Jane and the Twelve Days of Christmas: Being a Jane Austen Mystery – Virtual Book Launch Party with Author Stephanie Barron

Jane and the Twleve Days of Christmas by Stephanie Barron 2014 x 200We are very excited to welcome Austenesque author Stephanie Barron to Austenprose today for the virtual book launch party of her new novel, Jane and the Twelve Days of Christmas, the twelfth installment in the fan-favorite Being a Jane Austen Mystery series.

Ardent readers of Austenprose will remember that I am a huge fan of this fabulous series featuring Jane Austen as a sleuth – so much so that we celebrated  2011 with the Being a Jane Austen Mystery Reading Challenge, including all eleven novels in the series to date. It was great fun only dampened by the possibility that the eleventh mystery, Jane and the Canterbury Tale, might be the last in the series. Imagine my delight when I heard the news that Soho Press would be publishing the next mystery!

The three year wait was torture, but now Stephanie Barron’s darling child has arrived in grand style. We are so thrilled that she has honored us with this fabulous guest blog revealing her inspiration to write the novel based on actual history, and Jane Austen of course.

DESCRIPTION (from the publisher)

Christmas Eve, 1814: Jane Austen has been invited to spend the holiday with family and friends at The Vyne, the gorgeous ancestral home of the wealthy and politically prominent Chute family. As the year fades and friends begin to gather beneath the mistletoe for the twelve days of Christmas festivities, Jane and her circle are in a celebratory mood: Mansfield Park is selling nicely; Napoleon has been banished to Elba; British forces have seized Washington, DC; and on Christmas Eve, John Quincy Adams signs the Treaty of Ghent, which will end a war nobody in England really wanted.

Jane, however, discovers holiday cheer is fleeting. One of the Yuletide revelers dies in a tragic accident, which Jane immediately views with suspicion. If the accident was in fact murder, the killer is one of Jane’s fellow snow-bound guests. With clues scattered amidst cleverly crafted charades, dark secrets coming to light during parlor games, and old friendships returning to haunt the Christmas parties, whom can Jane trust to help her discover the truth and stop the killer from striking again?

ADVANCE PRAISE FOR JANE AND THE TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS

“Vivid characters propel the subtle plot to its surprising conclusion. The first-person narration captures Austen’s tone as revealed in her letters: candid, loving, and occasionally acerbic.” – stared review by – PUBLISHERS WEEKLY

“[A]n excellent period mystery for all historical fiction fans … Jane Austen devotees will especially appreciate immersing themselves in the many biographical details about Austen that accompany the fictional murder mystery.” – LIBRARY JOURNAL 

“Sings with not just a good plot but courtly language and an engaging group of characters worthy of the famed novelist herself … a first-rate mystery with so many twists and turns that you can hardly blame a reader who doesn’t figure it out until the end.” – THE DENVER POST 

PLEASE JOIN ME IN WELCOMING STEPHANIE BARRON 

Keeping Christmas with Jane

This year on December 24th we celebrate not just Christmas Eve, but a very special bicentennial: the two hundredth anniversary of the signing of…the Treaty of Ghent.

Signing of the Treaty of Ghent 1814 by Amédée Forestier

Signing of the Treaty of Ghent, by Amédée Forestier (1814)

Alert history buffs will note immediately that two of the men pictured above are vaguely recognizable. At center is John Quincy Adams, then serving as US Ambassador to Russia. Shaking his hand is Admiral of the Fleet, James Gambier—or “Dismal Jimmy” as he was called in the Royal Navy. The Admiral was known for his pious habits and dour command of Britannia’s waves. Standing behind him are his lieutenants—let’s call one of them John Gage.  He’s holding a dispatch case, which eventually proves his undoing.

