I read this novel for bookclub during the summer. I know, it's the middle of winter but I just remembered I never review this book, so here goes. "Midnight in Austenland" by Shannon Hale is a great summer read. I have loved her other adolescent novels, particularly "Princess Academy" and "Book of a Thousand Days" so I had high hopes when I read "Austenland." I was disappointed. I wasn't prepared for the slightly edgier, more mature aspect of the book and the whole thing seemed a little shallow. So when "Midnight in Austenland", sequel to "Austenland", was suggested at bookclub, I tried to hide my lack of enthusiasm and agreed to the pick. Although my opinion was already slightly tainted before even opening the pages, I was pleasantly surprised.
The story is completely separate from "Austenland" allowing the reader to conveniently skip over that one if you choose. In "Midnight..." we are introduced to Charlotte Kinder, a divorced mother of two who desperatly needs a vacation. Soon enough she finds herself in the rolling hills of the English countryside at a resort where everyone takes on a Jane Austen era character. The 'hotel' per say is staffed with actors and romance is in the air.
As Charlotte enters this new world, she meets all sorts of interesting characters and entertains herself in trying to figure out what part of the character is real or not. It doesn't take long before there are situations that don't add up in her mind and she's soon hot on the trail of solving a suspicious disappearance and possible murder.
The story isn't deep and I had it figured out early. The bad guy really is the bad guy, although I had hoped until the very last pages that there would be a twist or red herring type of ending. Alas, it all played out according to the basic formula.
The redeeming part of the story that made the read worthwhile was the character of Charlotte. I really liked her. Shannon Hale does a great job opening up Charlotte to the reader in a way that immediately draws you to her side and you wouldn't think of leaving her before the final page is read.
So although I felt like the plot was lacking, I still recommend this book, especially if you need a quick summer read. In 5 or 6 months after we thaw from winter.