Murder Most Austen: A Mystery, by Tracy Kiely – A Review

Murder Most Austen, by Tracy Kiely (2012)From the desk of Kimberly Denny-Ryder

Everyone loves a good murder mystery.  The classic scene where a butler is found dead after the lights suddenly flicker is one that everyone can picture. The thrill of the hunt for the killer is just as exciting as the disappearance of the characters in the plot.  As a big fan of Agatha Christie’s mysteries it is no surprise, then, that I was thrilled to read the fourth novel in Tracy Kiely’s Elizabeth Parker mystery series, Murder Most Austen.

Set in present day, Murder Most Austen introduces us to a Miss Elizabeth Parker, an Austen fanatic (aren’t we all!) that is traveling with her Aunt Winnie to an annual Jane Austen conference in Bath, England.  On the way to the conference, they meet Professor Richard Baines, a pretentious man who is under the impression that he is the world’s utmost authority on anything Austen related.  Spouting rather odd “facts” about Austen and her work, especially a crazy theory as to the actual cause of her death, Baines manages to irritate and annoy not only Elizabeth and her aunt, but almost everyone at the conference as well.  Therefore, it is surprising, although not entirely unwelcome, that Mr. Baines is found murdered during the middle of the convention!

Rumors abound as to who is to blame for this murder most foul, and the actual list of suspects is quite large, until poor Aunt Winnie’s friend becomes one of the prime suspects by unfortunate coincidence.  Aunt Winnie begs Elizabeth to help her find the actual killer before her friend is framed.  Elizabeth, who was hoping to get away from personal problems of her own by attending this trip, finds herself with a whole new set as she tries to find out who really killed odd Professor Baines.

From page one it was evident that I was in for a real treat, as Kiely’s tongue-in-cheek humor made me laugh.  The characters that she created were so numerous and full of life that it was easy to picture myself amongst them.  I loved Elizabeth’s character, as her strong will and determination in the face of certain adversity (sound like another Elizabeth we know?) made her a joy to read.  Additionally, Kiely’s development of the murder plot itself and subsequent hunt for the real killer was executed perfectly, with multiple layers unfolding at a quick pace that left me wanting to turn the pages as fast as possible.

Finally, I think one of the best things about this novel is the fact that although this is the fourth novel in Kiely’s series, it wasn’t imperative that I read the other three prior to this one.  This allowed me to jump into the series and get a feel for her writing all the while not being tied to a larger work.  I can definitely say that this has made me want to read the rest of series anyway though! Filled with fun, mischief, and mayhem, Murder Most Austen is definitely one to read!

4 out of 5 Stars

Murder Most Austen: A Mystery (Elizabeth Parker Mysteries #4), by Tracy Kiely
Minotaur/Thomas Dunne Books (2012)
Hardcover (304) pages
ISBN: 978-1250007421

Kimberly Denny-Ryder is the owner/moderator of Reflections of a Book Addict, a book blog dedicated to following her journey of reading 100 books a year, while attempting to keep a life! When not reading, Kim can be found volunteering as the co-chair of a 24hr cancer awareness event, as well as an active member of Quinnipiac University’s alumni association.  When not reading or volunteering, Kim can be found at her full-time job working in vehicle funding. She lives with her husband Todd and two cats, Belle and Sebastian, in Connecticut.

© 2012 Kimberly Denny-Ryder, Austenprose

Preview of Murder Most Austen: A Mystery, by Tracy Kiely

Darcy VS Hathaway ???

My faithful readers will know how much I love a good mystery. I follow the Masterpiece Mystery series Inspector Lewis on PBS with a bloody passion, and when I am not reading Austenesque books, I can be found with my nose in a good whodunit. If pressed I will admit with reluctance that Mr. Darcy would win in a throw down against Sargent Hathaway. Now, if it was Henry Tilney vs. Hathaway, well that’s a no brainer.

Some of favorite mystery authors are: Tasha Alexander, Dashiell Hammett, Jacqueline Winspear, Alexander McCall Smith and Georgette Heyer. Top on my mysteries “to be read” list is Gaudy Night by Dorothy L. Sayers. Highly recommended by Austenesque author Diana Birchall (Mrs. Darcy’s Dilemma), it is one of her all-time favorite books no less. How could I have missed it?

Being a Jane Austen Mystery Challenge 2011Occasionally, authors indulge me and combine my two favorite diversions: mystery and Jane Austen. It is like a left, right punch to my reading sensibilities. I get a bit light headed at the thought of it. I have devoured all eleven Stephanie Barron’s Being A Jane Austen Mystery Series and all six of Carrie Bebris’ Mr. and Mrs. Darcy Mysteries as they arrived. Now I am in for a treat. The fourth Elizabeth Parker Mysteries by Tracy Kiely is due out tomorrow, September 4th. I am all anticipation…

Murder Most Austen is set in the historic Georgian-era spa town of Bath, England (deep into Janeite territory) where Elizabeth Parker and her Aunt Winnie (who we were first introduced to in Murder at Longbourn) meet an odious professor who claims that Austen’s texts have hidden sexual subplots (take note Arnie Perlstein) and that Austen’s death was not by natural causes (yes, you too Lindsay Ashford). LOL. Is this art imitating life, or, Kiely’s tongue-in-cheek jab at modern Austen culture? Anyway, the pompous professor is bumped off while wearing his Mr. Darcy costume during a ball. Poetic justice you ask? You be the judge. Here is the publisher’s description:

Murder Most Austen, by Tracy Kiely (2012)A dedicated Anglophile and Janeite, Elizabeth Parker is hoping the trip to the annual Jane Austen Festival in Bath will distract her from her lack of a job and her uncertain future with her boyfriend, Peter.

