoney Looser

Full list of authors includes Brooke West.

©2018 Christina Boyd (P)2019 Christina Boyd

What listeners say about Rational Creatures: Stirrings of Feminism in the Hearts of Jane Austen's Fine Ladies

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Perfect for winter sun

Rational Creatures accompanied me on a recent winter break to Dubai, and it was the perfect choice. I was a little sceptical when first reading the synopsis but I was presently surprised by the depth and warmth of each story. The narration by Victoria Riley requires special mention, which was beautifully pitched and really brought the writing to life. Perfect for by the pool relaxation.

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Rational Creatures? Yes, even Miss Bates!

For this third anthology from the Quill Collective, Christina Boyd has drawn together another outstanding group of writers in the Austenesque genre. This time the focus is on an assortment of Jane Austen's female characters. The phrase 'rational creature' was used more than once by Jane Austen herself in her writings and I suspect (and certainly like to imagine) that Miss Austen wrote many of these characters as her way of protesting the lot of women in her time. From our 21st century perspective, it's difficult to imagine what a breath of fresh air her works must have been two hundred years ago. The book opens with a fascinating foreword by Austen scholar (and roller derby participant) Devoney Looser. The stories are all Regency-set and arranged in order of the publication of their source works. The subject characters are: Elinor Dashwood, Marianne Dashwood, Elizabeth Bennet, Charlotte Lucas, Emma Woodhouse, Hetty Bates, Harriet Smith, Fanny Price, Mary Crawford, Anne Elliot, Sophia Croft, Penelope Clay, Louisa Musgrove, Catherine Morland, Eleanor Tilney and Lady Susan Vernon. Some are prequels, some are sequels and some run alongside the action of their canon stories. Some are first person, some third. As you can see, although all of the heroines from Jane Austen's six major works are represented, there's a fair sprinkling of some rather unexpected characters. Miss Bates and Harriet Smith as rational creatures? I guarantee you'll never read 'Emma' again in the same light! The same goes for Mrs. Clay and Louisa Musgrove from 'Persuasion'. And Lady Susan's prequel, told in epistolary form as in the original, is exceedingly well done. Of course, the entire collection is wonderful from start to finish and I can't single out any one as being better than the rest; they're all told in style by their respective authors. I'd recommend reading them through in order to start with, then you could dip in and out on a subsequent reading, if you wish. There's no 'mature' content in any of these tales, though there are sexual references in some. This is the same review that I posted for the ebook version of this wonderful anthology. I will only add that Veronica Riley's performance of the aforementioned ladies is absolutely fantastic. She manages to imbue each of them with all the qualities one would expect from reading them on the page (or screen!). Five stars seems poor and inadequate.

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Shows off the best of the genre and the format

This genre- which I never expected to enjoy when I read my first example- is so perfect for the audiobook format, being all about immersion and imagination. More than with a full length novel, where there are arcs to get tangled up in, these pieces are pure, concentrated Regency pools to sink into, and the narrator's exquisite delivery is such an enhancement to the experience. You can absolutely tell the narrator is classically trained, and her expressive and varied delivery is a joy to listen to. Great work, all involved.

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A highly diverting book of re-imagined classics

I was very much looking forward to this book, with its focus on the strength of character in the women who populated Jane Austen's writing. Despite the constraints of the day, many of her heroines were intelligent and spirited; just unconventional enough to have been accessible in my youth, when I first fell in love with them (and the gentlemen by whom they are pursued!). Taking a closer look at Austen's women, examining their stories from a different perspective, or re-imagining them let loose, was too tempting a prospect to pass up! I'm very glad I did listen to it as the tales within are witty, charming, and thoroughly entertaining in the main. They are not all entirely true to the characters from whom they drew their inspiration, but each explores a facet of Austen's world in which it feels truly embedded. There were some stories I vastly preferred to others but that is only to be expected when listening to an anthology with so many contributors. My favourite tales were often those about women whose stories were largely left unexplored in the original novels, with the most enjoyable being Croft's The Simple Things, Starnes' Charlotte's Comfort, Mackrory's Where the Sky Touches the Sea, North's Louisa by the Sea, and Cox's A Nominal Mistress. As with so many anthologies, I do wish the chapter headings in the Audible app bore the title of the story currently playing. I know it is possible as, for one, Stephen Fry utilises the feature in Mythos. It would make it so much easier to dip back into one's favourite stories at a later date. Bookmarking favourites is all well and good, but requires rather a lot of faffing if the title (or author) of a particular tale is not noted at the very beginning of the chapter. This is where print copies do have something of an advantage, but it is not insurmountable and would be much improved if Audible and its authors used the platform's features to their fullest. Victoria Riley's performance as narrator is charming throughout, bringing life to the characters and evoking memories of my favourite adaptations. She falls prey to a few mispronunciations of the period language, ("victuals" etc), but they are very few and far between and not detrimental to the overall experience. At first I thought Riley's crisp, Hayley-Mills-esque cut-glass English accent sounded a little too deliberate at times - as if it was not the narrator's natural manner of speech - but, in a way, that actually complemented the era. Georgian Britain was an age when young ladies like those featured in these stories had to consider their words and actions carefully. Even for the fiercest, most feisty heroine an inappropriate word in the wrong ear could ruin her reputation at a time when a good name may be all she had to recommend her. Honing one's accomplishments and refining oneself was expected amongst the classes represented in this anthology, so it feels rather fitting that the narrator sounds very much like she is trying to present the best account of herself. As the book progressed I came to like her performance very well. I would recommend this book to fans of Jane Austen and Mary Wollstonecraft, and lovers of Regency romance everywhere who have - on occasion - wanted to shake one of the women in the stories, or take them gently by the hand and promise them there's a better way. *I received this audiobook free of charge in exchange for an honest, unbiased review.

