I tried reading Jane again in my 30s when I was writing romances and the Austen craze was sweeping Hollywood. Once again, my reaction was, "Eh."
Why the shift? Perhaps it's because I'm reading them as e-books, and I find I read faster electronically. But I think part of it is because I didn't come at them this time looking for a romance or even a story. I'm reading for voice and social observations, and so for perhaps the first time I find myself actually enjoying all those funny, nasty things Jane says about almost everyone.
In fact, the portrayals are so relentlessly uncharitable that at first they made me uncomfortable. But the truth is, I have a pretty low tolerance for self-delusion, hypocrisy, and vanity myself. And here's the thing about Austen's characters: they may be silly and self-absorbed, but they are rarely evil. Their cruelties are almost always the result of their selfishness, their obsession with wealth and status, or their greed. George Wickham is perhaps the most undiluted villain in her books, a true textbook-worthy sociopath; others such as Willoughby and Crawford are above all else weak. Obviously, Jane knew of the existence of evil only too well. But she found moral weakness more interesting--and useful.