Q & A with Tessa Arlen – Author of Death Sits Down to Dinner

Death Sits Down to Dinner by Tessa Arlen x 200Please help me welcome historical mystery author Tessa Arlen to Austenprose today during her blog tour of her new novel, Death Sits Down to Dinner, the second book in her Lady Monfort series.

Firstly, I want to congratulate Tessa on her recent nomination for the Agatha Award for her debut novel, Death of a Dishonorable Gentleman. I enjoyed it tremendously, and obvious others did as well. Set at an Edwardian era English country manor house, it is the first novel in the Lady Montfort series. Death Sits Down to Dinner was released on March 29th, 2016 and is set in London. The two novels are now Town and Country bookends!

Welcome Tessa!

Comparisons of your novels to Downton Abbey were inevitable. When were you first inspired to write a mystery novel, and why did you select Edwardian era English aristocrats and their servants as your main characters?

I have always loved English history and in particular the short window of time we call the Edwardian era (1901-1914). It was an era of great innovation in all areas, but there was a tremendous leap forward in fine arts, the arts and crafts movement and the performing arts. The last decades of the 19th and the first decades of the 20th centuries saw huge innovations in communication, transportation and manufacturing, but I think the early 1910s were rich in societal changes: the fight for the women’s franchise became decidedly nasty with the breakaway from women’s suffrage movement of the Women’s Social and Political Union (Suffragettes). The Irish were becoming more assertive about Home Rule; there was a Liberal government hell bent on social reform and taxing the landowners to provide funds for those changes, and the House of Commons broke the power of veto in the House of Lords which meant that bills for social reform could be passed more quickly. But the rich had never been richer nor the poor more desperate. I thought it a perfect era to write a murder mystery!

I sat myself down to write the book that eventually became Death of a Dishonorable Gentleman in 2008. It was really an exercise in whether I could actually write a full length novel. I wanted my two main characters to come from opposite ends of the class spectrum so they might represent the rigid caste distinctions of the time. Combined with this was my love of the Golden Age of mystery, where the writer gathered a group of ecccentrics together, isolated them in a country house, or on an island, or even on board an ocean liner and turned up the heat with a spot of murder. I was not in the least influenced by Downton, but I was very happy for it to introduce my book to a group of people who were already in love with this time. Continue reading

Giveaway Winners Announced for First Impressions by Charlie Lovett

First Impressions A Novel of Old Books, Unexpected Love, and Jane Austen, by Charlie Lovett (2014 )It’s time to announce the 3 winners of hardcover copies of First Impressions: A Novel of Old Books, Unexpected Love, and Jane Austen, by Charlie Lovett. The lucky winners drawn at random are:

  • Missyisms who left a comment on Oct 21, 2014
  • Ladysusanpdx who left a comment on Oct 20, 2014
  • Cozynookbks who left a comment on Oct 21, 2014

Congratulations to the winners! To claim your prize, please contact me with your full name and address by November 5, 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 Charlie Lovett for his guest blog, and to his publisher Viking (Penguin Group USA) for the giveaways.

Cover image courtesy of Viking (Penguin Group USA) © 2014; text Laurel Ann Nattress © 2014, Austenprose.com

Jane and the Twelve Days of Christmas: Being a Jane Austen Mystery – Virtual Book Launch Party with Author Stephanie Barron

Jane and the Twleve Days of Christmas by Stephanie Barron 2014 x 200We are very excited to welcome Austenesque author Stephanie Barron to Austenprose today for the virtual book launch party of her new novel, Jane and the Twelve Days of Christmas, the twelfth installment in the fan-favorite Being a Jane Austen Mystery series.

Ardent readers of Austenprose will remember that I am a huge fan of this fabulous series featuring Jane Austen as a sleuth – so much so that we celebrated  2011 with the Being a Jane Austen Mystery Reading Challenge, including all eleven novels in the series to date. It was great fun only dampened by the possibility that the eleventh mystery, Jane and the Canterbury Tale, might be the last in the series. Imagine my delight when I heard the news that Soho Press would be publishing the next mystery!

