Life has gotten a little strange for Jane Mansfield: she’s woken up in a cramped apartment in Los Angeles, wearing frighteningly little clothing; her beloved maid Barnes is nowhere in sight; all sorts of strange appliances and glowing boxes are around her, producing very curious noises; and an incredibly good-looking, decidedly ungentleman-like man is tending to her monstrous headache, which he says is the result of whacking her head against the bottom of a pool.
Oh — and it’s 2009.
When Jane fell off her horse on her father’s estate in England, the year was 1813. Heartbroken and battling to get out from underneath her mother’s meddling thumb, Jane had wished for another life — a new chance in a new time. And after her nasty spill, her wish has been granted.
The modern era is a complete and total mystery to Jane, filled with cars, cell phones, iPods, the Internet, television and film adaptations of Jane Austen’s work on boxes with moving pictures (ooh, Colin Firth!). With the help of friends Paula, Anna and Wes, Courtney’s former friend and current ally, Jane-as-Courtney begins to piece together how in the world she may have come to find herself in L.A. — and in the body of blonde, petite assistant Courtney Stone, a woman whose problems, heartbreaks and indecisions Jane has now inherited.
This sequel to Laurie Viera Rigler’s Confessions Of A Jane Austen Addict follows Jane as her friends come to grips with her funny way of talking — Regency dialect, you know, just without the British accent — and her complete inability to understand any sort of technology. At first chalking up her confusion to the concussion she’s suffered, they slowly begin to realize that Courtney has changed. And it’s all thanks to Jane.
Though I enjoyed Confessions very much, I have to say that I loved this novel even more than Rigler’s debut. Her observations on modern relationships, technology and friendships were spot-on, and I absolutely loved discovering the things we take for granted anew through Jane’s eyes. Contraptions like cell phones and computers are alien to her, and the descriptions of them are often hilarious. How often do we stop and think how strange it is that we’re sitting in front of little glowing boxes right now, tapping out sequences of letters to pull up information from anywhere on the planet? Once Jane discovers the wonders of Google, there’s no turning back. It’s a magical feeling!
The development of Jane’s friendships with Paula and Anna was really fun, as were her interactions with philandering ex Frank and good friend Wes. The romance felt believable, and I thought her descriptions of modern courtship were particularly astute . . . and thought-provoking. Two of my favorite quotes from the book, which genuinely made me pause:
. . . While women value their so-called freedom, they are fearful of giving away too much too soon, thus obviating a man’s reasons for marrying. Which sounds like freedom for men and not for women, in my humble opinion. And which sounds like being ruined is almost as much a risk in this world as it is in mine.
To think I had believed, even for a moment, that he was about to offer me marriage, not a chance to bed him again and be his mistress who must still work and pay her own rent and can be thrown off without a moment’s notice unless perhaps he decides to make her an honest offer again. What a bargain.
So true, Jane — so true! Much of the book was really an examination of what it means to be a “free woman” — free from obligation, or responsibility, or want, or oppression. But, as evidenced above, Jane realizes that the freedom to make choices about love, family, friendship and careers in the twenty-first century doesn’t automatically equate to happiness.
Overall, an incredibly entertaining, interesting and fun look at our world through the eyes of a Regency woman, and a wonderful treat for Jane Austen fans. References to our favorite author abound, and a love of all things Austen — and Mr. Darcy — is just one of the many things Jane discovers she shares with Courtney. Now I want to go back and re-read Confessions, if only to spend more time with funny, perceptive Jane.
4.5 out of 5!