All of which is pretty much quintessential fantasy fulfillment for any Jane Austen aficionado. Courtney's constant references to Austen's characters, and her prominent mention of today's National Jane Austen Society of America, just serve to underscore the notion that Confessions is a book written by an Austenite for other Austenites. Never has a target audience been so obvious.
Speaking as one of the in-crowd, though, that's what makes it fun. Austen's fans are pretty consistent in their love for romance and happy endings, so Rigler's predictable formula works well. Anyone who has ever read Pride and Prejudice with that glazed "if only" look knows the dream of being a pampered Regency woman attracting a rich man as gorgeous as Colin Firth. Watching a modern girl struggle through the 18th century without indoor plumbing or makeup is also amusingly appealing, since it feels real, or at least as real as time travel is ever going to get. Even her run-in with Jane Austen, in which Courtney comes across as a madwoman, is endearing, since it's easy to see any modern fan reacting in the same way.
Despite being appealing and understandable, however, Courtney actually proves to be the novel's main problem. She frustratingly spends half the book pondering the philosophical ramifications of switching lives. Her opinion changes every other page, and she details every mind-numbing nuance.
Even more annoying, for all her thinking, Courtney rarely acts intelligently. Instead of adapting to her new society, she fails to conform in obvious and idiotic ways. It's not until late in the game that she grasps that maybe casual sex isn't the best idea, or that there's really not much she can do about the restrictions on women without becoming a social pariah.
And even these issues cannot compare to the confusion that Rigler creates trying to explain how Courtney is able to inhabit Jane's body. It's unclear why she even bothers with an explanation, since her book concerns Austen and romance, not physics. The ridiculous combination she produces of time, space, desire, and a magical psychic actually raises more questions than it answers, along with some serious questions about how Rigler survived high school science.
That said, though, Austenites will still find Confessions worth a read. It's a frothy page-turner, the kind that's perfect for the beach. Even when the writing is poor or the activity silly, Courtney's worshipful passages on Austen and her modern-day opinions on Regency practices allow the reader to see herself there. And in this case, "there" is exactly where any Austen fan wants to be.
Elizabeth Fox was a summer intern at The Inquirer.