Can Believing in Happy Ever Afters Ruin Your Marriage? Your Happiness? Your Life?
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
What a provocative title! Are Jane Austen fans in danger of having unsuccessful marriages and relationships because they aspire to find their own Mr. Darcy? Has reading too many happy endings deluded women into a believing that their life can be as perfect and carefree as in a fairy tale? And, is Jane Austen to blame for this false sense of happily ever after?
Our heroine of this novel, Emma Grant, seems to think so! Poor Emma has suffered from some serious disappointments in her life. She married a man she thought was her older and wiser Mr. Knightley and recently caught him in that act of adultery with her teaching assistant. That same teaching assistant has accused Emma of plagiarism (a claim supported by Emma’s ex-husband), which resulted in Emma’s dismissal from her university position and irreversible damage to her reputation.
While devastated that her marriage did not have the happy ending she was expecting, Emma still hopes that her career may be salvaged by making a new discovery concerning Jane Austen. Like many Austen scholars, Emma has wondered: What were the unknown secrets of Jane Austen’s life. What occurred in those years where there is no correspondence or recorded writing attempts? What was in those letters that Cassandra destroyed? And most importantly, what if those letters weren’t destroyed after all…
Emma embarks upon a journey to London, England where she intends to find these lost letters of Jane Austen and publish them. However, there are a few surprises in store for Emma such as living under the same roof as her estranged former best friend and discovering the existence of a secret society devoted to the preservation of Jane Austen’s lost letters, to name a few.
Jane Austen Ruined My Life is an enthralling novel that was engaging and light. I loved the idea of a secret society of select Austen scholars safely guarding a massive collection of lost letters belonging to Jane Austen. In addition, I greatly enjoyed the “unknown” love story Ms. Pattillo cultivated between Jane Austen and another man. I took pleasure in touring many famous Austen haunts with Emma in this novel including: Chawton Cottage, Stevenson Rectory, and the National Portrait Gallery where Cassandra Austen’s pencil and watercolor portrait of her sister is on display. These scenes were so vividly depicted I felt I was there myself.
What I didn’t like about this novel was the ending; this book was like one of those trips where you enjoy the ride more than the destination. Like any Austen heroine, Emma gains new understanding about herself and what she needs to do with her life by the end of the book. While Emma does make some good decisions about her life at the close of this novel, we unfortunately don’t get to see them all pan out including the romance between her and her former best friend, Adam.
Although Emma originally vowed that it was Jane Austen that ruined her life, she learns a difficult and valuable lesson about being responsible for making your own happiness and successes in life. While many of the couples in Jane Austen’s novels may be perfectly matched, I don’t think Jane Austen intended for us to believe that their marriages were “pictures of perfection.”
I recommend this book for readers who enjoy Jane Austen chick-lit, however, if you are a hopeless romantic like I am, you may feel some disappointment with the novel’s ending. Nonetheless, I greatly look forward to reading Beth Pattillo’s new release, Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart.