Jane Austen Ruined My Life: A Novel, by Beth Pattillo – A Review

From the desk of Laurel Ann Nattress: 

American college professor Emma Grant always does the right thing and expects the same from others. She acquired her expectations from her minister father and her favorite author Jane Austen, who both taught her to believe in the happily-ever-after. Life was turning out as planned until she unexpectedly discovers her husband’s affair with her teaching assistant who in turn falsely accuses her of plagiarizing another author’s work. An academic scandal ensues prompting an investigation and removal from her prestigious teaching position, denunciation by academia, and an ugly divorce leaving poor Emma at a turning point in her life. She had always believed in the possibility of finding her Mr. Darcy or Mr. Knightley and settling down to martial bliss. How could Jane Austen have ruined her life?

A Stash of Jane Austen Letters

Without a job, husband, reputation or money, she packs up and off to London on the invitation of an elderly woman Mrs. Parrot who claims to have a stash of undocumented letters written by Jane Austen. If this woman’s claims are true, they might be the famous missing letters that Jane Austen’s sister Cassandra inherited after her death in 1817 and supposedly burned deeming them to personal for public view. If authenticated, they represented the ultimate Holy Grail of Austenalia and the ticket to Emma’s academic and personal happiness.

Meet the Formidables

The enigmatic Mrs. Parrot is not quite ready to just hand them over to anyone, even if they have been summoned to her house. Emma must prove her worthiness to Mrs. Parrot, one of the ‘Formidables’, a secret society of devoted Janeites named after Jane’s own moniker of herself and sister Cassandra in their later years. Mrs. Parrot sends Emma on a series of Austen related tasks/tests to prove she’s up to snuff visiting Steventon, Chawton, Bath and other Austen haunts. Along the way she encounters many coincidences including a reappearance, after ten years, of a former boyfriend Adam, and a new man Barry who just happens to pop up unexpectedly along her journey, all adding to the mystery surrounding the letters and their importance.

Gets Jane Austen Right

Jane Austen Ruined My Life is an intriguing and quick read that succeeds on so many levels by blending accurate biographical and historical information about Jane Austen’s life and works (major kudos to Pattillo) with a contemporary adventure romance that at times is reminiscent of The Last Templar where the heroine is thrown into a quest to discover ancient information that will change our current perceptions.

A Jane Austen Happily-Ever-After?

Austen enthusiast will appreciate discovering all the Jane Austen lore and references, and romance readers will identify with the modern heroine and her adventure. Anglophiles will enjoy the added benefit of Ms. Pattillo’s past residence and many trips to England as she describes familiar haunts in London and Jane Austen travel destinations with aplomb. My one quibble is that Emma’s romantic decision could have ended differently. Obliviously, I am not as evolved as the heroine yet, and expect my Jane Austen happily-ever-after!

4 out of 5 Stars 


  • Jane Austen Ruined My Life: A Novel, by Beth Pattillo
  • Guideposts Books (February 3, 2009)
  • Trade paperback & eBook (264) pages
  • ISBN: 978-0824947712
  • Genre: Austenesque, Contemporary Romance


 We received a review copy of the book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Austenprose is an Amazon affiliate. Cover image courtesy of Guideposts Books © 2009; text Laurel Ann Nattress © 2009, austenprose.com.

21 thoughts on “Jane Austen Ruined My Life: A Novel, by Beth Pattillo – A Review

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  1. When I read the title of this book, I thought that is was a biography. A woman reads Jane Austen’s novels and her life is ruined because she will never meet a kind considerate life-mate like Mr. Darcy or Edward in S&S., and recounts her misadventures in meeting all the non-Darcy’s and Non- Edwards that are out there. My mistaken fantasy.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I found it very superficial and unbelievable. Pattillo has a very immature view of emotional relationships. Her descriptions of 30 year old Emma made her sound like a teenager. Not worth the time to read.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. While ‘The Formidables’ are a scream (do love them) Beth’s heroines are my favorite characters. They speak to me. These are wounded women who ultimately find the strength/power to remain true to themselves. (You must love yourself before you can love another.)

    Very much looking forward to taking this new journey and growing with her characters.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. So embarrasing, I have both of Beth’s books, but I just can’t keep up with all the new books, this is crazy! I have at least 15 in the waiting list. Then I just give up with sequels etc and read again P&P or like right now Northanger Abby…at this rate I will never get on track!

    Liked by 1 person

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