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Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict by Laurie Viera Rigler

Ann Hellmuth
The Orlando Sentinel (MCT)

Two new books explore Jane Austin's world through time-traveling fiction and whimsical self-help.

Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict

Publisher: Dutton Adult
ISBN: 0525950400
Author: Laurie Viera Rigler
Price: $24.95
Length: 304
Formats: Hardcover
US publication date: 2007-08

Dear Jane Austen

Publisher: Plume
Subtitle: A Heroine's Guide to Life and Love
Author: Patrice Hannon
Price: $12.00
Length: 176
Formats: Paperback
ISBN: 0452288940
US publication date: 2007-06

"It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife," Jane Austen wrote at the beginning of Pride and Prejudice, unknowingly setting the framework for nearly two centuries of books, plays, TV series and movies revolving around the pursuit of love.

The latest Austen wave includes a spate of summer books, movies (Becoming Jane and The Jane Austen Book Club) and plans by PBS to broadcast adaptations of the English author's six novels, starting in January.

Among the books are Laurie Viera Rigler's Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict, the tale of a Los Angeles woman who is transported back to early 19th-century England. It is a delightful exercise, for haven't we all dreamed of going back in time and living the lives of our favorite heroines?

From the opening page when Courtney Stone wakes up in a strange bed to be confronted by a man and woman wearing clothes that look as if they were "cast-offs from the Merchant-Ivory costume department," the cleverness never stops.

Rigler tackles Courtney's trip back through time with skill and attention to detail -- chamber pots, body odors, the absence of regular baths and lack of hair washing are just a few examples. She intelligently puts Courtney, and therefore the reader, bang in the middle of another world and another time.

Courtney's love of Jane Austen helps her adapt to her new identity as Jane Mansfield, and there is a Darcy-like hero to make the heart beat faster and forget all those failed romances back (or is it forward) in the 21st century.

For the reader, there is an air of delicious uncertainty. Will Courtney want to return to her old world, or will she stay wrapped in the cocoon of a high-bred English woman with a dashing suitor in hot pursuit? Jane Austen (1775-1817) fans know what they would choose, and Rigler doesn't disappoint.

Dear Jane Austen: A Heroine's Guide to Life and Love, by Patrice Hannon, is a thoroughly original self-help book on -- to quote from Emma, "all those little matters on which the daily happiness of private life depends."

Hannon turns Austen, who never married, into a modern-day Ann Landers, having her deal with 21st-century problems, such as a woman who is filled with rage at the behavior of her fellow New Yorkers, by examining what Elizabeth, Jane, Emma, Marianne and other Austen heroines would do. "Please sit down and pour yourself a glass of Constantia wine before your swelling heart bursts with anger."

There is comforting advice for a woman who signs herself "Plain Jane" and bewails the fact that she is "average-looking" and lives in a city where "women outnumber men three to one. The competition is fierce!"

The question allows Hannon/Austen to point out that the 19th-century heroines "are not as a rule the most beautiful women" but capture their men with other gifts such as liveliness, humor, good sense and sweetness that ensure the "face will continue to please as years pass."

And please, Hannon does. By blending advice, insights and details about Austen's novels, the English professor has served up a very tasty feast indeed.


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