Can Jane determine the significance of a watercolour map of Waterloo before more lives are lost?
Rating: 5 stars out of 5
Source: I received an ARC of this book from the author for a fair and honest review of this book.
Last December, I had the pleasure to read and review my first book in the series, “Being a Jane Austen Mystery,” by Stephanie Barron, which was the 12th book in this series, titled “Jane and the Twelve Days of Christmas.” When I learned that her next book was soon being published, “Jane and the Waterloo Map,” I was thrilled to join the blog tour for this latest publication.
Once again, from the very first pages, I was transported 200 years back in time, and there I was in Jane Austen’s London of 1815, and this time, I found myself standing in Jane’s rather damp and wet feet, and “thoroughly drenched” as she’s entering Carlton House, where she has been asked to “discuss” the dedication to her upcoming publication, “Emma.” Before she is able to finish her conversation with the Prince’s Librarian and Chaplain, James Stanier Clarke, she finds herself attending to a British soldier named Colonel McFarland, as he is gasping for his final breaths. His barely audible parting words, “Waterloo Map” are spoken to Jane and lead her to wonder about the significance of these final words.
As a lady of tremendous wit and introspection, Jane’s mind begins to speculate about the soldier’s words, and when the contents of her handkerchief, which she had used to assist McFarland, contain a possible clue to his shocking death, she finds herself about to be tangled up in solving a new murder mystery. When she continues to unravel the various clues in her path, she must ask herself if she is truly willing to pursue her suspicions, even when it becomes apparent that tremendous danger may lie ahead for her and her love ones.
While Jane resides in London spending time on a visit with her dear brother Henry Austen, she finds herself dividing her time between nursing Henry back to help, proofing her book “Emma” for its first publication through her collaboration with her new publisher, John Murray, and attempting to answer a myriad of questions left in the wake of McFarland’s death. Events in the story soon have her reestablishing her prior friendship with the British painter, Raphael West, who we met in her last book, and before long, they are working as a team to determine their role in solving McFarland’s death, as well as their duty to warn the Prince about possible threats to his own safety.
As Henry’s health continues to fluctuate during this period of time, he is also joined by his niece, Fanny Knight, and together with Jane, the trio spend their time attending to a variety of tasks, while West and Henry’s doctor, Mr. Haden, provide them with companionship during their visits to Henry’s home at 23 Hans Place, London. As Fanny eagerly becomes drawn into helping Austen and West work together to solve this mystery, we see glimmers of the infamous Austen wit and character shining through Fanny’s own actions. Jane and West soon find themselves navigating their way through a cast of characters who appear genuinely wounded by McFarland’s death; yet are their wounds suffered as a result of remorse or are these injuries sustained as a result of jealousy and greed?
I found the mystery in this book more compelling than in her last book, as I felt that Barron gave us a bit more intrigue and suspense here, rather than more of the particulars of this time period. Each chapter left me wanting more, and I found myself reading longer than I had planned at each sitting just to quench my desire to solve this mystery. The historical information that guides us through the story’s events and provides the story it’s various settings, kept me engaged with the text well after I closed the covers on this book. (I made a Pinterest board just for this book, which is a collection of all of the images and websites that the book inspired me to visit.)
The interactions between the characters provided another layer of enjoyment. How can one not love witnessing Jane spending time with her beloved brother Henry, especially when it has always been Henry who has helped her nurture and sustain her art during a time when most women would not dare to pursue a career in writing novels?
I found her niece Fanny to be clever and amusing, while she also added to the book’s humor and cheekiness. It was poignant and bittersweet imagining that Jane’s own life guided Fanny to make certain decisions regarding her own future.
Mr. West’s relationship with Jane also took us through numerous emotions. After their experiences together at The Vyne during Barron’s last book, we get a sense that Jane is still sketching West’s character and that the gentleman certainly does improve upon further acquaintance. However, while we are aware of Jane’s own deepening regard for West, what can we discern about his own feelings towards her? Is the future author of “Persuasion” about to get her own chance at romantic love?
Although my initial journey into reading Jane Austen Fan Fiction started with my desire to spend more time with the haughty Mr. Darcy and the irreverent Elizabeth Bennet, Barron’s series has granted to her readers the rare gift of spending time with Jane Austen through books that read not only like mysteries, yet also like out-of-body experiences, where the reader feels an affinity with Austen that is incomparable to anything else I have had the pleasure of reading. This remarkable work is accomplished through Barron’s masterful construction of dialogue and narration that reads with a well honed authenticity and an established authority that has been acquired throughout her skillful practice during the writing of this series. Her cleverly inserted nods to my favorite Austen book made me love this story even more!
