Can Jane set to work to solve a deadly murder, when the murderer may be playing a gentlemanly game of his own?
Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5
As I post this last review for “The Twelve Days of Jane,” I want to take the time to thank all of my readers, the JAFF authors and the shop owners who made this event so rewarding. Thank you for all your comments and discussions, as they make the blog come alive with your thoughts and feelings, which for me is a large part of my vision for this blog. I also hope the vignettes written exclusively for our readers have been gifts that every reader has cherished throughout this event. Also, remember that to be eligible for a chance to win a Glam Glow skin treatment, valued at $69.00, you need to leave a comment on one post for every day of this event, between the dates of December 1-12, 2015 and have a U.S. mailing address. Good luck to all of our readers in our generous giveaways!
Author Stephanie Barron has become well-known for her Jane Austen mystery series, where she writes tightly crafted mysteries that take place during Austen’s lifetime, and Jane Austen herself has been transformed into a clever sleuth. The series is also praised by Oprah Magazine, and is part of a list titled, “Mysteries Every Thinking Woman Should Read.”
This was the first book I have read in this series, and I plan to go back and read some more of these titles. The series was recommended to me by fellow readers, and they also suggested that this book could be enjoyed as a stand-alone read. I decided to listen to the Audible version of this audiobook, which I must say had a terrific narrator’s voice, one that truly allowed me to feel transported into Jane Austen’s mind, as well as her world.
Another thing that helped me really envision the story’s setting was an article recently published by Joana Starnes, a popular JAFF author, who recently shared a tour of The Vyne, which is the English estate that serves as the primary setting for this mystery. To read this article and learn more about this grand estate during Austen’s lifetime, click the link below: http://austenauthors.net/the-country-house-tour-the-vyne/
As we begin the story, which takes place during the Christmas Eve of 1814 and we traverse through the English countryside with Jane, her sister Cassandra and their mother, we learn that the Austen family is planning to reunite with each other, as well as some friends for the upcoming Christmas season. When the coach sent to convey them the last few miles to their brother James’ home has an unfortunate accident, throwing the ladies to the floor of the car, they are rescued by the an intriguing man named Raphael West.
After visiting her brother’s family at their childhood home at the Stevenson Parsonage, the group is invited to spend the holidays at The Vyne, where the politically active, wealthy and well-connected Chute family live. Raphael West also happens to be among the invited guests who are also visiting the residents of The Vyne.
William Chute, an older gentleman who has served in Parliament for two decades, and his considerably younger wife, Eliza Chute, are the friendly and gregarious hosts of The Vyne. They’ve invited several guests to come together for the twelve days of Christmas celebrations.
As the guests settle in, playing games and enjoying meals together, a young naval officer, serving as a courier for the Crown, on his way to London to deliver the signed Treaty of Ghent, is found dead on the Chute’s property. Always the sleuth, Austen gathers some clues from the area and sets to solve the mystery as to why someone at The Vyne would need to commit this murder.
I loved the historical information weaved into the mystery, as we learn that Napoleon has been banished to Elba. Along with that, the war with America seems to be bringing good news to the front. Therefore, Jane has a hard time imagining why the Treaty of Ghent was stolen from the murder scene and what reasons the killer had to take it in the first place. As she quietly pursues her investigation, she uncovers that several of the guests, including the alluring artist Raphael West, have some pretty mysterious secrets of their own. Now, Jane needs to find a way to connect the clues together to solve this murder.
Stephanie Barron has done a brilliant job combining research gathered about this era, from Ms. Austen’s biographies, letters and other historical artifacts, to craft a story that brings Ms. Austen to life as a Regency Era author, a curious and probing sleuth and a beloved sister. As I read this story, I often felt like I was living inside of Ms. Austen’s head and I truly felt immersed into the setting of this grand English estate during the Regency Era. From what I have learned over time about Austen, Barron’s rendition felt true to Austen’s personality and about what we know regarding her relationships with certain members of her family. I loved the interactions between Jane and Cassandra, as they also reminded me a bit about how Elizabeth and Jane Bennet would’ve interacted as sisters. The great emotional bond and the tremendous respect between Jane and Cassandra was communicated through the dialogue and the actions in this story. I also loved the inclusion of certain words and their historic spellings from this time period, as they added another dimension to the historic setting in this story.
My only criticism of this book, which caused me to rate it as a 4.5, instead of a 5, was the pacing of the story. In the beginning of the book, it felt like it took a longer time than necessary to establish the background and the characters within the story. Once the murder was committed, it felt like certain events moved along at a pace that made the plot drag too slowly. Given the limited number of suspects and the outcome of the mystery, I thought the story could’ve moved at a more suspenseful pace.
For readers who are interested in learning more about hosting their own Regency Era Christmas Party, Ms. Barron has created this free ebook that discusses traditions that are specific to this time period. To purchase this free ebook, please click the following link:
To read the article from Oprah magazine that includes the article referenced in this review, click the following link:
It’s my pleasure to offer a hard copy version of this book at one lucky Just Jane 1813 reader. This giveaway is made possible by a generous Just Jane 1813 reader, named Kim, who contacted me to offer this giveaway. In the true spirit of the holiday season, I am opening this final giveaway of this blog event to all of our readers. It’s such an honor to know I have such thoughtful and generous blog readers who are willing to share their love for Jane Austen in such wonderful ways. Please leave a comment on this post by December 15th. All giveaway winners will be announced on this blog by December 16, 2015.