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About The Book

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!

Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for Pride, Prejudice, and Cheese Grits includes an introduction, discussion questions, ideas for enhancing your book club, and a Q&A with author Mary Jane Hathaway. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.


Shelby Roswell is a woman on a mission. As a professor of Civil War history at a small college in the South, her sights are set on becoming a tenured faculty member, with every publication and course evaluation an important addition to her portfolio. But it appears her plans will be foiled when Ransom Fielding, a handsome visiting professor in her department, publishes a review of her new book that has the potential to destroy both her hopes for tenure and her reputation within the department. The battle lines are drawn, and the stage is set for a modern-day version of Pride and Prejudice with a southern flair.  

Topics & Questions for Discussion 

1. What did you enjoy most about Pride, Prejudice, and Cheese Grits? Which character was your favorite? Why?
2. Based on the description of each character in chapter one, how would you describe Shelby Roswell and Ransom Fielding? Which one were you most drawn to initially?
3. Discuss the role that assumptions play in creating conflict between characters throughout the book and the relationship between assumptions and prejudice. How have assumptions impacted your relationships in the past?
4. Compare and contrast Shelby Roswell with Elizabeth Bennet in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.
5. Which character(s) from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice does Shelby’s roommate, Rebecca, resemble? What role does Rebecca play in Shelby’s life and in the story?
6. In what ways is the vocation of Civil War historian an apt metaphor for the developing relationship between Shelby and Ransom?
7. How does David Whitcomb differ from Jane Austen’s Mr. Collins? How did David Whitcomb’s involvement in the video scandal add a different dimension to his character?
8. In what ways does Ransom Fielding demonstrate the beneficence and generosity of Mr. Darcy’s character in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice? Contrast his actions with Mr. Darcy’s.
9. What is Shelby Roswell’s fatal flaw throughout the story? In what ways is it the reverse side of her greatest strength? What is one of your qualities that can be both a gift and a curse, depending on how it is used?
10. In what way was Shelby’s experience with the disciplinary committee at Midlands an experience of “the shoe being on the other foot” for her in terms of making judgments about others? Have you ever had an experience where you received unfair treatment? How did the experience impact you?
11. Describe some of the key catalysts that contributed to the transformation in Ransom’s character throughout the story. Describe the changes you observed.
12. On page 302, Shelby “thought of how love shapes a person.” How were both Shelby and Ransom shaped by their growing love for each other?
13. What is the difference between making judgments about a person and prejudice? Can you make judgments without becoming prejudiced? Describe some examples of both that are illustrated throughout the story.
14. How does the description embedded in the stones of Shelby’s engagement ring reflect the journey that Shelby and Ransom have each taken throughout the story? In what ways were each of them on a personal quest to find “home?”
15. If you could spend an afternoon with one character from this story, who would you choose? Why?

Enhance Your Book Club

1. Watch the five-hour BBC version of Pride and Prejudice. Discuss how the seeds of “pride” and “prejudice” are planted and grow throughout the story. Discuss what is necessary for pride and prejudice to grow in a person’s heart and what is necessary for it to be weeded out.
2. Do a thought experiment for one week. Pay attention to the judgments you make about people when you meet them or interact with them (i.e. grocery store clerks, bank tellers, coworkers, family members, etc.). Reflect on the degree to which assumptions versus facts inform your judgments. Discuss possible antidotes for making assumptions about others at your next book club.
3. Read Matthew 23:25–28 and James 2:1–13. What does scripture teach about pride and prejudice?

A Conversation with Mary Jane Hathaway  1. What inspired you to write this series based on Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice?  

I read Bridget Jones’ Diary and laughed myself silly…. But I couldn’t really share that hilarious reworking of Pride and Prejudice with anyone because there were scenes and words that a lot of my family and friends wouldn’t enjoy. It started me thinking about a sweet version, and I ended up writing the book that I wanted to read and share.

2. How old were you when you first read Jane Austen? What was the first book you read?  

I was a Bronte fan first, then graduated to Jane Austen when I was about thirteen. I read Sense and Sensibility and thought it was very funny.

3. Is there a character in the book that you most identify with?  

We all love Elizabeth Bennet and I’d love to say I’m most like that ‘fine-eyed’ woman with the razor sharp wit! Sadly, I’m probably more like Mrs. Bennet, blurting out awkward statements at top volume and thinking the world would run so much smoother if I had control.

4. What did you enjoy the most about writing Pride, Prejudice, and Cheese Grits?  

Looking up all the Civil War history. I must have missed that section in high school (not completely surprising since I moved to France when I was fifteen) because almost everything I read was new to me.

5. How did you pick “the South” as the setting for this story? Did you grow up in the South?  

When I was mulling over the idea for a sweet rewriting of Pride and Prejudice, I knew I needed a geographical place with a truly rich tradition of food, family, and phrases. Part of the joy in reading Jane Austen is her description of the family relationships. I realized that so many of the situations she uses in her plot wouldn’t work today (with the rights that women have gained and the way family expectations have shifted), but with a little tweaking, the South could hold up an Austen plot with flair!

I’m not Southern but I think that’s only an oversight on God’s part. From the moment I walked down Bourbon Street in New Orleans twenty years ago, I’ve thought the South was the most beautiful and fascinating place in America. The more regions I visited, the more I loved it. When I moved to college, my roommate was from Mississippi. In some ways, it was like living with someone from a foreign country. She had different recipes, traditions, family obligations, and a deep pride in her home state.

6. What is the hardest part of writing under a pen name? Do you ever wish you weren’t anonymous?  

Well, the only strange moments have come when people recommended my own book to me when they hear I love Jane Austen! Mostly, it’s fun to see ‘Jane’ in my name. I wanted to name a baby Jane, but my husband wouldn’t agree. I suppose, the next best thing is to name myself Jane. As for being anonymous, my kids know who I am so everything else is gravy.

7. What was the hardest part of writing this story for you?  

Deciding to combine Wickham and Mr. Collins. Mr. Collins is such an excellent character and I could hear Jane Austen rolling in her grave as I made him much more than a sycophantic toady!

8. When do you find time to write novels while home-schooling six children?  

Short answer: Between ten P.M. and three A.M.

Long answer: In the summer, I can sit on a bench at the park and scribble notes while they play, but come winter, it’s all about the nighttime hours. My youngest is three, so I’m sure I could get him to let Mama alone while he plays with someone else, but I believe we should be as present as possible to the people in the room. There’s a movement called “Hands Free Parenting” that I think has a lot of wonderful ideas about communicating with our kids. I also think we’ve forgotten how to put down the cell phones and the tablets and have an actual conversation with the humans around us. So, I make an effort to be present to my kids during the day. Not to say I don’t pop into Facebook or Pinterest (I love those sites), but writing takes a different kind of concentration. When I’m interrupted while writing, it’s as if someone started speaking over me in a real conversation. It’s a whole lot easier for me (and for them) if I wait until it’s quiet before I work on a story. Setting boundaries between my writing time and my family time is probably the same as any person who works outside the home. No one would want to take a toddler to the office, and I wouldn’t want to write a book while shushing my kids.

As for homeschooling, we wake up later than most families who are commuting to work or a traditional school. Mine roll out of bed around eight A.M., when other kids might be on the bus by seven A.M. (which means their parents were up at 6AM to get them ready). So, being able to adjust my schedule to accommodate my writing time is one more bonus of homeschooling. We have the whole day to work on projects, meet friends, or go on field trips without the stress of trying to fit in my writing. Working so late is tiring, for sure, but when I’m not writing I get a sort of “mental cabin fever.” So, I’d rather be tired than crazy!

I look forward to the day when I can sleep at night and write during the sunlight hours, but until then, I have the best of both worlds.

