From the desk of Christina Boyd:
As a fan of the Being Jane Austen Mystery series, I have been all anticipation for the latest edition, Jane and the Waterloo Map. Author Stephanie Barron knows her Austen lore, as well as a being a masterful storyteller and researcher; writing in a most Austen-like style. She is also The Incomparable when it comes to Regency mysteries. Given that disclaimer, and holding the series in much esteem, I feel quite at liberty to share my impressions herein.
The novel opens with our dear Miss Austen attending her sick brother Henry at his London residence while editing the proofs of her latest novel, Emma, for her publisher John Murray. Summoned to Carlton House, the opulent London mansion of His Royal Highness the Prince Regent, Jane meets his toady Historiographer, Mr. James Stanier Clarke, who not only arrogantly invites her to use the Royal Library to write her next novel, but welcomes her to dedicate her work-in-progress to the Prince Regent himself. As she holds the prince and his profligate ways in contempt, Jane cautiously makes no commitment and politely continues on with the tour. Upon reaching the library, they come upon a Colonel MacFarland, the hero of Waterloo, collapsed upon the floor in an apoplectic fit. As Mr. Clarke finds help, the colonel utters his last words to Jane, “Waterloo map.” After a curious inspection of the colonel’s vomit, Jane speculates that the colonel may have been poisoned. The next day, word reaches her that the colonel did succumb, and it is not long before the royal physician confirms that the hero of Waterloo was murdered. Thus begins the intrigue—and danger—for our clever authoress as she exposes whodunit in this thirteenth of Stephanie Barron’s mystery series. Continue reading
Long-time readers of Austenprose will remember that I am a big fan of Stephanie Barron’s ‘Being a Jane Austen Mystery’ series. In 2011 we had a Mystery Reading Challenge for the entire eleven book series to date. Since that time another novel was published, Jane and the Twelve Days of Christmas, and next week the thirteenth mystery in the series, Jane and the Waterloo Map, will make its debut.
Here is a description of the new book from the publisher:
Jane Austen turns sleuth in this delightful Regency-era mystery
November, 1815. The Battle of Waterloo has come and gone, leaving the British economy in shreds; Henry Austen, high-flying banker, is about to declare bankruptcy—dragging several of his brothers down with him. The crisis destroys Henry’s health, and Jane flies to his London bedside, believing him to be dying. While she’s there, the chaplain to His Royal Highness the Prince Regent invites Jane to tour Carlton House, the Prince’s fabulous London home. The chaplain is a fan of Jane’s books, and during the tour he suggests she dedicate her next novel—Emma—to HRH, whom she despises.
However, before she can speak to HRH, Jane stumbles upon a body—sprawled on the carpet in the Regent’s library. The dying man, Colonel MacFarland, was a cavalry hero and a friend of Wellington’s. He utters a single failing phrase: “Waterloo map” . . . and Jane is on the hunt for a treasure of incalculable value and a killer of considerable cunning.
From the desk of Jenny Haggerty:
The holidays make me nostalgic for past times I’ve never actually experienced, so I leapt at the chance to spend the Yuletide season with Jane Austen. Jane and the Twelve Days of Christmas is the twelfth installment in a series that features one of my favorite novelists as an amateur sleuth, but so far I hadn’t managed to read one of them. It seemed high time to rectify that lapse, especially since author Stephanie Barron studied European history in college and then worked as a CIA analyst, highly suitable credentials for writing a story of intrigue set in the past.
The book opens on a blizzardy, bitterly cold evening with Jane Austen, her mother, and her sister Cassandra traveling by coach to the home of Jane’s eldest brother James and his family in Hampshire. Unfortunately, when they reach the end of the public line the women find that James has sent an unlighted open horse cart for the last few miles of their journey, even though it’s dark outside and blowing snow. Both Jane’s mother and sister have their heads bowed to prevent the snow from stinging their faces, so it’s only Jane who sees the rapidly approaching carriage heading straight for them. There’s a terrible crash and the ladies are thrown to the floor of the now ruined cart, but almost as shocking is the language of the gentleman in the carriage. Raphael West comes gallantly to their rescue and certainly acts with consideration and grace, but he proves he must be some kind of freethinker by swearing in front of them without reservation. Jane is intrigued.
t’s Christmas Eve of 1814 and this trip is a homecoming of sorts because James lives in Steventon Parsonage where Jane grew up, but with James in charge, it’s not the lively, loving place it was when their father was alive. James is stingy about lighting fires in the chilly rooms, contemptuous of Jane’s writing career, and broadly dismissive of most holiday traditions believing they aren’t Christian enough. Except for enjoying the company of her niece and nephew, it might have been a dismal visit for Jane, but fortunately, they are all invited to join a large party celebrating Christmas at The Vyne, the beautiful ancestral home of the wealthy, generous, and politically connected Chute family. The Vyne is also the place Raphael West was heading when his carriage crashed into the Austen’s cart.
Their hosts at The Vyne are William Chute, an amiable older country gentleman who’s been prominent in Parliament for two decades, and Eliza Chute, William’s energetic much younger wife who’s a longtime acquaintance of Jane’s. On being properly introduced Jane discovers that mysterious Mr. West is the son of a famous artist and is visiting The Vyne to sketch William Chute for his father. Or is he? Miss Gambier is another guest who interests Jane. She’s highly fashionable but being in her late 20’s is well on her way to spinsterhood and she has an almost forbidding reserve that suggests things hidden. Continue reading
It’s time to announce the 5 winners of a signed hardcover copy of Jane and the Twelve Days of Christmas: Being a Jane Austen Mystery, by Stephanie Barron. The lucky winners drawn at random are:
- Debbie Harris who left a comment on Oct 28, 2014
- Carol Settlage who left a comment on Nov 05, 2014
- Gail Warner who left a comment on Oct 29, 2014
- Syrie James who left a comment on Oct 28, 2014
- Laura Woodside Hartness who left a comment on Oct 28, 2014
Congratulations to all of the winners! To claim your prize, please contact me with your full name and address by November 12, 2014 or you will forfeit your prize! Shipment to US addresses only. One winner per IP address.
Thanks to all who left comments, to author Stephanie Barron for her guest blog, and to her publisher Soho Press for the giveaways. Continue reading
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. Continue reading