The treaty signed that Christmas Eve ended the War of 1812. We remember the conflict for two things: Dolley Madison hustling through the burning White House with George Washington’s portrait under her arm, and Francis Scott Key setting a national anthem to an old tavern song. But the British knew this was a war that should never really have happened. It was a waste of their time from start to finish, despite the razing of our nation’s capital. The Royal Navy suffered surprising defeats that suggested we might one day challenge their mastery of the sea. The Treaty of Ghent proved largely in America’s favor. And the Duke of Wellington fretted over the fact that his brother-in-law was killed in the conflict, while his crack Peninsular troops were marching far too far from home.

Jane Austen

Portrait of Jane Austen

Even Jane Austen was annoyed by the whole thing.  She wrote to Martha Lloyd September 2, 1814, that the Americans “cannot be conquered,” and that by engaging them on land and sea, “we shall only be teaching them the skill in War which they may now want. We are to make them good Sailors & Soldiers, & gain nothing ourselves.”  She went on to say that she placed her faith in the fact that England was improving in religion, despite all its evils, which she could not believe true of Americans; so much for her good opinion.

Jane kept up with the political and international news of the day because she had two brothers in the Royal Navy. She also was quite familiar with Dismal Jimmy. Admiral Gambier was one of Capt. Frank Austen’s patrons, and he was married to Louisa Mathew, whose cousin Ann was James Austen’s first wife. The Gambiers and the Mathews formed part of the closely interwoven society of northern Hampshire, the area around Steventon where Jane spent her girlhood—and indeed, spent the Christmas Season of 1814. I had only to connect Dismal Jimmy, the treaty, and Jane Austen to realize there was a book in the business somewhere. The result is JANE AND THE TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS.

Which brings us to the real point of this essay: Parties.

The Georgian Christmas was nothing like ours, which is essentially an invention of Queen Victoria and her German Albert. The Georgian—and by extension, Regency Christmas—began on Christmas Day and carried on with games and dances and multi-course meals and gifts and great clothes until Twelfth Night, the eve of January 6th, the Feast of the Epiphany.  During those twelve days, everyone paid calls on one another, drifted innocently under pagan sprigs of mistletoe, drank rum punch against the bitter cold, and got up impromptu parties in various drawing-rooms. They also planned their costumes for the culminating treat: the Twelfth Night Ball. This looked a lot like our Mardi Gras. Social norms were inverted; master became servant, servant became master, ladies paraded as gentlemen and gentlemen teetered in high heels beneath their gowns. Children played Kings and Queens and had toddlers for their Court. Jane’s Ball is held at The Vyne, home of the Chute family and one of the great houses in the Steventon neighborhood.

Illustration of The Vyne in Hampshire circa 1800

Illustration of The Vyne in Hampshire, England circa 1800

William Chute was a member of parliament, but is best remembered as Master of the Vyne Hunt, of which James Austen was an enthusiastic member. The Vyne Hunt traditionally met on the Feast of St. Stephen—December 26th, now known as Boxing Day in England. Seen below are the Heathcotes of Hursley Park: Sir William, 3rd baronet, and his sons Thomas and William, in their Vyne hunting jackets.  William Heathcote married Jane’s friend Elizabeth Bigg in 1798 and widowed her, sadly, only four years later.

Heathcoastes of Hurley Park by Sir Willaim Daniel Gardner 1790

 Heathcoastes of Hursley  House,  Hampshire by Daniel Gardner circa 1790

A blizzard and the unexpected arrival of John Gage with his dispatch box forestall the Hunt’s plans in JANE AND THE TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS. There are compensations, however. Jane enjoys her stay at The Vyne, with its excellent conversation, its flowing wine, its comfortable fires and its consoling library—not to mention one intriguing fellow guest: Mr. Raphael West. The eldest son of the Royal Academy founder and revered artist, Benjamin West, Raphael has journeyed into Hampshire to paint William Chute. But when a body is discovered in the snowy drifts of the park, Jane gives full rein to her suspicions. Is West merely a painter? Or adept in the art of murder?

Here he is, left, in a portrait by his father.

