Imagine Classic Literary Characters living in the Modern World. Read Jane Eyre Gets Real, a Novel by Annabelle Troy, available on Amazon:

Kids Just Wanna Have Fun


In the Annabelle Troy novel Jane Eyre Gets Real, 9 characters from classic literature find themselves transported to a Big Brother type reality TV show, set in contemporary NYC. Heidi is the youngest cast member. Stuck in the midst of a sweltering New York City summer, with her optimistic nature she makes the best of it. But she can’t help wondering what is going on in Frankfurt (the only other big city she has ever known, where she stayed with her friend Clara). Below are some comparisons:

New York City has the Central Park Zoo, Dylan’s Candy Bar, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden and the Children’s Museum of Manhattan. This museum on West 83rd Street has hands-on educational exhibits, including America to Zanzibar where Heidi composed her own music on a tabla and learned how to say her name in 21 languages. In Germany there is the Frankfurt Zoo (a small zoo set in the midst of the city and known for its mischievous monkeys); and the Palmengarten featuring 5000 types of outdoor plants as well as a greenhouse. Heidi’s favorite place in Frankfurt is Bären-Treff, a sweet shop with a vast selection of gummy candy. Forget the usual cherry bears and, like Heidi, savor daring flavors which include “red bull” and chili pepper.

For Heidi, no matter where she is, the absolute best thing to do on a summer’s day is to visit kids (the animal kind) at her local petting zoo.






How Jane Eyre Kept Her Cool


In the middle of summer, when many places including NYC are shimmering with heat, you may wonder how, I, Jane Eyre stayed crisp and cool in a time before air conditioning. It’s well-known that Victorian ladies wore a lot of clothing. I was no exception; I would never have dreamed of walking about in a camisole and pantaloons, the equivalent of a modern girl’s t-shirt and shorts! Nor am I fan of polyester dresses. Natural fibers like muslin, cotton and linen allowed me to breathe even in the worst 19th century heat. Though I always wore a corset in public, I did allow myself only one petticoat during the months of July and August.

In medieval times bathing was thought to bring on the plague, by exposing the body’s delicate pores to water. By the 1840s we had gotten over this idea but there was no modern plumbing consisting of pipes or flush toilets. As a girl I bathed in a copper tub as was the custom, and because I was the least important person in the household, I used bath water in which my Aunt Reed, my male cousin, and my two girl cousins had already immersed themselves. If there had been an infant in the house he or she would have bathed after me; hence the expression “don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.”

Soap underwent a major transformation in the 1840s. when manufacturers began to replace lye made from wood ash with chemical products. Being a country girl my soap was generally still fashioned out of lye and tallow, with maybe a handful of dried rose petals mixed in. Perfumes were not made out of heavy musk and ambergris until much later in the century; but as a married lady I did allow myself a dab or two of orange blossom-scented toilet water. As fastidious as all governesses must be, I brushed my teeth with a sponge and warm water each morning; occasionally I whitened them with a powder of crushed sage. My friend, Madame Emma Bovary, was not quite so lucky; it was a trend in France to brush your teeth with urine, a practice mocked by some but extolled by others. Mr. Rochester liked to scrub his teeth with gunpowder, also a popular practice. Though a form of 3-row bristle brush was invented in 1838, my nursemaid Bessie used to chew on a thin twig with a frayed end until she died–nearly toothless, I might add.

As for going swimming to keep cool, it was usual in my day to walk by the sea and catch the breezes. It became more accepted for girls to bathe in the ocean as my stepdaughter Adele matured. Of course, she always wore a proper bathing costume which kept her limbs well-hidden and she emerged into the ocean from a bathing machine, which otherwise kept her from the public’s vulgar gaze.


Jane Eyre: Imitation Is The Highest Form of Flattery


I don’t mind when authors write books inspired by my own story. In fact, I feel honored to be noticed. Of course, each writer takes my life into her own hands with varying degrees of wit and skill. One popular book, Re Jane, by Patricia Park, has me quite baffled. It’s a modern recreation of my tale, using a Korean-American heroine in my stead–all well and good. But the childhood of Korean Jane, though she is an orphan forced to work in her uncle’s grocery store, doesn’t seem bleak enough; and Mr. Rochester’s stand-in, professor Ed Farley, is a beta male at best, a sensitive wimp nothing like my own Edward. Unlike in my own book, the best part of Re Jane is in the middle, when Jane goes to Korea and remakes herself as a high-fashion corporate type.  Re Jane is fine as bright “chick lit”, a term I apologize for using btw as I despise it; but the glowing reviews which make the novel seem like real literature are what have me in dismay.