The three year wait was torture, but now Stephanie Barron’s darling child has arrived in grand style. We are so thrilled that she has honored us with this fabulous guest blog revealing her inspiration to write the novel based on actual history, and Jane Austen of course.

DESCRIPTION (from the publisher)

Christmas Eve, 1814: Jane Austen has been invited to spend the holiday with family and friends at The Vyne, the gorgeous ancestral home of the wealthy and politically prominent Chute family. As the year fades and friends begin to gather beneath the mistletoe for the twelve days of Christmas festivities, Jane and her circle are in a celebratory mood: Mansfield Park is selling nicely; Napoleon has been banished to Elba; British forces have seized Washington, DC; and on Christmas Eve, John Quincy Adams signs the Treaty of Ghent, which will end a war nobody in England really wanted.

Jane, however, discovers holiday cheer is fleeting. One of the Yuletide revelers dies in a tragic accident, which Jane immediately views with suspicion. If the accident was in fact murder, the killer is one of Jane’s fellow snow-bound guests. With clues scattered amidst cleverly crafted charades, dark secrets coming to light during parlor games, and old friendships returning to haunt the Christmas parties, whom can Jane trust to help her discover the truth and stop the killer from striking again?

Continue reading

The Highbury Murders: A Mystery Set in the Village of Jane Austen’s Emma, by Victoria Grossack – A Review

The Highbury Murder 2013 x 200From the desk of Lisa Galek:

Many fans of Jane Austen’s Emma have described it as one of the first mystery novels. A mystery novel with no major crimes or dead bodies. Well, The Highbury Murders seeks to change all that. The game is afoot!

The novel takes place about a year after the events of Emma. Mr. and Mrs. Knightley are happily married and living with Mr. Woodhouse and their infant son at Hartfield. Emma still socializes with her friends Mrs. Weston and the new Mrs. Martin, while Mr. and Mrs. Frank Churchill are staying in London. Austen’s original began with a marriage, but this story opens with a death. Mrs. Bates has passed away and the village of Highbury must get to work making arrangements for her funeral, comforting her daughter, and generally mourning her passing.

Even with all these new developments in Highbury, Emma still can’t help letting her active imagination run a little wild. Will the Churchills arrive in time for the funeral? Why do the Eltons seem so concerned about money all of a sudden? And who are the strangers that Harriet saw lurking outside her back door? When serious crimes begin occurring, Emma must use her wit and intelligence to help her husband get to the bottom of these dastardly deeds. Will Emma and Mr. Knightley be able to figure out whodunit before tragedy strikes again? Continue reading

A Fatal Likeness: A Novel, by Lynn Shepherd – A Review

A Fatal Likeness, by Lynn Shepherd 2013 From the desk of Br. Paul Byrd, OP

The Young Romantics have inspired hundreds of books, plays, and films over the last two centuries, and there have been many accounts of that famous summer they spent together on Lake Geneva in 1816, when Frankenstein was conceived. But all the same there remain many inexplicable gaps and strange silences…A Fatal Likeness is an attempt to weave a new story between those gaps, and create a narrative to connect those silences” (from the Author’s Note).

For fans of Jane Austen’s virtue-oriented, Christian novels to appreciate how very odd and outrageous some of her contemporaries really were might be as easy as looking at the bevy of bad boys and girls she features in each of her novels. Think of Henry and Mary Crawford in Mansfield Park, George Wickham and Lydia Bennet in Pride and Prejudice, Captain Tilney and Isabella Thorpe in Northanger Abbey. These wild youths desperate to break free bear a striking (if superficial) resemblance to some of the most liberally minded literary stars of the late Regency Period–philosophers William Godwin and Mary Wollstonecraft, their novelist daughter Mary Shelley, her poet husband Percy Bysshe Shelley, and his fellow poet and friend Lord Byron. Certainly, it was an exciting age of revolution, but every revolution comes with a heavy price. For this circle of geniuses, the price was one untimely death or devastating heartbreak after another. But why? Continue reading

Top Jane Austen-inspired Books of 2012

Jane Austen Pop Art Banner

2012 was a banner year for Jane Austen-inspired books. From historical fiction to self-help to mysteries, Austen was visible in several genres and as popular as ever. Here are our top favorites reviewed here at Austenprose.com in 2012 with a bonus category, Readers Choice Awards.

