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Flirting with Fiction and Fantasy in 'Austenland'

Jane Austen fans can be an intense bunch.

From blogs to fan clubs and Web sites packed with Jane-o-philia, many Austen devotees not only read her novels, they immerse themselves in her fictional British society.

Thirty-two-year-old Jane Hayes — the protagonist of a new novel — is one of those devotees. In her mind, no man can measure up to Fitzwilliam Darcy of Pride and Prejudice. And specifically, the Fitzwilliam played by Colin Firth in the BBC adaptation of the book.

In Austenland, novelist Shannon Hale tells Hayes' coming-of-age story as her character grapples with her obsession at Pembrook Park, a British resort that caters to Austen-crazed women.

Hayes sees the trip as her final indulgence of her obsession before she gives up her fantasy world permanently. But as she delves into Pembrook's world of proper etiquette, donning corsets and empire-waist gowns, she finds herself torn — in true Austen fashion — between the Darcy-esque Mr. Nobley and the resort's enticing gardener.

The trick for Hayes is figuring out if the targets of her affection are sincere, or just actors in a show.

Hale tells Weekend Edition Saturday host Linda Wertheimer about her fictional Austen theme park and her own addiction to the author.

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