A Preview of Poppy Redfern and the Midnight Murders (A Woman of WWII Mystery Book 1), by Tessa Arlen

Poppy Redfern and the Midnight Murders, by Tessa Allen (2019)I am so pleased to share the news of a forthcoming publication from one of my favorite historical mystery authors. Tessa Arlen’s Poppy Redfern and the Midnight Murders, A Woman of WWII Mystery Book 1, will be released on November 5, 2019. The first novel in a new series, it promises to be an entertaining mystery for you to get lost in for a weekend while drinking tea and nibbling on scones with raspberry jam and clotted cream.

After enjoying all four books of Arlen’s Lady Montfort Mystery Series, which are set in a Downton Abbey-esque country manor house in Edwardian England, I was interested to learn that the next mystery series would take place twenty-six years later during WWII. Featuring a courageous, young woman doing her bit during the war as a Air Raid Warden, she is the front line for her sleeping neighbors against the Blitz in her small English village. Here is further information from the publisher on the new book, and an exclusive excerpt from the author for your enjoyment.

BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Summer 1942. The world has been at war for three long and desperate years. In the remote English village of Little Buffenden, Poppy Redfern’s family house and farmland have been requisitioned by the War Office as a new airfield for the American Air Force. As the village’s Air Raid Warden, Poppy spends her nights patrolling the village as she tries to ease her neighbors’ fears about the “Friendly Invasion” and what it means to their quiet way of life.

When two young, popular women who were dating American servicemen are found strangled, Poppy quickly realizes that her little town has been divided by murder. The mistrust and suspicion of their new American partners in the war threaten to tear Little Buffenden apart. Poppy decides to start her own investigation with the help of a charismatic American pilot and she soon unearths some chilling secrets and long-held grudges. Poppy will have no choice but to lay a trap for a killer so perilously close to home, she might very well become the next victim… Continue reading

Giveaway Winner Announced for Death Sits Down to Dinner

Death Sits Down to Dinner by Tessa Arlen x 200It’s time to announce the winner of the giveaway of one hardcover copy of Death Sits Down to Dinner, by Tessa Arlen. The lucky winner was drawn at random and is:

  • Paige B., who left a comment on March 30, 2016.

Congratulations Paige! To claim your prize, please contact me with your full name and address by April 13, 2016, or you will forfeit your prize! Shipment is to US addresses only.

Thanks to all who left comments, to author Tessa Arlen for her great interview and to her publisher Minotaur Books for the giveaway copy.

Cover image courtesy of Minotaur Books © 2016, text Laurel Ann Nattress © 2016, Austenprose.com

The Regency Detective, by David Lassman and Terence James – A Review

The Regency Detective, by David Lassman and Terence James (2013)From the desk of Stephanie Barron:

When the movie can’t help but be much better than the book:

A confession of my own, as I embark on this review: I write a series of mystery novels set in late-Georgian and Regency England, which feature Jane Austen as a detective. As a result, I might be regarded as a partial and prejudiced judge of The Regency Detective, a novel by the British screenwriting duo of David Lassman and Terence James (The History Press, 2013).  The pair are developing their story for British television, an honor I may receive only when hell freezes over, and they firmly state that the project is backed by the Bath City Council, Bath Film Office, Bath Tourism Plus, The Jane Austen Centre, and several other organizations too trivial to name throughout the city. A trifling note of bitterness on my part, or a waspish tone to this review, ought therefore to be acknowledged before being dismissed—because there are any number of authors publishing in this historical subgenre whom I wholeheartedly admire, read, and recommend. I love nothing better than a cracking good historical mystery set in England during Jane Austen’s lifetime. My hesitation to embrace The Regency Detective stems neither from its period, its engaging protagonist, nor its action plot—but from its truly turgid prose.  Having read nearly three hundred and twenty pages of it, I suggest that the movie version MUST be better.

But more about the prose later. Continue reading

The Disappearance of Georgiana Darcy: A Pride and Prejudice Mystery, by Regina Jeffers – A Review

The Disappearance of Georgiana Darcy, by Regina Jeffers (2012)Review by Lisa Galek

In case you’re like me and can never seem to get enough of your favorite Jane Austen characters, The Disappearance of Georgiana Darcy will have you curled up next to the fires at Pemberley in no time. Just don’t expect to stay too long… for there’s a mystery to be solved!

