I saw this book recommended by Jane Austen fans because the author apparently spent a lot of time researching properly (six years working on the book is what I read). She is also a member of the Jane Austen Society of North America (JASNA).
With credentials like that I was a little afraid this book was going to be somewhat dry and rely more on facts than plot, but I was quite happy to find that this was not the case. There is quite a bit of humor in here and an enjoyable heroine, and the research is reflected in the descriptions of the surroundings, but doesn't bog down the story.
Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict is about an L. A. woman, Courtney Stone, who after a bad breakup with her fiance, and a big fight with her best friend, drowns her sorrows in a Jane Austen novel, then wakes up in the Regency era in the body of someone named Jane Mansfield. The writing is in the first person present tense so the reader experiences Courtney/Jane's confusion at the same time she does.
Overall: This is a time travelling story involving Jane Austen, but the author doesn't attempt to put the heroine into one of the original stories to meet Mr. Darcy or any of the other heroes in the Austen novels (like the recent miniseries Lost in Austen). In this case the author Courtney discovers the lack of woman's rights and hygiene, along with the clothes, manners, and customs of the time. The era is not romanticized, and Courtney reacts in a believable way to her situation, sometimes acting anachronistically, but also realizing she has to blend in to survive. Being put into a mental institution in those times would have been a horror, so Courtney/Jane doesn't do supremely idiotic things. Instead, she pretends to be Jane and goes about her days in which Jane would have – meeting her friends and suitor, dealing with her parents, and also remembering the life she left behind. Courtney has no idea what happened to the real Jane, but as time passes she begins to pick up her memories, which sit next to her other memories in L.A. Along with episodes in the courtship of Mr. Edgeworth, Courtney remembers feelings for her best friend Wes, who she thinks betrayed her. It felt like there were two love stories playing out even though the focus of the book is in England, which I guess is the one problem I had with the book. Courtney is in Jane's life and interacting with Mr. Edgeworth, while also thinking about her past life in California, and I felt sort of torn about where she should be. I wasn't sure she should be in Jane's life, so that was my one quibble with the novel that kept me from enjoying it as much as I could have. It made me a bit sad! However, I just found out that there is a companion book coming out – with Jane taking Courtney's place in modern day L.A – Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict (more info at the author's website here). That book comes out May 2009 according to Amazon.
The author's website is great – lots of Jane related videos and links, worth spending some time there – http://www.janeaustenaddict.com/ .