Welcome to Austenland!
Oh, wait, let's back it up a bit. We won't get to Austenland until Chapter 4.
Jane Hayes, a thirty-something single New Yorker, is lost in love stories. Obsessed with the BBC mini-series of Pride and Prejudice, Jane is looking for her very own Mr. Darcy. Luckily for her, Jane's rich Great-Aunt Carolyn leaves Jane a very special present when she dies: a vacation to an exclusive resort in England. Called Pembrook Park, this resort lets people dress in Regency period clothes, play whist and croquet, and flirt. In other words, it's Austenland.
Okay, let's try this again.
Welcome to Austenland!
Austenland's prideful and particular proprietress, Mrs. Wattlesbrook, welcomes Jane to the place. She quizzes her on the customs of the day, dresses her in 19th-century garb, and confiscates all of her technology. Well, except her phone; sneaky Jane stashes her cell phone in a secret hiding place.
Among the guests of Pembrook Park are two ladies, Miss Charming and Miss Heartwright, and three studly gentlemen: Colonel Andrews, Major East, and Pembrook Park's very own Darcy, Mr. Nobley.
And who do you think Jane picks for her first-choice suitor at Austenland? If you said "Nobley," well, you're wrong. Jane goes for the gardener, Theodore, who is actually a man named Martin Jasper. On her walks through the garden, Jane stumbles across Martin's cabin, and he invites her in to watch TV. You know, "watch TV," by which he means catch a little of the basketball match between some long makeout sessions.
Their fling is short-lived, however. Martin is unable to get past the fact that Jane is one of the foolish women of Austenland, pretending to be a Regency dame and alla that.
So Jane shifts her focus to Mr. Nobley. The two engage in verbal sparring matches and trade witticisms à la Lizzy and Darcy (from Pride and Prejudice). Near the end of Jane's stay, the group puts on a play. Jane and Mr. Nobley are cast to play lovers and, surprising no one, fall in love for realz. Unfortunately, by this point, Jane believes that everyone is messing with her, so she rejects him.
Instead, Jane reunites with Martin and decides to stay in England for a few days after leaving Pembrook Park. That is, until Mrs. Wattlesbrook reveals that she orchestrated the entire thing. Martin was an actor, too, paid to seduce Jane. That cad. (We're in England, remember?)
Heartbroken, Jane flees to the airport. Martin chases after her to apologize, but she's not having it. Then, Mr. Nobley shows up, to assure Jane that his love for her is genuine. The two men engage in not-so-gentlemanly fisticuffs and Jane boards her plane.
But she can't fly away from love that easily. Nobley, whose real name is Henry Jenkins, boards the plane and gives Jane the kind of love-struck proclamation that only happens in romance novels. Since Jane will only be satisfied by the kind of love that happens in romance novels, his heart-felt speech woos our Jane straight off her feet. They fly back to New York together and everything is perfect forever.
- "It is a truth universally acknowledged that a thirty-something woman in possession of a satisfying career and fabulous hairdo must be in want of very little" (Prologue.1).
- Hmm, that sounds familiar. Yep, it's Pride and Prejudice's classic first line updated by two hundred years of women's right's progress. (In case you're curious, the original goes like this: "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife." Blah. We like Shannon Hale's version much better.)
- The rest of the brief prologue to Austenland introduces us to our protagonist, Jane Hayes. Here's a cheat sheet of her defining characteristics:
- Likes Cocoa Pebbles
- Has an unhealthy obsession with Colin Firth
- We can relate.
1 year ago
- Jane gets a visit from her mom and Great-Aunt Carolyn. Jane doesn't know ol' Carolyn too well, but her mom is angling for the woman's inheritance.
- Carolyn notices Jane's Pride and Prejudice hidden in a houseplant (Jane's a little embarrassed about her obsession) before they go out to eat.
- At lunch, Carolyn does what all well-meaning old people do: she stages an intervention for our little Jane to deal with her unhealthy obsession.
- She tells Jane that she doesn't want her to immerse herself in Austen and end up like Austen: a spinster.
- Jane (Hayes, our protagonist), admits that she might be a little "batty" (1.37). What? She's a vampire?! Oh wait, that's another book.
- As lunch winds to a close, Jane nibbles her salad and thinks that she should try to move past her obsession.
6 months ago
- Mom calls with good news for Jane: Great-Aunt Carolyn put her in the will. Score. Taking advantage of dying family members pays off.
- The attorney tells Jane that what she's received is a little… unconventional. "An all-inclusive, three-week vacation in England [where] you dress up and pretend to be someone in the year 1816" (2.17). Um, whatever happened to cold, hard cash?
- All day at work, Jane frets about whether or not she should go on the trip. She's worried that she'll be single forever, and this might be her last shot at love.
