A Rogue Librarian's Reading List

{April 17, 2013}   Midnight in Austenland by Shannon Hale

midnight in austenlandPlot: Charlotte Kinder is still heartbroken over her divorce, disappointed by a string of bad dates and struggling to relate to her kids when she finds out about Pembrooke Park: a unique Jane Austen-themed retreat in Britain. Guests dress and live in regency style and flirt with handsome actors. But though she comes to Pembrooke Park to escape her troubles, she encounters many new intrigues both romantic and criminal. She must become the heroine of her tale in order to uncover the truth and find new love.

I’m a huge Jane Austen fan and Hale’s first Austenland novel made me dream and wish for a vacation at Pembrooke Park. I mean, seriously, period costumes and flirting with charming, attractive men? Yes, please! This companion novel was definitely not a hard sell. And it turns out that it was even better than the first. Midnight in Austenland awoke both the romantic and the detective in me.

If the first novel had something of Pride and Prejudice about it, this one draws more from Northanger Abbey. Hale takes us beyond flirtation, romance and inner turmoil to actual mystery and gothic horror. There are disappearances, mysterious rooms, secrets and dark broody men. It was all deliciously eerie and quite a pleasure to unravel. Meanwhile the romance itself defied expectations. Charlotte is not actually open to romance: she still feels married and gentleman assigned to her, Mr. Mallery, scares her as often as he intrigues her. That doesn’t mean that the novel doesn’t have it’s share of hot scenes, but I promise that the resolution will surprise you.

Charlotte really appealed to me as a main character. The opening line – “No one who knew Charlotte Constance Kinder since her youth would suppose her to be born a heroine.” – immediately caught my attention. It is true, Charlotte is practical, hard working, self-effacing and not particularly romantic. Not the qualities of a romantic heroine. But she is intelligent and observant, and kind in spite of her current difficulties in her personal life. She learns to see and understand her fellow inhabitants at Pemberly Park in a way Jane from the first book never did. I was really rooting for her by the end and wanted nothing more than for her to find happiness. I also appreciated that though this is primarily a romance, a lot of attention is given to the relationships between the women.

You can read the two novels separately and in any order (though I highly recommend reading both!) but if you start with Austenland, you will recognize a few returning characters including the proprietress, her husband and, over the top permanent visitor, Miss Charming. As far as I can tell, there are no current plans for a third Austenland novel – why not?! – but we still have the movie to look forward to!

2013 (#21)


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