Book Review: Midnight in Austenland

Midnight in Austenland
Published By: Bloomsbury
Publication Date:  January 31, 2012
Page Count: 277

Buy it at AmazonBarnes & Noble, or IndieBound
Source: library
Adult – Romance/Mystery

Charlotte, a recently divorced mother of two, decides to take a vacation of her own while her children are spending time with their father.  She finds her way to Austenland, an immersive resort where visitors get to experience the genteel country life of Regency-period England.  While Charlotte attempts to reinvent herself and make peace with being away from her children, she becomes entangled in the mystery of a potential murder.  Are all the guests at Austenland what they seem?  Do her kids even miss her?  Was that really a dead body she saw upstairs? 

Midnight in Austenland is the second book set at the exclusive, fictional resort.  (The first is called simply Austenland.)  As you might guess from the title and murder mystery, this trip to Austenland plays with the plot of Northanger Abbey.  Shannon Hale is deft at weaving in little details from that book.  For example, when Charlotte blurts out "Oh, it's you!" upon meeting a famous guest, she covers by suggesting that perhaps they had met in Bath, like characters from Northanger Abbey.  Later in the book, Charlotte does an admirable job of freaking herself out at night, especially after playing spooky 19th century games. 

Though thoroughly enjoyable, this sequel wasn't quite as amazing as the first installment.  The dialogue wasn't quite as snappy as what I have become accustomed to from Shannon Hale.  Some of the funny bits seemed forced, and the characters occasionally slipped into caricature.

I remain, however, enamored of the whole concept of Austenland, and hold out hope that if Austenland can't be a real place, that at least someday there will be a third book in this lovable series. 





Summary:

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?




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