On the plane ride to England, she and Aunt Winnie meet Professor Richard Baines, a self-proclaimed expert on all things Austen. His outlandish claims that within each Austen novel there is a sordid secondary story is second only to his odious theory on the true cause of Austen’s death. When Baines is found stabbed to death in his Mr. Darcy costume during the costume ball, it appears that Baines’s theories have finally pushed one Austen fan too far. But Aunt Winnie’s friend becomes the prime suspect, so Aunt Winnie enlists Elizabeth to find the professor’s real killer. With an ex-wife, a scheming daughter-in-law, and a trophy wife, not to mention a festival’s worth of die-hard Austen fans, there are no shortage of suspects.

This fourth in Tracy Kiely’s charming series is pure delight. If Bath is the number-one Mecca for Jane Austen fans, Murder Most Austen is the perfect read for those who love some laughs and quick wit with their mystery.

Excerpt of Murder Most Austen

CHAPTER 1

There is, I believe, in every disposition a tendency to some particular evil, a natural defect, which not even the best education can overcome.” —PRIDE AND PREJUDICE

IF I HAD KNOWN that someone was going to kill the man sitting in 4B three days hence, I probably wouldn’t have fantasized about doing the deed myself.

Probably.

However, as it stood, I didn’t have this knowledge. The only knowledge I did have was that he was a pompous ass and had not stopped talking once in the last two hours.

“Of course, only the truly clever reader can discern that it is beneath Austen’s superficial stories that the real narrative lies. Hidden beneath an attractive veil of Indian muslin, Austen presents a much darker world. It is a sordid world of sex, both heterosexual and homosexual, abortions, and incest. It is in highlighting these darker stories to the less perceptive reader that I have devoted my career,” the man was now saying to his seatmate.

I guessed him to be in his late fifties. He was tall and fair, with those WASPy good looks that lend themselves well to exclusive men’s clubs, the kinds that still exclude women and other dangerous minorities. His theories were so patently absurd that at first I’d found his commentary oddly entertaining. However, as Austen herself observed, of some delights, a little goes a long way.

This was rapidly becoming one of those delights.

From the manner in which the young woman to his right gazed at him with undisguised awe, it was clear that she did not share my desire to duct-tape his mouth shut. Her brown eyes were not rolling back into her head with exasperation; rather, they were practically sparkling with idolization from behind her wire-framed glasses. While both our faces were flushed from his words, the cause for the heightened color on her elfin features stemmed from reverence; the cause of mine was near-boiling irritation.

Read the full excerpt

Watch for Austenprose’s Kimberly Denny-Ryder’s review of Murder Most Austen to be posted here on Wednesday, September 12th.

Read our previous reviews of Tracy Kiely’s Elizabeth Parker Mysteries

Murder Most Austen: A Mystery (Elizabeth Parker Mysteries #4), by Tracy Kiely
Minotaur/Thomas Dunne Books (2012)
Hardcover (304) pages
ISBN: 978-1250007421

© 2012 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose
© Tracy Kiely, Macmillan

Giveaway Winners Announced for Murder Most Persuasive

Murder Most Persuasive, by Tracy Kiely (2011)30 of you left comments qualifying you for a chance to win one of three copies of Murder Most Persuasive, by Tracy Kiely. The winners drawn at random are:

  • Jenny the Librarian who left a comment on August 30, 2011.
  • Audra (Unabridged Chick) who left a comment on August 30, 2011
  • Mysterygirl87 who left a comment on September 01, 2011

Congratulations to the lucky winners 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.

Many thanks to author Tracy Kiely for sharing her early poem writing !!!! and for creating such a fabulous new Austen-inspired murder mystery.

© 2007 – 2011 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

Murder Most Persuasive: A Mystery by Tracy Kiely – A Review

Murder Most Persuasive: A Mystery, by Tracy Kiely (2011)Guest Review by Aia A. Hussein

Following in the footsteps of her previous works Murder at Longbourn and Murder on the Bride’s Side, author Tracy Kiely has just released Murder Most Persuasive. Wherein she previously drew plot inspiration from such Jane Austen classics as Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility, in this new mystery novel she’s set her sights on Austen’s beloved Persuasion, re-imagining the classic tale against a modern backdrop and involving, yet again, her Austen-quoting sleuth, Elizabeth Parker.

After the death of Elizabeth’s great-uncle Martin Reynolds, the Reynolds family house is sold.  Much to everyone’s surprise, the new owners discover the body of a man under their newly dug-up pool who is later identified as Michael Barrow, the former fiancé of Martin’s eldest daughter Regina.  It had been assumed that Michael had run off eight years earlier after embezzling over a million dollars from the Reynolds family business.  The discovery of Michael’s body not only unearths questions about the earlier scandal, but it also brings Detective Joe Muldoon, former boyfriend of Martin’s second daughter Annabel (or Ann), back into the picture.  Eight years earlier, Ann had been pressured by family and a close family friend to break off her relationship with Joe, a decision she has come to bitterly regret.

Emboldened by past detective successes, Elizabeth spearheads a movement to discover Michael’s murderer, an effort that becomes all the more urgent when police begin to treat Ann as their prime suspect.  Making matters worse is Ann’s stepmother Bonnie who bizarrely escapes to a spa retreat as soon as her late husband’s funeral is over and returns with a younger man who claims to be an investor eager to get his hands on Bonnie’s and the girls’ inheritance.  Throw Elizabeth’s know-it-all sister who’s suddenly determined to help with the investigation, the mysterious behavior of her Reynolds cousins, and a boyfriend who is ready for Elizabeth to move in with him into the mix and you’ve got a very complicated situation that Elizabeth is determined to navigate.  All this and, of course, she must gently nudge Ann in Joe’s direction, eager that Ann not make the same past mistakes.  Will Elizabeth locate the murderer before he or she can strike again?  And will Ann gain the confidence and courage she needs in order to pursue a relationship with a man that her family has deemed unworthy?

