Austenland by Shannon Hale (Austenland #1)
Published in 2007
Published by Bloomsbury USA
Synopsis: Jane Hayes is a seemingly normal young New Yorker, but she has a secret. Her obsession with Mr. Darcy, as played by Colin Firth in the BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, is ruining her love life: no real man can compare. But when a wealthy relative bequeaths her a trip to an English resort catering to Austen-crazed women, Jane’s fantasies of meeting the perfect Regency-era gentleman suddenly become realer than she ever could have imagined. Decked out in empire-waist gowns, Jane struggles to master Regency etiquette and flirts with gardeners and gentlemen, maybe even, she suspects, with the actors who are playing them. It’s all a game, Jane knows. And yet the longer she stays, the more her insecurities seem to fall away, and the more she wonders; Is she about to kick the Austen obsession for good, or could all her dreams actually culminate in a Mr. Darcy of her own?
When I first heard about this book, I couldn’t wait to read it. A book about going to a Jane Austen resort sounded perfect to me. I love anything and everything Jane Austen. However, I will admit that Pride and Prejudice and Mr. Darcy are not my favorites. If this book was about finding Captain Wentworth, then I’m all over it. But it’s not. However, knowing that this book focused on Mr. Darcy, I still wanted to read it.
I found as I was reading, I had mixed emotions. Did I really like this? Then I realized my emotions mirrored Jane’s feelings on whether she really enjoyed Pembrook Park. When she was craving to be real again, so did I. When I started this book, I thought it would be amazing to go to Pembrook Park. Ms. Hale captured the boredom of the time period. Ladies and gentlemen were trapped in their own gentility. For the ladies, reading, embroidery and walks on the lawn were the other things available to occupy their time. I could completely understand Jane’s boredom.
The reality vs. fantasy was a little creepy, which, I think, was meant to be. Jane had such a difficult time accepting the fantasy, as I would. It’s fun to play dress-up, but pretending to fall in love is something else. You could really empathize with Jane’s disgust and frustration.
The romance itself pretty much mirrored Pride and Prejudice. The question being would Jane find her version of Mr. Darcy? I won’t say if she does but it was fun trying to figure it out. There were many men to choose from, but which one would cure Jane of her obsession. Or my question: does she need to be cured at all?
I really enjoyed the ending. It is a quirky happily ever after for Jane. But does she end up with Mr. Darcy? Not telling! The book is a quick and enjoyable read. If you want something light and romantic, Austenland is waiting for you.