An Austen addict who’s been having romantic trouble in contemporary Los Angeles finds herself transported to early-19th-century England living a life that seems lifted from a compilation of the Austen novels.
One morning shortly after Courtney has broken with her fiancé Frank—he’s been carrying on with the wedding-cake decorator—she mysteriously wakes up inside the body of Miss Jane Mansfield in 1813. Thirty-year-old Jane is recovering from an equine accident and resisting her unpleasant mother’s attempts to push her into marriage. At first Courtney thinks her time travel is a dream, but when she begins talking defiantly, Mrs. Mansfield threatens to put Jane into an asylum. Courtney/Jane slides into the life of an Austen heroine, resisting the charms of handsome Mr. Edgeworth, who reminds her too much of not only Frank but his best friend Wes, to whom Courtney has been feeling drawn despite herself. She confides her confusing identity to Edgeworth’s sister Mary, Jane’s true friend who has dissuaded her from marrying Edgeworth because she thinks he fathered a housemaid’s illegitimate child. Mary also resents that he broke off her romance with a man he found unsuitable. Mary and Jane/Courtney travel the Austen map, first to Bath, then to London, along the way encountering men and women who will be familiar to the most casual Austen reader. First-time novelist Rigler jumbles names and pieces of plot line from the novels into an Austenian dream (or nightmare). Mary and Jane/Courtney learn that Mary’s former beloved was a cad and that Edgeworth acted nobly with the maid, not sexually. How Courtney entered Jane’s body, through the ministrations of a magical fortuneteller, is almost an afterthought. Jane/Courtney’s 21st-century urges offer provocative possibilities, but Courtney’s world is a pale sketch, and Jane’s so laden with Austen references that it has no life.
Even the most diehard Austen fans may find this work to be too much.