Ann’s story should recall the story of Austen’s Anne Eliot who is forced to break off her engagement to Frederick Wentworth because he fails to live up to the expectations of family and close friends.  In fact, it becomes increasingly clear throughout the novel that Ann Reynolds is the modern-day equivalent to Anne Eliot, an overlooked middle daughter who must learn to trust her own instincts rather than allow others to easily persuade her.  Persuasion’s Anne Eliot has always been one of my favorite Austen heroines and it’s delightful to see a contemporary reincarnation especially since authors tend to gravitate more towards Austen’s arguably most famous heroine, Pride and Prejudice’s Elizabeth Bennett.  While I love Lizzy, there is a quiet strength about Anne that I have always found admirable and it’s gratifying to see that quiet strength reborn in a modern Ann.

While Persuasion serves as a source of inspiration for Murder Most Persuasive, most of Kiely’s novel is made up of original material with numerous characters and one or two twists thrown in for good measure.  Like most well-written mystery novels, Murder Most Persuasive is suspenseful and the reader will definitely try and figure out the murder mystery along with Elizabeth.  I, admittedly, think that some of the characters and plot elements could have used more development but this novel is perfect for end-of-summer reading – entertaining, suspenseful, and Austenesque – with Janeites appreciating how Elizabeth always has the right Austen quote for every situation.

Aia A. Hussein, a graduate of Bryn Mawr College and American University, pursued Literature degrees in order to have an official excuse to spend all her time reading.  She lives in the DC area and is a devotee of Jane Austen and all things Victorian.

4 out of 5 Stars

Murder Most Persuasive: A Mystery, by Tracy Kiely
Minotaur Books, NY (2011)
Hardcover (304) pages
ISBN: 978-0312699413

© 2007 – 2011 Aia A. Hussein, Austenprose

Murder Most Persuasive Blog Tour with Author Tracy Kiely

Murder Most Persuasive: A Mystery, by Tracy Kiely (2011)Please join us today in welcoming author Tracy Kiely on her blog tour in celebration of the release of Murder Most Persuasive: A Mystery, a new Persuasion-inspired mystery novel published today by Minotaur Books.

Murder, Jane Austen, and Me  

I’ve wanted to be a writer ever since I was little. That’s not to say that I was one of those child prodigies who effortlessly create witty/insightful/touching tomes at a tender age, and land on the couch with Ophra. Far from it. In fact, here’s a little sample of one of my earliest works that proves my point quite nicely. It was my first (and, thankfully, only) attempt at poetry. Ready? Here goes:

The rain comes down

Upon the ground

Will it ever stop?

I’ll get the mop.

See, what I mean? But, despite my rather shaky start, I still loved the idea of being a writer. As the years went by, I narrowed that down to being a mystery writer. Growing up, I spent a great deal of time reading Agatha Christie, Jane Austen, and watching Alfred Hitchcock movies. I loved the twisty, deviously clever plots of Christie, the sublime wit of Austen, and the “average man caught in extraordinary circumstances” themes of Hitchcock.

Anyway, when I began to think of writing my own mystery, I realized it would have to include those elements. As I struggled to come up with something in the way of a viable storyline, the characters of Pride and Prejudice kept swirling around in my head. It dawned on me that while there is no murder in Pride and Prejudice, there are plenty of characters who certainly inspire murderous thoughts. I began to wonder, what, if after years of living with unbearably rude and condescending behavior, old Mrs. Jenkins up and strangled Lady Catherine? Or, if one day Charlotte snapped and poisoned Mr. Collins’ toast and jam? I realized that most likely no one would be surprised had Jane written these plot twists into follow-up versions of her books as these characters were exactly the sort of odious creatures that would be bumped of in a mystery novel.

But, I didn’t want to write a period piece, and I definitely didn’t want to take over existing characters and try and make them my own. It’s not that I don’t enjoy reading other authors who do exactly that. It’s just as Dirty Harry once said in one of his movies, “A man’s got to know his limitations.”  I know mine, and recreating Elizabeth and Darcy is not one of then.  So, I instead I tried to figure out a way to work in the themes and personality clashes of Pride and Prejudice into a modern-day mystery. Continue reading

Austen Book Sleuth: New Books in the Queue for August 2010

The Jane Austen book sleuth is happy to inform Janeites that many Austen inspired books are heading our way in August, so keep your eyes open for these new titles.

Audio

The Convenient Marriage, by Georgette Heyer, read by Richard Armitage

In honor of historical romance novelist Georgette Heyer’s birthday this month, I am sure that Jane Austen will not mind if I place one of Heyer’s Regency romance novels first among the great selection of books available this month. If you hadn’t noticed, we are celebrating Heyer in a big way all month here on Austenprose, but this novel in particular of the 34 we will be discussing stands head and shoulders over the rest. Yes, the story is one of Heyer’s best with a strong hero and an endearingly flawed young heroine, but this audio edition really chases away any fit of the blue devils with its velvet-voiced reader, Richard Armitage. This is his third foray into reading Heyer for Naxos Audiobooks, and I cannot think of one actor more qualified to make half of the population of the world swoon. (Publishers description) Horatia Winwood is the youngest and the least attractive of the three Winwood sisters. She also has a stammer. But when the enigmatic and eminently eligible Earl of Rule offers for her oldest sister’s hand – a match that makes financial and social sense, but would break her heart – it is Horatia who takes matters into her own impetuous hands. Can she save her family’s fortune? Or is she courting disaster? Witty, charming, elegant and always delightful, Georgette Heyer – the undisputed Queen of Regency Romance – brings the whole period to life with deft precision and glorious characters. Naxos AudioBooks (2010), Abridged Audio CD, ISBN: 978-1843794417. Listen to a preview.

Fiction (prequels, sequels, retellings, variations, or Regency inspired)

Emma and the Vampires, by Wayne Josephson

More vampires in our Austen coming our way. This time, its Austen’s handsome, clever, and rich Emma Woodhouse, with a comfortable home and happy disposition with very little to distress or vex her except her vampire neighbors. (Publishers description) In this hilarious retelling of Jane Austen’s Emma, screenwriter Wayne Josephson casts Mr. Knightley as one of the most handsome and noble of the gentlemen village vampires. Blithely unaware of their presence, Emma, who imagines she has a special gift for matchmaking, attempts to arrange the affairs of her social circle with delightfully disastrous results. But when her dear friend Harriet Smith declares her love for Mr. Knightley, Emma realizes she’s the one who wants to stay up all night with him. Fortunately, Mr. Knightley has been hiding a secret deep within his unbeating heart-his (literal) undying love for her… A brilliant mash-up of Jane Austen and the undead. Sourcebooks Landmark (2010), Trade paperback, ISBN: 978-1402241345. Read the first chapter.

To Conquer Mr. Darcy, Abigail Reynolds

Originally published as Impulse and Initiative by Sourcebooks in 2008, this Pride and Prejudice variation asks “what if” after Mr. Darcy’s first proposal to Elizabeth Bennet he didn’t give up, but pursued her from Kent back to Longbourn? I reviewed the original edition if you would like to peruse my humble opinion. (Publishers description) What if…Instead of disappearing from Elizabeth Bennet’s life after she refused his offer of marriage, Mr. Darcy had stayed and tried to change her mind? What if…Lizzy, as she gets to know Darcy, finds him undeniably attractive and her impulses win out over her sense of propriety? What if…Madly in love and mutually on fire, their passion anticipates their wedding? In To Conquer Mr. Darcy, instead of avoiding Elizabeth after his ill-fated marriage proposal, Mr. Darcy follows her back to Hertfordshire to prove to her he is a changed man and worthy of her love. And little by little, Elizabeth begins to find the man she thought she despised, irresistible… Sourcebooks Casablanca (2010), Mass market paperback, ISBN: 978-1402237300. Read the first chapter.

Murder on the Bride’s Side: A Mystery, by Tracy Kiely

 

Last year debut author Tracy Kiely blew my bonnet off with her clever Pride and Prejudice inspired whodunit, Murder at Longbourn. Now her clever, but endearingly insecure sleuth Elizabeth Parker is back with a new mystery to solve that is inspired by Austen’s Sense and Sensibility. (Publishers description) Drawing from the classic Sense and Sensibility, Tracy Kiely continues the adventures of Elizabeth Parker, the likable Austen-quoting sleuth, in this witty and charming series. Elizabeth Parker suspected that fulfilling her duties as maid-of-honor for her best friend, Bridget, was going to be murder. And no sooner is the last grain of rice thrown than she finds herself staring into the dead eyes of Bridget’s Aunt Roni, a woman whose death is almost as universally celebrated as Bridget’s nuptials. The horror only increases when Harry, Bridget’s cousin, becomes the chief suspect. The idea is ludicrous to the family because Harry is one of the kindest, most compassionate people imaginable. To complicate matters, Elizabeth’s boyfriend, Peter, appears to be falling for an old flame, a gorgeous wedding planner. Determined to clear Harry of the crime, reign in Bridget’s impulsive brand of sleuthing, and figure out where Peter’s heart lies, Elizabeth sets her mind to work. Minotaur Books (2010), Hardcover, ISBN: 978-0312537579.  Read my preview and an excerpt here.

Austen’s Oeuvre

Emma (Blackstone Audio Classic), by Jane Austen, read by Nadia May

Since one can never have too many audio editions of Emma to break the monotony of the work commute,  pop this one into your car CD player and enjoy an unabridged recording of  Austen’s nonsensical girl. (Publishers description) Often considered Jane Austen’s finest work, Emma is the story of a charmingly self-deluded heroine whose injudicious matchmaking schemes often lead to substantial mortification. Emma, ”handsome, clever, and rich, with a comfortable home and happy disposition, seemed to unite some of the best blessings of existence; and had lived nearly twenty-one years in the world with very little to distress or vex her.” Her own great fortune has blinded Emma to the true feelings and motivations of others and leads her to some hilarious misjudgments. But it is through her mistakes that Emma finds humility, wisdom, and true love. Told with the shrewd wit and delicate irony which has made Jane Austen a master of the English novel, Emma is a comic masterpiece whose fanciful heroine has gained the affection of generations of readers. Blackstone Audio, Inc. (2010), Unabridged CD, ISBN: 978-1441755360

Nonfiction

The Jane Austen Pocket Bible: The Perfect Gift for a Literary Lover, by Holly Ivins

From the publisher’s description, this appears to be the be-all, end-all of Austen enlightenment. That is a lot of Austenology for this slim 192-page volume. (Publishers description) The perfect gift for a literary lover. Have you ever dreamt of Darcy? Wished for Wentworth? Or even envied the womanly wiles of Emma? Perhaps you want to know a bit more about the author who so accurately describes the ins and outs of courtship, and whose novels have never been out of print since they were first published nearly 200 years ago? If you’re nodding in excitement reading this then the Jane Austen Pocket Bible is one for you. This handy little book guides you through Austen’s beloved novels, explaining Regency manners, the class system, the importance of inheritance, and the delicate matter of landing a husband. Full of fascinating trivia about the world of Austen’s novels this book also contains details of Austen’s life, the writers who inspired her, the country estates which make up the settings for her romantic adventures, and details on the countless film and television adaptations which have been made. With facts on genteel dancing, a plan for an Austen dinner party and words of wisdom from the lady herself, it’s a must-have for every self-confessed Jane fan or those making their first foray into Austen’s carefully crafted world. Pocket Bibles (2010), Hardcover, ISBN: 978-1907087097

Austen’s Contemporaries & Beyond

Becoming Queen Victoria: The Tragic Death of Princess Charlotte and the Unexpected Rise of Britain’s Greatest Monarch, by Kate Williams

There are a ton of Victoria biographies on the market, so why do we need another one? Kate Williams is why. If any of you missed her 2006 bio of Emma Hamilton, England’s Mistress, it is well worth a trip to the library or that gift card you have been hoarding from last Christmas. Her next venture into fascinating women from the nineteenth-century is with Queen V. Her slant is the Princess Charlotte tragedy and how it made the Royal family scamper to conceive the next heir to the throne. (Publishers description) In her lauded biography England’s Mistress: The Infamous Life of Emma Hamilton, Kate Williams painted a vivid and intimate portrait of Emma Hamilton, the lover of English national hero Lord Horatio Nelson. Now, with the same keen insight and gift for telling detail, Williams provides a gripping account of Queen Victoria’s rise to the throne and her early years in power—as well as the tragic, little-known story of the princess whose demise made it all possible. Writing with a combination of novelistic flair and historical precision, Williams reveals an energetic and vibrant woman in the prime of her life, while chronicling the byzantine machinations behind Victoria’s struggle to occupy the throne—scheming that continued even after the crown was placed on her head. Ballantine Books (2010), Hardcover, ISBN: 978-0345461957. Read the first chapter.

