Jane and the Canterbury Tale Blog Tour with Author Stephanie Barron

Jane and the Cantebury Tale, by Stephanie Barron (2011)Please join us today in welcoming author Stephanie Barron on her book blog tour in celebration of her eleventh novel in the Being a Jane Austen Mysteries series, Jane and the Canterbury Tale to be released tomorrow by Bantam Books.

Walking Godmersham in Search of a Tale

About a dozen years or so ago, when my elder son was still a toddler and my younger not yet born, I left Sam in the care of a nanny and his dad, and wandered around England alone.  I had ten days to myself, and the trip would have been intensely boring to anybody but me—no Tower of London, no Blenheim, no flying trip to Warwick Castle.  The itinerary was entirely dictated by places Jane Austen had lived.  I had written two books about her and intended to write more; but I needed a visual sense of all the places she had known, or could possibly have used herself as settings for her novels.

In some cases, it was easy to find her—in Bath, for example, where a cottage industry in Austen Walking Tours is thriving.  Other places were more challenging.  I was intrigued by the possibility that Jane had actually visited the town of Bakewell in Derbyshire, three miles from the ducal seat of Chatsworth—a town she actually mentions in Pride and Prejudice, although tradition insists she was never there.  She might have gone to Bakewell, possibly, while spending six weeks with her cousin Edmund Cooper in his tiny village of Hamstall-Ridware, Staffordshire.  Having seen the easy places—Portsmouth and Southampton, Chawton and Bath, Hans Crescent in London—I threw myself behind the right-handed wheel of a rented car and took to the carriageways, as highways are called in England.  They terrified me.  I consistently made the mistake of hugging the right lane of multi-lane roads, thinking it would be the “slow” lane—except, of course, in a reverse-world it was the fast lane, and I was the object of frustration and ridicule.

Hamstall Ridware proved depressingly obscure, lost in a maze of hedgerows and competing wooden signposts that helpfully directed me to Ridware, Little Hamstall, Upper Hamstall, Ridware-on-Trent, but never Jane’s particular village.  I finally found Edward Cooper’s living and traced his family’s fate on the memorials carved in his church’s walls.  Then I got a thankful drink at the village pub.  (See Jane and the Stillroom Maid for further details.)

Godmersham Park, Kent, EnglandOne trip I have never forgot, however, was my golden afternoon in the world of Edward Austen Knight, Jane’s second eldest and most fortunate brother.  Edward lived, as all Janeites know, at Godmersham Park in Kent, about eight miles from Canterbury.  Having taken a train from London to the walled cathedral city itself, I boarded a local bus and was deposited not long after on a deserted country road surrounded on all sides by open fields.  This is sheep-grazing country, hilly and green, dotted with mature trees in occasional clumps; very like the vistas of Rosings in productions of Pride and Prejudice.  I had been dropped quite near the sweep—or driveway—that led into Godmersham Park.  It was, at the time, a corporate headquarters; but I was free to wander about the grounds, because Godmersham sits squarely on a hiking path—which in England, is sacrosanct.  Foot travellers are regarded in the sceptered isle rather as Snooki and The Situation are regarded here.  Moreover, the ancient Pilgrim’s Way to Canterbury comes down through the hills across Edward Austen Knight’s property, takes a detour to the old Norman church in which he and his wife Elizabeth lie, then turns and heads on to the cathedral.

Stour River near Godmersham Park, Kent, EnglandIt was a perfect July day.  Which means, in England, that it wasn’t raining.  Sheep were scattered like clouds across the hillsides.  The Stour River, which meanders through various counties, is at Godmersham little more than a creek, with a stone bridge arching over it.  The classical temple in which Jane and Elizabeth used to sit, still exists.

I would go on to set two books at Godmersham—the first, Jane and the Genius of the Place, in 1805 while Elizabeth Austen was still alive.  The second, Jane and the Canterbury Tale, is set in 1813, and makes full use of the Pilgrim’s Way, Chaucer’s legacy, Edward’s protracted state of mourning, and the interesting group of neighbors the Austen-Knights had collected around them.  It centers upon a Chaucerian group of characters, bound by fate, love, and revenge, whose tragic tale intrudes upon Jane’s autumn idyll in Kent.  Her niece Fanny, and Fanny’s assorted beaux, are pivotal to the story.  It was in October 1813 that Jane recorded, in her letters, a visit with Edward—Chief Magistrate for Canterbury—to the Canterbury Gaol.  How could any mystery writer ignore such an invitation?

I hope you’ll give it a read.