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beautifully written and read

Wonderful collection of stories which are read perfectly in Victoria Rileys melodic voice. A real treat.

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  • love2dazzle
  • 11-09-19

The audiobook kept me listening for hours.

Rational Creatures: Stirring of Feminism in the Hearts of Jane Austen's Fine Ladies, the Quill Collective, Book 3 by Joana Starnes, Amy D'Orazio, Caitlin Williams, Karen Cox, Jenetta James, Beau North, Chistina Morland, Nicole Clarkston, Elizabeth Adams, J. Marie Croft, Jessie Lewis, Kara Lynne Mackrory, Lona Manning, Sophia Rose, Anngela Schoreder, and Brooke West. Now that is a lot of names. Each of these writers brought you a story about a different Austen character. 1. Self-Composed by Christina Morland. (Elinor Dashwood.) 2. Every Past Affliction by Nicole Clarkston. (Marianne Dashwood.) 3. Happiness in Marriage by Amy D'Orazio. (Elizabeth Bennett.) 4. Charlotte's Comfort by Joana Starnes. (Charlotte Lucas.) 5. Knightly Discourse by Anngela Schroeder. (Emma Woodhouse.) 6. The Simple Things by J. Marie Croft. (Hetty Bates.) 7. In Good Hands by Caitlin Williams. (Harriet Smith.) 8. The Meaning of Wife by Brooke West. (Fanny Price.) 9. What Strange Creatures by Jenetta James. (Mary Crawford.) 10. An Unnatural Beginning by Elizabeth Adams. (Anne Elliot.) 11. Where the Sky Touches the Sea by KaraLynne Mackrory. (Sophia Croft.) 12. The Art of Pleasing by Lona Manning. (Penelope Clay.) 13. Louisa by the Sea by Beau North. (Louisa Musgrove.) 14. The Strength of Their Attachment by Sophia Rose. (Catherine Morland.) 15. A Nominal Mistress by Karen M. Cox. (Eleanor Tilney.) 16. The Edification of Lady Susan by Jessie Lewis. (Lady Susan.) This collection of stories is taking a deeper dive into Austen’s greatest female characters. I thought it was definitely interesting to see someone else’s take on these characters. We had a variety of characters from the heroines to the minors. A lot of the ideas behind these short stories come the feminist ideas that are discussed in Mary Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Women. The narrator was such a perfect match for this book. I loved how she performed all the different characters. She was so easy to listen too. I thought that her British accent fit so well. She put so much life into these stores that I felt I was really able to get to know these characters. I thought the writers and narrator did a fantastic job with the story collection mash up. I thought the stories were fun and engaging. The audiobook kept me listening for hours. Over 18 hours. I thought this was a fantastic edition. I found that I really enjoyed this collection.

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  • The Book Junkie Reads . . .
  • 22-09-19

loved the different voices, perspectives

Each story had its own unique appeal. Each one made a connection to you in a different way and allowed you to connect to each set(s) of characters with a different kind of charm, wit, and beauty from a time where romance was not the norm but almost a duty. Each of the stories gives you a taste of the something deeper in the world(s) of Jane Austen. Victoria Riley did a fantastic job narrating each for the era and each story. She had the type of voice that could carry off the time period. VR gave a sense of authentic Georgian England with the pitch, tone, and diction. Of course this would have been no good if she didn't pull off the English accent both refined and not so refined. It was a pleasure getting to know more of the various characters from various setting of Austen's worlds.

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  • C. Hawkins
  • 19-09-19

Brilliant! Loved these Jane Austen side stories

This is my favorite Jane Austen fan fiction and the narratuon was impressive. Each chapter is the back story or parallel story of a character in Jane Austen novels. Even including a prequel for lady Susan. I was sad each time the chapter ended and I had to leave the character behind but looked forward to the next one. Please Please assemble another - I can't get enough

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  • Lauralee
  • 09-09-19

Fun for Jane Austens Fans!

