Austenland

Austenland - Shannon Hale I listened to this book on audio, so my review refers to that edition.

I picked this book up from the library with no expectations other than that I love Jane Austen and can relate to a character who dreams of one day meeting a real live Mr. Darcy. The story is a cute, light read that kept me guessing all the way up to the very end.

Modern day Jane is a 30-something singleton who believes her unlucky love life is due to her obsession fascination with Jane Austen's exquisite hero, Mr. Darcy of Pride and Prejudice fame. Jane wants so badly to meet a man like Mr. Darcy that no one ever measures up, and she's resigned to living out the rest of her life as a lonely spinster.

Then Jane's kooky great-aunt passes on and leaves her a most unusual gift - a three week stint at a Regency-era role-playing retreat where Jane can dress up in empire-wasted gowns, practice impeccably good manners, and just maybe meet a Mr. Darcy to fall in love with. At first reluctant, Jane heads over to England feeling not a little foolish and embarrassed. She learns the rules of the game (no modern day electronics, no socializing with the servant class) and meets the cast of characters who will play along with her, some actors and some fellow role players like herself.

It takes Jane a while to lose herself in the concept of role playing, and before that happens, she meets a "gardner" who seems to pose the best chance for love. However, soon it's the arrogant Mr. Nobly who has caught Jane's fancy, and until the very last chapters of the book, you never know which direction Jane's heart might follow.

This book was a fun, easy read. Jane is very likable - even with her Mr. Darcy obsession she's not too crazy to be real. Her experiences at Austenland (the name she gives to the retreat) are funny and interesting. And by the end of the story, she's come to realize things about herself that indicate her future looks bright.

A great beach read, for sure.