Georgette Heyer’s Regency World, by Jennifer Kloester

Not just your average compendium of Regency-era historical facts and figures, this volume uses Georgette Heyer’s novels as a springboard and ties in social, cultural and political customs and events, explaining it all for you, clearly and concisely. Read my review for full details and insights. (Publishers description) The definitive guide for all fans of Georgette Heyer, Jane Austen, and the glittering Regency period. Immerse yourself in the resplendent glow of Regency England and the world of Georgette Heyer…From the fascinating slang, the elegant fashions, the precise ways the bon ton ate, drank, danced, and flirted, to the shocking real-life scandals of the day, Georgette Heyer’s Regency World takes you behind the scenes of Heyer’s captivating novels. As much fun to read as Heyer’s own novels, beautifully illustrated, and meticulously researched, Jennifer Kloester’s essential guide brings the world of the Regency to life for Heyer fans and Jane Austen fans alike. Sourcebooks (2010), Trade paperback, ISBN: 978-1402241369. Read the first chapter.

Shades of Milk and Honey, by Robinette Kowal

More fun with Jane. (sort of) This Regency-era novel has some similar Austenesque themes: two sisters with divergent personality seek love and happiness, but with Harry Potter magic thrown in the mix. It looks intriguing. Let’s hope the prose is light, bright and sparkly. (Publishers description) The fantasy novel you’ve always wished Jane Austen had written. Shades of Milk and Honey is exactly what we could expect from Jane Austen if she had been a fantasy writer: Pride and Prejudice meets Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. It is an intimate portrait of a woman, Jane, and her quest for love in a world where the manipulation of glamour is considered an essential skill for a lady of quality. Jane and her sister Melody vie for the attention of eligible men, and while Jane’s skill with glamour is remarkable, it is her sister who is fair of face. When Jane realizes that one of Melody’s suitors is set on taking advantage of her sister for the sake of her dowry, she pushes her skills to the limit of what her body can withstand in order to set things right—and, in the process, accidentally wanders into a love story of her own. Tor Books, Hardcover, ISBN: 978-0765325563. Read the first chapter.

Until next month, happy reading!

Laurel Ann

Preview & Excerpt from Murder on the Bride’s Side, by Tracy Kiely

As regular readers of this blog well know, Jane Austen and murder mysteries are my genres of choice. Combine the two, and I’m as giddy as Lydia Bennet with an invitation to Brighton.

Last year I discovered a new author who blended both of my favorite flavors into an Austen inspired parfait. Murder at Longbourn introduced us to Elizabeth Parker, a young lady with the intelligence and wit of our favorite heroine Elizabeth Bennet from Pride and Prejudice and the angst and insecurities of Bridget Jones from Bridget Jones’ Diary. Author Tracy Kiely even supplied us with an arrogant, standoffish hero in Peter McGowan. The results were a witty and intriguing cozy mystery that was surprisingly sophisticated for a debut novel.

Due out August 31st is the next book in the series, Murder on the Bride’s Side. This time the story is inspired by Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility. Here is the publisher’s description:

Drawing from the classic Sense and Sensibility, Tracy Kiely continues the adventures of Elizabeth Parker, the likable Austen-quoting sleuth, in this witty and charming series.

Elizabeth Parker suspected that fulfilling her duties as maid-of-honor for her best friend, Bridget, was going to be murder. And no sooner is the last grain of rice thrown than she finds herself staring into the dead eyes of Bridget’s Aunt Roni, a woman whose death is almost as universally celebrated as Bridget’s nuptials. The horror only increases when Harry, Bridget’s cousin, becomes the chief suspect. The idea is ludicrous to the family, because Harry is one of the kindest, most compassionate people imaginable. To complicate matters, Elizabeth’s boyfriend, Peter, appears to be falling for an old flame, a gorgeous wedding planner. Determined to clear Harry of the crime, reign in Bridget’s impulsive brand of sleuthing, and figure out where Peter’s heart lies, Elizabeth sets her mind to work.

Tracy Kiely has again brilliantly combined the wit and spunk of Austen’s protagonists with a contemporary, traditional mystery. With a vibrant cast of characters, the lush setting of a Virginia estate, and irresistible humor, she delivers on all counts.

Excerpt from chapter one:

“A death is coming,” Elsie remarked blandly, glancing upwards.

Looking up, I followed her gaze and saw three seagulls gliding on crisp September air. My left temple throbbed slightly at this news. Not, ironically, out of any fear that her prediction would come true, but rather at the explosive effect it might have on the people with me. Elsie is a sophisticated, educated woman, but she has a propensity for fortune telling that would try the most patient of souls. The year I turned twelve, she told me that I would grow up to “marry a rocker and live a life of international travel.”  I had a mad crush on Peter Gabriel at the time and immediately began practicing what I anticipated to be my married name, Elizabeth Gabriel. I even envisioned myself managing his world tours.  Obviously, I wasn’t the most perceptive child. I’m now twenty-seven, have never been married, and work as a fact checker for a local paper in Virginia. As for the international travel, I did once accidentally wander into the duty free shop at the airport, if that counts.

