After nursing a broken engagement with Jane Austen novels and Absolut, Courtney Stone wakes up and finds herself not in her Los Angeles bedroom or even in her own body, but inside the bedchamber of a woman in Regency England. Who but an Austen addict like herself could concoct such a fantasy? Not only is Courtney stuck in another woman’s life, she is forced to pretend she actually is that woman; and despite knowing nothing about her, she manages to fool even the most astute observer. But not even her level of Austen mania has prepared Courtney for the chamber pots and filthy coaching inns of nineteenth-century England, let alone the realities of being a single woman who must fend off suffocating chaperones, condom-less seducers, and marriages of convenience. This looking-glass Austen world is not without its charms, however. There are journeys to Bath and London, balls in the Assembly Rooms, and the enigmatic Mr. Edgeworth, who may not be a familiar species of philanderer after all. But when Courtney’s borrowed brain serves up memories that are not her own, the ultimate identity crisis ensues. Will she ever get her real life back, and does she even want to?
Aclever time-travel setup functions as the prime attraction for this breezy debut novel. Courtney Stone, a single Los Angeles woman recovering from the double whammy of a broken engagement and a failed friendship, wakes up after a night of self-medicating with her drug of choice, Jane Austen novels, to find herself in 1813 England. She's inhabiting the body of Jane Mansfield, a manor-born Englishwoman who, at 30, has yet to find a husband, confounding her humorless, Miss Bossy-corset stand-in mother. While still haunted by real-life memories, Courtney, as Jane, soon gets swept up in this Austenesque world of decadent meals and grand balls, gentlemen in form-fitting knee breeches and traveling with her friend Mary, whose brother, Charles Edgeworth, appears to have an interest in Jane that Courtney struggles to understand. As her identity starts to meld with Jane's, Courtney rethinks who she wants to be (and to be with) in any time period. While her 21st-century anachronisms can be comical, Courtney, for such an Austen addict, is unconvincingly na ve about Regency norms. Fans of the ever-expanding inspired-by-Austen-lit garden party will find a winner here; it doesn't hurt that Austen has a brief, comical cameo.
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Immature fan fiction from an author who (in theory) should know better
Deus ex Machina. That is the method by which the author backs herself out of the corner she wrote herself into on page one. The concept of porosity in the time line could have been intriguing (if slightly worn-out) if the author had bothered to explore it at all. Instead, the story takes the complexity of the 'stranger in a strange land' plot line and tosses it aside with the absurd explanation that some unnamed supernatural force renders the time traveler physically and linguistically adept at life in 18th century England. The bloated plot shifts quickly to a social romance that seems extraneous in light of the innate confusion surrounding the novel's premise. The main character is a weak and obnoxious Mary Sue. Her actions in this new (and over-idealized) world are embarrassingly unrelatable. She was a failure at 21st century life in the US and, as far as the reader can tell, ought to be even less prepared to meld with the 18th century moneyed class of England. Yet, somehow, all is overcome. The romance around which the plot revolves is thin and unappealing. Based on the closing lines of the book, it would appear that even the author cannot find a reasonable way to make such two-dimensional and incompatible characters come together. More importantly, the book is a dangerously nostalgic and trite interpretation of a true period in history. Social themes in the book offer more levity than merengue and character development is appalling. It is astounding that an author who proclaims herself a Jane Austen specialist can so obviously miss the nuance and intent of her favourite author's works.