I won't spoil the book for you in this review so feel free to keep reading.
I say that because it actually would be easy to spoil this book as it has something of a mystery surrounding the life of Jane Austen which the readers must "solve" through the main protagonist of the book, Emma Douglas. Emma has just recently been separated from her husband who was carrying on an affair behind her back.
Now, let's stop right there. I actually didn't think I was going to enjoy this book very much when I first started it because of how descriptive Pattillo thought she needed to be in allowing her readers to visualize the affair. Quite frankly, I didn't need to go there. A spouse cheating on a spouse is painful enough to have knowledge of. A picture painted out (and then repeated throughout the story as point of reference) is really quite unnecessary and I think that the subject matter could have been handled a little bit more discretely and it wouldn't have hurt the story at all. On the contrary, I think it would have helped me to enjoy the story more completely. However, the existence of this issue causes me to have to throw that little disclaimer in this review. It IS a "minor" point of the story but it will likely alarm the more conservative reader as you consider heading into this adventure.
That said, everything about the book which did not involve the mention of the affair was quite enjoyable.
Emma flies to London to escape her life which is falling apart all around her. She was a well-respected expert on the matter of Jane Austen until a rather unfortunate fall from grace in the professional world (which ties into the business of the affair.) She goes to London convinced that Jane Austen's high ideals of marrying for love, and ever-ready happy endings, has ruined her outlook on life. Hence the title of the book. In England Emma spends her time immersed in Austen's world and through some mysterious circumstances, comes to the conclusion that Jane Austen didn't ruin her life - she herself did.
Despite my initial misgivings, this was a book that had me looking for every spare, quiet moment I could find so that I could devour it as quickly as possible. I can see now why Lisa and the rest were so very enthusiastic about it. It is just an all-around pleasurable read. I think it would make an awesome chick flick as it has all the elements of drawing crowds of women in.
The message of the book is hard to discern, really. I couldn't decide it was telling me that I should be a self sufficient female, or if I should trust my instincts and fall in love with love. I couldn't tell if it questioned faith or supported it, or if Pattillo merely wanted to show me a good time! If the later was her goal, she certainly accomplished it. She did play around with Austen's life which a true Austen fan might take issue with. At the same time, she was very creative in her story telling. As her characters discuss (in a rather poignant conversation):
"You have to admit, it all sounds a bit far-fetched."
"Most true things do," she replied.