Elsie’s declaration hung in the air, much like the seagulls. Next to me, I was relieved to see that Blythe’s only response was a simple roll of the eyes.  Twenty-eight years as Elsie’s daughter-in-law has inured Blythe to Elsie’s fondness for predictions.  It still irks her, but she has learned to hold her tongue. Bridget, however, Blythe’s daughter and Elsie’s granddaughter, has not yet learned such restraint.

“Elsie!” she burst out. (No one in the family ever calls Elsie anything other than Elsie – the mere idea of calling her “Grandma” or “Nanny” is laughable). “For Christ’s sake! Don’t start this crap now.  The wedding is tomorrow and my nerves are shot as it is!”

Elsie and Blythe, polar opposites in most everything, were united in their response.  “Don’t swear, Bridget,” they said automatically. It was a refrain I had heard directed at Bridget many times over the years.  It had never had any effect, of course, but that didn’t stop her family from trying.

Elsie tilted her black Jackie-O sunglasses down an inch and gazed at Bridget with tranquil blue eyes.  “I am only stating what I see.  And what I see are three seagulls flying overhead — in a city. Which is,” she continued calmly, “a well-known sign that a death is coming.”

“You know what’s another well-known sign?” retorted Bridget with feigned politeness.

I grabbed Bridget’s hand before she could illustrate the gesture, hoping to prevent what would have been the twenty-sixth argument of the day, but Elsie only laughed.

Further reading

Murder at Longbourn, by Tracy Kiely – A Review

Murder at Longbourn, by Tracy Kiely (2009)Fall is in the air, and if you are looking for a great new murder mystery novel to cozy up with, Murder at Longbourn by Tracy Kiely is an excellent choice. Cleverly combining a traditional drawing room detective story and a comedy of manners, this surprisingly witty and beguilingly suspenseful whodunit is actually a contemporary chick-lit romance detective story. Whaaat? you say? Yes, that’s right. Just think of Pride and Prejudice meets Ten Little Indians meets Bridget Jones’ Diary and you will get my drift.

Singleton Elizabeth Parker has just dumped her two-timing boyfriend and accepted an invitation from her eccentric Aunt Winnie to help host a theatrical “Murder Mystery Party” on New Year’s Eve at her new Cape Cod B&B, amusingly named The Inn at Longbourn in honor of Elizabeth and her aunt’s affinity to all things Austen. When Elizabeth arrives and discovers that her aunt has employed her childhood nemesis Peter McGowan to help run the Inn, she is less than pleased at the prospect of meeting him again. Their awkward reunion reminds Elizabeth of painful memories as an over-weight, buck-toothed ten-year-old tormented and locked in a basement with the spiders. Bruised ego throbbing, Elizabeth endeavors to subdue her anger and Bridget Jonesish self-deprecating insecurities by chanting aphorisms: “I will have inner poise. I will not let Peter McGowan get under my skin. I will not allow myself to be locked in a dark basement. I will have a calm and relaxing New Year’s.” Peter, on the other hand, is just too broodingly arrogant to believe in inner reproach.

The New Year’s festivities are going well until the “Murder Mystery” party turns deadly when one of the guests becomes a body in the library so to speak. The local police suspect everyone in attendance, and especially Elizabeth’s aunt Winnie who has means, motive, and opportunity to do the deed. To clear her aunt as a prime suspect Elizabeth must become an amateur sleuth discovering clues and following leads to uncover the back story of the relationships of the guests. Odious Peter, the last man in the world whom she could ever be prevailed upon to ask for help turns out to be not such a shmuck, after all, once Elizabeth moves beyond her prejudices and Peter his pride! Hmm? Sound familiar?

In the tradition of the popular Stephanie Barron Jane Austen mystery series, Murder at Longbourn is a cleverly crafted mystery infused with endearing characterizations and a satisfying romance. Janeites will be thrilled with all of the Pride and Prejudice lore as they encounter references to shelves in the closet, a snooty cat named Lady Catherine, and a hero and heroine that mirror Austen’s protagonists Lizzy and Darcy. Mystery novel lovers will be enthralled with the large cast of possible suspects, a minefield of clues, and the great red herrings are thrown in to keep them guessing until the very end. Unfortunately,  I did have a difficult time keeping track of the multiple characters introduced at the beginning of the book who soon fade away, and much to my disappointment as the pages progressed the story became more reminiscent of Agatha Christie than Jane Austen. Not to worry. These flaws are minor quibbles in comparison to its burgeoning charms.

Once in a great while, I have the pleasure of having my bonnet blow off by a new author from the left field. Kiely has crafted a winning combination of cozy mystery and Austenesque wit, and I hope that she finds her audience. I am looking forward to solving another murder mystery with Elizabeth Parker when the next book in the series, Murder on the Bride’s Side, arrives next year. Let’s hope her publisher gives it a more attractive cover.

5 out of 5 Regency Stars 

Murder at Longbourn, by Tracy Kiely
Minotaur Books, New York (2009)
Hardcover (320) pages
ISBN: 978-0312537562

Additional reviews

Austen Book Sleuth: New Books in the Queue for September

According to Jane, by Marilyn Brant (2009)The Jane Austen book sleuth is happy to inform Janeites that many Austen inspired books are heading our way in September, so keep your eyes open for these new titles.  

