Someone should ban me from the library while I have unread books at home. I stopped by last Friday to pick up an ILL (inter-library book) and took a few minutes to peruse the “new” bookshelf where I stumbled across Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict by Laurie Viera Rigler.
Rigler’s book is about Courtney Stone, the titular Jane Austen addict, who is recovering from a failed romance in present-day LA and wakes one day to find herself no longer in her own body but in the body of an unmarried Regency woman named Jane Mansfield (yes, really. HA Ha ha – guess it’s not really that funny). While in Miss Mansfield’s body, Courtney comes to appreciate the difference between reading a book about delightful characters set in the Regency period and the limitations, restrictions, and realities that a Regency woman would have had to navigate, including clothes, courtship, etiquette and attitudes. Courtney must also try to figure out how to get herself back to her own body and life in LA.
Rigler is a dedicated member of the JASNA (the Jane Austen Society of North America), and it shows. As I read the book, I wondered if its plot or parts of its plot had been developed out of some JASNA meeting or session. Does JASNA sponsor fan fiction? It occasionally seemed like there were a lot of in-jokes. Overall, I was rather underwhelmed by the book. It’s a cute idea, but the characters were flat and one-dimensional. The plot also seemed a tad light. Courtney-as-Jane is supposed to solve the important mystery of whether the eligible Mr. Edgerton is a scoundrel or worthy of her love, but there was no depth to the storyline. Rigler did a better job of helping the reader picture what life might have been like in the early 19th century as far as using a chamber pot, eating, dress and transportation.
I also became tired very quickly of the Jane Austen references (sacrilege?). When troubled, in need of a boost or just plain bored, the heroine rereads Sense & Sensibility and Pride & Prejudice. Yes, I GET it! You are a Jane Austen addict, and apparently no other authors exist. The book also contains a painful (to the reader) meeting between the heroine and her idol. It was this scene in which Rigler’s authorial voice came through the strongest and indicated that there was a point she was trying to make about Austen’s fiction and movie adaptations.
Despite the criticism, Rigler is a pretty good writer. Her prose was clean and flowed well. It’s just everything else that was weak.