Top 5 Historical sequels, prequels or retellings:

The Three Colonels: Jane Austen’s Fighting Men, by Jack Caldwell (4.5 stars)

Dear Mr. Darcy: A Retelling of Pride and Prejudice, by Amanda Grange (4.5 stars)

The Journey, by Jan Hahn (5 stars)

The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen, by Syrie James (5 stars)

A Pemberley Medley: Five Pride & Prejudice Variations, by Abigail Reynolds (5 stars)

Top 5 Contemporary inspired:

Compulsively Mr. Darcy, by Nina Benneton (4 stars)

Mr. Darcy Forever, by Victoria Connelly (4.5 stars)

Find Wonder in All Things, by Karen M. Cox (4.5 stars)

Hidden Paradise, by Janet Mullany (4.5 stars)

Darcy Goes to War: A Pride and Prejudice Re-imagining, by Mary Lydon Simonsen (5 stars)

Regency inspired:

The Garden Intrigue, by Lauren Willig (5 stars)

The West Yet Glimmers: The Lord & Lady Baugham Stories, by Gail McEwen & Tina Moncton (5 stars)


Midnight in Austenland: A Novel, by Shannon Hale (4.5 stars)

My Particular Friend: A Charlotte House Affair (Volume 1), by Jennifer Petkus (5 stars)


Jane Vows Vengeance: A Novel, by Michael Thomas Ford (5 stars)

Searching for Captain Wentworth, by Jane Odiwe (5 stars)


The Jane Austen Guide to Happily Ever After, by Elizabeth Kantor (5 stars)

The Jane Austen Guide to Life: Thoughtful Lessons for the Modern Woman, by Lori Smith (5 stars)


The Marriage of Faith: Christianity in William Wordsworth and Jane Austen, by Laura Dabundo (5 stars)

Jane Austen’s Cults and Cultures, by Claudia L. Johnson (5 stars)


Mr. Darcy’s Proposal, by Susan Mason-Milks (4 stars)

For Myself Alone, by Shannon Winslow (4 stars)

Young Adult:

The Beresfords, by Christina Dudley (4.5 stars)

Persuaded, by Jenni James (4 stars)

Debut Author: (tie)

All My Tomorrows, by Colette Saucier (5 stars)

Mercy’s Embrace: Elizabeth Elliot’s Story, Book 1: So Rough a Course, by Laura Hile (5 stars)

Readers Choice Awards:

1.) The West Yet Glimmers, by Gail McEwen & Tina Moncton

2.) Persuaded, by Jenni James

3.) The Journey, by Jan Hahn

4.) Echoes of Pemberley, by Cynthia Ingram Hensley (tie)

4.) Find Wonder in All Things, by Karen M. Cox (tie)

5.) Pulse and Prejudice, by Colette L. Saucier

Congratulations to all of the authors! Thanks for another great year of fabulous reading.


Austenprose review staff

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2013 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

Q & A with Midnight in Austenland Author Shannon Hale, & a Giveaway!

Midnight in Austenland: A Novel, by Shannon Hale (2012)We have a special treat in store for you today. Please help us welcome New York Times best-selling author Shannon Hale. She has graciously fit us into her very busy promotional schedule and answered a few probing questions about her new Austen-inspired novel, Midnight in Austenland, and the new movie in production of her first novel in the series, Austenland.

LAN: Thanks Shannon for joining us today to chat about your new Austen-inspired novel, Midnight in Austenland. This is the second time you have taken readers to that special place, Pembrook Park, the Regency-era theme park in Kent, England designed for Janeites. What tempted you to return?

SH: I was writing a screenplay for Austenland with Jerusha Hess and really enjoying returning to the story and the characters. Then when I wrote up a character sheet for my co-writer, I stumbled upon a new story idea. That story became Midnight in Austenland. I was delighted! I’d never thought to return.