A better book, I thought, was Jane Steele by Lyndsay Fay. It is inspired by Jane Eyre rather than trying to be a retelling of my tale. Jane Steel’s favorite book is Jane Eyre and she wishes she could be me–a quaint desire! What makes Jane S. unique is that she is a serial killer, a downfallen Victorian orphan girl who uses murder, rather than virtue, to improve her circumstances. Also, the romantic figure here is likewise a killer, the dashing Charles Thornfield, originally from India and as enigmatic as that country. He is a great improvement on professor Ed Farley! When faced with a problem, Charles uses his wits and a series of Sikh weapons to solve it, rather than resorting to emotion.

Of course, the best in a recent windfall of books where I am the inspiration is Jane Eyre Gets Real by Annabelle Troy. Available on Amazon, it features me waking up in contemporary New York City, as a character in a Big Brother type reality TV show. My flatmates include Mr. Darcy, Alice in Wonderland, Sherlock Holmes, David Copperfield, and Emma Bovary. In order to get back “home”, back into the pages of my book, I must attract enough modern day readers. Please check out the link below and read Jane Eyre Gets Real today!




Beauty Sleep

The lavish production of Tchaikovsky’s The Sleeping Beauty performed by American Ballet Theater this season is pastel eye candy. It’s like an illustration from a fairy tale come to life, with over 400 costumes, 200 wigs (make that periwigs) and many set changes. The style of this production suggests the courtly 18th century: a time when upper body movements, melodramatic acting, and intricate footwork were the stars of the show. In consequence, the production can seem a little soporific, devoid of lightning leaps and show-stopping turns, but its prettiness is never in doubt.

In the 19th century Philippe Taglioni pioneered what was the forerunner of the modern ballet style: athletic leaps, clean and visible lines of movement, dancing en pointe (on tippy toe). He added the Romantic element–white tutus, moonlight, heroines dying for love. His talented daughter Marie Taglioni, known for her role in Le Sylphide, was his muse. Read about her life and times on Amazon. The Grace of the Hunchback by Annabelle Troy will be available for free July 2-6.



In Praise of Heroines

Heroines come in all ages, races, and body types. They remind us that being a woman is different than being a girl. In Jane Austen’s Persuasion, her last completed novel published posthumously in 1817, the protagonist Anne Elliot is no blushing maiden. She is well into what would at that time be considered middle age, when she becomes reacquainted with her original love, Captain Wentworth, a man she rejected years before because her family didn’t approve of him. Persuasion is both a biting satire, perhaps Austen’s most acidic, and a Cinderella story for the woman approaching autumn. Anne finally marries Wentworth, but not until she has undergone decades of character development and weathered the vagaries of fortune.

In the 1955 David Lean movie, Summertime, no less a formidable lady than Katherine Hepburn plays Jane, a secretary on a Venetian holiday. Having granted herself this vacation as a treat, she gets more than she bargained for when she meets a handsome antique store owner (Rossano Brazzi). He captures her heart; then breaks it when she learns he is married. Though his romantic interest in her is sincere, Jane cannot go against her morals and she breaks off the relationship. This bittersweet story shows a sophisticated and complicated situation, against a gorgeous Italian background. It’s both escapism and harsh reality at the same time.

In present day New York City,  Denise Marsa, singer/songwriter and owner of her own PR firm, is preparing her one-woman show. Entitled The Pass, it will tell of her life and times, which include being lead vocalist on HELPLESS (You Took My Love) by the Flirts & “Lucky Stars”, with Dean Friedman. Due to have its first salon reading in the late fall of 2016, The Pass is a true tale of a woman’s journey through stardom, disappointment, conflicting loves, and ultimate triumph, as she learns to take control of her own destiny. The link to Denise’s blog:

Heroines don’t live only on the pages of Jane Austen or on movie screens. They’re not just Jane Eyre or Alice in Wonderland, and they’re not always teenagers. They are your sister, your mother, your neighbor, your friend; they are you.

A Taste for Lace


Emma Bovary, in the course of her summer shopping, has been delighted to find lace making a come back. In her day she was a mean tatter. For those not into thread work, there are several ways lace can be made:

Needle: the creme de la creme, the lace of royalty, made just with a needle and thread. Venetian Gros Point–no, not a city in Michigan– is an example.

Bobbin : pins are stuck into a pillow, traditionally one of straw. Bobbins made of bone or wood are used to weave the threads around these pins. Chantilly Lace–no, not the song–is this sort of lace. Bobbin lace has existed since the 1500s when women, primarily in Italy, made extra or “pin” money from its weaving.

Tatted: feminine version of Boy Scout knot tying or perhaps Victorian macrame? Lace, used for collars, cuffs and other trimmings, is formed by making a series of  knots over a core thread.

Cutwork: portions of fabric are cut away to make patterns that are then reinforced with embroidery.

Crocheted: check out your grandmother’s doilies.

Machine-made: patterns are replicated via machine. Sorry, but it’s the merde you are probably wearing. Never fear, you can remedy the situation by purchasing a lace making kit from Amazon:



Vintage Summer Flicks


In Jane Eyre Gets Real, a novel available on Amazon, 9 literary characters including Jane Eyre, Sherlock Holmes, and Mr. Darcy, find themselves on a reality TV show in contemporary New York City. As hot weather approaches and they spend more time staying inside their air-conditioned apartment, Holmes figures out how to use the DVD player. They begin to binge-watch old movies with, fittingly, the theme of “summer.” Here are their favorites:

Jane Eyre: Summer and Smoke. When a spinster’s love for a handsome doctor is unrequited, she drifts around cemeteries and hooks up with traveling salesmen. ‘Nuff said.

Heidi: Summer Magic. Poor, plucky widow and her cute kids move to dilapidated farmhouse which they fix up so that it looks gorgeous. Hayley Mills sings!

Madame Bovary: Smiles on a Summer Night. Sophisticated, balmy Ingmar Bergman classic, shot in black and white. What life should be like, if one wasn’t stuck with a stupid, ugly husband and a cheapskate mother-in-law.

Hester Prynne: Suddenly, Last Summer starring Katherine Hepburn and Elizabeth Taylor. Because even wearing a scarlet A pales in comparison with lobotomy, not to mention being eaten by a pack of urchins.

Alice in Wonderland: (500) Days of Summer. Pretty blue-eyed people kind of fall in love, artistically. Made in 2009 so not quite vintage but these days time moves so quickly, it almost qualifies!

Mr. Darcy: A Summer Place. Old-fashioned love story about couple who never marry in the first place due to class barriers, then reunite decades later. Sandra Dee plays the daughter.

Dorian Gray: A Summer’s Tale directed by Eric Rohmer. Young man on beach holiday drifts around looking for sex and ice cream.

David Copperfield: Summer of ’42. It’s a MILF thing.

Sherlock Holmes: I Know What You Did Last Summer. What??? Hey, even Sherlock is allowed to have a guilty pleasure. No one can be brilliant all the time.





Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte Bronte Russe

Most people know that the creator of Jane Eyre was named Charlotte Bronte. Considering how freedom is one of the novel’s most important themes, it is interesting that “Charlotte” means “free man”–it is the feminine form of the name Charles. That’s why Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge named their little princess Charlotte, to honor William’s father. In 2015 Charlotte was ranked The #1 Most Popular Girl’s Name by Nameberry (#1 boy’s name: Ezra–yes, Ezra).

Below Jane Eyre fills us in on some Charlottes that are more obscure:

Hush, Hush Sweet Charlotte: 1964 film directed by Robert Aldrich, starring Bette Davis and Joseph Cotton. An elaborate Gothic plot involving murder, madness, and an inheritance up for grabs is enhanced by artsy black and white photography. It’s as much fun as you can have without a mimosa, and deserves to garner a new audience.

Charlotte Russe: not to be confused with the juniors’ clothing line, is a dessert made out of Bavarian creme set inside a mold of ladyfingers. Invented in the 18th century, Charlotte Russe was once extremely popular at debutante balls. There are many imitators such as sponge cake and jam rolls. But the real thing always involves ladyfingers, possibly why this confection’s appeal has waned. When was the last time you saw ladyfingers in your grocery aisle? Rest assured they are still available at Walmart. Now all you have to do is figure out how to make Bavarian creme.

Frozen Charlotte: a tiny, mass-produced doll that cost a penny in the 1800s.  Made either of china or bisque, the dolls often had unglazed stoneware backs, which enabled them to float in a bathtub. (The male versions, known as Frozen Charlies, had boyish, painted-on hairstyles.)  The dolls were inspired by Fair Charlotte, an American ballad based on a poem called A Corpse Going to a Ball. In this poem a vain girl won’t wear a cloak over her beautiful gown when she goes for a sleigh ride. Consequently, she freezes to death. Indeed, some Frozen Charlottes came with their own teeny coffins.  It became a fad to bake Charlotte dolls, minus the caskets, inside Christmas puddings, resulting in their finders having a year of good luck or chocking to death (whichever came first).





Summer Tea-sers

Tea is not just for winter. The nine characters in the novel Jane Eyre Gets Real share their favorite way to enjoy this classic beverage on a steamy summer’s day.

Alice in Wonderland: a pot of chamomile served with rabbit mousse tea sandwiches; rabbit mousse is like ham mousse but made with–well, you know….

Emma Bovary: oolang tea macarons

Hester: homemade herbal tea cough drops (good for allergies)

Mr. Darcy: Earl Grey shortbread biscuits

Sherlock Holmes: salmon cured in lapsang souchong

Dorian Gray (no relation to Earl): iced tea with bourbon

Jane Eyre: lavender tea bread

David Copperfield: black tea punch (Mr. Dickens loved it!)

Heidi: chai tea fudge





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