pub date: January 31, 2012
appeals: Jane Austen, adult book, humorous, romance, mystery, English men, England!
content: it's an adult book--some adultish situations, 2 swear words--but nothing I'd think would offend high school students or older
First, I love Shannon Hale books. This is no exception.
Second, I think she has a thing for British men...
This was an exceedingly fun book. Charlotte is in her thirties, recently divorced, with two children. And lost. And lonely. So after discovering Austen's books and wanting to experience them for real, she takes a vacation to Austenland. Where she gets a lot more than she bargained for.
I tend to read books a lot without knowing much about them. Usually I've heard about them on a blog, or am familiar with the author, or like the cover. But I rarely read summaries before I read the book. It makes for some surprising stories. For example, I didn't know this was a mystery. So when it turned into a mystery, I was surprised. I thought the mystery well done, though I'd figured out who'd done it (and the romantic lead) before Charlotte did, I enjoyed the ride.
Midnight in Austenland was a little spooky (not scary), but mostly it was funny. Hale is a master at laugh-out-loud fun, with silly situations, great dialog, and entertaining characters.
I loved the voice. The narrator of this book was her own character, with her own personality, different from Charlotte. And I loved her. She had a very dry sense of humor and she was absolutely hilarious.
Charlotte is also a great character. Like Jane in Hale's previous book, Austenland, Charlotte has her moments of flashback, moments in the past with her husband, before and after the divorce, and even before and after marriage. Her growth was real, and it was extremely satisfying when she grew a backbone. I liked her a lot and I was happy she got her happily ever after.
There were some of the same characters in Midnight as there were in Austenland, and it was fun to get an update. But there were also a new characters, and that was fun, too.
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?