LAN: Do any of the original characters from Austenland make an appearance in Midnight in Austenland? If so, can you share who and why you chose them?

SH: Miss Charming, who was a guest in the first book, is still there. The idea made me laugh, so I had to do it. I love writing her dialog, and I felt like her character had more to explore. Mrs. Wattlesbrook, the proprietress, and her handsy husband are there, and Colonel Andrews, whose parlor mystery game created the story that I couldn’t wait to follow.

LAN: There are many interesting and entertaining new characters in Midnight in Austenland, but the standout for me was Mr. Mallery. Can you give us any insight into your inspiration for his character, and a preview of your deliciously moody hero?

SH: Thank you! I was thinking about how Jane Austen was in many ways commenting on the gothic romances of her day in her stories, even with Mr. Darcy. I wanted Mallery to start at that place but mixed in a little more Rochester and Heathcliff–a dark hero with a bit more bite. He was fun. I want to say more, but I’m afraid I’d get spoilery!

LAN: Midnight in Austenland is not only a romantic comedy; it is a mystery, with spirited allusions to Jane Austen’s gothic parody, Northanger Abbey. Gothic fiction played an important part in Austen’s creation of Northanger Abbey. Were there any mystery novels or authors that inspired you?

SH: Definitely. I infused my reading with mystery and the gothic while writing this novel. I read lots of Agatha Christie as well as contemporary mysteries, and relished gothic tales like Rebecca, The Haunting of Hill House, and Jane Eyre. And I could call it all research! I love my job.

LAN: Both of your American heroines from each of your novels: Jane and Charlotte, escape a crisis in their lives and travel to England to enter a world that any Jane Austen fan would give their most cherished copy of Pride and Prejudice to visit. Life is not always as rose colored as we would like in Regency England without modern conveniences. If you were to visit Pembroke Park and enter the early nineteenth-century, what would you miss most? What could you easily live without?

SH: I think the food then sounds awful. I’d miss fresh fruits and vegetables. Bathrooms, showers, tampons (is that TMI? But can you imagine?!). I think women had very little freedom as well, and the restrictions would drive me crazy after a while. But for a couple weeks? Sign me up!

LAN: Congratulations on Austenland being made into a movie produced by Twilight author Stephenie Meyer. What was it like transforming your novel into a screenplay with director Jerusha Hess? Hale and Hess. That sounds like a vaudeville act! Can you share any of your team writing experiences with us?

SH: We are totally a vaudeville act, that’s the perfect description. I loved co-writing with Jerusha. She’s a veteran screenwriter, having co-written Napoleon Dynamite and others. We laughed a lot. That’s the big plus of writing a comedy. We’d sit in a room pitching lines and scenes at each other, trying to make ourselves laugh. The funniest stuff stuck.

LAN: Did you have the chance to visit the set during filming of Austenland? If so, what was it like to see your creative ideas transformed into physical reality?

SH: I did! In fact I was on set every day of the 7 week shoot in England. Talk about a dream come true. It was absolutely surreal, like stepping into Austenland, except I didn’t have to give up showers and toilets. And no charming British actors fell in love with me. I think…

LAN: You obviously admire Jane Austen. When did you first read one of her novels and what was your reaction? As a writer, what do you find most enlightening, entertaining, or enduring about her works? 

SH: I first read Pride & Prejudice in high school and have often returned to her books for rereads. E. Lockhart said on our Austen-themed figment.com chat: “[Austen] uses wit in service of real complexity of thought & social commentary. Not just for punch lines.” Austen is romantic AND she’s funny. That should be enough for anyone, and yet Austen is even more than that too. She’s so smart. I just love her intelligent, clever, hopeful yet realistic way of looking at the world.

LAN: If you were to find a free afternoon when you were not writing or promoting one of your books, what would you like to do more than anything?

SH: I have four small children. If I had a free afternoon, I’d probably freak out. “What’s wrong? Where is everybody? Has the End come?!” Then I’d probably take a bath and read a book. I know, I’m crazy like that.