Fiction (prequels, sequels, retellings, variations, or Regency inspired) 

According To Jane, by Marilyn Brant 

Here is a bright new face on the Austen sequel/inspiration market. In this contemporary novel, Jane Austen’s ghost inhabits teenage Ellie Barnett’s thoughts, guiding her through all of life’s romantic and unromantic dilemmas. Since we all know that Auntie Jane never steered any of her heroines in the wrong direction, Ellie has excellent advice, or does she?  (Publisher’s description) It begins one day in sophomore English class, just as Ellie Barnett’s teacher is assigning Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice”. From nowhere comes a quiet ‘tsk’ of displeasure. The target: Sam Blaine, the cute bad boy who’s teasing Ellie mercilessly, just as he has since kindergarten. Entirely unbidden, as Jane might say, the author’s ghost has taken up residence in Ellie’s mind, and seems determined to stay there. Jane’s wise and witty advice guides Ellie through the hell of adolescence and beyond, serving as the voice she trusts, usually far more than her own. Years and boyfriends come and go – sometimes a little too quickly, sometimes not nearly fast enough. But Jane’s counsel is constant, and on the subject of Sam, quite insistent. Stay away, Jane demands. He is your Mr. Wickham. Still, everyone has something to learn about love – perhaps even Jane herself. And lately, the voice in Ellie’s head is being drowned out by another, urging her to look beyond everything she thought she knew and seek out her very own, very unexpected, happy ending. Kensington. ISBN: 978-0758234612 

Darcy and Anne, by Judith Brocklehurst (2009)Darcy and Anne: It is a truth universally acknowledged that Lady Catherine will never find a husband for Anne, by Judith Brocklehurst

Another Pride and Prejudice sequel which I am I happy to say is focused on the emancipation of Miss Anne de Bourgh, a minor character who sorely deserved a make-over. (Publisher’s description) It is a truth universally acknowledged that Lady Catherine will never find a husband for Anne. When a fortuitous accident draws Anne away from Rosings and her overbearing mother’s direct influence, she is able to think and act for herself for the first time ever. In the society of her cousins Darcy and Georgiana, and, of course, the lively Mrs. Darcy, Anne reveals a talent for writing and a zest for life. Meanwhile, Lady Catherine is determined to choose a husband for Anne. But now that Anne has found her courage, she may not be so easy to rule. Anne de Bourgh is a sympathetic character whose obedience and meekness were expected of women in her day. As she frees herself from these expectations, Anne discovers strength, independence, and even true love in a wonderfully satisfying coming-of-age story. Sourcebooks Landmark. ISBN: 978-1402224386

Murder at Longbourn, by Tracy Kiely (2009)Murder at Longbourn: A Mystery, by Tracy Kiely 

Ready for a cozy mystery with a Pride and Prejudice theme? This debut novel by Tracy Kiely just might do the trick. Set in contemporary Cape Code, her Elizabeth Parker is as clever, witty and spirited as Jane Austen’s original Lizzy Bennet, but in addition to dealing with her love life, she is in the throws of a murder. (Publisher’s description) Planning New Year’s resolutions to rid her life of all things unhealthy, Elizabeth Parker has dumped fatty foods, processed sugar, and her two-timing boyfriend. Indeed, the invitation to join her Aunt Winnie for a How to Host a Murder Party on New Year’s Eve at Winnie’s new Cape Cod B and B comes just in time. But when the local wealthy miser ends up the unscripted victim, Elizabeth must unearth old secrets and new motives in order to clear her beloved aunt of suspicion. The suspects include the town gossip, a haughty rich woman, and an antiques business owner much enamored of his benefactress, a Mrs. Kristell Dubois. If that isn’t bad enough, Elizabeth must also contend with her childhood nemesis, Peter McGowan—a man she suspects has only matured in chronological years—and her suspicions about his family’s interest in Winnie’s inn. Minotaur Books. ISBN: 978-0312537562 

Darcy's Temptations, by Regina Jeffers (2009)Darcy’s Temptation: A Sequel to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, by Regina Jeffers 

Ah, Mr. Darcy. We can never get enough of him. In this creative Pride and Prejudice sequel, Darcy has lost his memory and has an adventure without Lizzy. Oh my! (Publisher’s description) By changing the narrator, Darcy’s Temptation turns one of the most beloved literary love affairs of all time on its head, even as it presents new plot twists and fresh insights into the characters’ personalities and motivations. The author faithfully applies Jane Austen’s fun-to-read style, suspenseful narrative, and sardonic humor to her own imaginative tale of romantic entanglements and social intrigue. Four months into the new marriage, all seems well when Elizabeth discovers she is pregnant. However, a family conflict that requires Darcy’s personal attention arises because of Georgiana’s involvement with an activist abolitionist. On his return journey from a meeting to address this issue, a much greater danger arises. Darcy is attacked on the road and, when left helpless from his injuries, he finds himself in the care of another woman. Ulysses Press. ISBN: 978-1569757239 

My Cousin Caroline: The Pemberley Chronicles No 6, by Rebecca Collins (2009)My Cousin Caroline: The Pemberley Chronicles Book 6, by Rebecca Collins 

You’ve got to hand it to author Rebecca Collins. She is one creative and persistent Janeite pumping out Pride and Prejudice continuations in rapid fire. Actually, she wrote the ten book series over several years. We are just now fortunate to have international publication through Sourcebooks. My Cousin Caroline is the sixth filly out of the gate in The Pemberley Chronicles series. (Publisher’s description) Mr. Darcy’s cousin Colonel Fitzwilliam and Elizabeth’s cousin Caroline Gardiner take center stage. The daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner, Caroline develops from a pretty young girl into a woman of intelligence and passion, embodying some of Austen’s own values. Mr. Darcy, Elizabeth, Jane, Mr. and Mrs. Bennett, and the Wickham’s all move through the story as Caroline falls in love, marries, and raises her children. Caroline rejects the role of a compliant Victorian wife and mother, instead becoming a spirited and outspoken advocate of reformist causes in spite of the danger of scandal. Caroline’s advocacy of reform, undaunted by criticism, demonstrates strength in a time when a woman’s role was severely restricted. Sourcebooks Landmark. ISBN: 978-1402224317 

Waiting for Mr. Darcy, by Chamein Canton (2009)Wating for Mr. Darcy, by Chamein Canton 

The description of this book just made me smile. For all you ladies of a certain age waiting for Mr. Darcy to knock on your door, this book will both charm and inspire you. The author’s advice – “Open your eyes and your heart. He may be closer than you think.” (Publisher’s description) Three friends over forty still wait for Prince Charming in the form of their favorite Austen character, Mr. Darcy. Not quite ready to turn in their hot chick cards for the hot flashes of menopause, they’d like to find a man who is charming, smug, intelligent and cute to share the primes of their lives with (even if one of them doesn’t know she’s looking). Together they navigate this brave forty-plus world and find out that Mr. Darcy is closer than they think. Genesis Press. ISBN: 978-1585713516 

