So this isn’t part of our 30 Day challenge. I just felt I needed to post it as I wanted to review the sequel for the 30 Day challenge and I couldn’t do the second without the first! After this we will continue the 30 Day challenge.
Austenland (Austenland #1) by Shannon Hale
I first read this book back in high school, I was a freshman or sophomore at the time. I really loved the premise of the book and most of the characters and thought the story was fantastic. I only had one issue, and that was with the main character Jane. I hadn’t really been in a relationship before I read this and I thought the main character was a bit…bonkers. She seemed to throw herself into “relationships” without them even dating, like Gigi in He’s Just NOT That Into You.
I then went on to read the sequel as soon as it was printed, Midnight in Austenland, and just fell in love with it. I thought it was amazing!
Then the film trailer came out for Austenland and it looked like it was to be mostly this first book, but have a few traits of the sequel that I loved. I was so excited.
I tracked that film and when the release dates were changed, waited. And waited. And then when it wasn’t released in any theater near me, I waited some more for it to come out on DVD.
I rented it as soon as it was out, watched it, and adored it from beginning to end!I thought it was sooo much better than the book.
But then I began thinking…what if the book wasn’t as bad as I had thought it was? Maybe as an adult my perspective would change then when I was a teenager? It has been almost ten years (time flies!) since I last read it and decided it would be the perfect time to reread and review it (especially as I want to review the sequel but can’t until I review this one!)
Jane Hayes is obsessed with Jane Austen.
She reads all of Austen’s books and watches the 1995 miniseries again and again.
But unlike most fangirls, Jane is ashamed of her love. I don’t know why, I embrace mine.
Anyways…Jane’s mom comes to visit with her great aunt Carolyn. Carolyn is super rich and her mother is trying to get her into the will. She hides her Austen items and DVD disc, (I proudly display mine), but Carolyn finds it.
Carolyn waits until Jane’s mother goes to the restroom and warns her about Darcy, letting him in and taking over.
Hey, I don’t see anything wrong for striving for a guy like that or any other Austen man. I don’t want to settle. I want someone special.
Six months later, Aunt Carolyn dies and leaves something for Jane. She gets all excited dreaming about what she could buy or do with the money:
But it turns out she is not rich.
Instead she gets a three week paid vacation to go to Pembrook Park in England. There she is in a Regency Westworld (except no killer robots), dressing, talking, and acting as it it is 1816. There is no scripts or written endings, but there is a ball and you might meet your dream man there.
Now they make it seem as if wanting to be with an equivalent of Darcy is a bad thing and that that love is to blame for her bad relationships but that’s not true she is crazy when it comes to relationships. She thinks every guy she has ever been with is her “boyfriend”, even when they haven’t even dated! Even when she just talks to them or thinks about dating them.
She goes to the Park reading about all the rules they have to follow in that time period. In fact there are a lot of rules with the park as to what they can and cannot do.
She meets Mrs. Wattlesbrook who introduces her to what she will wear and introductory rules. She is now to go by the name Jane Erstwhile, instead of Hayes, and although they were supposed to change their ages and create this fake cover story; Jane wants to be real.
So Jane finds out that she isn’t the usual type of client. Most of the time, like in Westworld, they have a ton of money. Unfortunately, Jane is not rich so she will not be treated special like the other two guests: Miss Elizabeth Charming and Miss Amelia Heartwright.
Jane has to get rid of all her modern items, although she secretly holds back her cell phone, and dress only in Regency wear.
She meets Theodore, the undergardener, who helps her learn the dances she’ll need to know for the ball.
Jane is ready and determined that this vacation is going to be great and she will conquer.
FLASHBACK: BOYFRIEND #1 Alex Ripley, 4 yrs
She was four years old, he kissed her, and he moved to Minnesota that summer, never to be seen again.
The next day is day one of Jane’s trip to Pembrook Park. She meets her “aunt” Saffronia and “uncle” Sir John Templeton who she will be staying with during her time there.
She meets Miss Elizabeth Charming who is a very wealthy, buxom, and “twenty-two” (fifty). She is extremely wealthy, recently divorced, and looking for a book happily ever after ending.
The two then meet the men, the reason they are here. The first is the fair-haired, roguish, open man Colonel Andrews.
And then we have Mr. Nobley: tall, dark, and brooding.
You know how I like them!
And Jane likes what she sees.