LAN: Are you working on your next book? If so, can you share any news for your readers? 

SH: Palace of Stone, the sequel to Princess Academy, will be out in August. And I’m working on my scifi-adventure-superhero book, currently untitled.

Thanks, Austenprose!

Author Shannon HaleAuthor Bio:

Shannon Hale is the New York Times best-selling author of six young adult novels, including the Newbery Honor book Princess Academy, two award-winning books for adults, and the upcoming Midnight in Austenland (Jan. 2012). She co-wrote the hit graphic novel Rapunzel’s Revenge and its sequel with husband Dean Hale. They live with their four small children near Salt Lake City, Utah. Visit Shannon at her website: squeetus; on Facebook as Shannon Hale; and on Twitter as @haleshannon.

A Grand Giveaway

Enter a chance to win one of three hardcover copies available of Midnight in Austenland, by Shannon Hale by leaving a comment about what intrigues you about an Austenesque mystery, or if you have read Austenland, who your favorite character is by 11:59 pm PT Wednesday, February 29, 2012. Winners to be announced on Thursday, March 01, 2012. Shipment to US addresses only. Good luck!

Midnight in Austenland: A Novel, by Shannon Hale
Bloomsbury USA (2012)
Hardcover (288) pages
ISBN: 978-1608196258
NOOK: ISBN: 978-1608196401
Kindle: ASIN: B006WXUK3Q

© 2007 – 2012 Laurel Ann Nattress & Shannon Hale, Austenprose

Death Comes to Pemberley, by P. D. James – A Review

Death Comes to Pemberley, by P.D. James (2011)I consider it more than a bit perplexing when an author begins their book with an apology. In this case, it is to author Jane Austen for using her characters. Since Death Comes to Pemberley is a sequel to Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, it is like apologizing for snow being cold. If you are going to write a sequel to a classic of world literature, it is, what it is. Don’t apologize for it. It really puts me off my reading game from the get go.

Okay, I got that off my chest, so now on to more pleasant topics – the fact that the venerable mystery writer P. D. James has taken up her pen inspired by my (and her) favorite author and whipped up a murder mystery for me to devour is delightful. What Janeite in their right mind is not salivating at the thought of an Austen sequel written by such an acclaimed and exalted author? Just the thought of Austen and mystery in one sentence pushes me into the giddy zone. To say that my “wishes and hopes might be fixed” in anticipation is an understatement.

It is six years since the happy day on which Mrs. Bennet got rid of her two most deserving daughters in marriage: Jane to Charles Bingley and Elizabeth to Fitzwilliam Darcy. Both sisters and their husbands are at Pemberley, the palatial country estate of the Darcys in Derbyshire, whose grandeur is only equal to the ten thousand a year that it generates for its previously haughty master and decidedly opinionated mistress. Elizabeth has settled in as chatelaine to a large estate and mother to two young sons. Life is orderly and good at Pemberley, as long as one stays out of the haunted woodland.

Darcy’s younger, and still unmarried, sister Georgiana is also in residence being courted by two beaux: her cousin Colonel Fitzwilliam, and the young, ambitious, but dishy attorney, Henry Alveston. All have gathered for Lady Anne’s ball, an annual event in honor of Mr. Darcy’s deceased mother’s birthday. Many county families will be in attendance. On the eve of the grand event Mrs. Reynolds the housekeeper and the staff are busy preparing for the large formal gathering while the family dine and later meet in the music room. It is a windy, moonlit night, but Colonel Fitzwilliam takes his leave for his nightly exercise, a ride along the river. Later, many have said their goodnights and departed when Darcy is surprised by the sight of a carriage careening at full speed down the woodland road to Pemberley. The coach abruptly arrives depositing a frantic Lydia Wickham, Elizabeth’s unruly younger sister on the doorstep. She is hysterical, shrieking, “Wickham’s dead. Denny has shot him!”

The Wickhams had been traveling to Pemberley with friend Captain Denny by carriage. Even though Mr. Wickham would never be admitted to Pemberley because of his past indiscretion with Georgiana, Lydia, uninvited, had still planned to crash the party. Wickham and Denny had quarreled while traveling through the woodland, departed from the carriage, and gun shots heard soon after. Off into the haunted woods go the search party of Darcy, Alveston and Col. Fitzwilliam to discover a body in the woodland that Lydia is certain is her husband.

And now the glade was before them. Passing slowly, almost in awe, between two of the slender trunks, they stood as if physically rooted, speechless with horror. Before them, it stark colours a brutal contrast to the muted light, was a tableau of death. No one spoke. They moved slowly forward as one, all three holding their lanterns high; their strong beams, outshining the gentle radiance of the moon, intensified the bright red of the officer’s tunic and the ghastly blood-smeared face and mad glaring eyes turned toward them. p. 65

A murder in the haunted woodland. The investigation begins. The body is removed to Pemberley. Mr. Darcy notifies the local magistrate, Sir Selwyn Hardcastle, who arrives to conduct the inquiries. Darcy, Elizabeth, Jane and Bingley are all distraught by the shocking death. The staff is terrified that the curse of the Darcys continues in the haunted woodland. Lydia is hysterical. Lady Anne’s ball is canceled. The official inquest begins. Why did Colonel Fitzwilliam leave Pemberley to ride in terrible weather so late at night? What is the secret behind the Bidwell family who lives in the woodland cottage where Darcy’s great-grandfather committed suicide? Who, or what, is the shrouded figure who haunts the woodland? What is the motive for murder?

We are happily reunited with many of the characters from the beloved original novel and deposited at Pemberley, quite possibly the pinnacle of the Janeite world. Real comfort food for Austen fans. The first twenty page of the prologue recap the plot and details in Pride and Prejudice. Was this for the benefit of her mystery readers who have not read P&P? If so, the same effect could have been achieved by working it into the narrative in a more creative way. James continues building the mystery slowly by adding in elements of the haunted woodland, the curse, and the ghostly figures reminiscent of a Grimm’s fairytale. The plot ponders along with occasional bits of excitement from that evergreen drama queen, Lydia Wickham, nee Bennet, whose character she hits spot on. Another character who she develops interestingly is Colonel Fitzwilliam. He was the second son of an earl in Pride and Prejudice, and we all know that second sons must make their own way in the world. He chose the army. His life changes drastically, and his personality, when his brother dies and he becomes heir to a grand estate. He courts Georgiana, but don’t look for much romance in this novel. It is a mystery and her romantic triangle is second fiddle to the murder investigation. Darcy and Elizabeth are, well, an old married couple and not as interesting as the proud and prejudiced characters that Jane Austen presented. I missed their witty banter.

For Austen fans this will be an enjoyable (if somewhat ponderous) read if you overlook some of the annoying errors in continuity, and for mystery enthusiasts, James does spin a clever tale with a surprise ending that comes out of nowhere. Combined, the Austen and mystery elements do not play out to their potential. None-the-less, it is still an interesting read that has wrangled its way up the bestseller lists. That is an incredible achievement and great proof that the Austen brand continues to grow.

3.5 out of 5 Regency Stars

Death Comes to Pemberley, by P. D. James
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group (2011)
Hardcover (304) pages
ISBN: 978-0307959850

© 2007 – 2012 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

Winner Announced in the Being a Jane Austen Mystery Reading Challenge 2011 Giveaway

Being a Jane Austen Mystery Challenge 2011The Being a Jane Austen Mystery Reading Challenge 2011 has concluded. It was a great year sleuthing with Jane Austen in Stephanie Barron’s classic Regency-era mystery series. 76 participants signed up for the challenge with levels of participation ranging from: Neophyte: 1 – 4 novels, Disciple 5 – 8 novels, Aficionada 9 – 11 novels. The reviews and links have been posted in the Being a Jane Austen Mystery archive viewable here. If you have not delved into this fabulous Jane Austen-inspired mystery series yet, reading through the reviews will be a great resource for you.

