Shannon Hale’s Midnight in Austenland was everything I had hoped P.D. James’ Death Comes to Pemberley would be. Granted, I shouldn’t be comparing the two, but I was so disappointed in James’ book. And, Hale’s, although it is set in modern times, is a joy. The heroine overcomes her fears, and saves herself. That’s my kind of heroine.
Charlotte Kinder is a nice woman, but after her divorce, she no longer thought she was nice. She had been so busy building a million dollar business, and taking care of her two children that she didn’t notice her husband slipping away. She was shocked when he asked for a divorce because he had found someone else. Charlotte was just numb. Only Jane Austen could save her.
It was a list from her teen years that saved Charlotte, who was going through life feeling nothing after the divorce. On that list of things to do before she turned thirty, was “Read Jane Austen.” Maybe, Charlotte was past thirty, but when she took the time to delve into Austen, she could finally feel again. And, her kids’ visit with their father gave her the time to take her own vacation, a two week stay in Austenland. At Pembrook Park in Kent, England, it was always 1816, and the men and women lived by Regency etiquette. Everyone had a role to play. Charlotte could become Mrs. Charlotte Cordial for two weeks, a widow and a houseguest, while she flirted with actors who played the gentlemen.
Perhaps Charlotte spent too much time reading Northanger Abbey. Her first thought upon seeing Pembrook Park was, “This is the sort of house where murders happen.” She found herself enjoying the company of the actors, and the friendship of the other women who were there as houseguests. She was fully prepared to spend two weeks enjoying a little romantic dalliance. As part of the entertainment, they were all caught up in the story of Grey Cloaks Abbey and the mystery of the death of the nuns there. Charlotte thought it was great fun, until, after a fire, she began to suspect that there really had been a murder at Pembrook Park, and one of the actors might be a killer. Suddenly, she had the chance to become a victim, or a heroine in her own life.
Shannon Hale’s Midnight in Austenland is fun, with a great deal of humor, a mystery, and romance. Charlotte Kinder is a wonderful heroine, smarter and stronger than she gives herself credit for. Hale turns Charlotte’s entire experience at Pembrook Park upside down, but it’s still an experience that Charlotte appreciates. And, readers who enter the story with Charlotte’s sense of adventure and anticipation will find the story meets expectations. Midnight in Austenland is a joy to read.
(Oh, and, if Shannon Hale reads this, I loved the dedications to both books, Austenland and Midnight in Austenland. I always read the dedications, even if a certain British actor might not.)
Shannon Hale’s website is http://www.squeetus.com/stage/main.html
Midnight in Austenland by Shannon Hale. Bloomsbury USA. ©2012. ISBN 9781608196258 (hardcover), 288p.
FTC Full Disclosure – The publisher sent me an Advanced Reading Copy, hoping I would review the book.