REVIEW by Ginny: Austenland by Shannon Hale (@haleshannon , @puretextuality )

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?

So the other day I was sitting in my boss’s office totally having a work related conversation *shifty* when the subject of books so bad that you had to read them came up. Mine was “To Seduce an Earl” (male whorehouse y’all, how could I NOT buy it?) and hers was “Austenland.” She said that she didn’t want to keep reading, but couldn’t seem to stop herself. I waited a good 30 seconds before I ran from her office and checked it out from Overdrive. (and one of the reasons I love my boss is because she encouraged me to do this… and I wasn’t even on break) Unfortunately the eBook wasn’t available, so I rocked the audio book. Or perhaps that was actually for the best. I read a snippet, and I’ve got to say it was much smoother in audio format than in text.

I’ve got to say, folks, I honestly enjoyed the book, and I think the key was because I haven’t actually read any Jane Austen. Because of this, I might have missed some references, but I don’t feel like any of my precious memories. There was no outrage that a favorite character was misrepresented or a situation taken out of context. There was only a pleasant way to introduce modern characters into historical settings without and zany time travel hijincks.

Ok, there was the whole thing with it being a romance novel with no point other than the romance. Sure, it was romance between an actor and someone paying for them to fall in love with them. (Queue references to whore island) And yes, there was the whole talk of how fantasy doesn’t live up to reality while the ending is something straight out of fantasy… but still…

I should probably talk about the actual book, shouldn’t I? So Jane is obsessed with Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy (which I do not get since Mr. Firth is not attractive, imho) and it’s beginning to affect her ability to date in the real world. See, she’s obsessed with finding that fantasy in real life. As all of us who are based in reality know, perfect isn’t a real thing. And I’m pretty sure that if it was, you’d want to punch it in the face. Her great aunt discovers her terrible secret, and in her will leaves her an all expense paid trip to Austenland. What is Austenland? A fantasy resort for rich out of touch women who want to dress in period costumes and have actors pretend to fall in love with them.

It’s here that Jane falls for an actor and not an actor. Who should she choose? And is she just letting her overdeveloped romance glands override all her common sense?

3.5 stars. It was a good, if not a bit crazy, time. Oh, and you also get little peaks into all her failed romances which is fun for everyone… Except for Jane of course.

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