Right out of the gate, Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict is very reminiscent of an old (1981) young adult book called Halfway Down Paddy Lane by Jean Marzollo. The unexpected time traveling and its resulting confusion is quite similar. Having loved Paddy Lane as a kid and being an Austen addict myself, this new book by LaurieViera Rigler called to me.
After seeing her fiancé gettin’ busy with another woman, Los Angeles gal Courtney self-medicates the pain away with an overdose of heavy carbs and Jane Austen. Being a closet Pride & Prejudice addict, it is the best healing she could ask for: romance, familiarity, and the sweet knowledge that everything will end the way she wants it to.
She wakes the next morning in a four-poster canopy bed draped with velvet curtains, a serving maid to attend to her every whim, as long as it doesn’t go against her overbearing mother’s desires. She finds herself the aging (nearly thirty!) daughter of a wealthy family of reasonably good name. Assuming it is a dream at first, “Jane” goes through the motions while wondering just when she’ll go home.
The food is fabulously indulgent. Her fingers miraculously know how to embroider beautifully, and her feet know the intricate dance steps expected of a well-to-do lady. Jane’s long, willowy body is buttoned and tied and corseted into fairy tale gowns, while her hair is elaborately arranged for rambling strolls in the garden. On the other hand, her mother is dismally determined to get Jane married off. The stench of her own unwashed body drives her from her bed each morning wishing for modern plumbing, and she must get used to the indignity of a chamber pot!
Living as Jane, she meets men - and must learn to remember the utter lack of freedom women have in relation to men and reputation. Loving as Jane, Courtney begins to confuse her two selves - the modern Los Angeles career woman and the sheltered Jane who still lives under the absolute rule of her mother. The anti-parallels are fascinating and entirely believable. It is a delicious paradox.
The resolution is where the book goes off a bit. The idea comes across, but the handling is a little clunky. After being so completely and easily swept away in Jane’s fairy tale, that is disappointing. Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict can boast many of the qualities offered by a good Austen story, if one just simply excludes the end.