Author Stephanie BarronAuthor Bio:

Stephanie Barron, who also writes as Francine Mathews, is the author of 22 novels of mystery and suspense.  A graduate of Princeton and Stanford, she majored in history—and has found that her books delve deeply into past lives in search of a story.  She has used Queen Victoria, Virginia Woolf, Vita-Sackville West and Jane Austen as subjects of her fiction, and is currently researching a novel about Edith Wharton.  She spent four years as an intelligence analyst at the CIA, where she briefly worked on the Counterterrorism Center’s investigation into the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland.  Her Mathews novels focus on espionage, both contemporary and historic; her forthcoming book, Jack 1939, follows a young Jack Kennedy on leave from Harvard as he travels alone through 1939 Europe—while Hitler prepares to invade Poland.   She lives with her husband and two sons in Denver, Colorado. Visit Stephanie at her websites Stephanie Barron & Francine Mathews.

Grand Giveaway

Enter a chance to win one of three copies of Jane and the Canterbury Tale by leaving a comment stating what intrigues you most about reading a Jane Austen-inspired mystery, or if you too have had the august pleasure of visiting any of the Jane Austen pilgrimage sites in England, which was your favorite, by midnight PT, Wednesday, September 7th, 2011. Winners to be announced on Thursday, September 8th, 2010. Shipment to US and Canadian addresses only. Good luck!

Jane and the Canterbury Tale: Being a Jane Austen Mystery, by Stephanie Barron
Bantam Books, NY (2011)
Trade paperback (320) pages
ISBN: 978-0553386714

© 2007 – 2011 Stephanie Barron, Austenprose

31 thoughts on “Jane and the Canterbury Tale Blog Tour with Author Stephanie Barron

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  1. Having just finished my first Stephanie Barron book I am looking forward to this and many more. I am glad to know I can look for Francine Mathews to add to my list of TBR


  2. Just having the opportunity to engage myself in a past time and to enjoy a mystery is a great combo, and lovely way to pass a languorous afternoon! I am grateful for these unusual stories that take me away!


  3. I have read the first nine of Stephanie Barron’s Jane Austen mysteries and have the tenth one ready to be read — I am delighted to hear there is a new one. I enjoy her mysteries because her language sounds very much like Jane Austen’s to me. I have been to Chawton and Winchester and Bath — also found some places in London where Miss Austen stayed with her brother Henry. Bath is a beautiful spot, but in some ways my favorite was Winchester and seeing the magnificent cathedral where Miss Austen is buried.


  4. While not terribly unique, my favorite Jane pilgrimage is to the small writing desk in her Chawton home. To look out to the same road and view as she did when she wrote touches me each time I go.


  5. I love the Regency Era so enjoy reading fiction set in that time, but I especially enjoy Stephanie Barron’s books because … well, Jane Austen AND a mystery – perfect.


  6. So far, the only Stephanie Barron Jane Austen mystery I’ve read was the one in which she encounters Lord Byron, but this new one intrigues me because I once took a course in which we read Chaucer’s “Canterbury Tales” in the original Middle English and we had to learn to pronounce it and read it aloud in class.


  7. I like reading Jane Austen mysteries because I fancy I learn a little bit about her background and history. Barron’s books do feel a bit like Austen has gone on to write an autobiography about her adventures, and it is always interesting to be immersed into the world of another time.


  8. I would love to read a J.A. mystery book!! I would love to see anything dark added to a book about her, or a book that she wrote turned into something into a heart-pounding mystery :)


  9. I had never read one of Barron’s books before but after reading my first one a month or so back I really enjoyed it and want to read more. She kept very close to teh style and phrases of Jane Austen and yet was able to make them her own. Not an easy thing to do.


  10. I am so excited about the new book! Each new Jane novel shows us a little more of what Jane might have been like, and while it makes me sad that we’ll never really know, I love to think she might have been just as adventurous and spunky as Stephanie Barron writes her.

    I’ve never had the pleasure of visting England, much less any sites related to Jane Austen. Until I am able to do so (hopefully not some day too far off), I enjoy reading about them in these novels.


  11. I am in eager expectation of reading Jane and the Canterbury Tale. I’ve been hooked on Stephanie Barron’s Jane Austen mysteries since I discovered the series with Jane and the Wandering Eye back when I was maybe 14 or 15. I’ve always enjoyed a good mystery, and, being a self-proclaimed Janeite, I can’t conceive of anything better to calm my mind and let me drift away for a time than a novel that not only features a mystery, but Jane Austen herself! Brilliant! It intrigues me to be able to learn more about the world in which Jane lived and be thoroughly entertained at the same time. These are some of the few books in my collection that I can most gladly read over and over. I certainly hope there are many more Jane Austen mysteries to come.


  12. I have yet to read any of Stephanie Barron’s books, but have been trying to find some time to read them. They all sound so interesting. I love mysteries, I love regency era and Jane Austen so Stephanie’s books are a win all around! :)


  13. In a Jane Austen mystery I look for subtle character development and historical accuracy. I would adore reading this new book.


  14. I am one of the readers who signed up for the Reading Challenge for this year, which includes reading all of Stephanie Barron’s Jane Austen Mystery books. I needed that push to read her books. I have to hold myself to not read the books straight in a row and hold myself to reading one book a month so I can truly appreciate the posts on each book. Those of you who haven’t read any of her books yet or have just read 1, let lose and read them all! You will have a ball!

    I’ve been able to make the Jane Austen pilgrimage and it was awesome! I can’t wait to go back and pick up some of the places we missed and revisit places I didn’t get to spend enough time in. It was totally worth every penny. My husband planned it as our 30th anniversary gift. I had dreamed of it and was delighted every single day of it. It has helped me appreciate more aspects of Ms. Barron’s books and Miss Austen herself. I loved Winchester Cathedral and, yes, I stood there and wept at her graveside memorial. I thanked God for giving us such a wonderful writer who has brightened my life as well as many others. Sacred is a very important word with me as a Christian, and I have to say that this was a very sacred moment for me. Go there if you can. Go to Chawton first and then make the short trip to Winchester.


  15. I started reading the Jane Austen Mysteries this year as part of the mystery challenge 2011 and I couldn’t stop. I have ready every one of them and love them more than Jane Austen’s books. I can hardly wait until I read this latest one!!


  16. I signed up for the Jane Austen Mystery reading challenge as a “novice” but I am enjoying them so much, I plan to read all of them. I really admire Ms. Barron’s skill for “channeling” Jane Austen; she really does sound like Jane’s writing. I also like how she gives us a glimpse into Jane’s feelings about growing older, unmarried, and dealing with her situation as it is. What a nice discovery these books have been!


  17. It is so wonderful to read about everyone’s experiences in Jane Country, and with Jane herself…but I have to say, Karen, I was most struck by your husband’s thoughtfulness. There’s a man who knows you VERY well, if he could plan an Austen tour for an anniversary. Talk about a Keeper!


  18. i am thrilled to have this newest Stephanie Barron book to anticipate! i luv JA mysteries and having this inside scoop, Stephanie, of your personal touring it will add just that much more interest !
    what intrigues you most about reading a Jane Austen-inspired mystery?
    great descriptions of the settings that situate me there and believable JA characters that have me guessing their role in the mystery at hand… great dialogue is also essential to an appreciation of the period”)


  19. I have not read a Jane mystery so I hope to win and change that lol! I have visited her house in Bath a few years ago while traveling in the UK. I loved it! It truly felt like stepping back into time. I loved Bath in general! Thanks!



  20. So excited another one is coming out! I have been a big fan of Stephanie Barron’s novels ever since the first one. Anything that combines Jane Austen, the Regency era and a good mystery story is bound to be put on my must-read list!


  21. Huzzah! So glad I saw this fb posting as it reminded me to see if my pre-order had arrived– saving me from a quick succession of busy nothings!! Must hurry to see how many pages I can get read before my own dear Mr B arrives home from work (the original Stephanie Barron fan in this household) who will surely snatch it out of my hands. I love this series because all are so well-researched for the Regency times, Austen life — without “appearing” so. And the dialogue and relationships are very believable. I actually have to remind myself that this is fiction. I just wish it was in hard copy like most of the series!!!!!!!


  22. I am number one on the list at our local library, awaiting the copy of JANE and the CANTERBURY TALE. I have really enjoyed reading the whole Jane Austen Mystery series. Jane is a quick, smart thinker and a woman of action! I love that she is something of an anomaly-although she is a contemporary woman of her time, she would fit in quite while in ours. Love and prejudices haven’t changed all that much…


  23. I am so excited to read this book! I love reading Stephanie’s Jane Austen inspired mysteries. These books are so well written and so enjoyable!


  24. I think that Jane Austen mysteries are so great because the originals were sort of “social” mysteries – you never knew what would happen next in the future of the girls’ lives. Barron is such a great writer, so she and the topic mix well


  25. I have never yet had the privilage to visit England. It is on the list of one of the goals of my life to visit England and to visit as many of the Austen sites as I can. I have a burning desire to visit Hampshire and especially to visit Bath.

    I have loved the Stephanie Barron mysteries, but I have someone gotten behind on the last few. I discovered them one day while looking through the books at the Milwaukee Public Library. I love them as they are a great mystery, but involve my favorite author. They seemlessly blend history with mystery. I would love to read this book!


  26. I went to Bath but spent all day taking what was described by the fitter Brits as a “short walk” up a steep hill to find some obscure American art museum with my traveling companion. We did see the Roman Baths, and took a peek at the Cathedral, but by the time we got to the Austen Centre, all was closed for the day but the gift shop! it was a tantalizing first visit to Bath, which left me wanting more. It’s a beautiful town!

    I’m behind on Barron’s more recent JA mysteries too, so I’d love to win one!


  27. I’ve had the absolute pleasure of visiting many sites in England associated with Austen’s life, her books and the adaptations. I’ll never forget the first time I saw her writing table in the Chawton cottage or her desk at the British library with the canceled chapters of Persuasion.

    I’ve read a few of the “Being a Jane Austen Mystery” and what I enjoy most about them is how cleverly they fit into Austen’s timeline. Looking forward to reading this one as well.


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