9. Do you enjoy Civil War history?  

I love Civil War history. I have a whole shelf of books, collections of old photographs, and recording of Civil War – era songs. I didn’t know much about it until I started writing Pride, Prejudice, and Cheese Grits. My favorite history series is Bruce Catton’s American Civil War Trilogy. Tony Horwitz’s Confederates in the Attic was the first book I read about re-enactments and I was shocked to think normal folk would spend their weekends bloating in a ditch. I had never read The Red Badge of Courage until a few years ago and I carried that story inside me for weeks. And yes, I named my Shelby for Shelby Foote!

Now with the 150th anniversary of Gettysburg, there are new books out like Allen C. Guelzo’s Gettysburg: The Last Invasion, the Smithsonian’s Inside the Civil War and the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Photography of the Civil War. There’s never been a better time to learn about the Civil War.

10. If you could spend an afternoon with Jane Austen, what would you want to ask her?  

I would ask her what she felt was her biggest personal fault. Not because I’m overly curious about other people’s weaknesses, but because it would help me understand how a woman who saw the foibles of humanity so clearly still managed to treat everyone with compassion.

I admire Jane Austen’s wit, but I also admire her kindness. She walks a fine line between humor and sarcasm. She’s never cruel, even to her most ridiculous characters. In Pride and Prejudice, Wickham should have been roasted over the coals, but Mr. Darcy pays off all his debts in exchange for Wickham’s marrying Kitty. In Emma, Frank Churchill annoys everyone with his flirting and lies, but he gets a happy ending with Jane Fairfax. In Sense and Sensibility, Willoughby is a complete cad (almost puts Marianne in the grave with a broken heart), but he still marries a wealthy woman, is forgiven by his aunt, and gets a few pages to explain himself to the reader.

So, I think Jane Austen must have been a very humble and compassionate person, which are rare traits. I wonder if her humility came naturally, or was born from a particular moment in her life.

11. Food plays a major role in this story. Do you enjoy cooking? Do you make cheese grits and bayou pie?  

Oh my goodness. Does the sun rise? Yes, I love cooking! I’m not the best cook and I’ve been known to produce a few spectacular kitchen fails. I participate in a food blog called “Yankee Belle Café” where I document my exploits in a tiny red kitchen filled with children, often assisted by my trusty vintage mixer, Edna. She has much more experience than I do, but I don’t always take her advice. I probably enjoy cooking because I enjoy eating, but there’s also something very nourishing to the soul about spending a few hours creating a delicious dish from scratch.

Yes to both grits and bayou pie…and more.

12. What can we expect from you next?  

Emma, Mr. Knightley and Chili-Slaw Dogs is the second in the Austen takes the South series. Persuasion, Captain Wentworth, and Pickled Peaches is the third book in the series. This book is close to my heart and I can’t wait to see what readers think of it.

Sending a shout out to all the wonderful Austen fans and Southerners I’ve met while writing this series!

Now, I think I’ll make some cornbread.

About The Author

Photograph courtsey of the author

Mary Jane Hathaway is the pen name of an inspirational fiction writer. She homeschools her six children and lives in the small town of Milton-Freewater, Oregon.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Howard Books (January 14, 2014)
  • Length: 288 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781476776927

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Raves and Reviews

"Mary Jane Hathaway crafts a sweetly Southern-fried homage to our beloved Elizabeth and her Mr. Darcy. You'll root for the earnest heroine and fall prey to a Darcy who retains his edge. For readers who like their Austen variations as comforting as a deep-dish peach pie."

– Beth Pattillo, author of Jane Austen Ruined My Life

"I went into this series with a high level of excitement and expectations – (it couldn’t be helped, this book was on my wish-list for over a year!) I’m thrilled to say that Pride, Prejudice and Cheese Grits was an extremely absorbing and entertaining read that definitely exceeded my expectations. It has a perfect balance of southern charm, sweet romance, and clever nods to our dear Jane!"

– Austenesque

“Mary Jane Hathaway has struck the perfect balance of southern charm and Austenesque respect in her novel Pride, Prejudice and Cheese Grits.”

– The Calico Critic

“Hathaway references Dante, Wabi-Sabi, and Civil War history just as naturally as she praises the effect of a perfectly paired cocktail dress and bejeweled sandal. While ever keeping the romance at the forefront, conversations between the characters are just as likely to be lively repartee about the value of historic preservation or the changing expectations of women in society, as they are about the best shape of an engagement ring. For readers who love a heart-pounding romance but are tired of floozy characters with nothing to say, Hathaway acknowledges a world of substance and depth.”

– CatholicFiction.Net

“First things first, this book is ADORABLE. Pride, Prejudice and Cheese Grits definitely delivered in the romance department. The Austenian vibe, Southern charm and great characters were the perfect balance. Not too saccharin sweet, but just enough to give me goosebumps!”

– Magical Musings

“Hathaway’s take on Pride and Prejudice is fresh, fun, and funny — a comfort read complete with a couple of comfort-food recipes at the end."

– Diary of an Eccentric

“Mary Jane Hathaway has done outstanding justice to the resurrection of the sparky antics between Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy through her creation of modern day characters: Shelby Roswell and Ransom Fielding in her latest novel, Pride, Prejudice and Cheese Grits.”

– Feathered Quill Book Reviews

“This book was full of southern charm, and for a southern belle like me this was the icing on top of the cake.”

– Charming Chelsey’s Book Reviews

“If you love Jane Austen's Mr. Darcy or even if you haven't a clue as to who he is but want a light funny romance pick this book up! It's the perfect complement to a tall glass of sweet iced tea on your front porch swing."

– Rambles of a SAHM

“I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book from cover to cover. It had a quick start, great pace, and an upbeat storyline. There were well-developed and likable main characters, faith themes, and a multifaceted plot, plus a bonus recipe for cheese grits! This is a great read for lovers of romantic comedies!”


“As a history fan, Austen fan, and general fan of all things warm and fuzzy (except wool sweaters -- those are itchy), this book satisfied the yen for a light-hearted contemporary romance.”

– Black and Gold Girl’s Book Spot

“The story is comedic, heartwarming and inspiring as the chapters open with classic dialogue from the classic novel of Pride and Prejudice from Jane Austen. You can't help but feel you have fallen right into the middle of something fantastic that will keep you glued to the novel until you see how it all plays out. It truly rates up there with some of the best romantic comedies I watched and read and can only hope that some movie company will pick this up and bring it to the big screen.”

– Reviews From the Heart

“I'm in love. Pride, Prejudice and Cheese Grits is an absolute pleasure to read. The characters were phenomenal and the spin on Austen's classic is another classic in the making."

– The Canon

“Shelby and Ransom were the perfect dueling duo and the dialogue is hilarious. I found many well-done Pride and Prejudice allusions and no, I never got sick of them! Shelby’s mother and sisters are so shallow and snarky, it would be as satisfying as a slice of pecan pie to pop them all in the mouth.”

– Bubble Bath Books

“Shelby and Ransom were the perfect dueling duo and the dialogue is hilarious. I found many well-done Pride and Prejudice allusions and no, I never got sick of them! Shelby’s mother and sisters are so shallow and snarky, it would be as satisfying as a slice of pecan pie to pop them all in the mouth.”

– Bubble Bath Books

“Several scenes were laugh out loud funny and the dialogue between the characters was mellifluous. Hathaway does a fantastic job of weaving the themes of Pride and Prejudice into her narrative, and whether you are a fan of Jane Austen or not, PRIDE, PREJUDICE AND CHEESE GRITS is a fantastic summer read.”

– The Book Binder’s Daughter

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More books from this author: Mary Jane Hathaway

More books in this series: Jane Austen Takes the South