Jane and the Waterloo Map: Being a Jane Austen Mystery (Book 13), by Stephanie Barron – A Review

Waterloo cover x 200From 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, 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

Join the Jane and the Waterloo Map Blog Tour Starting February 2, 2016

Waterloo cover x 200Long-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.

Continue reading

Jane and the Twelve Days of Christmas: Being a Jane Austen Mystery, by Stephanie Barron – A Review

Jane and the Twleve Days of Christmas by Stephanie Barron 2014 x 200From 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. Continue reading

Giveaway Winners Announced for Jane and the Twelve Days of Christmas

Jane and the Twleve Days of Christmas by Stephanie Barron 2014 x 200It’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

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