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

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

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 Mysterious Death of Miss Jane Austen, by Lindsay Ashford – A Review

The Mysterious Death of Miss Jane Austen, by Lindsay Ashford (2013)I had the pleasure of reading this mystery novel in 2011 when it was published in the UK as The Mysterious Death of Miss Austen. I was very happy to learn that it was being published for the North American market by Sourcebooks as The Mysterious Death of Miss Jane Austen. After a recent second reading, I can honestly state that “my affections and wishes are unchanged.”

The book opens with this shocking question. Did Jane Austen die of natural causes or was she murdered? The possibility sent shivers down the back of my neck. Like many Janeites, I have read of the many theories (and much speculation) on the fatal illnesses that may have caused Jane Austen’s death at age forty-one in 1817. Addison’s disease, Hodgkin’s lymphoma, bovine tuberculosis, and recently Brill-Zinsser disease have all been suggested. We know that Jane Austen was a perceptive observer of people and events in her novels and in her own life. In 1817, when she had a brief remission in her fatal illness, she wrote a letter on March 23rd to her favorite niece Fanny Knight. In it she supplies us with some very important evidence of her physical condition and the appearance of her face:

“I certainly have not been very well for many weeks, and about a week ago I was very poorly, I have had a good deal of fever at times and indifferent nights, but am considerably better now and recovering my looks a little, which have been bad enough, black and white and every wrong colour. I must not depend upon ever being blooming again.  Sickness is a dangerous indulgence at my time of life.”

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

The Deception at Lyme (Or, The Peril of Persuasion) Blog Tour with author Carrie Bebris & Giveaway

The Deception at Lyme (Or, The Peril of Persuasion), by Carrie Bebris (2011)Please join us today in welcoming author Carrie Bebris on her blog tour in celebration of the release of The Deception at Lyme (Or, The Peril of Persuasion), the sixth book in her Mr. & Mrs. Darcy Mystery series released today by Tor Books.

Laurel Ann, thank you so much for inviting me here to talk about my new Mr. & Mrs. Darcy Mystery, The Deception at Lyme (Or, The Peril of Persuasion) on its release day. It is always such a pleasure to visit Austenprose and enjoy, as Anne Elliot would say, the good company of “clever, well-informed people, who have a great deal of conversation.”

Ever since my series debuted in 2004 with Pride and Prescience, readers have been asking for a Mr. & Mrs. Darcy Mystery based on Persuasion, and I indeed planned to write one. Persuasion competes with Pride & Prejudice as my favorite Austen work (the winner is generally determined by whichever one I happen to be reading at the time), and the opportunity to bring together Mr. Darcy and Captain Wentworth in the same novel—well, let’s just say that the idea of spending every day with the two of them for the year or so it takes me to write a book was very appealing indeed!

However, whenever I begin writing a new novel, I look at where Darcy, Elizabeth, and other characters were left (both physically and in terms of personal growth) at the end of the previous books of the series. I contemplate which of Austen’s characters they might naturally encounter next, without the meeting feeling forced or coincidental. And I reread Austen’s novels with an eye toward loose threads that, with a little tugging, can be woven into a web of intrigue that entangles the Darcys whether they want to be involved or not.

Before now, both my own intuition and the Darcys themselves told me the timing wasn’t right for a Persuasion-based Mr. & Mrs. Darcy Mystery. The Darcys weren’t ready to meet the Wentworths yet, and I wasn’t ready to introduce them. Austen’s “light, and bright, and sparkling” P&P was written early in her career; Persuasion was written at the very end, and has a different tone. It is the work of a more mature writer, the story of a more mature hero and heroine. Before entering that world, the Darcys needed to have other adventures first, needed to gain more life experience. And I needed to develop a story worthy of bringing Elizabeth Bennet, Mr. Darcy, Anne Elliot, and Captain Wentworth—Austen’s most popular and compelling pairs of heroes and heroines—together. A mystery that only these four individuals, working collectively, could solve.

Now, as the Darcys enter their sixth adventure, the time is finally right. And that story is The Deception at Lyme.

It is a mystery that will take readers from the cliffs of Lyme to a battle at sea, as the Darcys and Wentworths investigate not one suspicious death, but two. Austen left me a number of loose threads and possibilities to work with. I was particularly inspired by the Cobb itself: After Louisa Musgrove’s fall, what mystery writer could resist sending another victim tumbling off the seawall—perhaps not so accidentally—for the Darcys to discover? The clandestine meeting that Mary Musgrove observes in Bath between Mrs. Clay and Mr. Elliot provided still more strands to weave into the story. What were those two scoundrels really discussing?