Here are all of the novels in the series with links to my reviews:

The year-long reading challenge concluded on December 31, 2011. Participants and commenters on their review posts qualified for the grand giveaway – one signed paperback copy of all eleven novels in the Being a Jane Austen Mystery series. Without further ado, the lucky winner is:

Congratulations SUSAN!

To claim your prize, please contact me with your full name and address by January 15, 2012. Shipment to the US and Canadian addresses only.

Many thanks to all who participated in the year-long Being a Jane Austen Mystery Reading Challenge 2011 – and especially to author Stephanie Barron for her insightful posts on her blog that corresponded with my reviews of each of the novels. She also very generously contributed all of the signed copies for the giveaway winners.

It has been a great year of sleuthing through Jane Austen’s world. Thank you Stephanie for your fabulous novels.


Laurel Ann

2007 – 2012 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

Giveaway Winner Announced for Jane and the Madness of Lord Byron

Jane and the Madness of Lord Byron: Being a Jane Austen Mystery, by Stephanie Barron (2010)17 of you left comments qualifying you for a chance to win a signed copy of Jane and the Madness of Lord Byron, by Stephanie Barron.

The winner drawn at random is Laura’s Reviews who left a comment on December 20, 2011.

Congratulations Laura! To claim your prize, please contact me with your full name and address by January 02, 2012. Shipment is to US and Canadian addresses only.

Thanks to all who left comments, and for all those participating in the Being a Jane Austen Mystery Reading Challenge 2011.

This was my final review and contribution to the reading challenge. The Grand Prize winner of one signed paperback copy of each of the eleven novels in the series will be announced on January 02, 2012. You still have time to leave a comment in any of my reviews, or at any of the participant’s reviews. Check out their links or review in the event archive. Good luck to all. Shipment to US or Canadian addresses only.

© 2007 – 2011 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

Jane and the Barque of Frailty: Being a Jane Austen Mystery, by Stephanie Barron – A Review

Jane and the Barque of Frailty: Being a Jane Austen Mystery, by Stephanie Barron (2007)Here we are at the ninth novel in the Being a Jane Austen Mystery series, Stephanie Barron’s sagacious slant on “our dear Jane” as a sleuth!

The spring of 1811 finds Jane in London staying with her banker-brother Henry Austen and his sophisticated wife Eliza at their residence on Sloane Street preparing her first novel, Sense and Sensibility, for publication. While attending a performance of Macbeth at the Theatre Royal at Covent Garden, it is difficult to determine who is the bigger draw to the audience; the esteemed actress Mrs. Siddons on stage, or the beautiful Russian Princess Evegenia Tscholikova in a box. That very week, her private letters to her married lover Lord Castlereagh had been published in a London paper for all to read. Such a shocking scandal for a Tory Minister is sure to have serious repercussions, but finding the lifeless body of the Princess strewn across the his front steps the next morning with her throat cut should not be one of them. Jane and Eliza are shocked, but certain that it is not the suicide that the paper reports.

Confident that the coroner’s inquest will disclose the truth, Jane and Eliza soon learn that they are the prime suspects in the murder after attempting to help the Comtesse d’ Entraigues discreetly sell her jewels. This act of kindness for Eliza’s friend places them in an incriminating position. The authorities disclose that the jewels belong to the dead Russian Princess and not the Comtesse. Why were Eliza and Jane set up? Who is benefitting from the Princesses death? How will they save themselves from the gallows?

Jane negotiates a seven day reprieve to discover the truth and begins the investigation through London’s fashionable Ton, dubious politicians, and their intimate circle of powerful women – the Barque of Frailty.

For those of you not in the know on Regency era colloquialisms, in common cant, Barque of Frailty is a woman of easy virtue, a mistress, or a prostitute.  There are interesting “fallen women” who factor into this story, including the infamous Society supplicant Harriette Wilson, and the one hit wonder Julia Radcliffe.  Harriette was a real “demi-rep” (woman of ill repute) who kept important statesmen tucked in her décolleté like a favorite scented lace hanky. Julia is fictitious, but cut from the same cloth.

