Thursday, February 9, 2012

Midnight in Austenland by Shannon Hale [ARC REVIEW]

Midnight in Austenland
(Austenland #1)

by Shannon Hale

Summary from 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?"


I have been an avid reader of Shannon Hale’s books ever since I read the Goose Girl. I’ve read her entire Books of Bayern series, Princess Academy, Book of a Thousand Days and of course, Austenland. I really enjoy Hale’s writing because it’s very pleasing and the stories are always interesting. Hale has the way of making her readers feel the actual era of where the book is set and Midnight in Austenland is no exception.

At first I thought that this was going to sit in the same way the first book was done, where we had a thirty-something protagonist who’s fixated with the idea of a man in the image of Mr. Darcy from Jane Austen’s Pride and the Prejudice which unfortunately, is totally ruining her love life. I thought Midnight in Austenland would go through an identical idea. Boy was I surprised with how it went!

Charlotte, the main character in this book, treats herself to a two-week vacation after being divorced to her husband who filed for it because he was in love with another woman. So she went off to Pembrook Park, leaving her two children in the care of her ex-husband and his new wife. And this is where everything turns topsy-turvy.

As with Austenland, the people at Pembrook Park have roles to play, even the clients. The clothing, the place, the customs and traditions are all set in the 1800s. But the difference is, here in Midnight in Austenland, the story doesn’t simply revolve around a romantic interest. There are bigger things involved; murder and money, pretence and manipulation. Something I didn’t expect to occur here.

It’s nice to see the change on the plot but there are parts that I feel like the actions done by the characters were not believable. Like when Charlotte experiences a life threatening event, I get that she doesn’t feel afraid and she feels more brave, but I always thought that if it occurred in real life, that feeling would come because of adrenaline rush or something. Then you feel the fear later after everything happened already, like some sort of case of late nerve reaction. I don’t know if I’m making any sense, but the point is it doesn’t seem like Charlotte felt she was in danger, and after the event the next scene goes to a romantic set-up as if nothing bad ever happened.

I like that this was a big step from the usual and that I got a bit of mystery-feel story from it but my concerns above got the best of me. Yet, if ever there’s a third installment I’d be one of those people who’d pine for a copy immediately. This is still a quick, enjoyable book to read.

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