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Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Austenland by Shannon Hale

Austenland by Shannon Hale
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing USA
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full (196 pages)
Heat: Sweet
Rating: 5 Books
Reviewed by Rose

Jane Hayes is a seemingly normal young New Yorker, but she has a secret. Her obsession with Mr. Darcy, as played by Colin Firth in the BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, is ruining her love life: no real man can compare. But when a wealthy relative bequeaths her a trip to an English resort catering to Austen-crazed women, Jane’s fantasies of meeting the perfect Regency-era gentleman suddenly become realer than she ever could have imagined.

Decked out in empire-waist gowns, Jane struggles to master Regency etiquette and flirts with gardeners and gentlemen—or maybe even, she suspects, with the actors who are playing them. It’s all a game, Jane knows. And yet the longer she stays, the more her insecurities seem to fall away, and the more she wonders: Is she about to kick the Austen obsession for good, or could all her dreams actually culminate in a Mr. Darcy of her own?

Shannon Hale is most well-known for her YA novels, but her first foray into adult novels does not disappoint. Jane is a hopeless addict of Pride and Prejudice, most notably the BBC's rendition with Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy. Her great-aunt discovers Jane's obsession and, with a wisdom born from long years of not recognizing love herself, bequeaths a three week vacation to Austenland, a role-playing resort where people — most notably women — immerse themselves into Jane Austen's England and an extended stay at Pembrook Park.

Ms. Hale has a refreshing voice — this is a light, entertaining read perfect for any time the reader wants to get away for a while. The characters, even minor ones, are richly drawn and, even though I'm – ahem — a little older than Jane, I could still empathize with her luck with her "boyfriends" and relationship issues. There were some laugh-out-loud moments such as Ms. Hale's description of Great-Aunt Caroline's lawyer, who reminded Jane of a frog:

He was saying something in lawyer-ese, but Jane was distracted. She was trying to figure out what besides the measured blinking made him seem so amphibious. His taut, shiny complexion, she decided. And his eyes being so wide apart. And his salad green tone. (Okay, he wasn't actually green, but the rest was true).

I kept interrupting my husband's reading to share parts with him — to the extent he finally put down his own book and just listened to me read and giggle. The romance — who will she wind up with — the gardener, the gentleman, anyone? Without giving anything away (this is a romance after all), I can let you know you won't be disappointed.

Austenland drops a modern woman into the world of the Regency house party and the fun begins. If you love Jane Austen's books, the movies, or just a fun romance, Austenland is one book you shouldn't miss.