Friday, March 2, 2012

Review: Midnight in Austenland, Shannon Hale

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? Goodreads

Can I just say that Shannon Hale is a genius? Midnight in Austenland has found a place on my “favorite books” shelf. Okay, I’ll quit gushing now.

            I will admit that I was a bit concerned about starting this one. I mean, how can one top Austenland? Apparently, by throwing in a murder mystery.

            I love Charlotte as a heroine. A thirty-something divorcee, and not a lifelong Austen fanatic, she isn’t at all what I expected. But that’s what makes it so fun. A few characters from Austenland make an appearance, or are alluded to, but this is not a sequel.  It is an entirely different story with the same backdrop.

            There isn’t a lot I can say about this book without giving away pieces of the plot. But it is sheer Austen awesomeness. There is danger, romance, intrigue, and depth. I love that many different Jane Austen novels were referenced in Midnight. And yes, I’m a big enough dork to search them out, and now I need to re-read some of my old favorites.

   Hale’s writing style keeps almost the whole story light and fun, despite the serious pain that several of the main players experience. If there was ever a great book about healing, starting over, and second chances, this is it. Oh, and Inner Thoughts. I love Inner Thoughts. (And you’ll have to read it to understand)

5/5 stars!

YA notes: Not really directed to a teen audience, but there is nothing in it to make parents squirm. J    

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