Not far from these highly desirable “light skirts” are the men of the Beau Monde (fashionable society) and government circling their flame: Emmanuel, Comte d’Entraigues, Francis Edward Rawdon-Hastings, Earl of Moria, Charles Malverley, George Canning, and Robert, Lord Castlereagh to name a few, and there are many to remember in this tale of political intrigue, and passions spent and spurned.

Jane and Eliza are the key players through the political subterfuge and romantic dalliances in deducing the mystery. Some of their exploits require a total suspension of disbelief for a clergyman’s daughter and a bankers wife. However, this adventuresome energy swiftly glides you through a masterful story that at times, reminded me of a Georgette Heyer novel. But, in due deference to Ms. Barron’s skill as a mystery novelist, every time I hear the name Freddy, and there is a Freddy Ponsonby in this tale, it reminds me of  Freddy Standen in Cotillion!

As we have continued through this series we have sleuthed with Jane in the country, by the sea-side, and in Town. I think I enjoy her temperament more in these novels away from London. I have always thought she preferred the county to Town. When visiting London in 1796, she wrote to her sister Cassandra, “Here I am once more in this Scene of Dissipation & Vice, and I begin already to find my Morals corrupted.” In her novels bad things seem to happen to characters in London. Marianne gets jilted by Willoughby there in Sense and Sensibility, the married Maria Rushworth cheats on hubby with Henry Crawford and runs away with him in Mansfield Park, silly, selfish Lydia Bennet elopes with Wickham, doesn’t marry, and lives with him in sin there in Pride and Prejudice, and Mr. Knightley escapes Highbury to Town to forget Miss Woodhouse in Emma!

Is Jane trying to tell us something? In Jane and the Barque of Frailty, we certainly meet with Dissipation & Vice. If a bath by fire is redemption for the reader after 235 pages of the dark underworld of “muslin company,” then the final decadent scene set at the Cyprians Ball, an anti-Almacks soiree for the “high-water courtesans” and their entourage of moths, is a refreshing denouement. Jane (thirty-five year old spinster and country girl) and her sister-in-law Eliza (outrageous flirt and party girl) gain entrance for a scandalous subterfuge as masked “ladies of the night” to assemble all the key players into one room for the final show down. After the shocking conclusion, the mystery is solved, but the words used to describe those ladies who lived off their looks and charms are still rolling through my head…doxy, cunning jade, bird of paradise, celebrated Impure, Paphiana and trollop. Like Jane, I am glad I live in the country.

4.5 out of 5 Regency Stars

This is my tenth 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 Barque of Frailty to one lucky winner. Leave a comment stating what intrigues you about Jane Austen as a detective, or if you have read Georgette Heyer’s Cotillion, why Freddy Standen is haunting me by midnight PT, Wednesday, November 23, 2011. Winner to be announced on Thursday, November 24, 2011. Shipment to US addresses only. Good luck!

Visit author Stephanie Barron’s blog and discover her research for this novel which includes Channeling Harriette in the Barque of Frailty

Jane and the Barque of Frailty: Being a Jane Austen Mystery, by Stephanie Barron
Bantam Books (2007)
Mass market paperback (368)
ISBN: 978-0553584080

© 2007 – 2011 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

Giveaway winners announced for The Deception at Lyme & set of M&M Darcy Mysteries Series

The Deception at Lyme, by Carrie Bebris (2011)77 of you left comments qualifying you for a chance to win one of three copies of The Deception at Lyme and one set of the six Mr. & Mrs. Darcy Mysteries books, all by Carrie Bebris. The winners drawn n at random are:

The Deception at Lyme:

  • Janet who left a comment on October 3, 2011
  • Carolyn who left a comment on September 29, 2011
  • Willowisp who left a comment on September 27, 2011

Full set of all six of the Mr. & Mrs. Darcy Mysteries:

  • Lori Hedgpeth who left a comment on September 27, 2011

Congratulations ladies! To claim your prize, please contact me with your full name and address by October 19th, 2011. Shipment to US and Canadian addresses only.

Thanks to all who left comments! Congrats to the winners. Enjoy!

© 2007 – 2011 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose