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

Jane Austen Ruined My Life, by Beth Pattillo (2009)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?

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. 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.

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. 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 Regency Stars 

Jane Austen Ruined My Life, by Beth Pattillo
Guideposts, New York (2009)
Trade paperback (264) pages
ISBN: 978-0824947712

© 2009 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

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

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  1. When I first saw the dramatic cover and title, it cracked me up! This one sounds like fun (not for Emma of course) I will have to add it on to my spring time list!


  2. 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.


  3. I’m well into the book and it is so amazing. The different aspects of the story make it pleasantly adicting.


  4. I loved this book. It rekindled the love for Austen within me. I look forward to rereading her classics now, and I think I need a trip to England as well.


  5. 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.


  6. 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.


  7. 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!


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