Jane and the Ghosts of Netley: Being a Jane Austen Mystery, by Stephanie Barron – A Review

Jane and the Ghosts of Netley, Being a Jane Austen Mystery, by Stephanie Barron (2003)It is the fall of 1808 and Jane Austen and her family are in mourning after the sudden death of Elizabeth “Lizzy” Austen, the elegant and enchanting thirty-five year old wife of Jane’s elder brother Edward and mother of eleven children. To entertain the two eldest boys while they stay with her in Southampton, Jane takes them rowing up the Solent to the ruins of Netley Abbey, a Cistercian monastery long abandoned and now a picturesque ruin worthy of a Radcliffe Gothic novel, resplendent with tales of ghosts haunting its halls. Startled by a dark figure lurking in the shadows, Jane is called to immediately attend her friend aboard a Royal Naval vessel anchored nearby.  It is an unusual request, but she cannot refuse any summons by the Gentleman Rogue. Yes, Gentle Readers. Lord Harold Trowbridge has re-appeared after two years without any communication with our dear Jane.

Her heart is aflutter and her keen mind piqued when he requests her assistance to spy upon a local lady of interest; the beautiful and cunning widow of a French merchant, Sophia Challoner, a Diamond of the First Water who trifled with Lord Trowbridge’s heart, flattering and deceiving him into revealing state secrets to pass along to aid Bonaparte’s cause. Having just returned from Portugal, she now resides at Netley Lodge adjacent to the ruined abbey. Jane’s assignment is to keep “a weathered eye on the activity of that house” and discover how Sophia dispatches her intelligence to France. To aid the investigation, Jane will befriend the dubious and dangerous lady while arson and murders a plenty puzzle the plot, – and Lord Harold and Jane take center stage in the investigation and secretly in each others hearts.

The seventh mystery in the series, Barron really hits her stride with more fluid language from Jane’s perspective, the intricate historical details of the Peninsular War against France, and the political intrigue that fuels spies and generates murder. Having so much dialogue devoted to Lord Harold and Jane is a delight, but readers will be disarmed by the concluding pages and dispatched into a crying jag that could take a week to recover from. This is a three hankie weepie that will startle and sear your soul. Great writing makes it all compelling and tragic. *sigh* Seven is definitely not a lucky number for Jane and the Gentleman Rogue. I loved every word, and hated the ending all the same. *sniff*

6 out of 5 Regency Stars

Jane and the Ghosts of Netley, Being a Jane Austen Mystery (#7), by Stephanie Barron
Bantam Books (2003)
Mass market paperback (352) pages
ISBN: 978-0553584066

This is my seventh selection in the Being a Jane Austen Mystery Reading Challenge 2011, as we are reading all eleven mysteries in the series this year. Participants, please leave comments and or place links to your reviews on the official reading challenge page by following this link.

Grand Giveaway

Author Stephanie Barron has generously offered a signed hardcover copy of Jane and the Ghosts of Netley to one lucky winner. Leave a comment stating what intrigues you about this novel, or if you have read it, who your favorite character is by midnight PT, Wednesday, July 27, 2011. Winner to be announced on Thursday, July 28, 2011. Shipment to US and Canadian addresses only. Good luck!

© 2007 – 2011 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

29 thoughts on “Jane and the Ghosts of Netley: Being a Jane Austen Mystery, by Stephanie Barron – A Review

  1. Netley, well of course. Great for a picnic by the way Laurel Ann and that is exactly what the Austen family did there, have a picnics, I mean.
    Ghosts? Well there are rumours that…..Ha! Ha!
    After the Reformation and the dissolution of the monasteries Netley Abbey was converted into a country house for Sir William Paulett, a courtier and official in Henry VIII’s court.
    When you go to Netley Abbey nowadays you see bits of brickwork here and there. The first thought is ,”which idiot used brick to repair or shore up parts of a Cistercian Abbey,” but no, they are Tudor bricks from Sir Williams conversion. They have a history too. There is a great abbots lodging and infirmary for the monks, both with roofs intact which is unusual in a ruin.The Abbey mostly had farm land around it and that is what the monks developed. Netley is a sister house to Beauieu Abbey in the New Forest.
    All the best,
    Tony

    Oh, coming back to ghosts. During the Georgian period in which this novel is set, a local builder was taking stones from the ruin of Netley Abbey to use for his building schemes in the area. The top part of a gothic arched window at the eastern end of the magnificent abbey church fell on him and crushed him. No more stripping of the abbeys stones was done after that. That is why so much remains. His ghost haunts the place!!!! Ha! Ha!

