That Churchill Woman: A Novel, by Stephanie Barron – A Review

that churchill woman barron 2019 x 200Between 1870 and 1914, there were at least a hundred marriages of American heiresses to British peers. Fueled by microeconomics—supply and demand—American industrial tycoons bought position, prestige, and coronets by bartering their daughter’s dowries to cash-strapped aristocrats. One transatlantic trade was Brooklynn born Jeanette “Jennie” Jerome. In 1874 she became one of the first “dollar princesses” when she married Lord Randolph Churchill, the third son of the Duke of Marlborough. Her wildly rich father reputedly paid a dowry equaling 4.3 million dollars in current currency. What a way to start a life-long marriage—and what delectable fodder for this new biographical fiction of Jennie’s life, That Churchill Woman, by Stephanie Barron.

Lady Randolph Churchill is one of those larger-than-life women from history whom we look upon with shock and awe. Most people will know her as the scandalous American mother of Winston Churchill, the famous politician and prime minister of Great Britain, however, there is so much more to know about this intelligent, fiercely independent woman. Born in 1854 into wealth, privilege and the excess that it generates, she was raised in New York City, Newport, Rhode Island, and Paris. Her childhood was colored by her parents Leonard Jerome and Clarissa “Clara” nee Hall’s Victorian marriage. He was a notorious womanizer. She turned the other cheek and befriended his long-time mistress Fanny Ronalds. When the affair finally ended the two women banded together, left their respective husbands, and sailed for Paris with their children.

Another significant event in her early life was the death of her younger sister Camille when she was nine. Devastated by the loss, her father consoled his young daughter with sage advice: “The only way to fight death, Jennie, is to live. You’ve got to do it for two people now—yourself and Camille. Take every chance you get. Do everything she didn’t get to do. Live two lives in the space of one. I’ll back you to the hilt.” Continue reading

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

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

Waterloo cover x 200Long-time readers of Austenprose will remember that I am a big fan of Stephanie Barron’s ‘Being a Jane Austen Mystery’ series. In 2011 we had a Mystery Reading Challenge for the entire eleven book series to date. Since that time another novel was published, Jane and the Twelve Days of Christmas, and next week the thirteenth mystery in the series, Jane and the Waterloo Map, will make its debut.

Here is a description of the new book from the publisher:

Jane Austen turns sleuth in this delightful Regency-era mystery

November, 1815. The Battle of Waterloo has come and gone, leaving the British economy in shreds; Henry Austen, high-flying banker, is about to declare bankruptcy—dragging several of his brothers down with him. The crisis destroys Henry’s health, and Jane flies to his London bedside, believing him to be dying. While she’s there, the chaplain to His Royal Highness the Prince Regent invites Jane to tour Carlton House, the Prince’s fabulous London home. The chaplain is a fan of Jane’s books, and during the tour he suggests she dedicate her next novel—Emma—to HRH, whom she despises.

However, before she can speak to HRH, Jane stumbles upon a body—sprawled on the carpet in the Regent’s library. The dying man, Colonel MacFarland, was a cavalry hero and a friend of Wellington’s. He utters a single failing phrase: “Waterloo map” . . . and Jane is on the hunt for a treasure of incalculable value and a killer of considerable cunning.

Continue reading

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

Jane and the Twleve Days of Christmas by Stephanie Barron 2014 x 200From the desk of Jenny Haggerty:

The holidays make me nostalgic for past times I’ve never actually experienced, so I leapt at the chance to spend the Yuletide season with Jane Austen. Jane and the Twelve Days of Christmas is the twelfth installment in a series that features one of my favorite novelists as an amateur sleuth, but so far I hadn’t managed to read one of them. It seemed high time to rectify that lapse, especially since author Stephanie Barron studied European history in college and then worked as a CIA analyst, highly suitable credentials for writing a story of intrigue set in the past.