Raphael West and Benjamin West Jr., Sons of the Artist, by Benjamin West, c 1796

 Raphael West and Benjamin West Jr., Sons of the Artist, by Benjamin West, c. 1796

AUTHOR BIO

Author Stephanie BarronStephanie Barron is the author of  JANE AND THE TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS, the twelfth in the series of Jane Austen Mysteries, which Kirkus hails as “charming, literate and unequaled,” the New York Times calls “genteelly jolly,” and Entertainment Weekly applauds for “echoing the rhythms of the Austen novels with uncanny ease.”  Oprah put Jane on her list of “Ten Mystery Novels Every Woman Should read,” while Publishers Weekly simply says: “Superb.”

A graduate of Princeton and Stanford, Stephanie studied European history and spent four years at the CIA. She also writes as Francine Mathews; the New Yorker called Mathews’ JACK 1939 “the most deliciously high-concept thriller imaginable.”   Ian Fleming gets the spy treatment next in the forthcoming World War II thriller TOO BAD TO DIEStephanie/Francine lives in Denver, Colorado, where she is currently writing JANE AND THE WATERLOO MAP, set at Carlton House In the autumn of 1815.

Website          Facebook        Goodreads

ASK AUTHOR STEPHANIE BARRON A QUESTION OR LEAVE A COMMENT

TO ENTER A GRAND GIVEAWAY

In celebration of the release of Jane and the Twelve Days of Christmas, please enter a giveaway chance for one of five hardcover copies signed by Stephanie Barron available by asking the author a question today, October 28th, or by leaving a comment stating what intrigues you about this new mystery, or which one of the previous novels in the series is your favorite by 11:59 pm, Wednesday, November 5, 2014. Winners will be announced on Thursday, November 6, 2014. Shipment to US addresses. Good luck to all!

Many thanks to author Stephanie Barron for the signed copies of Jane and the Twelve Days of Christmas and for joining us today. I am of in raptures over the announcement of the thirteenth book in the series, Jane and the Waterloo Map!

Jane and the Twelve Days of Christmas: Being a Jane Austen Mystery, by Stephanie Barron
Soho Press (2014)
Hardcover & eBook (336) pages
ISBN: 978-1616954239

Cover image courtesy of Soho Press © 2014; text Stephanie Barron © 2014, Austenprose.com

85 thoughts on “Jane and the Twelve Days of Christmas: Being a Jane Austen Mystery – Virtual Book Launch Party with Author Stephanie Barron

  1. And they say art mimics life. It sounds as though there are enough twist and turns in history, that art doesn’t really need to add any. As Cosmo Kramer says in Seinfeld, “A story like that, it’s gotta be true!”

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I have read and loved every Stephanie
    Barron-Jane Austen mystery and love the
    fact that this is a Christmas one! I would
    so love to win..

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I love this series and am so excited to have another! I think rather than commenting on a specific book, I would rather comment that I enjoyed the relationship Jane had with Sir Harold. Without too much of a plot spoiler (I hope) I felt his final bequeath to her acknowledged the respect he had for her intelligence but it made me sad that her friend would no longer grace us with his charm.
    Thanks for a new book and a tease about Jane and the Waterloo Map!

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  4. A question for the author: What were your best sources in researching Georgian Christmas celebrations? (And thank you for your books. I have enjoyed them immensely!)

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    • I have to say that there aren’t a lot of sources, ChrisJ. Fanny Austen Knight’s journals are useful because she noted the festivities, games, and gifts of most celebrations at Godmersham over the years. So at certain times did Jane’s niece Caroline, who is a character in this book. There is a slim little volume entitled “Jane Austen’s Christmas: The Festive Season in Georgian England,” by Maria Hubert. David Selwyn’s compilation of “Jane Austen: Collected Poems and Verse of the Austen Family” is full of charades composed by various Austens. The website of Jane Austen’s Regency World has some useful info on the Christmas Holiday. You can learn about Twelfth Night celebrations during the Georgian period from a synopsis on the BBC website: http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/british/ten_ages_gallery_04.shtml. And the St. Stephen’s day hunt is still a tradition; I read about The Vyne’s in “Recollections of the early days of the Vine Hunt, and of its founder William John Chute,” by A Sexagenarian. The Sexagenarian was in fact James Edward Austen-Leigh, who hunted with the Vyne Hunt alongside his father, Jane’s brother James. James Edward wrote this memoir when he was in his seventies. One of my favorite books on high living in the Regency in general is Venetia Murray’s “An Elegant Madness: High Society in Regency England.”

      Finally, an ardent plug for the wonderful blog post, with pictures of the making of a glorious Twelfth Night Cake in the traditional manner, on http://www.austenonly.com : http://austenonly.com/2010/01/05/jane-austen-and-christmas-celebrating-twelfth-night/

      Happy reading!

      Liked by 1 person

    • I have to say that there are not a lot of sources, ChrisJ. My favorite book for an overview of Regency high life is Venetia Murray’s “An Elegant Madness: High Society in Regency England.” For Christmas in particular, I found Fanny Austen Knight’s diaries useful–she noted her holiday celebrations, games, masquerades, and gifts over the years at Godmersham. So did her sister Caroline. There’s a slim little volume entitled “Jane Austen’s Christmas” by Maria Hubert, but for the Austen family charades, David Selwyn’s book “Jane Austen: Collected Poems and Verse of the Austen Family” is quite useful. The BBC has a good synopsis of Twelfth Night history and celebration at http://austenonly.com/2010/01/05/jane-austen-and-christmas-celebrating-twelfth-night/ , and Georgian carols can be researched at http://www.hymnsandcarolsofchristmas.com. Most of the carols we think of as English are in fact Victorian and originally German!
      I learned about the Vyne Hunt on the Feast of St. Stephen from “Recollections of the Vine Hunt (sic), and of its founder William John Chute, by a Sexagenarian.” The Sexagenarian was in fact James Edward Austen-Leigh, who hunted with Chute and the Vyne Hunt alongside his father, Jane’s brother James–as they do in this book. Finally, I must put in an ardent plug for this blog post on the making of a Twelfth Night Cake, complete with original boxwood molds and beautiful pictures, on the website http://austenonly.com/2010/01/05/jane-austen-and-christmas-celebrating-twelfth-night/ .
      Happy reading!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. This series is new to me. I had to send my librarian a note to see if she has heard of these. This is just the type of series that would be a hit in our little library. Twelve Days of Christmas particularly caught my attention because I love the Twelve Days of Christmas. There is something about combining this time of year with the nineteenth century; as the snow freshly blankets the ground it is as though anything can happen.

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  6. Big Tiger locomotive to you Stephanie, for another wonderful plot! I love the way you’ve interwoven history, fiction, and Jane Austen straddling the two. I can’t wait to read this one. Thank you for revisiting this delightful and impressive series!

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  7. I immensely enjoy Stephanie Barron’s books. They really are bringing Jane Austen and her time to life. Perfect timing for this one: Christmas is approaching and here we are with a new instalment that takes place at christmas. Will there be snow in the book that prevents anybody from leaving or arriving?

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    • Of COURSE!!!!
      Caroline Wiggett, the adopted daughter of William and Elizabeth Chute, remembers that the roads around The Vyne were impassible in winter–a combination of mud and snowdrifts. Jane gets stuck in both. :)

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Hi Stephanie/Francine! I own every book in your Austen mystery series except this one, and badly need this novel to add to my collection and to fill my Being a Jane Austen Mystery addiction! It was truly wonderful to see you at the JASNA AGM in Montreal. I am glad we had a chance to chat, however briefly. I meant to ask you: what are you working on now?

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  9. Stephanie, I have loved your Jane Austen mysteries. I have shared my copies with so many of my friends that I fret I will not ever get them back. I am intrigued by Jane coming into contact with citizens of the US, I hope that we will get to see her interact with John Gage and share her razor sharp wit regarding the former colonies. Thank you for giving Austen fans a friend in this characterization of such a revered authoress. I feel as if Jane and I surely would have been best friends after getting to know her through your novels. My question is this: Any more Jane books in the future?

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  10. A deliciously intriguing title ! just the way I like them to be – subtle and sweet, giving out only scent of the mystery and not the full broth. And, the Yuletide season adds charm of falling snow and cold shivers and jitters to the story… I am already loving it… how to wait to read ?
    After my first experience with Jane of Ms. Baron in The scargrave Manor, I was convinced of a happy existence for me because as long as she’ll write, I am sure to have my thrilling peace,calm adventure and beautiful mysteries from her nuanced writings :)
    wishes,
    Kokila

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  11. I will be a total fan girl and say that Raphael West was a hottie! How could Jane resist those classic features? He could be the inspiration for Mr. Darcy, but she had already created that noble mien by 1814.

    Since you write about other eras too, I am curious Stephanie how you jump back into the Regency and channel Jane so well? Do you have a process to get yourself back into her head and the times? Movies? Books? Time machine?

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    • You know, Laurel Ann, I start by reading her letters for the period I intend to write about. There weren’t any for this Christmas Season, but she was writing just before and afterward, and commenting on current events. Right now, however, as I write about November 1815, I have lots of her material–she was staying with Henry in Hans Place while he was seriously ill, trying to proof the typeset pages of EMMA, which she was obliged to dedicate to the Prince Regent. This was the period when she visited Carlton House and corresponded with James Stanier Clarke. Just “hearing” the voice of her letters takes me right back into her world.

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  12. I have been so anxiously awaiting this next in an already stellar series. I have yet to find an author that writes Jane Austen spinoffs so well. I loved the first one best I think because Jane had just a bit of romance with such a dashing rogue of a man. But really each one is just so well written.

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    • Because she’s staying at The Vyne, Eliza Chute’s cook does all the meals–but when at the Steventon parsonage the fare is a great deal simpler. One word for you: brawn.

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  13. I have done a lot of research on Christmas celebrations during the Regency so I am looking forward to reading the book. I often give a talks to JASNA groups and libraries about Christmas during Jane Austen’s lifetime.

    One of the books I read during my research is a perfect companion to Stephanie’s book. It is called “A Treasure on Earth – A Country House Christmas” by Phyllis Elinor Sandeman. This small book is a reminisce about Christmas at the Lyme Park at the turn of the 20th century. An interesting coincidence is the author calls uses pseudonyms for some of the place names and she refers to Lyme Park as Vyne Park. This book will also appeal to “Downtown Abbey” fans since it is set in the same time period.

    Another useful little book is “Round About Our Coal Fire; or, Christmas Entertainments” from 1740. It goes into specific detail about the games and parties during the Twelve Days of Christmas.

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    • These are wonderful suggestions–thank you so much, Lisa. I wish I’d known about them before today! Also wish we had the ability to know about/tap into the intellectual resources of JASNA members. It would be so helpful to many of us if we knew the expertise of individuals in the group in a more obvious way, don’t you think? I often plomb “Persuasions” for articles that prove useful–but I’d love to be able to consult more broadly with other members.

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  14. Yay! Another Jane mystery from one if my favorite authors. I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy. It will be difficult for me to read slowly to savor it when I’ll want to devour it as soon as possible. :) As much as I’m sure we all wish they could, we know that these stories won’t go on forever. Do you have any plans for short stories that could come between the novels in the future? I’m excited to hear about “Jane and the Waterloo Map” too. Thank you for writing this series and giving us a little more of Jane Austen!

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    • I’m a truly challenged short story writer, Grace. But one never knows. I’ve got an entire book mapped out during the aftermath of Trafalgar in 1805, featuring Lord Harold, but I hesitate to go “back” in series time, so that may never get written. Possible novella, however.

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      • Ooh, a Lord Harold story would be great! I enjoyed your short story in Laurel Ann’s “Jane Austen Made Me Do It” and was hoping for similar things. I know it’d be difficult for you, but I wish the series would never end. I’ll keep hoping. :)

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  15. I love the Being Jane mysteries and I credit them with getting me interested in the details of Jane’s life. My favorite was Jane and the Man of the Cloth. I look forward to this Christmas one.

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  16. Intriguing guest post. I love history, particularly of this time period. I also have enjoyed Barron’s novels in the past as she perfectly blends Austen’s real life history with a great mystery. As Christmas novels are also another passion I have, this seems to be the perfect book combining Christmas, Jane Austen, mystery, and history all into one!

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  17. I was reluctant to read these books – I thought the idea of Jane Austen as detective ludicrous. Then I was given one as a gift and became immediately hooked. Not ludicrous at all, but intelligent, interesting and fun. Historical novels are my favorite, and I love the way that Stephanie weaves in what’s happening at the time of each novel, plus the interesting snippets of what Jane’s family was up to. Now I’ve read every book in the series and am all anticipation for this new one. I enjoy reading about Regency holidays and happenings, and Jane Austen solving another murder adds to the fun. I didn’t realize that Stephanie wrote other books under another name, so now I must search those out as well.

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  18. I love Christmas mysteries, as well as Jane Austen, and am looking forward to this one.There is something about murder at a house party that I really enjoy :) And may I also recommend Jack 1939 published as Francine Mathews – A terrific thriller that I have recommended to a number of library patrons.

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  19. So happy to see the 12th book. In honor of it’s publishing, I will wear the “Jane and the Unpleasantness at Scargrave Manor” t-shirt which I was fortunate to receive from you in 1996. Thanks again.

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  20. I have not read any prior volumes in the series, but I will be on the lookout for them for sure! As my entree into the genre, nothing could be better than a Christmas connection. Thank you for the opportunity.

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  21. Now I cannot wait for ‘Jane and the Waterloo Map’ either. I’m a Waterloo fan, loving the Poem by Byron about the Duchess of Richmond’s Ball; the movie with Christopher Plummer as the Duke of Wellington; and Vanity Fair by Thackeray…how long do I have to wait for Jane to have her say on Waterloo?

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  22. Congratulations Stephanie! Yay, another book in this wonderful series. I am such a huge fan of the Jane Austen Mystery series and I love that this story takes place during Christmas. Thank you for this lovely giveaway!!

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  23. Oh! I agree with R Thom’s implication that your Jane works would be a phenomenal television series. I am excited about the new book, and someday I hope to meet you again – by accident – at a JASNA event…and get you to sign my copies of books 7 – (soon) 12!

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  24. What grand news about the new book. Just told a Janeite last Sunday of the standing ovation we gave Stephanie at a Jane Austen Society of North America Annual General Meeting. I was on my feet and clapping as hard as any of them. The way Stephanie captures the voice of Austen is amazing and I learn so much about Austen’s time along the way. Because a huge fan of eye portraits because of “Jane and the Wandering Eye.” I was referring to my Timeline (Jane Austen: Her Family and Her World) on the JASNA–Greater Chicago Region’s website today. Happened across December 16, 1804, Madame Lefroy’s carriage accident. My mind immediately went to Stephanie’s re-imagining of that event. Thank you, Stephanie, for all your efforts. You give us great joy.

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  25. I have to admit I’ve never read this series, but it does sound fascinating. Looking forward to reading books by Stephanie Barron and Francine Mathews. Thanks for post Laurel Ann and Stephanie! –Missy

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  26. Once again Laurel Ann has expanded my world in a wonderful way!! I’m so happy to be introduced to you, Stephanie and your mystery books of Jane Austen! Never thought I was much for mysteries, but I’ve enjoyed a few in our JAFF recommendations from Austenprose and such, and so when I first read this here, I ordered the first, (I believe) of your series, “Jane and the Unpleasantness at Scargrave Manor” and am nearly through it and can really appreciate all the above positive comments! (How fun to have a t-shirt of it!) :-) Learning about Jane’s life through this exciting medium… and so well done!… is a delight! Thank you and Best of Luck to you!

    Liked by 1 person

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