Series: Austenland #1
Published by Bloomsbury on May 29, 2007
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Romance
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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 ever could have imagined.
Decked out in empire-waist gowns, Jane struggles to master Regency etiquette and flirts with gardeners and gentlemen;or maybe even, she suspects, with the actors who are playing 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?
In honor of the February 2012 release of Austenland’s companion novel, Midnight in Austenland (which I’ve already read the Netgalley for!!!), I decided to post this review. My review of Midnight in Austenland will be posted here in January, so keep your eye out for it!
Austenland is like Disneyland for women who secretly wish they had a Mr. Darcy of their own. I think BBC’s version of Pride and Prejudice instilled a little bit of that longing in all of us. This problem is exactly what Jane Hayes suffers with. After dating a ton of losers, this single, 33-year-old, New Yorker has come to the conclusion that no man can compare to the sexy, debonair, and utterly romantic Mr. Darcy. She has given up on the male gender completely. One day when her mother and great-aunt Carolyn come over for a visit, they inadvertently discover her copy of the movie as it shifts and falls from its hiding place in Jane’s potted plant. Jane, of course, was mortified—as if they had discovered her drawer of scandalous underwear.
Six months later, Great-Aunt Carolyn passes away and leaves one thing for Jane in her will: a non-refundable, all-inclusive, three-week vacation to Pembrook Park in England where she will strip herself of modern conveniences and live just as Elizabeth Bennett did. After some panicked girl talk with her friend, she decides to humor her late aunt and go on the trip as one last fling before giving up on ever finding her Mr. Darcy. She’ll play out her fantasy and then throw her DVDs away.
She arrives at Pembrook Park and is given a new name, a new age (in Regency times, a woman her age would be considered a spinster and unmarriageable), a pamphlet on how to speak and act, a regency wardrobe (even her purple bra is confiscated and replaced with Regency undies), and is scurried off to teatime with her cell phone hidden illegally in the bottom of her trunk. She feels a little silly at first, but soon embraces this new way of life. She even enjoys it a little! Even though it’s all a game, her confidence improves and she’s convinced she can finally kick this Mr. Darcy obsession to the curb. However, these dreams or hers seem to be more attainable than she thought. With all the humor, charm, and sweet romance you could expect from a Jane Austen novel, Jane Hayes is well on her way to finding everything she hoped for.
This book had me before it even started when I read the dedication page: “For Colin Firth: You’re a really great guy, but I’m married, so I think we should just be friends.” I knew I was in for a fun read. I think part of the reason I enjoyed this book so much is because I identify so much with Jane Hayes. I’ve had my share of frogs in the proverbial dating pond, and understand her frustrations. However… I don’t hide my Pride and Prejudice DVD in a flowerpot. Hahaha. This was a fun, light-hearted read. It was very clean, obviously (since it’s modeled after a clean book), and I enjoyed watching the romance unfold. Jane got herself into some funny situations and was a bit rebellious at times—sneaking out to enjoy modern technology (sounds like something I’d do). I also love that each chapter started out with a story of one of Jane’s romances-gone-bad. They were very humorous and made me feel a little better about my experiences! I enjoyed the characters, the detailed descriptions, and the storyline. I laughed, I got annoyed, I chewed characters out when they were being dumb, I turned the pages in anticipation, and I closed the book with a smile on my face. Most importantly, this book helped me remember that sometimes what you need is much different than what you want or what you’re looking for.
Happy reading! I’m off to pop some popcorn and watch Pride and Prejudice! (Colin, feel free to join me. I’m not married.)