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  2. I’ve read all the books, and this is my favorite. The setting was intriguing; and thanks to Tony for the additional information bout Netley. My favorite character-Lord Harold. I spent many years in the intelligence field, so I find him very interesting.

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  3. I have yet to read a Jane Austen mystery, and one that includes ghosts and the ruins of an abbey sounds like a great one to try. Thanks for the giveaway.

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  4. Laurel Ann, I have read all 7 of the books but just this time I realized today that I was supposed to have followed the link and commented there instead of here. Will that make a difference in the participation of the challenge?

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    • Oops I hit the enter button before I was done! Here is what intrigues me about this novel… “Jane’s assignment is to keep “a weathered eye on the activity of that house” and discover how Sophia dispatches her intelligence to France. To aid the investigation, Jane will befriend the dubious and dangerous lady while arson and murders a plenty puzzle the plot, – and Lord Harold and Jane take center stage in the investigation and secretly in each others hearts.” It reminds of a Nancy Drew mystery….. only Jane Austen style! ha ha I lurve it! I would lurve to win!

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  5. I’ve read all the series– and this is my favorite. Indeed, Barron succeeded in making me weep with this one.

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  6. My favorite character is Jane. I love her in the role of detective and I love the way Stephanie Barron gives us a window into her thoughts with this series of books.

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  7. I love anything Jane Austen, but when paired with a mystery? How did I miss these? Looks like a trip to the library is in my future!

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  8. I am just getting in to these mysteries. What fun! The big problem with these mysteries is that once I start them the rest of my life is unimportant. That includes house and meal prep.

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  9. To read about Jane Austen as a detective – that’s very interesting to me already. Can’t wait to start reading this series.

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  10. I’ve only read one Austen-related fiction (though I love the non-fiction) and didn’t particularly care for it. It was just sub-par to the real thing. Your reviews on this series have had me thinking for a while now that I might need to give these a try!
    (Don’t enter me in the drawing, save it for a real fan! I might be soon, but as I have yet to read them….)

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  11. My favorite character is certainly Lord Harold Trowbridge, the Gentleman Rogue. When I read Laurel Ann’s review about the ending, I had a sinking feeling that Ms. Barron had killed off the fine man. (Being “dispatched into a crying jag that could take a week to recover from” was just a little disconcerting.) If the Gentleman Rogue has indeed been killed off, I shall be very sad, and to say the least, most thoroughly put out! I am looking forward to reading this book. Thanks for giveaway opportunity!

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  12. I’m excited about the possible parallels to Northanger Abbey and Lord Harold Trowbridge. I kind of love him.

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  13. I love reading Stephanie Barron’s mysteries with our dear Jane. This one sounds like a winner for the summer with all the spookiness of a gothic abbey, political intrigue, spies, and murder. I hope Lord Harold isn’t the subject at the “three hankie ending.” Thanks for the chance to win.

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  14. I love reading ‘Jane Austen’ Mysteries! What intrigues me most is the ruins of Netley Abbey. Please enter me in this giveaway and thanks for the opportunity!

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  15. There is so much to love in the “Jane Austen” Mysteries. Every book brings such pleasure and poignancy. To know that the most beloved writers of “romance” novels was denied that happy ending of matrimonial felicity is very sad indeed. When she and Lord Harold spend time in the coach and have their intimate chat, I was moved to think that yes, here is a man most worthy of our beloved Jane. To know that this kind of man wasn’t in her life to challenge her and to encourage her fills me with sadness. Thank you Stephanie Barron for giving Jane in her mysteries what she was denied in life.

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