Midnight in Austenland: A Novel

Midnight in Austenland: A Novel

3.9 67
by Shannon Hale

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Bestselling author Shannon Hale returns to Austenland, where bonnets are in vogue and gentlemen can waltz, and one player is planning something a little more sinister ...

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Bestselling author Shannon Hale returns to Austenland, where bonnets are in vogue and gentlemen can waltz, and one player is planning something a little more sinister ...

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Hale sends another lovelorn American to Jane Austen fantasy camp in this gothic-tinged follow-up to Austenland. A year after her messy divorce, Charlotte Kinder buries herself in her job, her children, and her beloved Austen novels, but moving on feels impossible. When friends suggest a vacation, Charlotte’s travel agent has just the thing: a trip to Pembrook Park, a proper English estate in Kent where guests and staff immerse themselves in Regency customs and culture. At first the estate feels “more like a Terry Gilliam movie than a Masterpiece Theatre episode,” but once settled, Charlotte plays parlor games, learns country dances, and even lets herself be courted by her assigned suitor, the brooding, magnetic Mr. Mallery. Her vacation becomes more Northanger Abbey when the guests visit a Gothic ruin and uncover a centuries-old mystery. After Charlotte catches a fleeting glimpse of a dead body in a secret room, she’s not quite sure if it’s part of the game or there’s a real murderer lurking. Though a tacked-on romance and some flimsy plot twists strain credibility, Hale’s fans will be thrilled to revisit Pembrook Park and reunite with its regulars. Hale provides a welcome, witty glimpse of a side of Austen rarely explored in the many contemporary riffs on her work. (Feb.)
Library Journal
Charlotte Kinder's cozy life has collapsed around her. She's recently divorced, her lovely children have become terrible teens, and her friends keep fixing her up on awful blind dates. Her only solace is the novels of Jane Austen, and she needs a vacation. Enter Pembrook Park: a British country retreat where visitors can spend their holiday in the Regency era. Each guest is assigned a role and a love interest played by a very convincing actor. Charlotte is Mrs. Charlotte Cordial, widowed in a most dreadful manner, and her love interest is the smoldering and mysterious Mr. Mallery. The playacting goes awry when Charlotte discovers a dead body in a secret room, and the resulting whodunit brings the denizens of Pembrook Park together to solve the mystery. This isn't a sequel to Hale's Austenland so much as a companion piece; both are set in the same universe and feature recurring characters, but the main characters are different. VERDICT Hale's light romantic comedy will appeal to chick-lit fans as well as Austenites who have grown weary of the never-ending sequels to Pride and Prejudice and are looking for a fresh way to explore the author's enduring legacy.—Nanette Donohue, Champaign P.L., IL
Kirkus Reviews
In a sequel to her bestselling Austenland (2007, etc.), Hale sends another 21st-century American to play Regency heroine at Pembrook Park. Charlotte Kinder could certainly use a vacation at the English estate that promises its female visitors the complete Jane Austen experience, right down to the corsets and attentive gentlemen (actors) to provide a chaste 19th-century romance during their two-week stay. Husband James has taken up with another woman, leaving Charlotte's self-confidence and self-esteem shattered despite the millions she's made as the creator of a web-based landscaping business. Post-divorce, while the kids spend time with their father and his fiancée, Charlotte heads for Kent, where she finds a house full of male "eye candy" and other guests recovering from modern traumas. "Miss Charming" (the ladies all take Austenish sobriquets) has also been dumped by a cheating spouse; "Miss Gardenside" is a recognizable 20-year-old pop star whose case of "consumption" masks the symptoms of drug withdrawal. Charlotte ("Mrs. Cordial") finds her designated Romantic Interest, Mr. Mallery, pleasingly smoldering, and she grows very fond of Eddie, who is playing her brother while paying suit to Miss Gardenside. The agreeable pretend mystery set up for the guests turns disagreeably real when Charlotte stumbles on a body while playing Bloody Murder. The body vanishes, but resourceful Charlotte eventually finds it again and identifies the miscreant, even as flashbacks fill in the details of her failed marriage and her lifelong failure to stand up for herself. Of course, she finally tells off rotten James and finds true love with a handsome actor happy to be her real-life Romantic Interest. A smartly plotted mystery somewhat compensates for the fact that Charlotte's psychological problems are entirely predictable, the rest of the characters sketchily portrayed and the arch narration a huge comedown from the real Jane's sharp, sardonic tone. Will no doubt appeal to those fans who think that period clothes and happy romantic endings constitute an authentic re-creation of Austen's hard-edged novels.

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Bloomsbury USA
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