One thinks of Jane Austen as a retiring spinster who writes secretly, prefers her privacy, and enjoys quiet walks in the Hampshire countryside. Instead, she has applied her intuitive skills of astute observation and deductive reasoning to solve crime in Stephanie Barron’s Austen-inspired mystery series. It is an ingenious paradox that would make even Gilbert and Sullivan green with envy. The perfect pairing of the unlikely with the obvious that happens occasionally in great fiction by authors clever enough to pick up on the connection and run with it.
Jane and the Madness of Lord Byron marks Stephanie Barron’s tenth novel in the best-selling Jane Austen Mystery series. For fourteen years, and to much acclaim, she has channeled our Jane beyond her quiet family circle into sleuthing adventures with lords, ladies, and murderers. Cleverly crafted, this historical detective series incorporates actual events from Jane Austen’s life with historical facts from her time all woven together into mysteries that of course, only our brilliant Jane can solve.
It is the spring of 1813. Jane is home at Chawton Cottage “pondering the thorny question of Henry Crawford” in her new novel Mansfield Park and glowing in the recent favorable reception of Pride and Prejudice. Bad news calls her to London where her brother Henry’s wife Eliza, the Comtesse de Feuillde, is gravely ill. With her passing, Jane and Henry decide to seek the solace and restorative powers of the seaside selecting Brighton, “the most breathtaking and outrageous resort of the present age” for a holiday excursion.
At a coaching Inn along the way they rescue Catherine Twining, a young society Miss found bound and gagged in the coach of George Gordon, the 6th Baron of Byron, aka Lord Byron, the notorious mad, bad, and dangerous to know poet. Miffed by their thwart of her abduction, Byron regretfully surrenders his prize to Jane and Henry who return her to her father General Twining in Brighton. He is furious and quick to fault his fifteen-year-old daughter. Jane and Henry are appalled at his temper and concerned for her welfare.
Settled into a suite of rooms at the luxurious Castle Inn, Jane and Henry enjoy walks on the Promenade, fine dining on lobster patties and champagne at Donaldson’s, and a trip to the local circulating library where Jane is curious to see how often the “Fashionables of Brighton” solicit the privilege of reading Pride and Prejudice! Even though Jane loathes the dissipated Prince Regent, she and Henry attend a party at his opulent home the Marine Pavilion. In the crush of the soirée, Jane again rescues Miss Twining from another seducer.
Later at an Assembly dance attended by much of Brighton’s bon ton, Lord Byron reappears stalked by his spurned amour, “the mad as Bedlam” Lady Caroline Lamb. Even though the room is filled with beautiful ladies he only has eyes for Miss Twining and aggressively pursues her. The next morning, Jane and Henry are shocked to learn that the lifeless body of a young lady found in Byron’s bed was their naïve new friend Miss Catherine Twining! The facts against Byron are very incriminating. Curiously, the intemperate poet is nowhere to be found and all of Brighton ready to condemn him.
‘Henry grasped my arm and turned me firmly back along the way we had come. “Jane,” he said bracingly, “we require a revival of your formidable spirit – one I have not seen in nearly two years. You must take up the rȏle of Divine Fury. You must penetrate this killer’s motives, and expose him to the world.”’ page 119
And so the game is afoot and the investigation begins…
It is great to have Jane Austen, Detective back on the case and in peak form. Fans of the series will be captivated by her skill at unraveling the crime, and the unindoctrinated totally charmed. The mystery was detailed and quite intriguing, swimming in red herrings and gossipy supposition. Pairing the nefarious Lord Byron with our impertinent parson’s daughter was just so delightfully “sick and wicked.” Their scenes together were the most memorable and I was pleased to see our outspoken Jane give as good as she got, and then some. Readers who enjoy a good parody and want to take this couple one step further should investigate their vampire version in Jane Bites Back.
Barron continues to prove that she is an Incomparable, the most accomplished writer in the genre today rivaling Georgette Heyer in Regency history and Austen in her own backyard. Happily, readers will not have to wait another four years for the next novel in the series. Bantam published Jane and the Canterbury Tale this year. Huzzah! Unfortunately for fans of the Being a Jane Austen Mystery series, it is the final novel in the series.
5 out of 5 Regency Stars
This is my eleventh and final selection in the Being a Jane Austen Mystery Reading Challenge 2011. We have now read all of the mysteries in the series and completed the challenge! It has been a fabulous reading journey with Stephanie Barron’s Jane Austen, Lord Harold, and all the dead bodies scattered across England! I enjoyed every novel and learned so much. The Grand Prize winner of one signed copy of each of the novels in the series will be drawn from the comments on all of the posts here and at reviewers’ blogs and announced on January 1, 2012. Good luck!
- Participants, please leave comments and or place links to your reviews on the official reading challenge page by following this link.
- Check out author Stephanie Barron’s insights on writing Jane and the Madness of Lord Byron: A Fatal Charm on her blog.
Author Stephanie Barron has generously offered a signed paperback copy of Jane and the Madness of Lord Byron to one lucky winner. Leave a comment stating what intrigues you about Jane Austen as a detective, or what you think Jane Austen and Lord Byron have in common by midnight PT, Wednesday, December 28, 2011. The winner to be announced on Thursday, December 29, 2011. Shipment to the US addresses only. Good luck!
Jane and the Madness of Lord Byron: Being a Jane Austen Mystery (Book 10), by Stephanie Barron
Bantam Books (2010)
Trade paperback (352) pages
© 2007 – 2011 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose
I just read this book this past summer and was struck by how much both writers have an eye for people. What they do with this power of observation is where they look so dissimilar. Jane Austen operates within the rules of society and George Byron just doesn’t care.
As to a detective, I refer back to the power of observing and analyzing people and their motives.
I enjoyed the review and thank you for the giveaway opportunity.
Jane’s powers of deduction, character analysis and quick wit, make her one of the most memorable detectives ever. With this series, I love that we are so invested in Jane and her family. Oh how I wish Jane had left us more while she was alive. More writing (obviously), more letters, and more history of the family. Stephanie has done an outstanding job of letting us peak into the Austen clan and imagine that what we are seeing is exactly the way Jane and her family would have interacted and supported each other.
I am very happy to hear that Stephanie has committed to more of these fabulous stories. Merry Christmas!
Hmm, I think Jane’s intelligence, her ability to analyze people’s characters and being quick on her feet would help her be a great detective. I love this series and can’t wait to read this one. Merry Christmas!
I haven’t yet read any Jane-as-detective novels, but with her insight, it stands to reason she would be successful. This novel, with the Lord Byron “madness” thrown in, sounds great. Thanks for the giveaway.
I have been eyeing this series for some time, but have not read one yet. Your review has intrigued me. They just moved up on the TBR list! Thank you for the giveaway.
By the way, Canterbury Tale is already out–not due next year! And I’m afraid it’s probably the last Jane Austen mystery. If you’d like to hear more about the writing of the Madness of Lord Byron, check out my blog post. And Happy Christmas, everyone!
Dear Stephanie: I just finished The Cantebury Tale and although I prefer a good romance over a mystery, it is ALL your fault that I have been drawn into a genre’ that I never thought I would enjoy so much. Your writing “stile,” characters, and plots are brilliant/sophisticated. Having just now discovered your series, I look forward to devouring ALL of them. I have posted a 5/5 review of the Cantebury Tale on Amazon.com because I thought so much of your latest offering. You have a new admirer…do ya think?? Thanks, Laurel Ann, for introducing me to the Being a Jane Austen Mystery series. This is going to be delicious FUN.
Jeffrey, I’m forever indebted to you. Writers rarely know what readers think; you have made my holiday season. Happy reading!
I think that Jane Austen and Lord Byron have in common the ability to see beyond the charade. They understand human nature and are not easily hoodwinked, unlike some of Jane’s characters. :)
Great series Ms. Barron. Please keep the adventures coming our way.
I’ve wanted to read Stephanie Barron’s books ever since last August when I read her post in the Austenesque Extravaganza. I can’t imagine mixing Jane Austen’s genius with Lord Byron’s, along with his madness. It should make for a fascinating story!
i recently discovered StephanieBarron’s series & already have a few of her books in my ToBeRead pile!!!! can’t wait to start reading them!!
& JaneAusten as a detective is a no-brainer!!!! i’m surprised there hasn’t been a tv series based on a JaneAusten-like detective in the making yet!!!!
thank you for this giveaway!!!
cyn209 at juno dot com
I have read all of the books in this series several times. I think Jane makes a great detective because of her keen observation skills and her understanding of the nuances of the human character. I love this series and have read both short stories that the author published also featuring Jane. I’m sad to hear the series is probably ending, but happy to see what other books Stephanie comes out with.
Thank you, Melissa, for the repeated support! :)
I’m currently researching/writing a book on Edith Wharton. We’ll see where it goes.
And who knows?
There may be life in the old series yet…
This is a book I really want to read. I’m a big Byron fan. One thing I do think that the two of them would share in common is their sometimes biting wit. Byron’s was much more caustic than Austen’s, but though I wonder if she wouldn’t completely disapprove of Byron, I do think they would have a laugh together.
oooo…I really liked this one! i enjoyed the witty reparatee between Jane and Lord Byron and the mystery was such a nice added bonus! It seems so natural that Jane, such a keen observer, would be a great detective!
I have enjoyed this series. Barron’s Jane Austen’s sharp wit and powers of observation make her the perfect detective. Sadly I have fallen behind and haven’t read the last couple of this series (smacking myself for not joining this challenge). I would love to see Lord Byron and Jane meet.
I have enjoyed the reviews of Ms. Barron’s books, I am anxious to read them for myself! (I should have joined the challenge too!) With Jane’s insight and observations, as evidenced by her books, I believe she would have made an “Ace Detective”!