I also incorporated a loose thread I myself had left in a previous Darcy Mystery. In North by Northanger, I had created and killed a character in a single sentence (I must have been having a good writing day!) by stating that Darcy’s cousin Colonel Fitzwilliam had a younger brother, a naval officer who had died at sea. What if Darcy found cause to question whether his youngest cousin had truly died in action—and needed Wentworth’s help to uncover the truth? That casual mention provided a reason for Mr. Darcy and Captain Wentworth to ally.

In the course of their investigations, the Darcys meet all of your favorite characters from Persuasion—the Elliots, the Crofts, the Harvilles, the Musgroves, even poor Mrs. Smith. Mr. Darcy’s sister, Georgiana, also has a significant role in this novel. For years, readers have been asking me when Georgiana would enjoy a romance of her own, but a worthy enough gentleman never presented himself before. Now she finds herself with two suitors—an enigmatic naval officer and a handsome young baronet—while also finding that the course of true love never does run smooth. At least, not for an Austen heroine!

Persuasion tells the story of a love worth waiting for. I hope readers will find The Deception at Lyme the Mr. & Mrs. Darcy Mystery they have been waiting for. For me, it is a story that was worth waiting to tell.

Author Carrie Bebris (2011)Author Bio:

Carrie Bebris is the author of the award-winning Mr. & Mrs. Darcy Mysteries, in which the married Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth become embroiled in intrigues involving other Jane Austen characters. Reviewers praise her novels for capturing not only the spirit of Austen’s works, but also the historical details of the era. The Royal Navy figures prominently in the Darcys latest adventure, The Deception at Lyme (Or, The Peril of Persuasion), a book whose extensive research took her from the top of the Cobb to the hold of the 18th-century warship HMS Victory.

Carrie also writes for Jane Austen’s Regency World magazine and other publications, and has edited nonfiction books about Austen and Shakespeare. She holds an M.A. in English literature and is a life member of the Jane Austen Society of North America. When not writing, she likes to travel, watch costume dramas that send her husband fleeing the house, and indulge in her love of all things British. Visit Carrie at her website, Carrie Bebris.

A Grand Giveaway

Enter a chance to win one of three copies of The Deception at Lyme (Or, The Peril of Persuasion), or, one lucky winner will receive one complete set of the Mr. & Mrs. Darcy Mysteries. Yes, that is all six novels – Pride and Prescience (2004), Suspense and Sensibility (2005), North by Northanger (2006), The Matters at Mansfield (2008), The Intrigue at Highbury (2010), and The Deception at Lyme (2011), by leaving a comment stating what intrigues you about reading Carrie’s new Persuasion-inspired murder mystery, or which characters from Austen’s original novel you think might meet their demise in this new Mr. & Mrs. Darcy adventure by midnight PT, Wednesday, October 5th, 2011. The winners will be announced on Thursday, October 6th, 2010. Shipment to US and Canadian addresses only. Good luck!

The Deception at Lyme (Or, The Peril of Persuasion), by Carrie Bebris
Tor Books (2011)
Hardcover (304) pages
ISBN: 978-0765327970

© 2007 – 2011 Carrie Bebris, Austenprose

Giveaway Winner Announced for Suspense and Sensibility

Suspense and Sensibility, by Carrie Bebris (2005)17 of you left comments qualifying you for a chance to win a copy of, Suspense and Sensibility, by Carrie Bebris. The winner drawn at random is Melinda M. who left a comment on August 29, 2011.

Congratulations Melinda! To claim your prize, please contact me with your full name and address by September 15, 2011. Shipment is to US and Canadian addresses only.

Thanks to all who left comments, and for all those participating in the Sense and Sensibility Bicentenary Reading Challenge 2011. We are reading S&S, Jane Austen’s first published novel, and the many offshoots that it has inspired. The challenge continues until December 31, 2011.

© 2007 – 2011 Laurel Ann Nattress, 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

The Quiet Gentleman, by Georgette Heyer – A Review

The Quiet Gentleman, by Georgette Heyer (2011) Guest review by Laura A. Wallace

“To own the truth,” replied Miss Morville candidly, “I can perceive nothing romantic in a headless spectre.  I should think it a very disagreeable sight, and if I did fancy I saw such a thing I should take one of Dr James’s powders immediately!”

Thus Drusilla Morville sadly disappoints her more romantic-minded friend, Marianne Bolderwood, on the subject of potential hauntings in Stanyon Castle, where both young ladies are staying before a ball.  Miss Morville has been staying at Stanyon rather longer than Miss Bolderwood:  her parents are away, and the Dowager Countess of St. Erth, who has a kindness for her, invited her to stay with her while they are gone.

And so Miss Morville is present to witness the homecoming of the seventh Earl of St. Erth to take up his patrimony.  He had been estranged from his father from the unfortunate elopement of his mother when he was a small boy; on her death the sixth Earl had married again and produced two more children.  But the elder son hardly ever visited his ancestral home, spending his school holidays with maternal relations, and later serving in the 7th Hussars at Waterloo— an event which happened shortly after his father’s death, and perhaps excused his failure to attend his obsequies, but he then chose to delay his return until the mourning year ended.

The other residents of Stanyon include the Honourable Martin Frant, half-brother to the seventh earl;  Theodore Frant, who serves as estate agent, and is son of the sixth Earl’s reprobate younger brother;  and the Reverend Felix Clowne, the late Earl’s chaplain, who remains in that capacity for the Dowager Countess.

Having recently re-watched the 1995 production of Pride & Prejudice, the similarities between the Dowager Countess and her chaplain to Lady Catherine de Bourgh and Mr. Collins were striking, and perhaps Heyer originally intended to develop the parallels more closely; but despite his rather unfortunate name, Mr. Clowne is not nearly so entertaining as Mr. Collins:  instead he recedes into the background, while Lady St. Erth dominates all conversation with self-referential pronouncements.  Among these is a tendency to deplore the ways of Providence, which unaccountably saw the seventh Earl safely through all of his military endeavors in the Peninsula and on the Continent, so that he, and not her own son, should succeed to the sixth Earl’s honours.  Martin, indeed, has been brought up to think of himself as the heir, and thus is rather resentful of his half-brother’s survival, considering him almost in the light of an usurper.

To this collected company, Gervase Frant, seventh Earl of St. Erth, arrives at Stanyon Castle.  He is exquisitely dressed, exquisitely mannered, and finds himself saved from dreadful tedium of sojourning in the country alone with these persons only by the discovery of the local beautiful heiress (Miss Bolderwood), to whom everyone—particularly Martin—is devoted, and by the arrival of his close friend, Lucius Austell, Viscount Ulverston.

Two things set this novel apart from the rest of the Heyer canon.  One is the pragmatic nature of Miss Morville, whose quiet common sense seems rather dull to Lord St. Erth, and the second is the mystery element, which is in the gothic tradition, yet not gothic:  someone appears to be trying to do away with Lord St. Erth.  Unlike Cousin Kate, there are no histrionics, madness, or any gothic horrors.  Without providing spoilers, it’s fair to say that the horror is provided by the crime itself, with all of the romantic trappings stripped away.  The story gently satirizes the (eighteenth-century) horror genre by placing the perfect setting, an ancient country seat inhabited by the aristocracy, against the foils of a lack of the supernatural, a gently bred but unsqueamish lady who keeps her head in the face of danger, and a nobleman who appears to be a delicate fop but instead possesses extraordinary strength of mind, character, and body.  Little is actually as it seems.

Georgette Heyer’s characterizations and sense of time and place are all, as usual, beautifully rendered, and fans of the era (and of good writing) will enjoy the details of its setting, manner, and speech.  This edition was truly a pleasure to hold and to read, the occasional “scanno” notwithstanding.  The cover art, while not Regency, is otherwise appropriate.  If you can’t afford the 1951 first edition (as I cannot), be grateful (as I am) that these new editions by Sourcebooks now are available.

5 out of 5 Regency Stars

The Quiet Gentleman, by Georgette Heyer
Sourcebooks (2011)
Trade paperback (368) pages
ISBN: 978-1402238833

Laura A. Wallace a musician, attorney, and writer living in Southeast Texas.  She is a devotee of Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer and is the author of British Titles of Nobility:  An Introduction and Primer to the Peerage (1998).

© 2007 – 2011 Laura A. Wallace, Austenprose

Jane and the Wandering Eye: Being the Third Jane Austen Mystery, by Stephanie Barron – A Review

Jane and the Wandering Eye, by Stephanie Barron (1998)I confess to being a silly, shallow creature when it comes to my partiality for fine art and the stage. Show me a beautiful Regency-era portrait by Thomas Lawrence or Richard Cosway, mention famous Drury Lane actors Sarah Siddons and her brothers Charles and John Kemble and my sensibilities rival Marianne Dashwood’s fondness for dead leaves. Mix in my favorite author Jane Austen embroiled in a murder mystery centered around artists and actors in Bath, and I am in sensory swoon.

Jane and the Wandering Eye is the third novel in the popular Being a Jane Austen Mystery series in which the famous authoress uses her astute skills of observation and logic as an amateur sleuth to solve crime. In 1804 Jane, her sister Cassandra and their parents are residing in Bath. Despite the jollity of the Christmas season, Jane is “insupportably bored with Bath” and its social diversions, many of which are outside her means. She is, however, happy to accept a commission from her particular friend and Rogue-about-Town Lord Harold Trowbridge to spy on his niece Lady Desdemona. The young ingénue has recently fled London and the unwanted attentions of the Earl of Swithins to seek refuge in Bath with her grandmother the Dowager Duchess of Wilborough. Jane, her brother Henry and his wife Eliza attend a masquerade party at the Duchesses Laura Place residence in honor of Bath’s Theatre Royal players. Also in attendance is Madame Lefroy, Jane’s neighbor and dearest friend. During the party they witness a drama unfold as tragic as any Shakespearean play. The theatre troupe’s stage manager Richard Portal is found stabbed to death with Lord Harold’s nephew Simon, Marquis of Kinsfell standing over him with a bloody knife in his hand and an open window behind him.

Mr. Elliot the local magistrate is summoned and witnesses questioned. Since everyone was in costume it is difficult to follow the events of the evening, but he soon learns that the key suspect, the Marquis in the Knight costume, was seen arguing with the victim, Mr. Portal in a white Harlequin costume, and challenged him to a duel. They were separated and Mr. Portal was asked to leave the party, later reappearing as a corpse in an anteroom with in knife threw his heart. Curiously, a miniature portrait of an eye is found on his body. Under protest, the Marquis is charged with murder and thrown in the local goal. What started out for Jane as a mild request to observe and report on Lord Harold’s niece has now turned into a scandalous murder by his nephew, drawing him to Bath, and into Jane’s confidence. Taken with his charm, intelligence and family drama, she cannot refuse him anything and they join forces to investigate the facts, unravel the crime, and discover the murderer.

Warning. If you blink too long in the first chapter you might miss significant clues. Stephanie Barron hardly lets us breath for fear we would miss something. The dense and fast paced events had me furiously writing notes to keep the facts and characters straight. It is unusual to have a murder transpire so quickly, but I enjoyed the build-up and the shock of the reveal. The mystery progresses from Jane Austen’s perspective as we read her lost journals edited by the author with added footnotes. The historical detail is entrancing to me. Not only do we follow events and people from Jane Austen’s life, but the social and cultural details were amazing in their depth and interest. At times I found the prose thick and heavy, craving a bit of brevity in the language, but overall Barron does an excellent job at early nineteenth-century Austen-speak. Her dialogue was even more engaging. The characterization of Jane’s parents Rev. and Mrs. Austen’s ironic divergence in personalities was entertaining, her brother Henry and gadabout wife Eliza’s joie de vivre delightful, and roguish Lord Harold was well, just dishy enough to curl any hard hearted spinsters toes. *swoon*

Having the advantage of previously reading all the novels in this series before, I can firmly attest that Jane and the Wandering Eye is my favorite in the series. I loved the historical detail on art and the lives of its creators, actors and their social machinations with aristocrats, and all the intimate dealing of Jane Austen and her family. Originally published in 1998, I can honestly say that with a decade of study and appreciation of the Regency-era behind me, this mystery was even fresher, more intriguing and enlightening the second time round. I recommend it highly.

5 out of 5 Regency Stars

Jane and the Wandering Eye, by Stephanie Barron
Random House (1998)
Mass Market Paperback (336) pages
ISBN: 978-0553578171

This is my third selection in the Being a Jane Austen Mystery Reading Challenge 2011. You can still join the reading challenge in progress until July 1, 2011. 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 hardcover copy of Jane and Wandering Eye to one lucky winner. Leave a comment stating what intrigues you about this novel, or if you have read it, who your favorite character is by midnight PT, Wednesday, March 16, 2011. Winner to be announced on Thursday, March 17, 2011. Shipment to US and Canadian addresses only. Good luck!

Further reading

© 2007 – 2011 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose