Thursday, January 5, 2012

Review: Midnight in Austenland (Austenland #2) by Shannon Hale

Overall Impression

In a Word: Better

Source: Publisher/Netgalley

Publication Date: January 31st, 2012

Short Synopsis: When Charlotte Kinder treats herself to a two-week vacation at Austenland, she happily leaves behind her ex-husband and his delightful new wife, her ever-grateful children, and all the rest of her real life in America. She dons a bonnet and stays at a country manor house that provides an immersive Austen experience, complete with gentleman actors who cater to the guests' Austen fantasies. 

Everyone at Pembrook Park is playing a role, but increasingly, Charlotte isn't sure where roles end and reality begins. And as the parlor games turn a little bit menacing, she finds she needs more than a good corset to keep herself safe. Is the brooding Mr. Mallery as sinister as he seems? What is Miss Gardenside's mysterious ailment? Was that an actual dead body in the secret attic room? And-perhaps of the most lasting importance-could the stirrings in Charlotte's heart be a sign of real-life love? 

The follow-up to reader favorite Austenland provides the same perfectly plotted pleasures, with a feisty new heroine, plenty of fresh and frightening twists, and the possibility of a romance that might just go beyond the proper bounds of Austen's world. How could it not turn out right in the end?

My Review: When I first heard that there was a second Austenland book, I was overjoyed!! The first one had been a fun romp through a type of experience I wish I could have myself so to find that more was in store that I hadn't expected was fantastic.

Enter me reading the first few pages. While Ms. Hale has a fun way of writing, the first few pages of this book filled me with a sense of unease as to whether I would enjoy reading it, much less be able to finish it. I wasn't sure if I would be able to relate to the main character, Charlotte. She's divorced, I've never been married; she has two kids and in some circles I'm still considered one. 

Enter Austenland part deux. I really shouldn't have worried. Once Charlotte enters Austenland any dissimilarities the main character and I might have had in the real world are overcome by our mutual love of all things Austen and a giddiness of actually 'being' there.

That's not to say the book didn't have its imperfections. Sometimes foreshadowing was a little too heavy and combining a murder mystery as a means of progressing the story, while done fairly well, isn't always my cup of tea.

However, I will freely admit to much giggling and some hand clapping at certain turns of phrase and circumstances. About 3/5 of the way through the book I was able to kind of see where things were headed and was glad that they ended up the way they did. I think I like this ending better than I did the first. There is more closure and more realism to this story as opposed to a simple fantasy fullfillment as the one previous (from what I can remember).

Not as good as reading a real Jane Austen book, but I am glad that Ms. Hale focused her considerable talent for writing towards another novel set in Austenland. Reading the first book is not required for reading this next one in the Austenland universe. It's been a few years since I read the first and while I was able to understand that a character or two was similar, it was by no means necessary to understanding the story of this latest edition.

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