- That night, she tells her friend Molly about the trip. Molly sets Jane straight: Jane's obsessed with the 19th century and all of her relationships have been failures because she expects "every romance […] to lead to marriage" (2.64), Lizzie Bennet.
- Jane continues to flip-flop, but ultimately decides to go on the trip as a last hurrah before embracing spinsterhood.
3 weeks and 1 day ago
- Jane flies into Heathrow airport, where a limo is waiting to take her to Austenland.
- On the way, she reviews a packet of notes: "Social History of the Regency Period." It's full of rules on how ladies and gentleman are to act in Austenland.
- At the estate, Jane is introduced to the proprietress of Pembrook Park, Mrs. Wattlesbrook. She changes Jane's name to Miss Jane Erstwhile, and gives Jane the opportunity to pretend to be a different age. Jane decides to stay thirty-three.
- After a quiz on etiquette, current events, and card game rules in Austenland, Jane is shown her wardrobe, which is filled with authentic period clothing. No Saks tags here.
- Mrs. Wattlesbrook confiscates Jane's MP3 player, but Jane hides her cell phone and doesn't give it up.
- Jane has dinner and then a quick dance practice with Theodore, a hunky gardener.
- That night, Jane hopes that her trip to Austenland will have a "very good ending" (3.75).
- The next morning, Jane rides a carriage to the manor where she'll be staying. She worries about being able to role-play with a straight face.
- A servant helps her down from the carriage, and she's greeted by Aunt Saffronia and her husband, Sir John Templeton.
- They show Jane to her room, where she's dismayed to see that the "authentic" kerosene lamp is actually an electric model.
- On the way back downstairs, Jane bumps into Miss Charming, a busty fifty-year-old, who is pretending to be twenty-two and to have an English accent. She's bad at both.
- At dinner that evening, they meet the gentlemen. There's Colonel Andrews, Sir John's cousin and a hunter, and his good friend Mr. Nobley, who broods like Mr. Darcy. Or Angel from Buffy. Maybe he's a vampire. (Okay, no one's a vampire in this one, sorry.)
- They eat, Miss Charming flirts, and "Mr. Nobley read a book and generally ignored everybody" (4.94).
- By the end of the night, though, Jane and Mr. Nobley engage in some witty repartee, and Jane "found herself wondering if she wasn't the prettiest and smartest guest they'd had in some time" (4.116). Maybe her inner Lizzy Bennet is shining through.
- A heavy downpour keeps all the guests indoors. Things are boring for a couple of days, until Jane can go for a walk on the third day.
- She runs into Theodore, the gardener, in—where else?—the gardens.
- They have a forbidden conversation (the guests aren't permitted to converse with the help), and "Theodore" tells Jane that his real name is actually Martin Jasper.
- After their chat, Jane bumps into Mr. Nobley and Col. Andrews. She's walked up quite a sweat, and her conversation with Theodore/Martin has left her flush. So Nobley and Andrews think she's ill.
- While Nobley and Andrews remain in character, Jane has a hard time pretending to be a fragile Regency gal.
- Eventually, she talks herself back into the role: "Be the dress. […] Be the bonnet" (5.65).
- Andrews fetches her some water and they walk back to the house.
- Jane takes a bath and then discusses "naughty things" (5.95) with the ladies of the house. By naughty things, we mean novels like The Castle of Otranto and The Mysteries of Udolpho.
- There's also some gossip in the air. Jane meets the newest guest, Miss Heartwright, and finds out her scandalous past with a man named Captain East.
- Miss Charming is not thrilled by Miss Heartwright, because she doesn't want to have any more competition in the house. She "withered like a carrot forgotten in the back of the refrigerator" (5.111). And being compared to a vegetable is never a good thing, you couch potato, you. (Let's leave the great potato debate for another time.)
Day 4, continued
- Later that evening, Miss Charming bounces back and snags both hunks at the whist table, leaving Jane to embroider by herself.
- Sir John, drunk, won't stop talking to her about hunting. Maybe she can embroider him a muzzle.
- Sick of all the role-play, Jane goes for a walk and finds herself right at Martin's door.
- Not only is he studly and shirtless, he's watching TV. Jane sneaks in and watches basketball with him.
- Oh, and they make out.
- Jane sneaks back to the manor late at night. She feels like someone is watching her, but no one calls her out for being unescorted after dark.
- This short chapter is a repeat of Jane's adventures from last night.
- 1. Sneak to Martin's
- 2. Watch TV
- 3. Make out
- (Lather, rinse) repeat
- Jane is, like, so bored with Austenland. All she does is sit around reading, making small talk with the ladies, and waiting to snog Martin's socks off at night.
- Unfortunately, the snogging part is about to come to an end.
- Martin tells Jane that Mrs. Wattlesbrook is onto them. She confiscated his TV. So he's calling it quits, saying that Jane only comes to find him "when there is no one else to flirt with" (8.19). Ouch.
