Wednesday, February 08, 2012
Author: Shannon Hale
Series: Austenland #2
Genre: Romance, spinoff, contemporary fiction
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA, 2012
Read for: Review, European Reading Challenge
Charlotte's life has been a disaster lately. Despite her successful business and her two beloved children, her marriage has imploded, and now her ex-husband is married to a woman named Justice who reads the same cliched chick-lit book over and over again (and whom he was seeing for years before she found out). After immersing herself in Jane Austen novels gives her some escape from her woes, she decides she deserves a vacation, and she chooses Austenland -- a secluded estate complete with corsets, bad English food, and a handsome love interest. However, Charlotte finds a disturbing mystery hanging about the dignified English estate, and she is unable to determine if it is a real mystery or just part of the vacation.
I should preface this by saying that I really was unqualified to read this book. I never read Austenland, and I haven't read Northanger Abbey, on which the story is loosely based, either. However, neither of these frightful omissions diminished my enjoyment of the story.
Midnight in Austenland is a light read that doesn't have much substance, but as I was going into the story looking for entertainment, I was pleasantly rewarded. As far as light, fluffy reads go, this one had everything I could have asked for -- an unusual setting, some mysterious thrills, and more than one handsome love interest. The plot has several twists that I was not expecting, making the mystery more exciting and the romance more unexpected. I was thoroughly entertained throughout the story.
The writing as well is light and charming. I have enjoyed Hale's writing in The Books of Bayern, which I am slowly working through. In those books, she is illustrative and focused mainly on maintaining the world she created. In Midnight in Austenland, she is humorous and slightly more adult, poking fun at Pap smears and blind dates with the divorced set. I loved seeing this new side of Hale's writing.
The characters were somewhat cliche, not diving far below the surface of their actions and experiences. However, as this book had a focus on entertainment rather than uncovering deep and novel truths about the human soul, it was something I was willing to pass up.
Midnight in Austenland will appeal to those looking for a charming romantic mystery to while away an afternoon or fans of Austen who enjoy light-hearted spin-offs. This would be an excellent vacation read.
Warnings: A few mild swears, some references to breasts and Pap smears