We will never truly know who Jane Austen was, but after reading Barron’s two last books, I have a really good sense that she has astutely filled in the gaps left from Jane’s all too brief life, in a manner that honors the woman, the writer, and the sister, who brought to us deliciously complex and insightful characters that not only have stirred our very souls for over two centuries, but who have compelled us to live better lives. For all of this, I can only thank Ms. Barron and her muse, the immortal Jane Austen.
As a footnote to my readers, I have two points I want to share with you. First, please know this is a series that I have enjoyed jumping into at book #12, and I will go back soon to book #1, and start the series at the beginning. Yet, I feel you could easily try either approach. Second, the narrator for these audiobooks is an absolute favorite of mine. Therefore, there are quite a few ways for you to enter into this delightful series. Enjoy!
For Jane Austen fans, this book is also well-timed with the 200 year anniversary of “Emma,” which occurred two hundred years ago in England in 1815 and in 1816 in the United States.
To add this book to your shelves, check out the links below:
Early Praise for Barron’s Book:
“A well-crafted narrative with multiple subplots drives Barron’s splendid 13th Jane Austen mystery. Series fans will be happy to see more of Jane’s extended family and friends, and Austenites will enjoy the imaginative power with which Barron spins another riveting mystery around a writer generally assumed to have led a quiet and uneventful life.” — Publishers Weekly, Starred Review
“Writing in the form of Jane’s diaries, Barron has spun a credible tale from a true encounter, enhanced with meticulous research and use of period vocabulary.”
“Barron, who’s picked up the pace since Jane and the Twelve Days of Christmas, portrays an even more seasoned and unflinching heroine in the face of nasty death and her own peril.” — Kirkus Reviews
“Barron deftly imitates Austen’s voice, wit, and occasional melancholy while spinning a well-researched plot that will please historical mystery readers and Janeites everywhere. Jane Austen died two years after the events of Waterloo; one hopes that Barron conjures a few more adventures for her beloved protagonist before historical fact suspends her fiction.” — Library Journal
Stephanie Barron was born in Binghamton, New York, the last of six girls. She attended Princeton and Stanford Universities, where she studied history, before going on to work as an intelligence analyst at the CIA. She wrote her first book in 1992 and left the Agency a year later. Since then, she has written fifteen books. She lives and works in Denver, Colorado. Learn more about Stephanie and her books at her website, visit her on Facebook and Goodreads.
I’ve loved following the blog tour for this book. The posts have been wonderful and for Austen fans, the history that Stephanie shares is such an inspiring treat for readers!
I was so inspired by the history in this story, that I created a Pinterest board, titled, “Jane and the Waterloo Map,” where you can visit the places that Stephanie takes us to throughout this story.
Take a look for yourself at the tour shown below from February 2 through February 22, 2016. There’s a fabulous giveaway contest, including copies of Ms. Barron’s book and other Jane Austen-themed items, which are open to those who join the festivities.
JANE AND THE WATERLOO MAP BLOG TOUR SCHEDULE:
February 02 My Jane Austen Book Club (Guest Blog)
February 03 Laura’s Reviews (Excerpt)
February 04 A Bookish Way of Life (Review)
February 05 The Calico Critic (Review)
February 06 So Little Time…So Much to Read (Excerpt)
February 07 Reflections of a Book Addict (Spotlight)
February 08 Mimi Matthews Blog (Guest Blog)
February 09 Jane Austen’s World (Interview)
February 10 Just Jane 1813 (Review)
February 11 Confessions of a Book Addict (Excerpt)
February 13 My Jane Austen Book Club (Interview)
February 14 Living Read Girl (Review)
February 14 Austenprose (Review)
February 15 Mystery Fanfare (Guest Blog)
February 16 Laura’s Reviews (Review)
February 17 Jane Austen in Vermont (Excerpt)
February 18 From Pemberley to Milton (Interview)
February 19 More Agreeably Engaged (Review)
February 20 Babblings of a Bookworm (Review)
February 21 A Covent Garden Gilflurt’s Guide to Life (Guest Blog)
February 22 Diary of an Eccentric (Review)
Grand Giveaway Contest
Win One of Three Fabulous Prizes
In celebration of the release of Jane and the Waterloo Map, Stephanie is offering a chance to win one of three prize packages filled with an amazing selection of Jane Austen-inspired gifts and books!
To enter the giveaway contest, simply leave a comment on any or all of the blog stops on Jane and the Waterloo Map Blog Tour starting February 02, 2016 through 11:59 pm PT, February 29, 2016. Winners will be drawn at random from all of the comments and announced on Stephanie’s website on March 3, 2016. Winners have until March 10, 2016 to claim their prize. Shipment is to US addresses. Good luck to all!
Connect with Stephanie
- Twitter handles: @SBarronAuthor; @Soho_Press
- Twitter hashtags: #WaterlooBlogTour, #JaneAusten, #HistoricalMystery, #RegencyMystery, #Reading, #AustenesqueMystery #Austenesque #Giveaway