Austenland by Shannon Hale
May 2007, Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
"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 could have imagined.
Decked out in empire-waist gowns, Jane struggles to master Regency etiquette and flirts with gardeners and gentleman; or maybe even, she suspects, with the actors who are playing with 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?"
- Good Reads
I promise you - I promise you - that this the last Jane Austen/Pride and Prejudice spin off for at least six months. At least.
But Austenland is much different from any other P&P spin off that I've read before. There is no Lizzy/Darcy re-tellings and re-imaginings, and no weird time travel that spits the main character back into Regency England. Instead, as the synopsis stated, Jane Hayes is sent on a holiday in which she role plays a Regency lady for three weeks to attempt to cure herself from her Darcyitis (I'm coining that term right now - to suffer from impossibly high standards because of Fitzwilliam Darcy)... which so many of us suffer from. I don't know how many times I've forced my poor boyfriend to watch the 2005 Pride and Prejudice (starring Keira Knightley and Matthew McFayden - my favorite Darcy, hands down) in hopes that some of the Darcyness will rub off on him. Has it worked? Nope, not at all... but he's more of a Bingley if I'm being honest with myself.
Austenland doesn't take itself seriously, either. Jane Hayes, while hopelessly lost as far as her love life goes, is a funny and modern woman. She realizes how ridiculous the situation in which she finds herself is and attempts to make the best of it. This book literally had me laughing out loud at certain points and that has not happened in a very long time.
As per usual, there was a love triangle/twist of Darcy-Wickham proportions that kept me on the edge of my seat that was made even more interesting because of the setting of the novel. Because Jane is staying at resort that boasts an authentic Regency experience, every person that she comes in contact with is a paid actor (save for the other guests). Jane finds herself falling for two men but cannot decide whether or not they are acting or if their feelings are genuine. It messed with my mind and the ending completely blind sided me. With the history that I've had with predictable books, it was refreshing to be truly surprised at an ending.
All in all, Austenland was a lot of fun. If you are looking for something along the lines of P&P but aren't quite ready to delve into the world of Abigail Reynolds, I strongly suggest that you pick this book up (I believe the Kindle version is currently on sale for $1.99!) - it gave me just enough of the feel of P&P while maintaining its independence. And, if IMDB isn't lying to me, we can expect a movie adaptation in the near future. I freaking hope so!
* This book was read in 2012... so it will not be used for any of my challenges.