Pride, Prejudice and Cheese Grits by Mary Jane Hathaway

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

About the Book:
Author: Mary Jane Hathaway
Publisher: Howard Books
Source: Publisher Provided
Publication Date: 2014 (re-issue)
Buy the Book:
Find the Review elsewhere:
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Series: Jane Austen Takes the South, book 1
Genre: Fiction; Contemporary, Romance
Rating: 4 out of 5
If you’ve been a reader of this blog for any length of time, you know I’m pretty much game for any re-telling that has the name Jane Austen attached. Several of us have even had friendly debates about what works and what doesn’t. This Southern set series was one I saw on Amazon back when it was published independently, and it’s now getting reissues by HarperCollins and its Christian divisions Howard Books. The first in the series is, appropriately a spin (or perhaps more of an influenced story inspired by) on Pride & Prejudice. Set in the college scene, Shelby Roswell is a hard-working professor passionate about her research as a Civil War historian, only her class size is pitiful and the one book she published lambasted by a prestigious historian. Her life gets complicated when that historian Ransom Fielding takes a job at Shelby’s small-town college leaving her more hackled than honored. This sets into motion the two clashing personalities debating everything from how best to go from adversaries to reasonable colleagues... all served up with a side of cheese grits!

This is another one of those novels that wasn’t – honestly – what I expected. The rapid introduction of characters produces a mad dash for the reader to attempt figuring out their counterparts while realizing that some of the characters are part of how the author sees this story not how we may know it. What’s most attractive about this story is its blend of contemporary and history. Anyone who prefers historical stories over the contemporary will find in this a potential kindred spirit in this unusually quirky novel – there is a ton of trivia thanks to the bantering about the Civil War between the two feuding historians, which for me became maybe a bit too monotonous (mainly because I went in expecting a light-hearted, easy-to-read contemporary) to be honest. That being said, the reason for this fits the story well and isn’t just added for the sake of filling conversations.

Half the fun of this book is puzzling over which notions are in homage to Austen’s iconic characters and discovering the who’s who of everyone. Aside from Shelby (Lizzie) and Ransom (Darcy), it’s really anyone’s guess and interpretation who is who, partly because the secondary characters didn't seem as important and others because there are little to no similarities hence in my mind making the character an addition to enhance the story. In this version, there are only two additional “Bennet sisters” and both are younger than Shelby, who comes across as a combination of Lizzie and Jane. She’s got some spunk, and a kind heart. For readers who aren’t a fan of Austen retellings, I’d encourage you to give this story a shot. It’s not a traditional retelling of the classic – and I mean this in the best way, and is instead a quirky romance of its own making. Sure there is the tug-and-pull of the traditional banter between Shelby and Ransom, as is the overall "icon" of the beloved Austen story and I really liked Shelby’s friend Rebecca. Their hilarious girl chit chat is reminiscent of the best sister moments in the classic Pride & Prejudice which makes for a lovely lighthearted break from the historical facets.

Entertaining in the best sense, this Southern novel has all the right characteristics to work and it’s one of those books that is about more than meets the eye!

Synopsis: This hilarious Southern retelling of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice tells the story of two hard-headed Civil war historians who find that first impressions can be deceiving.

Shelby Roswell, a Civil War historian and professor, is on the fast track to tenure, that is, until her new book is roasted by the famous historian Ransom Fielding in a national review. With her career stalled by a man she’s never met, Shelby struggles to maintain her composure when she discovers that Fielding has taken a visiting professorship at her small Southern college.

Ransom Fielding is still struggling with his role in his wife’s accidental death six years ago and is hoping that a year at Shelby’s small college near his hometown of Oxford, Mississippi, will be a respite from the pressures of Ivy League academia. He never bargained for falling in love with the one woman whose career, and pride he injured, and who would do anything to make him leave.

When these two hot-headed southerners find themselves fighting over the centuries-old history of local battles and antebellum mansions, their small college is about to become a battlefield of Civil War proportions.

With familiar and relatable characters and wit to spare, Pride, Prejudice and Cheese Grits shows you that love can conquer all, especially when pride, prejudice, love, and cheese grits are involved!

Coming Next from Mary Jane Hathaway: From the bestselling author of Pride, Prejudice, and Cheese Grits comes a new and comical contemporary take on the perennial Jane Austen classic, Emma.

Caroline Ashley is a journalist on the rise at The Washington Post until the sudden death of her father brings her back to Thorny Hollow to care for her mentally fragile mother and their aging antebellum home. The only respite from the eternal rotation of bridge club meetings and garden parties is her longtime friend, Brooks Elliott. A professor of journalism, Brooks is the voice of sanity and reason in the land of pink lemonade and triple layer coconut cakes. But when she meets a fascinating, charismatic young man on the cusp of a brand new industry, she ignores Brooks' misgivings and throws herself into the project.

Brooks struggles to reconcile his parents very bitter marriage with his father's devastating grief at the recent loss of his wife. Caroline is the only bright spot in the emotional wreckage of his family life. She's a friend and he's perfectly happy to keep her safely in that category. Marriage isn't for men like Brooks and they both know it, until a handsome newcomer wins her heart. Brooks discovers Caroline is much more than a friend, and always has been, but is it too late to win her back?

Featuring a colorful cast of southern belles, Civil War re-enactors, and good Christian women with spunk to spare, Emma, Mr. Knightley, and Chili-Slaw Dogs brings the modern American South to light in a way only a contemporary Jane Austen could have imagined.
– via Goodreads, July 2014

Sincere thanks to the publisher for providing a complimentary copy of this book for reviewing purposes.


  1. Replies
    1. It is pretty fun, Juju. Enjoy if/when you read it. :)

  2. I saw this book a couple of weeks ago and was super intrigued. I, like you, like pretty much anything Jane Austen related (except the movie Lost in Austen--that was a fail for me). I am very excited about this one now that I read your thoughts on it. Great review!

    1. This is a fun story, Bekah. I liked how Mary Jane spun the "scandal" that sent Darcy (Ransom) away from Lizzy (Shelby) because it was appropriate for the story and it was nice that their bickering wasn't as "back and forth" as the original. Hope you enjoy this one! :)

  3. I saw this one offhand somewhere, but when the third one popped up on Edelweiss I requested it! I can't resist a Jane Austen retelling with a Southern twist! I'm glad to see you enjoyed this one. I like that it sounds like it's not a totally faithful adaptation as well. Sometimes I like twists. :) Great review Rissi! :D

    1. I agree, Rachel! It is fun to read a "retelling" that isn't afraid to be itself. And this book is great at that. Cannot wait to read your thoughts, too, and I hope you like it. Already I'm curious about book two - especially since I enjoy Emma. :)

      Thanks for reading.


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