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, 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

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.

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

Margaret Dashwood’s Diary: Sense and Sensibility Mysteries, Book One, by Anna Elliott – A Review

Margaret Dashwoods Diary by Anna Elliot 2014 x 200From the desk of Lisa Galek:

Margaret Dashwood is only rarely mentioned in Sense and Sensibility. She starts the story as a girl of thirteen who loses her father and her home and then sits back to watch her two older sisters fall in love and get married. But, what kind of adventures did Margaret have after Jane Austen’s classic was done? In Margaret Dashwood’s Diary, Anna Elliott explores the life and loves of the youngest Dashwood sister.

As the title indicates, this novel takes the form of a diary and we begin with a brand new entry. See, Margaret has just burned her old journal after breaking off an engagement to a very eligible and rich young bachelor. She means to start fresh and has gone to stay with her sister, Marianne Brandon, at Delaford House for a change of scenery.

Colonel Brandon is away hunting down some dangerous smugglers that are operating in the neighborhood, but Margaret still runs into all kinds of old favorites. Elinor and Edward pop up every now and then. Mrs. Jennings is still poking her nose into everyone’s business. And even Mr. and Mrs. Palmer are in town to add to the laughs. But, when John Willoughby and his wife rent a house in the neighborhood things start to get a bit awkward for everyone. 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.”

These six words piqued Lindsay Ashford’s training in criminology from Queens’ College, Cambridge. Severe discoloring of the face are signs of arsenic poisoning. Coupled with the amazing discovery that arsenic testing had been conducted in the 1940s on the sample of Jane Austen’s hair, she was compelled to write her novel – fiction yes, but based deeply upon fact. Continue reading

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. Continue reading

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