Sir Templeton is pretty much just drunk all the time and not interesting. Colonel Andrews is a lot of fun, and Nobley? Well…
Elizabeth Charming really wants one of the men and throws herself at both of them, making for some fun and interesting adventures.
FLASHBACK: BOYFRIEND #1 Justin Kimble, 12 yrs
They started “going out” in 4th grade when they shared Pixy Stix, scored each other as 1os, and gave each other Valentines. But then he chose another girl for the folk dance and it was over.
So this is a big part of my problem with Jane (Hayes). Those aren’t real relationships, she shouldn’t count them. She was just a child!
The next day she goes out for a walk and runs into Theodore. Even though they aren’t supposed to talk, as he is a servant, they do anyway. Theodore hates the Regency story and gives up on it, revealing his name is really Martin Jasper. Even though it is against the rules, Jane actually starts to like it. It is a secret, “bad”, and Martin is a nice connection to the real world.
Jane starts to feel strange about this whole “fake Regency” thing, as if she can’t do it. Mr. Nobley and the Colonel see her grow pale and Nobley urges the Colonel to get her some water. There Jane and Nobley have a private conversation, where Jane tries to figure out how Mr. Nobley can pretend like this. Mr Nobley misunderstands her and becomes upset. He tells her that she can’t play games and try to trap him.
Later while the men are out doing their manly things, the women wait for Amelia Heartwright to call. They hope she won’t be attractive as it seems there isn’t enough men for everyone. She comes in, and you know how we girls are.
Unfortunately, she is absolutely beautiful; but along with that she is very kind and hard to dislike. But Jane’s earlier dismay proves to be true as Mr. Nobley and Miss Heartwright appear to have had a history. With those two paired and the Colonel for Miss Charming; Jane is left alone with no one.
FLASHBACK: BOYFRIEND #2 Rudy Liev, 15 yrs
Rudy was hilarious and always cracking jokes, ones that were extremely harmful and unfunny. After four months of dating he told everyone when Jane kisses, she licks like a cat. He continued to make fun of her, the moniker “tiger tongue” staying with her even at her ten-year reunion.
After they break up, she reads Pride & Prejudice for the first time.
Miss Charming won’t let herself be dominated or destroyed, and immediately snags both gentlemen for Whist after dinner. Miss Amelia makes up the fourth, leaving Jane out in the cold again.
Which unfortunately sets her in Sir John’s drunken sights. He passes out, and tired of overhearing the lively conversation from the whist table, Jane decides to go out for a walk, major Austenland and Regency no no.
Jane hears a TV and goes to it, being Martin’s trailer. She overhears the Knick game and is invited inside. Things ensue, and before you know it they are making out. Jane leaves after their session and heads back to sneak into the house.
FLASHBACK: BOYFRIEND #3 Dave Atters, 16 yrs
Star of the high school basketball team and Jane was extremely infatuated with him. One night he tried to put his hand up her skirt, she refused, he dumped her.
Instead of blaming Dave she blamed Mr. Darcy for her high expectations of men.
Dave was a jerk. High expectations have nothing her other than you fell for a guy who thought he was the best and didn’t want to take no for an answer.
You should have high expectations. You shouldn’t have been dating a jerk like him. Any guy who won’t respect you isn’t worth it.
Every night she goes to see Martin and they make out, eat junk food, etc. She is bored with Regency things as she can’t stand to do any more of them.
Uh, embroidery is not boring or easy. It is hard work and fun. I”ll have to post some of the things I’ve done.
FLASHBACK: BOYFRIEND #4 Ray Riboldi, 17 yrs
Ray was nice, and Jane decided after the last two boyfriends she wanted a nice guy. After a few months, two guys who’d been longtime friends played a prank involving Ray’s jeep and dog poop, telling him to stay away from pretty girls. He then retaliated to Jane believing she was the one to put them up to it.
Jane has horrible taste in me, but she can’t blame Austen for it. The men she are picking are the problem. Maybe you should befriend and get to know them instead of going into “dating” them.
She gets bored of relaxing during the day, which I don’t get. Two weeks in England, relaxing? Sounds good to me.
She runs to see Martin, but he ends that, being offended that she is “one of those women” interested in Austen stuff and that she was with the other two men this morning. He’s a total jerk and Jane is upset as she came all this way, just for more disappointment.
FLASHBACK: BOYFRIEND #5 Rahim, 35 or 40 yrs
She meet him while working the perfume counter at age 19. He dates her for three weeks taking her to expensive restaurants, buying her gift; Jane almost fulfilling a cliché of being a “shopgirl”. I say almost because when he took her to her apartment and tried to sleep with her, she laughs and it ends.
Jane is depressed. She has no one, made a fool of herself going after Martin, and is still the fifth wheel. That night she turns down a game of whist and heads outside to walk again.
Mr. Nobley surprises her, having come to check on her. He warns her about Martin, his protectiveness getting her all upset. Later she comes back in the house and sees the book Mr. Nobley always reads with a pay stub made out to a Henry Jenkins. Hmm? Could that be his real name?
As she starts for her room, she comes upon a drunk Sir John who hits on her.
He tries to get with her, but she knees him in the groin and stops him.
Mr. Nobley comes upon them, and lends a hand. Here he shows his other side, no longer brooding and distant, but actually charming funny, and dare I say…a delight.
Jane is thoroughly disappointed in all that happened and decides no more nice-Jane. She is going to rock Austenland and be the best Regency lady ever.
FLASHBACK: BOYFRIEND #6 Josh Lake, 20 yrs
Met at a college carnival fundraiser when two groups of friends merged together. They get stuck in a ride and the fear and adrenaline make them start a relationship, but after three months they both know there is no pop to the relationship and break up.
Not Austen’s fault but Jane’s for letting the situation’s emotions create a false relationship and love. Like in Bones when Booth and Hannah get together.
The next morning, Jane pulls out her smuggled cell phone and emails a friend for info on Martin Jasper and Henry Jenkins, hoping to unearth the real person under the mask.
That morning the men are out of town, which upsets Miss Charming. She didn’t dole out the big bucks to be ignored or play second fiddle to Miss Heartwright.. She goes to speak to Mrs. Wattlesbrook and straighten out what her vision of Austenland is.
Jane, bored, goes to visit Miss Heartwright. She doesn’t really want to, but as this is something Emma would do, she’s in the game.
When the two ladies return to the park, they have an unexpected visitor! Miss Heartright’s jilted lover has returned, a Mr. George East who has recently become Captain. Miss Heartwright takes off, and Jane rings for a maid to show Captain East to his room.
Hmm…so now we have three ladies and three men. But who goes with who? And will Jane get the dream proposal promised?
FLASHBACK: BOYFRIEND #6.5 Paul Diaz, 20
She meet him in a watercolor class, sort of talked believing they clicked, but when she asked him out; he didn’t even know who she was.
At dinner Jane flirts as widely as she can, staying in Regency fashion. She throws Mr. Nobley out as it seems Miss Charming and Miss Heartwright care for him. Instead she tries to kill the Captain and the Colonel with her charm.
That night Jane, the Captain, and Colonel stay out of cards and tease Mr. Nobley. The teasing goes a little too far with Jane giving a short rant on the men of the day:
And Mr. Nobley has a longer rant about women. Clearly he has some wounds.
They then dance with East taking Heartwright and the Colonel paired with Miss Charming. Jane is left all alone until Mr. Nobley steps up and asks her for a dance.
FLASHBACK: BOYFRIEND 7 Juan Inskeep, 25 yrs
The next morning the men are out “shooting”, Miss Charming is upset and heads out to see Miss Heartwright, so Jane goes upstairs to check her email. Nothing on Martin Jasper but she hit the motherlode on Henry Jenkins. He studied theater and history at Cambridge, and four years ago was in a crazy divorce. He was very calm but recounted how when his wife cheated on him with a neighbor, he forgave her; when she sold his car to pay for a wild weekend in Monaco, he forgave her; but when she shish-kabobed his fish because he said he wanted kids: that’s when he decided the relationship needed to end. Sounds like a modern-day Mr. Rochester with a crazy, cruel wife.
Later in the library, she overhears the Colonel’s proposal to Miss Charming. One man down and two left to go. The game is on!
FLASHBACK: BOYFRIEND #8 Bobby Winkle, 23 yrs
They started as friends and moved on to dating. The relationship lasted six months and then he left for an internship Guatemala. He returned six months later and never called.
The next day they play croquet. Andrews and Miss Charming, Nobley and Miss Heartwright, & Jane and Captain East. Jane doesn’t mind being with Captain East as he is not only attractive but as bad at croquet as she is.
However, she notices that Mr. Nobley keeps staring and watching her. And even more she realizes that she cares what Mr. Nobley thinks about her.
The game is interrupted when Mrs. Wattlesbrook drives up. They found Jane’s cellphone and she is to be kicked out of Austenland.
She goes to get in the carriage upset that the men didn’t stand up for her. Before she gets in, they are interrupted by Miss Heartwright. She claims that it is her phone, she accidentally brought it, and that Jane was holding it for her. Because Miss Heartwright is so wealthy, they let her pass.
FLASHBACK: BOYFRIEND #9 Kevin Hyde, 27 yrs
She loved him. They dated for almost two years, Jane even went wedding dress shopping, but one day he told her he wanted to end it. He said it was too hard and that he wasn’t having fun.
The next day Miss Heartwright and Mr. Nobley are going horseback riding. They invite Jane, who determined not to be a third wheel, invites Mr. East. As they ride she tries to have intimate time to flirt, but Mr. Nobley keeps messing things up when he separates them. He eventually makes up Jane looking poorly, and sends the other two on ahead.
Jane is angry with Nobley for messing things up, but then he relays that Miss Hearwright asked him to intervene and give them a few minutes alone to talk about their past.
She and Nobley start talking and he manages to trick her into revealing something personal, her love of painting and her old dream. They are interrupted by East, but later that evening she finds a package for her. When she opens it, it is oil paints, an easel, and canvas.
FLASHBACK: BOYFRIEND #10 Peter Sosa, 29 yrs
She met Peter in the work elevator. They dated for five weeks and he was perfect. She started to dream only to have that crash down when he revealed that he was already dating someone. His girlfriend bet him he couldn’t make the next girl fall in love with him, and the little game went too far.
The next day is rainy and Jane spends the morning painting. She’d rather not tear herself away, but does as she knows she needs human contact after all that time alone.
She goes to the library to read and is met by Mr. Nobley. He reads the book to her, but it is too boring they cannot continue.
The Colonel wants to do a play, but they would need Mr. Nobley and he refuses. However, after Martin approaches and tries to re-romance Jane, Mr. Nobley tries to warn Jane against him once again. Jane finds herself falling for him, and promises to stay away from Martin if Mr. Nobley performs in the play.
FLASHBACK: BOYFRIEND #11 Clark Barnyard, 23 yrs
He was a younger man and someone she worked with. They joked and flirted for months when he asked her out finally. They start kissing when he tries to get her clothes off. She had to tell him no four times before he stopped, confused as to why they weren’t going to have sex.
This wasn’t even a real boyfriend! They went on one date! Jane is a tad delusional.
Mr. Nobley continues to look and watch Jane. They run off together to practice their parts, and actually break a few Regency rules with proximity.
Jane feels secure in having Mr. Nobley at her ending. But as they talk she remembers the ball is in two days and the vacation ends in three. It will all be over soon. 😦
They come upon a tender moment of Captain East and Miss Heartwright. While they talk about love and whether it can be done under fiction; Mr. Nobley reveals he had a “friend” who was heartbroken but if you asked him now, “he” might be opening his heart again to another.
They perform two hours later, badly, but something happens with Mr. Nobley. They way he looks at her, kissed her cheek…it seems more than just a part. But that’s silly it can’t be…real?
FLASHBACK: BOYFRIEND #12 Tad Harrison, 35 yrs
They were engaged after a year, adopted a dog, and picked out baby names. But he wouldn’t set a date. A year later, they take a break and Tad starts sleeping around. He kept the dog.
The next day, Jane paints all morning. After spending the whole morning alone, she goes out looking for the men. There are only two days left!
She sees the Colonel talking to someone out of sight and overhears that the Colonel has to get back to work, only to see it is her! Disgusted Jane goes back to her room and starts painting again.
Later that evening, Mr. Nobley takes her aside and asks her about her painting. They spend a long time as Jane shares her feelings of painting, the things she has been doing; just going on and on. Mr. Nobley smiles through the whole thing and asks to see her paintings.
He compliments her work and then leaves. But then returns to ask her to reserve the first two dances for him.
FLASHBACK: BOYFRIEND #12.5 Jake Zeiger, 30ish yrs
Her neighbor that she saw every time she gets her mail. She tries to ask him out, but he turns her down as he never saw her as anything but neighbor.
This was not her boyfriend either! Just in her head!
The ball comes and Jane is dressed elegantly. She is approached by Martin, dressed up as an extra, who tries to get the first two dances, but Nobley interferes, whirling her away.
Eventually they break way from the group and Mr. Nobley asks for her hand in marriage. Jane is upset at the faux love and walks away, deciding Mr. Darcy is not for her but she needs a “real man.”
She runs off to find Martin, as he is “real”.
They make plans to meet up the next day and for Jane to rearrange her schedule and get a few extra days in England.
FLASHBACK: BOYFRIEND #13 Jimmy Rimer, 38 yrs
They walked the same path every day in central park for five months. Then Jimmy snorted when laughing, and Jane avoided him.
The next day she says good-bye to Miss Charming and she and Miss Heartwright head out. It turns out Miss Heartwright is not British as they thought. She is a rich wife who comes out annually to have some fun. She shares that it was Mr. Nobley’s idea to save Jane from being thrown out, asking her to pretend it was her phone.
After Jane dresses in her old clothes returning her Regency wear, Mrs. Wattlesbrook lets her know that Martin is an actor. He was picked for her but had to be taken out if circulation when thinks got too heated.
Jane is so angry at them making a fool of her, picking a gardner as her match instead of any gentleman because she’s poor and not an “ideal” client.
Jane lies about her magazine, pretending she is a staff writer, threatening Mrs. Wattlesbrook and having a ton of fun making her sweat.
FLASHBACK: BOYFRIEND #14 Martin of Sheffield, 29 yrs
An actor posing as a gardener, who posed as a gentleman on the Austenland estate.
Jane heads to the airport: angry, sad, and feeling foolish. As she is thinking to herself, she hears in the airport:
Paging Miss Jane Erstwhile
Is it Mr. Nobley?! Did he comes after her?
No. It is Martin.
He was sent by Mrs. Wattlesbrook to mend things. He tries a few lines, but Jane sees right through them all.
But then the most surprising thing happens. A man dressed in Regency wear approaches! It is Mr. Nobley.
He tell her that he loves her! He got caught up in the role and gave her the same old proposal he always does, the Darcy proposal. But he truly does love her. Being with her was different than being with anyone else.
Martin and him fight, calling each other names; but Jane is just done with it all. She boards her plane saying good-bye.
On the plane, she is surprised to see that Mr. Nobley has bought a ticket and will be joining her on her flight. She questions why Mrs. Wattlesbrook would go that far, but he tells her she didn’t send him. He came on his own, he Henry Jenkins. In fact, Mrs. Wattlesbrook never sent him to go after Jane, not at the park and not now.
He knows she has no money, he never heard the article rumor, and bought the ticket even though he is deeply afraid of flying to prove his love. He tells her that if it is too much he can wait, if they just start out slow and then see where it takes them.
But then he says he lied.
Ah snap, knew it. It was too perfect.
He tells her that he doesn’t want a fling. For him it is all or nothing and he is throwing himself at her feet.
And then this part, this is the best:
“But wait, stop, it’s not supposed to end this way! You’re the fantasy, you’re what I’m leaving behind. I can’t pack you up and take you with me.’
‘That was the most self-centered thing I’ve ever heard you say.’
Jane blinked. ‘It was?’
‘Miss Hayes, have you stopped to consider that you might hav this all backward? That in fact you are my fantasy?”
Present: Boyfriend #15 Henry
Jane is taking this relationship one day at a time and no longer seems to be ashamed of her Pride and Prejudice love.
In the end Jane does the one thing everyone dreams of, she gets a “real” Mr. Darcy.
So I liked the novel, the only issue I really had was Jane’s feeling ashamed at being an Austen fan. I just don’t get it and it made her less likeable. I also didn’t like how she complained about her vacation or blamed her horrible choices in men on Austen. Those things were corrected in the sequel and film which is why I liked them better.
But the end was just perfect. It was incredibly romantic and just the type of thing we dream of. Hale sure knows how to write
For more by Shannon Hale, go to I Found this Blank Book of Stitched Together Pages…I’ll Record the Details of Our Confinement: Book of a Thousand Days
For more on Pride & Prejudice, go to The Bend and Snap
For more Pride & Prejudice variations, go to Is Love at the Thanksgiving Day Parade Really Just Pride & Prejudice?
For more books based on Jane Austen, go to Meet Cute: Darcy & Elizabeth Style
So even though this isn’t a part of our scheduled posting, as it is a post in the first 25 days of December I am going to add a Christmas Carol.
Today’s song is one that my sister loves and used to play all the time. It is On This Very Christmas Night or Christmas Canon by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra.
This song was published in 1998 and strayed from rock to being in the form of a children’s choir. It is a great song, but once played remains in your head forever.
For more Christmas Carols, go to You Will Be Haunted By Three Spirits: A Christmas Carol