The book opens on a blizzardy, bitterly cold evening with Jane Austen, her mother, and her sister Cassandra traveling by coach to the home of Jane’s eldest brother James and his family in Hampshire. Unfortunately, when they reach the end of the public line the women find that James has sent an unlighted open horse cart for the last few miles of their journey, even though it’s dark outside and blowing snow. Both Jane’s mother and sister have their heads bowed to prevent the snow from stinging their faces, so it’s only Jane who sees the rapidly approaching carriage heading straight for them. There’s a terrible crash and the ladies are thrown to the floor of the now ruined cart, but almost as shocking is the language of the gentleman in the carriage. Raphael West comes gallantly to their rescue and certainly acts with consideration and grace, but he proves he must be some kind of freethinker by swearing in front of them without reservation. Jane is intrigued. Continue reading

Giveaway Winners Announced for Jane and the Twelve Days of Christmas

Jane and the Twleve Days of Christmas by Stephanie Barron 2014 x 200It’s time to announce the 5 winners of a signed hardcover copy of Jane and the Twelve Days of Christmas: Being a Jane Austen Mystery, by Stephanie Barron. The lucky winners drawn at random are:

  • Debbie Harris who left a comment on Oct 28, 2014
  • Carol Settlage who left a comment on Nov 05, 2014
  • Gail Warner who left a comment on Oct 29, 2014
  • Syrie James who left a comment on Oct 28, 2014
  • Laura Woodside Hartness who left a comment on Oct 28, 2014

Congratulations to all of the winners! To claim your prize, please contact me with your full name and address by November 12, 2014 or you will forfeit your prize! Shipment to US addresses only. One winner per IP address.

Thanks to all who left comments, to author Stephanie Barron for her guest blog, and to her publisher Soho Press for the giveaways. Continue reading

Jane and the 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

Dewey’s 24-Hour Read-a-thon Jane Austen Style

Dewey's 24-hour read-a-thon (2014)

I am participating in a special celebration of reading today – Dewey’s 24-Hour Read-a-thon. And, of course I have a Jane Austen theme!

For those of you unfamiliar with this bi-annual event, a book blogger named Dewey started the tradition in 2007. Here is a description of the event from it’s website:

For 24 hours, we read books, post to our blogs about our reading, and visit other readers’ blogs. We also participate in mini-challenges throughout the day. It happens twice a year, in April and in October.

It is an all day and night total celebration of reading! The best thing about participating is that you can read as much or as little as you like. I chose to read the first few chapters of three new Austenesque novels (no spoilers) and live-tweet my reactions as I progress. Here are the novels that I have selected: Continue reading

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.

Cheers,

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 Madness of Lord Byron: Being a Jane Austen Mystery, by Stephanie Barron – A Review

One thinks of Jane Austen as a retiring spinster who writes secretly, prefers her privacy and enjoys quiet walks in the Hampshire countryside. Instead, she has applied her intuitive skills of astute observation and deductive reasoning to solve crime in Stephanie Barron’s Austen inspired mystery series. It is an ingenious paradox that would make even Gilbert and Sullivan green with envy. The perfect pairing of the unlikely with the obvious that happens occasionally in great fiction by authors clever enough to pick up on the connection and run with it.

Jane and the Madness of Lord Byron marks Stephanie Barron’s tenth novel in the best-selling Jane Austen Mystery series. For fourteen years, and to much acclaim, she has channeled our Jane beyond her quiet family circle into sleuthing adventures with lords, ladies and murderers. Cleverly crafted, this historical detective series incorporates actual events from Jane Austen’s life with historical facts from her time all woven together into mysteries that of course, only our brilliant Jane can solve.

It is the spring of 1813. Jane is home at Chawton Cottage “pondering the thorny question of Henry Crawford” in her new novel Mansfield Park and glowing in the recent favorable reception of Pride and Prejudice. Bad news calls her to London where her brother Henry’s wife Eliza, the Comtesse de Feuillde, is gravely ill. With her passing, Jane and Henry decide to seek the solace and restorative powers of the seaside selecting Brighton, “the most breathtaking and outrageous resort of the present age” for a holiday excursion.

At a coaching Inn along the way they rescue Catherine Twining, a young society Miss found bound and gagged in the coach of George Gordon, the 6th Baron of Byron, aka Lord Byron, the notorious mad, bad and dangerous to know poet. Miffed by their thwart of her abduction, Byron regretfully surrenders his prize to Jane and Henry who return her to her father General Twining in Brighton. He is furious and quick to fault his fifteen year-old daughter. Jane and Henry are appalled at his temper and concerned for her welfare.

