Saturday, June 30, 2012

Midnight in Austenland

by Shannon Hale, 272 pages

Anyone with enough Jane Austen love in their souls and money in their accounts can sign up for a period-immersion retreat at Pembrook Park, a carefully maintained estate in the English countryside where actors and visitors in period costume slip into character and mingle for picnics among the local abbey ruins, parlor games, and romantic balls.  But when divorced mother of two Charlotte Kinder (or, rather, tragically widowed Charlotte Charming at the moment) accidentally stumbles on what may or may not be a real dead body in a secret room during a game of find-the-murderer, she wonders if her imagination is getting the better of her.

As much as I enjoyed the author's first foray into this premise in Austenland, I liked this more complex follow-up even better.  Where the first book is more strictly a smart, fluffy romance that plays off of Pride & Prejudice, this one combines elements of several Austen favorites at the same time, most notably Northanger Abbey.  The lead is more mature (in years, responsibilities, and wisdom) and the story is, as well, as it combines mystery and personal growth along with the romance.  Unpredictable, intelligent, and fun.  I hope she keeps writing!

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