by Shannon Hale
4 **** = Can recommend; Great; Overall enjoyable
The other night I had a moment. I got home at about 10 p.m., made a pot of coffee (caffeine has no affect on me – I’m a beast), and curled up on the couch with a lemon lavender bar (thank you Joy the Baker) and “Midnight in Austenland” by Shannon Hale.
It was magical.
About two years ago, Gaby sent me home with “Austenland,” a romance novel that I was less than thrilled to read. At that time in our relationship, Gaby didn’t understand that I didn’t read romance, especially adult romance novels. Who did she think I was?
I didn’t realize yet that Gaby is usually right in her book recommendations (and in life too). I tore through that book like it was a fresh-out-of-the-oven chocolate chip cookie. I’m not one to savor.
I haven’t read a romance novel since then and have returned to my default romance-novels-are-gross outlook. I opened “Midnight in Austenland” with one eye closed.
I don’t know what I was thinking.
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? (synopsis from Goodreads)
The barista at the coffee shop I go to asked me what I was reading, and I sheepishly described it as a romance novel. She replied: “That’s okay. I can’t judge. I just read ’50 Shades of Grey’.”
THIS IS SO NOT “50 SHADES OF GREY.” I haven’t read that book, nor am I allowed to.
Let me assure you that “Midnight in Austenland” is more harmless than most young adult books I read. The reason it is adult is because it’s about a recently divorced mom who is still reeling from betrayal. It’s a mature circumstance, so it’s intended for mature readers – and rightfully so.
Shannon Hale’s writing reminds me a bit of Myra McEntire. Their sarcasm leaves a goofy grin on your face as your read. Their characters think and often say things you’ve thought but haven’t had the courage to admit. Oftentimes it’s just hilarious.
I also love how Hale starts each chapter with flashbacks into Charlotte’s life, giving deeper incite into why Charlotte is the way she is.
I know that I may be the only female in the WORLD that does not enjoy Jane Austen (hold your gasps). Gaby did not realize this when she gave me the first book. (Isn’t it wonderful that we can still be friends?) However, if there is any other Austen-non-lover out there, let me assure you that you too can enjoy this book. I’ve never made it through any of Jane Austen’s novels – and I’ve tried. Boy, have I tried. But these books hold their own. The mystery is fun and the romance is delightful without being icky.
It is THE perfect book to curl up with on the couch and spill lemon lavender bar crumbs over – so British of me!