Monday, February 20, 2012

Midnight in Austenland ~ (eARC) Shannon Hale review

Midnight in Austenland (Austenland #2/companion to Austenland)
Bloomsbury USA
January 31, 2012
288 pages
add to Goodreads/buy on Amazon/or on Book Depository

It's time for another trip to Austenland - this time for a different character .

Charlotte Kinder hasn't taken a vacation since her divorce and, after a discovering a love of all things Austen, she decides on Austenland for her two week trip. The manor house at Pembrook Park provides an immersion experience in all things Austen - from hair to clothing to food to speech to pastimes, everything guests do, say, hear, eat and touch is expected to replicate the regency period. Actors are even hired to play gentlemen from that period and help the guests play out their Austen dreams.

But after some time Charlotte worries their parlor games of Bloody Murder and their ghost stories are becoming too real. Did she really find a dead body in that hidden room upstairs? What really has Miss Greenside ill? And is someone there an actual murderer or just a very good actor? Or both?

If you read Austenland but haven't decided whether or not to read Midnight in Austenland, yet, here is your answer: Do it! While Austenland was definitely a fun, quick read, Midnight in Austenland is so much more. I liked Austenland okay, but I really, really liked Midnight in Austenland. I don't know if it the little bit of added length (it's hard to compare paperback and hardcover length) or the difference in the main characters or what, but Midnight in Austenland just clicked more.

Lovers of Austenland need not fret, though. Everything fantatbulous about Austenland is back - and in spades. There's still the regency traditions that no one - at least those that aren't Austenland actors or regulars - can grasp at first and the Austen-era dress and formality. And, of course, the gorgeous actors hired to play love interests.

The beginning has quite a bit of Austen sounding narration. I don't know if it falls off as the book progresses, there's less need for it or I just got used to it - but it's definitely noticeable and well done in the beginning.

This time, however, there's a bit of a mystery - possibly a murder and maybe some ghosts - thrown in, too.  It doesn't make the book hokey at all and everyone keeping things Austen while also playing games of 'find the murderer' or 'is there a ghost?' makes for unbelievable fun. It also helps make it incredibly hard to tell whether everything is fake - part of Austenland - or if there's really something nefarious happening.

Charlotte's also a great main character. She has a background - and a 'why' she came to Austenland - that propel the story forward well. The parts of her 'before' that we get interspersed with the Austenland parts really help to make her a likable and sympathetic character.

Overall, this book focuses less on romance than Austenland did - there's a whole extra intrigue angle thrown in - but the relationships that are built are strong and well written.

Rating: 8/10

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