I read this for my Free Square for Book Bingo. It was suggested to me, because I read Austenland. I love Shannon Hale's novels and this one was just as good as the first book. You could read this one and not have read Austenland, because the stories only slightly connect.
Charlotte has been dumped by her husband who had been cheating on her for months, but Charlotte is nice, so she bottles up all her emotions and does not fight back. She is also an overprotective mother who basically stalks her daughter's boyfriend, because she is afraid that all men are terrible. With all this self-doubt and for her children, Charlotte decides to take a vacation. Since she just read all of Austen's collected works, she decides on England and her travel agent sets her up with an extra special vacation at Austenland. This Austen-themed park is right up Charlotte's alley and she is paired with the brooding Mr. Mallery and she is given a brother in the sweet Edmund Grey. What really peaks Charlotte's interest is a murder mystery that just may be real. Part Agatha Christie and part Austen, Hale creates a heroine who is just recognizing her strength and gives her the perfect setting.
I loved the romance and mystery in this one! It really felt like she had captured some of the Christie mystery style with the subtle romance of Austen. I love reading Christie's novels and I loved the one Jane Austen I read, so this was a great read for me. I feel like I should definitely read more Austen soon. I also loved that Charlotte remained nice, but finally learned to express healthy anger and pride.
Favorite Character: Charlotte. As corny as it sounds, she really grew throughout the story, but maintained her goodness. She is meek and nice at the beginning and by the end she knows proper boundaries and reactions. She can be nice without being a doormat.
Favorite Quote: "But how do you know if the ending is truly good for the characters unless you've traveled with them through every page?" I am bad about reading the ending and then the story and this quote really made me think about the wrongness of that.
I loved the story and Charlotte and I really hope Hale writes more of these! 5 cups of cocoa for sure!