Settled into a suite of rooms at the luxurious Castle Inn, Jane and Henry enjoy walks on the Promenade, fine dining on lobster patties and champagne at Donaldson’s and a trip to the local circulating library where Jane is curious to see how often the “Fashionables of Brighton” solicit the privilege of reading Pride and Prejudice! Even though Jane loathes the dissipated Prince Regent, she and Henry attend a party at his opulent home the Marine Pavilion. In the crush of the soirée, Jane again rescues Miss Twining from another seducer.

Later at an Assembly dance attended by much of Brighton’s bon ton, Lord Byron reappears stalked by his spurned amour, “the mad as Bedlam” Lady Caroline Lamb. Even though the room is filled with beautiful ladies he only has eyes for Miss Twining and aggressively pursues her. The next morning, Jane and Henry are shocked to learn that the lifeless body of a young lady found in Byron’s bed was their naïve new friend Miss Catherine Twining! The facts against Byron are very incriminating. Curiously, the intemperate poet is nowhere to be found and all of Brighton ready to condemn him.

Henry grasped my arm and turned me firmly back along the way we had come. “Jane,” he said bracingly, “we require a revival of your formidable spirit – one I have not seen in nearly two years. You must take up the rȏle of Divine Fury. You must penetrate this killer’s motives, and expose him to the world.”’ page 119

And so the game is afoot and the investigation begins…

It is great to have Jane Austen, Detective back on the case and in peak form. Fans of the series will be captivated by her skill at unraveling the crime, and the unindoctrinated totally charmed. The mystery was detailed and quite intriguing, swimming in red herrings and gossipy supposition. Pairing the nefarious Lord Byron with our impertinent parson’s daughter was just so delightfully “sick and wicked.” Their scenes together were the most memorable and I was pleased to see our outspoken Jane give as good as she got, and then some. Readers who enjoy a good parody and want to take this couple one step further should investigate their vampire version in Jane Bites Back.

Barron continues to prove that she is an Incomparable, the most accomplished writer in the genre today rivaling Georgette Heyer in Regency history and Austen in her own backyard. Happily readers will not have to wait another four years for the next novel in the series. Bantam published Jane and the Canterbury Tale this year. Huzzah! Unfortunately for fans of the Being a Jane Austen Mystery series, it is the final novel in the series.

5 out of 5 Regency Stars

This is my eleventh and final selection in the Being a Jane Austen Mystery Reading Challenge 2011. We have now read all of the mysteries in the series and completed the challenge! It has been a fabulous reading journey with Stephanie Barron’s Jane Austen, Lord Harold and all the dead bodies scattered across England! I enjoyed every novel and learned so much. The Grand Prize winner of one signed copy of each of the novels in the series will be drawn from the comments on all of the posts here and at reviewers blogs and announced on January 1, 2012. Good luck!

  • 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 Madness of Lord Byron to one lucky winner. Leave a comment stating what intrigues you about Jane Austen as a detective, or what you think Jane Austen and Lord Byron have in common by midnight PT, Wednesday, December 28, 2011. Winner to be announced on Thursday, December 29, 2011. Shipment to US addresses only. Good luck!

Jane and the Madness of Lord Byron: Being a Jane Austen Mystery, by Stephanie Barron
Bantam Books (2010)
Trade paperback (352) pages
ISBN: 978-0553386707

© 2007 – 2011 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

Giveaway winner announced for Jane and the Barque of Frailty

Jane and the Barque of Frailty, by Stephanie Barron (2006)18 of you left comments qualifying you for a chance to win a signed copy of Jane and the Barque of Frailty, by Stephanie Barron.

The winner drawn at random is Kelli H. who left a comment on November 17, 2011.

Congratulations Kelli! To claim your prize, please contact me with your full name and address by November 30, 2011. 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. We are reading all eleven novels in this great Austen-inspired mystery series this year. Next month we will be wrapping up the year-long event with Jane and the Madness of Lord Byron.

© 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