This book is a sequel to a sequel. It follows the events of not only Pride and Prejudice, but also Regina Jeffers’s other Austen-inspired novel, Christmas at Pemberley. For those of us who haven’t got a chance to check out that volume yet, don’t worry – the author spends time catching us up on all the important details. Mr. and Mrs. Darcy are happy at home at Pemberley, glowing after the birth of their first child, Bennet. Georgiana has also experienced some changes of her own. She has married her cousin, Major General Fitzwilliam (promoted from Colonel after we last left him in Pride and Prejudice). The Major General has been sent off to fight the French shortly after their marriage, leaving Georgiana to get settled at their estate in Scotland. As the novel opens, Georgiana receives an erroneous letter explaining that her husband has been killed during the battle of Waterloo. In her grief, she foolishly flees on horseback out onto the dangerous Scottish moors. When the Darcys receive word that Georgiana has not been heard or seen from in days, they race to Scotland in order to locate their missing sister. Their investigations lead them to Normanna Hall, a ghoulish gothic castle, owned by Domhnall MacBethan and his domineering mother, Dolina. What horrors live inside those terrifying walls? Does the secret to finding Georgiana lie inside the castle? Can the Darcys get to her in time?

The novel also returns us to some of our favorite characters. Mr. and Mrs. Wickham show up and attempt to gain entrance to Pemberley (they are rejected and fists fly). Mary and Kitty have also been married off to respectable young men. Jane and Charles Bingley are happy and thriving with their own family of three adorable little children. Lady Catherine also makes a brief appearance, but sadly, she seems to have received a complete personality makeover during Christmas at Pemberley, so there’s no one to satisfy one’s love for affable condescension.

One of the dangers of writing a sequel to one of the best-loved novels in all of western literature is that the reader may not care for the direction in which you take her cherished characters. I found myself alternately enjoying and being annoyed by the author’s depiction of the people I knew and loved from Pride and Prejudice. I was thrilled that Georgiana married Colonel Fitzwilliam (because that is what I always imagined would happen) and that Elizabeth, too, kept some of her wit and charm. However, I was completely annoyed with the Wickhams, who seemed to act totally out of character. Lydia suddenly had a desire to become a dutiful wife and Wickham had turned into a very violent and angry man. Elizabeth also had a bit of sap added as she repeatedly reassured her husband that if Georgiana were dead “they would know it in their hearts,” and seemed to put a little too much emphasis on her “woman’s intuition.” Mr. Darcy, too, got a bit of a romantic makeover. His constant expressions of love for Elizabeth seemed a bit too over-the-top. Certainly Mr. Darcy loved and valued his wife, but I have a hard time imagining that he would ever put these sentences down on paper:

Please know, my dearest Elizabeth, that each night I will dream of you – the woman I adore. My love for you is more than true, and my feelings are deeper than those three words so easily bandied about among those caught up in passion’s first flush. When you came into my life my world tilted, but it also opened for me for the first time. My life began. You are the music of my soul. Until we are once more in one another’s embrace, I remain your loving husband.

Aside from all this, the basic plot of the book was good. Though Georgiana’s disappearance didn’t come into play until about a third of the way through, once we started to understand more about the predicament she found herself in, I became more drawn into the story and more invested in finding out the fate of the missing girl. The new characters, too – especially the devious MacBethans – were well done and came with fully-formed backstories that added to the suspense and drama. And, I hope it’s not too much of a spoiler to say that this mystery had an intriguing twist that kept me guessing right up until the end.

All in all, an interesting and engaging read. Those who like a good mystery will be pulled in. And if you don’t mind seeing it all play out with your favorite Austen characters, then you’ll enjoy it all the more.

3.5 out of 5 Regency Stars

The Disappearance of Georgiana Darcy: A Pride and Prejudice Mystery, by Regina Jeffers
Ulysses Press (2012)
Trade paperback (336) pages
ISBN: 978-1612430454
NOOK: 978-1612430812
Kindle: B007OVTCQ6

Lisa Galek is a professional writer, editor and lover of all things Jane Austen. She lives in the suburbs of Cleveland with her wonderful husband and their two beautiful daughters, Elizabeth and Gwendolyn. When she’s not working or mothering, she enjoys attempting to write her own novels, watching mindless TV shows, and re-reading Pride and Prejudice yet again.

© 2007 – 2012, Lisa Galek, Austenprose

Jane Austen Made Me Do It, edited by Laurel Ann Nattress – A Review

Jane Austen Made Me Do It , edited by Laurel Ann Nattress 2011Guest review by Christina Boyd

“It is only a novel… or, in short, some work in which the greatest powers of the mind are displayed, in which the most thorough knowledge of human nature, the happiest delineation of its varieties, the liveliest effusions of wit and humour are conveyed to the world in the best chosen language.”  Northanger Abbey, Volume 1, Chapter 5

Jane Austen Made Me Do It, Original Stories Inspired by Literature‘s Most Astute Observer of the Human Heart is a collection of twenty-two original Jane Austen-inspired stories including contributions from best-selling authors Pamela Aidan, Stephanie Barron, Carrie Bebris, Laurie Viera Rigler and Lauren Willig.  Editor Laurel Ann Nattress, and blog mistress of Austenprose – A Jane Austen Blog, has assembled her dream team of authors and for this anthology asking them to “stay within the theme of exploring Austen’s philosophies of life and love by reacquainting readers with characters from her novels or introducing original stories inspired by her ideals.  From historical to contemporary to young-adult fiction to paranormal, five of the major novels and Austen’s life are featured in this anthology,” p. xiv.  In addition, one story by a previously unpublished author, Brenna Aubrey, was picked as Grand Prize winner via a contest hosted by the Austen fan site Pemberley.com.  With such a significant range in this compilation, surely one would agree, “One cannot have too large a party.  A large party secures its own amusement.”  Emma, Volume 3, Chapter 6

On my first reading of this anthology, I must admit that I singled out my favorite authors first.  Yes, yes. I realize out of order was not how the editor intended it to be read, but, “One man’s way may be as good as anothers, but we all like our own best.”  Persuasion, Volume 2, Chapter 1.  So of course, for me, I began with “Jane & the Gentleman Rogue,” by Stephanie Barron. What can I say? You had me with the title. Anything that has more of the Gentleman Rogue must be 5 stars. This was a terrific “fragment of a Jane Austen Mystery” chocked full of treason and breathless intrigue, that Barron surely knocked out of the park!

Another stand out was “Letters to Lydia” by Maya Slater.  In the spirit of Jane Austen’s much studied remaining correspondence, these are letters from Pride and Prejudice’s minor character Maria Lucas, the younger sister of Mrs. William Collins, nee Miss Charlotte Lucas to Elizabeth Bennet’s youngest and wildest sister, Lydia Bennet. Loved, loved, loved how I could truly hear Maria’s voice as she recounts a supposed secret Love Affair and tryst between Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet– and how she unwittingly “helped them along.” (Bonus points for Mr. Collins’ lisp!)

“Jane Austen and the Mistletoe Kiss,” by Jo Beverley was a definite favorite. Flowing with Austen-like brilliance, this tale about a genteel, but impoverished, widow and her three daughters who have an amiable, rich neighbor who often meet was CHARMING from beginning to end.  Anytime there is a clear, happy ending, preferably resulting marriage, I am bound to be enchanted!

I was totally caught unawares by the cleverness in “What Would Austen Do?,” by Jane Rubino & Caitlen Rubino-Bradway.  A contemporary story about a teenage boy who inadvertently signs up for a Country Dance for Beginners class (and not the “Boot, Scoot, Boogie” kind of country dance!) and must learn how to make the most of this summer experience.  Fortunately, his keen wit and willingness to read Austen’s novels helps him  befriend the new girl in town.  Just loved! ALL OF IT! Fantastic– a teenage hero quoting Austen appropriately and with a terrific moral ending?  Even better, the authors biography states that they are currently developing “What Would Austen Do?” into a full length novel!

But, “All Merit you know is comparative,” Catharine.  In such a large collection of works there is bound to be a slight disappointment or two. While reading “Me and Mr. Darcy, Again,” a short extension of the novel, “Me and Mr. Darcy,” by Alexander Potter, I suffered not just a little discomfort with the idea that a now married Mr. Darcy is wandering outside heroine Emily’s hotel at night, staring up at her room, still carrying some sort of torch for her. In the end, Mr. Darcy does act honorably, and even charitably, in bringing about a happy resolution, but its conclusion was rather “vague.” But I liked the story, despite myself.  “A fondness for reading… must be an education in itself.” Mansfield Park, Volume 1, Chapter 2

I was somewhat under-whelmed by Pamela Aidan’s “The Riding Habit” as the now married Mr. Darcy seems to steam roll wife Elizabeth into riding, an activity she somewhat fears and takes no joy in. I also found it strangely odd that the pinnacle riding accident would bring about such a comparison to an upcoming ball and how she can surely expect the support of her loved ones around her.  Indeed?  Don’t get me wrong: Aiden’s writing style, language and cadence is pitch-perfect as ever.  Beautiful even. I simply found the story disjointed from the Darcy and Elizabeth she wrote so well of in her awe-inspiring, tremendously popular trilogy, Fitzwilliam Darcy, GentlemanHowever, “One half of the world cannot understand the pleasures of the other.”  Emma, Volume 1, Chapter 9

Still, there are a surfeit of solidly entertaining, easy to love stories.  Syrie James’ highly amusing “Jane Austen’s Nightmare” is just that!  While sleeping, our dear Jane is beset with characters from her novels, all with complaints on how she has represented their person. I particularly delighted in how the dream inspires her to write Persuasion.

One of the stories inspired by Persuasion is Margaret C. Sullivan‘s “Heard of You.”  I found this smart telling of how Admiral Croft and the former Miss Sophia Wentworth met as exciting at sea, as it was in the ballroom; making me sigh in all the right places!

“The Chase” by Carrie Bebris did not disappoint! Her depiction of a riveting and historic sea battle had me on the edge of my seat; truly captivated by this insight of how Jane Austen’s brother Frank became post-captain.

Laurie Viera Rigler offers the wickedly satirical and campy “Intolerable Stupidity” that imagines a courtroom drama where Mr. Darcy sues authors of Pride and Prejudice spin-offs for how they have sketched his character.  Of course, the honorable Lady Catherine de Bourgh presides!

The anthology opens with an introduction by the editor, Laurel Ann Nattress, as she pays deference to Jane Austen as well as the many novels, sub-genre and films Austen has inspired.  Nattress shares how she came to love Austen’s work in the ‘80s and how Austen has since catapulted to “megastar status” by means of “her strongest catalyst: the Internet and a wet shirt.” p. xii.  Also, I took particular delight in the Readers Guide where the 22 contributing authors selected their favorite Austen quote. It was as if taking a stroll down memory lane with a dear friend. Reading groups and book clubs will find the Questions and Topics for Discussion pages beneficial.

The Austen Legacy continues to grow and this collection of wonderful short stories is a brilliant tribute.  Janeites and historical fiction readers alike will inhale this book!  But with a dream team of Austen inspired writers under the deft editing skills of Laurel Ann Nattress, how could this be anything but a grand slam!  “The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.”  Northanger Abbey, Volume 1, Chapter 14

Authors included: Lauren Willig • Adriana Trigiani • Jo Beverley • Alexandra Potter • Laurie Viera Rigler • Frank Delaney & Diane Meier • Syrie James • Stephanie Barron • Amanda Grange • Pamela Aidan • Elizabeth Aston • Carrie Bebris • Diana Birchall • Monica Fairview • Janet Mullany • Jane Odiwe • Beth Pattillo • Myretta Robens • Jane Rubino and Caitlen Rubino-Bradway • Maya Slater • Margaret C. Sullivan • and Brenna Aubrey, the winner of a story contest hosted by the Republic of Pemberley

5 out of 5 Regency Stars

Jane Austen Made Me Do It: Original Stories Inspired by Literature’s Most Astute Observer of the Human Heart, edited by Laurel Ann Nattress
Ballantine Books (2011)
Trade paperback (446) pages
ISBN: 978-0345524966

Christina Boyd lives in the wilds of the Pacific Northwest with her dear Mr. B, two youngish children and a Chesapeake Bay Retriever named Bibi.  She studied Fine Art at Temple University’s Tyler School of Art and received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications from Salisbury University in Maryland. Although life has taken her on a merry adventure through a myriad of careers including modeling, flight attending, marketing & sales, owning a paint-it-yourself ceramic studio… she has for the last nine years created and sold her own pottery line from her working studio. Albeit she read Jane Austen as a moody teenager, it wasn’t until Joe Wright’s 2005 movie of Pride & Prejudice that sparked her interest in all things Austen.  A life member of the Jane Austen Society of North America, Christina has read and owns well over 200 Austen inspired novels… and cannot comprehend the neglect of the collection in such days as these.  Visiting Jane Austen’s England remains on her bucket list.

© 2007 – 2011 Christina Boyd, Austenprose

Jane and the Canterbury Tale: Being a Jane Austen Mystery, by Stephanie Barron – A Review

Jane and the Cantebury Tale, by Stephanie Barron (2011)There is a trail that winds through the edge of the grand country estate of Godmersham Park in Kent owned by Edward Austen-Knight, elder brother of the authoress Jane Austen. Pilgrims have traversed this foot-path for centuries on their way to the shrine of the martyr Saint Thomas Becket at Canterbury Cathedral. Chaucer based his famous narrative, The Canterbury Tales, on pilgrims who travel across this path. Author Stephanie Barron places her eleventh novel in the Being a Jane Austen Mystery series in this rich, historical environment and spins a fascinating murder mystery to rival any story offered by the Knight, the Nun or the Miller in Chaucer’s original.

In the fall of 1813, while visiting her wealthy, widowed brother Edward at his grand estate in Kent, Jane attends a wedding at the neighboring Chilham Castle. Joined that day in connubial bliss are the beautiful young widow, Adelaide Fiske, and the dashing Captain Andrew McCallister. Jane’s young niece Fanny Austen-Knight is also in attendance and being courted by a queue of eager Beaux. While locals John Plumptre, James Wildman and George Finch-Hatton watch her dance the waltz with visiting dandy Julian Thane, a footman delivers a curious gift to the bride, a silken reticule that she accepts with some trepidation. Inside are dried brown beans. Jane is quick to observe that the bride’s reaction must have some hidden meaning.

The following morning a man is found dead upon the pilgrim’s path on the Godmersham estate near the ancient parish church dedicated to St Lawrence the Martyr.  At first it is thought that he was felled by a stray hunting shot by one of the young local men out for a mornings sport of pheasant, but Jane sees the signs of an entirely different transgression. Her brother Edward, First Magistrate for Canterbury, is called to the scene and concurs that this was no hunting accident. The corner arrives to offer his assessment and soon discoveres that the deceased is none other than Curzon Fiske, the thought to be dead first husband of the recently married Adelaide, who after abandoning his wife in a flight from his creditors four years prior, departed for India and died there. Inside the depths of his coat pocket was a stained note with St Lawrence Church written upon it and one dried brown bean – an ominous tamarind seed.

As the mystery swiftly unfolds we are privy to an interesting collection of characters who each have their own tale to tell: a grieving widower, a young girl experiencing romance and heartbreak, an odious clergyman, a Bond Street Beau, a loose maid, a callous and calculating mother, and our adventurous detective Jane Austen, ever observant, always witty, relaying all of their stories in her journal and cleverly solving the crime.

Each chapter is epigraphed by pertinent quotes from Chaucer’s tale and every word of this novel is a treasure. Barron is a Nonpareil in channeling my dear Jane. After eleven novels I never doubt her historical detail or unerring voice. This may be the last in the series, and I am sorely grieved at the loss. Jane and the Canterbury Tale is engaging, rich and dramatic. The ending is a shock, but not nearly as devastating as the possibility of the demise of this series.

5 out of 5 Regency Stars

This is my ninth selection in the Being a Jane Austen Mystery Reading Challenge 2011, as we are reading all eleven mysteries in the series this year. Participants, please leave comments and or place links to your reviews on the official reading challenge page by following this link.

Grand Giveaway

Author Stephanie Barron has generously offered a signed paperback copy of Jane and the Canterbury Tale to one lucky winner. Leave a comment stating what intrigues you about Jane Austen as a detective, or if you have read Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tale, which was your favorite character by midnight PT, Wednesday, September 21, 2011. Winner to be announced on Thursday, September 22, 2011. Shipment to US 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 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose