Sunday, May 6, 2012

Midnight in Austenland by Shannon Hale

Published: January 31st, 2012
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Pages: 277
Copy: Library
Summary: Goodreads

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?

For those of you who are wondering, no, Midnight in Austenland is not a YA novel.  Shannon Hale did write The Princess Academy for YA, but this book and its predecessor Austenland are written for an adult audience.  Still, I thought it would make a great crossover novel for older teens.  The main protagonist, Charlotte, wants to get away from her life and journeys to England to visit an estate in England where she can have 2 weeks of Austen fantasies.  The setting, the clothes, the manners are all authentic, and there is even a guest who is there especially to woo Charlotte.  The fun begins when Colonel Andrews sets the stage for a ghostly mystery, and Charlotte gets intrigued.

Charlotte's shenanigans are hilarious and I laughed out loud on several occasions.  Ms Hale has a wicked sense of humour.

"'Sometimes ..." Miss Charming's voice dropped lower, and she looked Charlotte in the eye.  "Sometimes my boobs kill."
Charlotte's eyes widened, her mouth agape.  It wasn't until Miss Charming followed her shocking statement by rubbing her chest in discomfort that Charlotte realized "my boobs kill" meant "my boobs ache" rather than "my boobs fatally maim people."  It was a natural mistake to make.  After all, they really were large enough to suffocate a grown man.'

I also loved that no character was immune to that humour.  Everyone was a target.There is a wonderful mystery that runs through the story, but only Charlotte is actually sure there really is a mystery.  Charlotte's 'Inner Thoughts' are so funny, they may almost be a character on their own.  Ms Hale writes so winningly of Pembroke Place and its immersion in Jane Austen lore, that I found myself on several occasions wondering how I could sign up for a holiday myself.  The idea of traipsing around in corset and bonnet, being wooed by a handsome gentleman (picked specially for you) began to sound really appealing.  If you're looking for a quick, light, with a generous side of humour, you can't go wrong by picking up Midnight in Austenland.

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