Thursday, April 18, 2013

Book Review: Midnight in Austenland by Shannon Hale

Title:  Midnight in Austenland
Author:  Shannon Hale
Series:  Austenland #2
Genre:  Chick-lit/Mystery/Romance
Pages:  288

Rating:  A-

Synopsis from  Charlotte Kinder is in need of true escape when she heads from Ohio to Pembrook Park, a Jane Austen-themed retreat in the British countryside. But as it turns out, this vacation is no time to relax. Hearts are racing and stomachs fluttering in a tangle of intrigues-real and pretend, sinister and romantic-increasingly tough to sort out. It's midnight in Austenland, and Charlotte is about to prove herself a heroine worthy of Austen herself.

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If you picked up Midnight in Austenland because you loved Austenland and thought this book would be just like it, you're in for a surprise.  This book is nothing like the first.  The original book is a cute, fun romance, while this sequel is a crazy romance and murder-mystery.  At first, I wasn't sure I was going to like it, because it was so different and outrageous.  But it turns out that the book is SO melodramatic and over-the-top and ridiculous that it's good.

Midnight in Austenland focuses on Charlotte Kinder, a recently-divorced woman in her thirties who needs an escape to help get her back on her feet.  In the beginning, she seems really wishy-washy, but throughout the book, I started to connect with her.  She's lonely and vulnerable, and she's trying so hard to fit into this strange Regency world.  Her fellow Austen-lovers include both old and new characters.  Miss Charming, Colonel Andrews, and Mrs. Wattlesbrook all return, and Charming & Andrews provide lots of humor and fun, just as they did in Austenland.  The new characters - Eddie, Lydia, and Mallery - are interesting additions, each one completely different from each other.  Eddie is supportive and fun, Lydia is sickly but sweet, and Mallery is intense and brooding.

The plot is, as I said before, completely outrageous with its murder-mystery and villain, but I think that's what Hale was going for.  I think the book is supposed to be over-the-top and humorous.  There are also plenty of unexpected twists that I didn't see coming (like who the villain really is), and I enjoyed every minute of the crazy adventures these characters had.

So if you're like me, and you picked up this book because you loved the original, expect to be thrown for a loop.  But also keep an open mind.  Even though I knew early on that this wasn't going to be another cute romance, I gave Midnight in Austenland a chance anyway and was delightfully surprised to discover that the book stands on its own as an incredibly hilarious romantic comedy/mystery that kept me laughing.  A-

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