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This is my third read for the Austen Challenge and it was quite a treat.  Let me make a short confession real quick before I delve into a full review of this delightful little treasure: I’m not really a huge Jane Austen fan.  In fact, as much as I love the story of Pride and Prejudice, I have only seen it in the movie format.  I’ve never actually gotten around to reading the acclaimed masterpiece.  So in many ways, I’m a fraud for even entering the challenge.  Still, I believe that my reading thus far has definitely piqued my interest in Jane Austen’s work and life.  For this reason, I plan to create a challenge for myself and anyone who would like to join to read (or reread) all of her major works and maybe even some biographical pieces.  I need to think this out more thoroughly before I make it official.  Please, look forward to a post on this later.  Now for the usual review format ….

Publisher’s Synopsis: Scholars estimate that Jane Austen wrote close to three thousand letters in her lifetime.  Almost all of them were supposedly destroyed at her death.  What secrets did Jane Austen have to hide?

Emma Grant has always done everything the way her minister father said she should – a respectable marriage, a teaching job, and plans for the requisite two children.  Life was prodigiously good, as her favorite author might say, until the day Emma finds her husband in bed with another woman.  Suddenly, all her romantic notions a la Austen are exposed for just foolish dreams.

Denied tenure in the wake of the scandal Emma packs what few worldly possessions she has left and heads to England to find the missing letters of Jane Austen.  A reclusive widow claims t have the author’s correspondence, but she allows Emma to see the ltters only if she promises never to tell anyone about them.  Emma relunctantly agrees and sets off across Austen’s England – from Steventon to Bath to Lyme Regis – on a series of tasks that bring her closer and closer to the secrets Jane Austen hoped to bury.  And the reappearance of Emma’s old friend Adam doesn’t make her quest any easier.

As Emma uncovers the legendary author’s innermost thoughts, she beings to understand the reasons for her idols secrecy and Austen’s own struggles as a woman of faith.  Laced with excerpts from the missing letters, Jane Austen Ruined My Life is the story of a woman betrayed who uncovers the true meaning of loyalty.

About the Author: Beth Pattillo’s love for Jane Austen was born when she studied at the University of London, Westfield College, for one glorious semester.  Her passion quickly became an obsession, necessitating regular trips to England over the past twenty years.  When not dreaming of life “across the pond,” Pattillo live in Nashville, Tennessee, with her husband two children.

Overall Rating: 5 out of 5 quills

Review: Let me just say that from the very first page, I loved this book.  Pattillo’s writing is just perfect.  I could easily relate to Emma: after all who hasn’t been betrayed?  Who hasn’t dealt with heartbreak and felt like all her dreams and hopes were broken beyond repair?  We all have hit what feels like rock bottom at some point in our life.  But it’s how we pick ourselves back up that really matters.  Emma discovers this as she embarks on what seems like an insane set of tasks throughout England revisiting some of the place where Austen spent her life.  As Emma completes her tasks, we learn more about Austen (both real facts and some of the speculations that Pattillo makes).  And through reading this, I fell in love with England.  Let me tell you, if I had the money I would be booking a plane ticket and hotel reservations instead of typing this review.  But alas, that dream will have to be put on hold.

What I loved the most about this book is that it reawakened some of my passions.  I haven’t written about it much on here, but I failed Nanowrimo this year.  Not enough time to devote to the endeavor.  Or maybe I just wasn’t quite ready for the challenge.  After all, since I started college, I had largely given up on writing.  Sure, I write essays constantly, but I’m talking about the sit down and write your heart out, create funky scenarios, and test your imagination kind of writing.  That is the kind of writing that I miss.  And this book made me want to go out and buy a new notebook and just sit down for a couple hours to see what came out.  Luckily, I got one for Christmas – a nice one with a hard cover and lots of pages.  Not that I necessarily have the highest expectations for my reawakened writing endeavors, but I’m excited to see myself writing anything in my spare time again.

And so for these and so many more reasons, I loved this book.  The lessons that Emma learned on her journey really hit home for me and I’m sure for many other reasons.  I definitely recommend anyone looking for a good story to take a chance on this book.  It has reawakened a passion of mine, taught me some valuable lessons about life, love, and just being a woman, and it has definitely made me more interested in Jane Austen.

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Publisher’s Synopsis: When a modern woman goes back to Jane Austen’s time, she needs to know everything!  Eleanor agrees to travel back in time to prevent a deadly duel, but she doesn’t know how to behave, what to say, and most importantly … how to tell a villain from a rake.  The captivating, infuriating, and mysterious Lord Shermont is a renowned rake and womanizer-but is he also a dangerous cutthroat spy?  Eleanor has to get up close and personal to find out.  Otherwise, she could fall into a most shocking scandal.  Thankfully, Miss Jane Austen herself arrives on the scene, with sage guidance and a twinkle in her eye, to help Eleanor navigate countryhouse society and the dangerous terrain of her own heart.

Rating: 4 out of 5 Quills

Review: This is my very first read for the Jane Austen challenge.  I’m in a rush to try and finish all (or any) challenge I can before the new year.  Let me tell you, it hasn’t been easy.  But this book was still a joy to read.  Granted, it did get a little graphic at times, but I fell in love with the characters.  Eleanor was a wonderful heroine to follow into regency England.  I hadn’t been really all that into the Regency era before, but this book was a wonderful introduction.  I loved the descriptions of the house, the clothes, the gardens, the people … well, EVERYTHING!  This was a wonderful book for me to begin the challenge with.  I’m not a huge Austen buff, and this book didn’t really require me to have any prior knowledge.  I’m definitely recommending this one!

Quotes: “I suppose this author is much like any other,” Jane said.  “I once… heard an author describe writing as taking bits and pieces of her experiences and observations, then she questions, dissects, and analyzes them.  She extrapolates from them, stretching the though out.  Then she adds from her imagination a big dose of what might have been, a good measure of what would never be, and spice it all with wishful thinking” (256).


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I have a confession to make.  I have never read Pride and Prejudice.  I have the book sitting on my bookshelf but I have never read it.  Still, I have seen the movie.  Especially the two disk BBC version starring Colin Firth.  My mother is in love with that particular version of the beautiful love story between Elizabeth Bennett and the charming yet infuriating Mr. Darcy.  And from that story (and countless other cheesy romances) I have come very much like Jane to live the life of a hopeless romantic.  Yes, when it comes to love, I daydream about fairytale like happy endings where the two lovebird overcome amazing obstacles to be together.  Where, despite the odds, he falls head over heels for her and finds a way to make her feel like the most beautiful woman in the world every day of her life.  Crazy, right?

Well, Jane Hayes is exactly the same.  She measures all her boyfriends in terms of Mr. Darcy.  And she wants to find love.  Almost to a point of desperation.  In fact, she keeps a headcount on boyfriends (13 at the point in her life where the book starts).  Still, I somewhat shamefully can relate to Jane.  Before I met Brian, I was just like her.  And if Brian and I break up, will go back to being just like her.  In fact, even with Brian I am just like Jane.  I hunger for romance: cheesy lines, endless devotions, fiery passion … but then, don’t most women?  Anyway, Jane’s Great Aunt Caroline bequeaths her to every romance hungry woman’s dream: a trip to a resort in Regency-era England where Jane finally has a chance to have all her dreams of Mr. Darcy come true.  Still, things in any romance novel aren’t simple and Jane finds herself wondering what is real and what is not in this actor-heavy world.  How is she to decipher what is part of the game vs. what isn’t?

From the first page of this book, I was pretty much addicted.  After all, I finished it in two sittings.  Yes, I blew off homework and all my other responsibilities and sat with book in hand devouring page after page.  I loved Jane.  I could easily relate to Jane and the way she saw the world, the way she saw love.  After all, I’ve been in her position.  Haven’t we all?  Even though guys mess up and break your heart, there is a part that continues to hope that the next one will be Mr. Right, that the next one will affirm all your hopes and dreams and really love you.

“A couple of years ago, she’d toyed with having a therapist, and though in the end she’d decided she just wasn’t a therapy kind of a gal, she did come out if it understanding one thing about herself: At a very young age, she had learned how to love from Austen. And according to her immature understanding at the time, in Austen’s world there was no such thing as a fling.  Every romance was intended to lead to marriage, every flirtation just a means to find that partner to cling to forever.  So for Jane, when each romance ended with hope still attached, it felt as brutal as divorce.  Intense much, Jane?  Oh yes.  But what can you do?” (18)

While I’m sure this book is not for everyone, I recommend it to anyone who can relate to anything I’ve written here.  The book is humorous and slightly outrageous at times, but the story, at least in my eyes, is a worthwhile one.  It gives you a chance to escape everyday life and take a journey into the past.  While the etiquette and customs aren’t quite as good as the movies, they do a great job taking you away, if only for a few hours.  The book is more than just a romance novel praising the men of Austen’s age.  In a lot of ways, Jane’s character grows and fights with her desire to dream and her desire to be more pragmatic.  And at the end of the book, it makes you wonder whether or not one should ever let their dreams go.  I know I love the idea of hanging on to all my dreams until I make them a reality.

Overall Rating: B

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