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 reappeared 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 other’s 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*
5 out of 5 Regency Stars
Jane and the Ghosts of Netley, Being a Jane Austen Mystery (Book 7), by Stephanie Barron
Bantam Books (2003)
Mass market paperback (352) pages
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.
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!
- Visit Stephanie Barron’s website
- Read Stephanie’s insights into her research for the novel
- Read my review of Jane and the Unpleasantness at Scargrave Manor
- Read my review of Jane and the Man of the Cloth
- Read my review of Jane and the Wandering Eye
- Read my review of Jane and the Genius of the Place
- Read my review of Jane and the Stillroom Maid
- Read my review of Jane and the Prisoner of the Wool House
© 2007 – 2011 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose