Review: Midnight in Austenland

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Midnight in AustenlandMidnight in Austenland by Shannon Hale
Series: Austenland #2
Published by Bloomsbury USA on January 31, 2012
Genres: Contemporary, Mystery, Retelling, Romance
Pages: 277
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley

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?

In Austenland, Hale played with the characters of Pride and Prejudice, a rather obvious place to start, what with P&P‘s popularity. Honestly, I was disappointed by Austenland. Hale is one of my favorite authors, because of the originality of her characters and the…honesty of her stories. Austenland read like any Jane Austen spinoff, but I wanted it to be special. Plus, as an Austen-obsessed girl myself, I somewhat wonder whether nurturing our desires for a hero is a wise course.

With that knowledge, I came to this one with slightly lowered expectations. Expecting just a fun Austen-inspired romp, I was pleased with the results. I was not, however, astounded by its quality. This series does not rank anywhere near the Bayern books or The Actor and the Housewife. However, they are fun little guilty pleasures for those who like to think they may get a hero of their own someday.

I definitely liked this one better. For one thing, the novel Hale primarily drew her inspiration from for this one is Northanger Abbey, which is warring with P&P to be my personal favorite. The opening lines and the gothic content, perfectly mirror Northanger Abbey, although the murder mystery and the hero are quite changed.

There is not much Northanger Abbey inspired fiction out there, largely because Catherine is a less interesting heroine. Like Catherine, Charlotte does not have the makings of a heroine. She also has the tendency to let her imagination carry her away. However, Charlotte is much more mature than Catherine, both in age and intelligence. Charlotte is capable of some serious business acumen. Actually, this was one of the weak points of the novel, since the character of Charlotte seemed to switch back and forth between the brainless heroine and the logical, clever woman. The two parts of her character did not mingle well, and she seemed rather more like two women or like she has identity dissociative disorder, a suspicion enhanced by her constant discussions with her Inner Thoughts.

The romance herein is not a sweep the reader of her feet vicariously kind of deal. That works here, I think, even if it’s not as exciting necessarily. The right decisions were made for the characters. Nor was the end result surprising, at least to me. Once the characters were assembled, I wondered what I would have done as an author, and I was right. High-fiving a million angels.

One response to “Review: Midnight in Austenland”

  1. Nori says:

    I got this ARC in June, and still haven’t read it. Kind of felt the same way you did about the first one. But, this review makes me want to read it now. And I also love Hale’s stuff for YA. So I will give this a go eventually. Thanks for the head’s up!

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