Jane Austen remains one of the world’s most beloved authors. To this day, many of her fans adore her heroines and discuss whether Elizabeth Bennet or Emma Woodhouse is their favorite. Fans also like to pick apart Fanny’s timid nature and often wonder why Mary Crawford was not the heroine in Mansfield Park. In this anthology, the authors explore Jane Austen’s female characters and their traits. By giving a thorough examination of a particular female character, the reader will notice how the short stories mirror the feminist ideas discussed in Mary Wollstonecraft's A Vindication of the Rights of Woman. Jane Austen is one of my favorite authors of all time. My favorite heroines are Emma Woodhouse, Elizabeth Bennet, Elinor Dashwood, and Anna Elliot. Thus, reading these short stories that focus on these characters were a real delight to me. However, there were a few pleasant surprises throughout this audiobook. The stories also focused on secondary characters like Mary Crawford, Harriet Smith, and Hetty Bates. I absolutely loved the short story on Charlotte Lucas, which is a short Pride and Prejudice sequel. I also liked the story of how Lady Susan became wicked because she was a loathsome character. Thus, each of these stories gave me an extra insight into the characters. While each of the stories were enjoyable, they were all brought to life by a fantastic narrator. The narrator had a British accent that made the performance very believable. Each character she narrated remained true to their original characteristics. Ms. Riley also portrayed the characters with a hint of vulnerability, so that it seemed as if each character was your best friend. Thus, I was blown away by Ms. Riley’s narration and she made the characters shine as bright as the PBS’s adaptations! Overall, these stories are about marriage, first love, inner strength and heroism. The stories were very engaging, witty, and thoughtful. I like how they were very reminiscent of Jane Austen’s writing. I also like how the stories did an excellent job in exploring women’s roles in the Regency era. While there were at least two stories that did not enhance Jane Austen’s original novels, this is still a great listen for Austenites! Rational Creatures is perfect for fans of Austenland, Dancing with Mr. Darcy, and Lost in Austen. (Note: I received this audiobook as part of my participation in a blog tour with Audiobookworm Promotions. The tour is being sponsored by Christina Boyd. The gifting of this audiobook did not affect my opinion of it.)

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  • HeatherY
  • 19-08-19

What's Not to Love?

This is collection of 16 short stories told by some of the best writers of Jane Austen fan fiction. The stories are meant to take a deeper look into some of Austen's great female characters. Some of these characters were fully fleshed out by Austen herself, and others have backstories merely hinted at. The characters range from main characters like Lizzy Bennet or Emma Woodhouse, to lesser players like Miss Bates, Mrs. Croft, and Penelope Clay. The stories themselves stay within the boundaries of Austen's writing, meaning that they fill in moments in Austen canon, like Anne Elliot's refusal of Capt. Wentworth, or Harriet Smith's meeting and courtship of Robert Martin. The stories are so well written, as I've come to expect from these authors. The stories stayed faithful to the language of the period and the personality of the original characters, which I always appreciate. I could never pick a favorite, each one had something to love. If I had to pick a single moment I'd say I loved watching Emma get just a little taste of how she made Mr. Knightley feel! It took me longer than usual to finish this book because I had to go back and revisit my favorite passages from the original works, it was that good. The narrator was perfectly matched to the stories, she was able to perform different characters and was a pleasure to listen to. I requested a copy of the audiobook, and I'm voluntarily leaving a review. After listening to the previous two anthologies, I would highly recommend all three to Austen fans!

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  • Travelin' Fool
  • 17-07-20

Best Austen fan fiction I have read yet!

What is most impressive is the quality of the writers/writing. These authors get the characters right where other (lesser) authors distort them and really make them into different people. These Quill writers seem to be sensitive to the reading of the Austen originals in another way too: they imagine stories that fill in gaps of interest to Austen readers, and they show the parts of characters' minds and experience that make the originals even more enjoyable. The focus on rational female characters is pleasing and plausible--not forced. Overall, it is impressive that these writers create something original that fits with Austen's works and don't just rehash Austen's plots and throw in some few new or extra-ordinary twists. Two thumbs up!

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  • Kaye
  • 05-02-20

A must for any Austen fans

This is a great collection of stories that take Jane Austen’s Fine Ladies further into their lives and showcase how they are both clever and much more feminist than you might have previously thought. The stories are charming, clever and well written, and the performers are excellently chosen for the various characters. Even if you have never cracked an Austen novel in your life, you will enjoy these stand alone stories on their own merit. Highly recommended to anyone who loves the drama and grace of early 19th century style.

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  • Rachele L
  • 04-10-19

Great Choice for Any Jane Austen Fan

Rational Creatures is a collection of stories based on the lives of women from various Jane Austen novels. The audiobook was well done, with a clear and pleasant-sounding narrator. The stories are all engaging and I loved every minute of this audiobook BUT this is a long (18hr) audiobook so be prepared to settle in and enjoy 🙂 #AudiobookObsessionReviewer

1 person found this helpful

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  • Christina Boyd
  • 24-02-20

Voice actress Victoria Riley delivers!

Victoria Riley's clear voice and perfect pacing, coupled with her range in accents makes her a standout narrator for this multi-story anthology. A project like "Rational Creatures"--with sixteen authors and numerous characters was surely a challenge but Riley’s performance was excellent from the first. This voice actor delivers an outstanding performance.