Austen’s Oeuvre 

Jane Austen: The Complete Novels (Collector's Library Edition) 2009Jane Austen: The Complete Novels (Collector’s Library Editions), by Jane Austen, illustrated by Hugh Thomson 

Oh yum! 720 pages of all Austen all the time and with colorized Hugh Thomson illustrations. What greedy Janeite could ask for more? (Publisher’s description) This title includes more than two hundred full colour illustrations by Hugh Thomson. All Jane Austen’s novels are presented in one volume. It features Jane Austen’s romantic world captured by her finest illustrator, Hugh Thomson. It also includes Thomson’s beautiful and evocative illustrations hand-coloured by Barbara Frith, one of Britain’s finest colourists. Barbara Frith’s renderings of Hugh Thomson’s illustrations have won the approval and commendation of both Jane Austen’s House Museum at Chawton and The Jane Austen Centre in Bath. This title contains extended biographical note and accompanying bibliography. It is presented in page size 270mm X 210mm; 720 pages; printed laminated case and dust jacket. CRW Publishing Limited. ISBN: 978-1905716630 

Nonfiction 

Reading Jane Austen, by Mona Scheuermann (2009)Reading Jane Austen, by Mona Scheuermann 

I just love Austen scholars. They keep pumping out treatise after treatise in the pursuit of the Holy Grail of Austen scholarship. This one springs from Austen as a moral barometer of her times. Jane Austen’s grand niece Mary Augusta Austen-Leigh wrote a biography of her great aunt admonishing those who thought Austen’s novels were written as moral lessons. Best that she avert her eyes on this one. (Publisher’s description) Reading Jane explores Mansfield Park, Pride and Prejudice, Emma, and Persuasion against their historical and cultural backdrop to show precisely how Jane Austen sets out the core themes of British morality in her novels. Austen’s period was arguably the most socially and politically tumultuous in England’s history, and by replacing the novels in this remarkable era, Scheuermann sharply defines Austen’s view of the social contract. Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN: 978-0230618770 

Austen’s Contemporaries 

A Simple Story (Oxford World's Classics), by Elizabeth Inchbald (2009)A Simple Story (Oxford World’s Classics), by Elizabeth Inchbald 

Elizabeth Inchbald, née Simpson (1753 – 1821) was an English novelist, actress, and dramatist who may be most famously remembered for her play Lover’s Vows which Jane Austen featured in her novel Mansfield Park. Both ladies wrote during the same time period, but their personalities and lifestyles appear complete opposites of each other. Austen lived quietly in the country and wrote about the country gentry she experienced, while Inchbald was an active performing actress touring Great Britain, writing plays and novels gently influenced by her radical political beliefs and desire of personal independence. A Simple Story is one of two novels she wrote. (Publisher’s description) When Miss Milner announces her passion for her guardian, a Catholic priest, she breaks through the double barrier of his religious vocation and 18th-century British society’s standards of proper womanly behavior. Like other women writers of her time, Elizabeth Inchbald concentrates on the question of a woman’s “proper education,” and her sureness of touch and subtlety of characterization prefigure Jane Austen’s work. Oxford University Press USA. ISBN: 978-0199554720 

Lord Byron Selected Poetry (Oxford World's Classics), by Lord Byron (2009)Lord Byron Selected Poetry (Oxford World’s Classics), by Lord Byron 

“I have read Corsair, mended my petticoat, & have nothing else to do.” Jane Austen in a letter to her sister Cassandra, 8 March 1814 

George Gordon Byron, 6th Baron Byron, of Rochdale, (1788 – 1824) was a British poet and a prominent figure in the Romantic Movement. It is no surprise that Jane Austen mentions reading The Corsair in an 1814 letter to her sister Cassandra. As a writer also strongly interested in poetry, she would be keenly interested in new works. Byron was wildly acclaimed as a poet and scandalous social figure. His reputation as “mad, bad and dangerous to know” came from his well publicized affair in 1812 with the married Lady Caroline Lamb. Austen would later mention Lord Byron along with Mr. Scott in her novel Persuasion, as an example of superior writers when her characters Anne Elliot and Captain Benwick discuss literature and poetry. This reprint of his selected poetry by Oxford was edited, introduced, and noted by Jerome J. McGann, John Stewart Bryan Professor of English, University of Virginia. (Publisher’s description) Lord Byron was a legend in his own lifetime and the dominant influence on the Romantic movement. His early fame came in 1812 after the publication of Childe Harold. Relishing humor and irony, daring and flamboyancy, sarcasm and idealism, his work encompasses a sweeping range of topics, subjects, and models, embracing the most traditional and the most experimental poetic forms. This selection of Byron’s works includes such masterpieces as The Corsair, Manfred, Bebbo, Don Juan and Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage. Oxford University Press, USA. ISBN: 978-0199538782 

Movie Adaptations 

Sense and Sensibility, BBC Miniseries (1971)Sense and Sensibility (1971) 

This elusive and never before aired in the US miniseries of Sense and Sensibility produced by the BBC in 1971 will be available on DVD on September 29th. Staring Joanna David (Mrs. Gardiner in P&P 95) as Elinor Dashwood and Ciaran Madden as Marianne Dashwood, this three hour miniseries should be a treat for Austen enthusiast in the US who have only heard tales of its existence. Its reappearance on the video scene now requires a re-numbering of Sense and Sensibility movie adaptations, since the 1981 version had been considered the first available – with no hope that this could ever resurface. Now, if the 1967 BBC Pride and Prejudice miniseries pops out of the vault, the fan numbering system will have to be re-mastered also. Special features include: Audio Commentary, deleted Scenes, interviews, outtakes and photo gallery. BBC Warner. UPC: 883929081202 

Until next month, happy reading! 

Laurel Ann