- "Are you breaking up with me?" (8.32) Jane asks.
- "Were we ever together enough to require breaking up?" (8.33) Whoa. We know that last line got an "ouch" from us, but this is one for the Austenland Burn Book.
Day 7, continued
- After getting rejected by the man pretending to be a gardener, Jane mopes around, wearing ugly dresses and reading and refusing to socialize.
- She goes for her usual walk, and tries to decide whether or not to find Martin and apologize.
- In the dark, Mr. Nobley comes up behind her, and almost finds himself on the receiving end of Jane's ninja wrath.
- Nobley warns Jane about "cavort[ing] with servants" (9.33), and Jane stomps off.
- She walks "around the park in angry circles" (9.43). That explains the crop circles in England: it's all those angry Jane Austen wannabes, wandering around in Austenland.
- Once everyone has gone to bed, Jane sneaks back inside. She finds a piece of paper in the book Mr. Nobley had been reading. It's something decidedly modern: a paystub, with the name Henry Jenkins. Could that be Nobley's true identity?
- Not everyone is asleep though. Sir John is awake, drunk, and… um… frisky.
- He pushes Jane against the wall, and she knees him in the groin.
- Mr. Nobley is drawn to them by the commotion, and he takes Sir John away.
- On her way to the bedroom, Jane runs into Aunt Saffronia, who apologizes for Sir John's behavior. "Jane wasn't sure if Aunt Saffronia was speaking to Jane the niece or Jane the client" (9.103). Maybe it's a little of both.
- Jane brushes off this traumatic incident easily enough, going to sleep and dreaming of Mr. Nobley's smile.
- On the morning of Day 8 in Austenland, Jane does what all rejected Regency women do: she texts her best friend on her cell phone.
- Specifically, Jane asks Molly to do a background check on Martin Jasper and Henry Jenkins, her two potential suitors.
- When Jane goes down to the breakfast room, she learns that Sir John has been sent to the apothecary in town because he was "not feeling himself last night" (10.10). No, he was trying to feel Jane. Ick. "Apothecary" must be Austenland-speak for rehab. Maybe she could find him at one of these celebrity "apothecaries," for those stars that feel too "exhausted" to live in the real world anymore?
- Miss Charming whines that none of the men have made her feel charming, and Aunt Saffronia says she'll report her dissatisfaction to Mrs. Wattlesbrook. She's like the Millionaire Matchmaker of Austenland.
- Bored, Jane makes a house call upon Miss Heartwright of Pembrook Cottage. She and Miss Heartwright make small take and become friends.
- A carriage arrives with yet another handsome stranger: Captain George East the "jilted man in Miss Heartwright's past" (10.8). These people have timing right out of a, well, Jane Austen novel.
- They chat until Miss Heartwright leaves. Jane, not wanting to be unchaperoned in the presence of a man, takes her leave as well.
Day 8, continued
- To keep things interesting, Jane flirts like crazy with Colonel Andrews at dinner, and she wonders if Nobley and Miss Charming will get together. But she notices that East and Miss Heartwright aren't exactly chummy.
- Jane later dances with Andrews while Nobley sits and scowls at the world.
- After the dance, Miss Charming faints right into Nobley's arms and he has to carry her upstairs.
- "Touché, Miss Charming" (8.69), thinks Jane. All's fair in love and war, we guess, and this is both.
- The next morning, Jane goes to her room and checks the messages on her phone.
- Molly has responded. She has two things to say:
- 1. She can't find Martin Jasper.
- 2. Henry Jenkins (who might be Mr. Nobley) went through a horrible divorce four years ago.
- When Jane goes back downstairs, she hears a man and a woman smooching on the stairs. It's Colonel Andrews and Miss Charming. "One gentleman down, two to go" (12.37).
- The next morning, Jane plays piano (quite poorly) for everyone. It's raining, so they're trapped inside (with Jane's horrible piano playing) for the whole day.
- The weather clears up by day 10, and everyone decides to play croquet. Jane's about as good at croquet as she is at playing piano, but that's only because she's distracted by Captain East's charm.
- Unfortunately, the game is interrupted when Mrs. Wattlesbrook's carriage trundles up. She found Jane's cell phone, and Jane is going to be expelled from Austenland.
- Dear Miss Heartwright speaks up, though, and confesses that the phone is hers. She says she was embarrassed to have accidentally kept it, so she let Jane hold it.
- Mrs. Wattlesbrook forgives Miss Heartwright's anachronistic indiscretion, and everything is peachy again.
- While horseback riding, Jane tries to figure out who has hooked up with whom (six degrees of Kevin Bacon—er, Austenland?). But Mr. Nobley keeps interfering with her snooping by riding around like Dudley Do-Right.
- Reluctantly, Jane chats with Nobley. Their conversation actually goes well, however, and she reveals to him that she used to be interested in painting.
- Captain East interrupts their conversation, and they return to the stables.
- That night, Jane finds a large package in her room. It's a paint kit. She hopes Mr. Nobley sent it to her, but she's afraid it might have been Captain East, who overheard their conversation.
- Jane practices with her paint set by doing a self-portrait, although she's afraid she looks less like Jane Eyre and more like Bertha Mason—the madwoman in the attic.
- Unable to get her eyes right in the portrait, she decides to kill time in the library.
- Mr. Nobley is there, and he and Jane read to each other a bit. This scene is pretty steamy, in a sexy librarian kind of way.
- The next afternoon, Miss Charming presents a script she found and suggests they all perform a play. How very Mansfied Park. Everyone wants to participate… except for grouchy Nobley, of course.
- Just as she's getting into all the role-playing within role-playing, Jane runs into Martin on a walk, which bursts her bubble.
- He says that he wants to talk to her, but she blows him off.
- Mr. Nobley notices the whole thing, and he warns her to stay away from him. What does he have against gardeners?
- He tells Jane that he only have her best interests at heart. They banter, and Jane convinces him to do the play with her. The show must go on.
- Boy, things get really complicated with actors now playing actors, and Jane trying to figure out who is genuine and who's really acting. It's like David Lynch meets Jane Austen or something.
- The play sure as heck isn't Shakespeare (it isn't even Hamlet 2), but Jane and Nobley have some revealing chats about truth and acting.
- When they perform the play, Mr. Nobley does a little ad-libbing, which stuns Jane. Instead of his flowery love speech, he merely says, "I love you" (16.68).
- She's expecting a full-on lip lock, but he smooches her on the cheek.
- After the play, Jane notices Martin in the audience, so she quickly makes her way to her room in order to avoid him.
- After a morning date with her paint set, Jane goes to the gardener Martin's cabin and knocks on the door. He's not there.
- Back at the house, Mr. Nobley asks to see Jane's paintings. Be still, her heart.
- Mr. Nobley tells Jane the paintings are beautiful (even though they have creepy eyes). Then he asks her to reserve the first two dances with him at the ball.
- She agrees, even though she fears that his interest in her is just an act. Hey, at least he's a good actor, and not, say, Vin Diesel. (Don't hurt us, Vin. We love you.)
- The next day, Jane dons her best dress with thoughts of Mr. Nobley and fancy dancing in her head.
- When the maid sees how gorgeous Jane looks in her gown, she says "Oh, my" (18.11). (That's right: the maid is played by George Takei.)
- Jane and Nobley dance together—twice!—at the ball. There's also some good ol' drama when Martin tries to cut in on their dancing. Nobley confesses he's falling in love with Jane.
- Convinced that his proclamation of love is all part of the act, Jane turns him away. He leaves, feeling foolish and mortified.
- Martin intercepts her, and she runs away with him into the gardens.
- She says she missed him. He says she reminds him of his sister… And for some reason she doesn't find this creepy, so they make out.
- Jane decides that, even though she's leaving Austenland tomorrow, she'll stay in London with Martin for a few more days.
- It's closing time at Austenland. Finish your whiskey and cross-stitch.
- Everyone says their goodbyes. Jane finds out that Miss Charming's breasts are real (oh, thank heavens that mystery is solved), that Miss Heartwright isn't actually British, and that Mr. Nobley had convinced Miss Heartwright to take the blame for Jane's cell phone smuggling fiasco. Whoa.
- Mrs. Wattlesbrook also reveals to Jane that she orchestrated Jane's fling with Martin. Wow, that's a plot twist even Austen couldn't have thought up.
- Jane is, shall we say, decidedly not pleased with this development. She tells Mrs. Wattlesbrook that this will "make the ending to [her] article all the more interesting" (19.67).
- With that threat hanging in the air, Jane leaves.
The end of day 21
- Jane has to wait two hours for her flight. The dejected and lonely class boards last, we guess.
- Suddenly, her name is called on the loudspeaker: there's a gentleman looking for her.
- Well, they use the term gentleman loosely; it's Martin.
- He tries to tell her that his love for her was real, but she's not buying what he's selling.
- Suddenly, another man races up. It's Mr. Nobley.
- Jane gets mad at him too, accusing him of being "paid to kiss [her]" (20.47). But Mr. Nobley tells her that what they had was real.
- Nobley and Martin throw some punches, but Jane separates them.
- Jane's flight is announced for boarding, and she leaves the two of them behind.
- But then Mr. Nobley boards the plane. He introduces himself as Henry Jenkins and sits next to her.
- He tells Jane that he wants a shot at forever. Persistence pays off. Jane, wanting "a man as crazy intense as [she is]," says yes, and he follows her all the way back to New York City.