English professor Emma Grant has always done everything just the way her minister father told her she should -- a respectable marriage, a teaching job at a good college, and plans for the requisite two children. Life was prodigiously good, as her favorite author Jane Austen might say, until the day Emma finds her husband in bed with another woman. Suddenly, all her romantic notions a la Austen are exposed for the foolish dreams they are.
Denied tenure in the wake of the scandal and left penniless by the ensuing divorce, Emma packs up what few worldly possessions she has left and heads to England on a quest to find the missing letters of Jane Austen. Locating the elusive letters, however, isn't as straightforward as Emma hoped. The owner of the letters proves coy about her prize possessions, sending Emma on a series of Austen-related tasks that bring her closer and closer to the truth, but the sudden reappearance of Emma's first love makes everything more complicated.
In the end, Emma learns that doing the right thing has very little to do with other people's expectations and everything to do with her own beliefs. Laced with fictional excerpts from the missing letters, Jane Austen Ruined My Life is the story of a woman betrayed who uncovers the deeper meaning of loyalty.
I don't read a lot of Austen sequels or Austen based books, but I'm beginning to wonder why not, because every one that I've tried I've enjoyed. This book surprised me! It looks like a light bit of chick lit, but I found the emotions very real and relatable. That, and I just loved the whole subplot about the missing Austen letters. And while Pattilo takes some artistic license with Austen's life, she creates a story so real and so convincing that it makes perfect sense of the missing puzzle pieces in Austen's life. Frankly - loved it! That and a not perfectly wrapped happy ending made me respect this book more than I expected to. There's a moral and a message, but it's not hitting you over the head with it. I like that.
Oh, and my favorite part? The setting. Hands down. Emma, our main character, visits every important Austen site in England and I felt like I was able to visit them too - which I plan on doing someday in real life. In fact, I have my England trip all planned, and it includes tons of literary sites - particularly the Austen ones. It'll happen someday! But until then, I can reread Jane Austen Ruined My Life.
(And since this is adult romance chick lit, I just want to reassure those of you who might be wondering that this book is perfectly clean. Maybe one kiss. Nice of Pattillo, isn't it?)