Being the 11th Jane Austen Mystery.  Stephanie Barron is truly gifted.  She adroitly weaves Jane Austen's letters and papers into a compelling account of "what if?" and "what might have happened?"  After 11 mysteries, I am still in awe of Ms. Barron's ability to keep me interested.   And I am one who never before finding the Jane Austen Mystery Series, would have ever picked up a Jane Austen novel!  I have become a neophyte of the Regency period.

Jane and the Canterbury Tale is number 11 in the series.  It is towards the end of October, 1813.  Jane is staying at Godersham, her brother Edward's home in Kent.  5 years have passed since he lost the love of his life, Elizabeth, to death in childbirth.  His eldest daughter, Fanny, has been the mistress of the house, trying to grow up herself as she attends to the needs of the household and her younger siblings. 

Nearby at Chilham Castle, home to the Wildman family, the Godersham entourage spend some time on social calls.  The marriage of Adelaide Thorn Fiske to Captain Andrew MacCallister is occasion for the families and others to come together for a grand ball.  Adelaide is cousin to the Wildman's.  Along with her brother Julian and their mother Augusta Thane, Adelaide has been staying at Chilham Castle for some time before the wedding.  It is the ball celebrating Adelaide's marriage to Captain MacCallister where events leading to murder begin to unfold.

The Pilgrim's Way, the road leading to Canterbury, is the dividing line between Godersham and Chilham.  Pilgrims on a journey to Canterbury to see the final resting place of Saint Sir Thomas a Becket, frequently travel this lane.  Typically, they may be travel weary and look the part.  In addition to this main path, there is a side path that joins the main.  This side path leads to a small family church (where Elizabeth is buried).  On this path is where the murder victim is discovered.  Initially, he is believed to be merely a tradesman, just another pilgrim cut down on his way.  As he is discovered by a shooting party, it is feared one of their shots may be the means of the man's death.  Very soon, however, he is identified as the assumed-to-be-dead husband of Adelaide MacCallister.  Thus begins the real untangling of the great web woven several years prior.  No fear, Jane is at the ready, prepared to assist her brother Edward, now acting in his duty as magistrate. 

With the reading of this novel, I am now caught up in the series.  Starting back in January of this year (2011) with the very first, Jane and the Unpleasantness at Scargrave Manor (I love the use of "unpleasantness" in that title-how very proper.  Of course murder would be most unpleasant for the victim!), I have observed the changes in Jane as she lived and learned life's tough lessons.  She has seen loved ones depart this world, her economic circumstances fluctuate, made new friends and acquaintances and developed her sleuthing skills (as well as writing a novel or two).  All of these experiences have profoundly effected her views and attitudes on life.  Those views and attitudes are reflected in her very real letters.  The questions about Jane's life arising from those letters are given answers by Stephanie Barron through this series.

I hope it is not a long wait for the next installment.

Another summer,

another Mission Trip. As in the past, it was hot, hot, hot!  And humid!  We had one day with the heat index around 115 degrees.  I cannot remember having ever experienced heat like that.  It really zaps your energy.  One group was working to replace a roof.  They had to stop working by 10:30 a.m.  I sure appreciated the air conditioning and cold water that day!

Our trip took us back down to coastal South Carolina, just south of Charleston on the Sea Islands.  This year our base was in Hollywood, S.C. at the Wesley Memorial Methodist Church.  Rural Missions, Inc. is the agency that organizes the mission groups that go to the area to serve.  What a blessing the people of Rural Missions are to those residing in the region.  Some families wait a long time for repairs to be made to their homes (or in some cases, a whole new home), but when it happens, they couldn't be happier. 

Our work assignments found groups painting indoors and out, prepping window frames for new windows and as mentioned above, replacing a roof.  The first work day had us all getting rained out (except the indoor paint job).  Unfortunately, the roofers already had a large portion of the roof exposed and ending up replacing drywall the next day!  We saw first hand how quickly a downpour will create a lake around a home.  The water table is so close to the surface, it doesn't take long for water to build up.  The home I was at quickly became an island itself!

We were successful completing most of the work this week.  The roofers went as far as they could-it was a large roofing job.  The homeowners praised God for our willingness to stick out the heat and humidity to help them.  I am just so glad that God continues to gives us the means and the strength to serve Him in this way. 



Painting.  That's the final color.

Recycling salvaged hardwood flooring.

A little down time at the beach.  It's not ALL work.  We do get some play!

A bit of sanding before painting.  Messy job!

Maybe a little too much fun....?

Our group minus 2 (they had to leave us a day early).  What a great bunch of people!!  Glad to live with all of you for a whole week!


Being the 10th Jane Austen Mystery by Stephanie Barron. Jane meets up with another rogue, only this one is hardly a gentleman. Lord Byron and Jane cross paths and despite the initially disturbing circumstances, Jane finds him alluring. Byron is quite handsome and captivating. His way with words makes him all the more appealing and fascinating to Jane.

Jane and her dear brother Henry come across Lord Byron as they travel to Brighton (that place where Lydia Bennet escapes in Pride and Prejudice). The two are in search of some time away from responsibilities and mourning following the death of the beloved Eliza (after a painful illness-sounds like cancer). Brighton is not exactly a quiet, out-of-the-way place, but decidely an Eliza kind of town. It is along this road to Brighton that the infamous encounter with Byron occurs.

Byron, the scoundrel, has kidnapped a young girl from Brighton, binding her hands and gagging her mouth. This beautiful young maid later turns up dead at the inn Byron has recently vacated, in the very bed he slept in, no less. Her death is immediately blamed on Byron. Jane, however, believes the man to have been framed and sets out to find the truth.

Jane, not being one of the aristocratic class, relies on Henry's banking connections to gain access to those who will have the answers to her queries. With her admittance to the social events of Brighton, we learn that Byron is not the only rogue in town. Perhaps not even as much as a rogue as first impressions lead us to believe. Other men of the ton are vying for most roguish character alongside Byron.

In a previous post, I expressed my sadness that the series may be ending sooner than I would like. Jane's encounter with Lord Byron takes place in spring of 1813, just 4 years prior to Jane's death. The books have been a real treat. I pick up the next as soon as I complete one. At some point, Ms. Barron will reach the end of Jane's "journals". Having read her other works, I am sure she will find more inspiration to keep us reading.


Being the 9th Jane Austen Mystery, by Stephanie Barron. Wowee! I have learned more about London society in the early 19th century than I expected in this installment in the series.

It is nearly 2 years since the Austen ladies have moved to Chawton. Jane has left Chawton for London to stay with her brother Henry and his wife Eliza, the Comtesse de Feuillide, while her book (newly named Sense and Sensibility) is being printed. She is there to be closer to the publisher in order to edit pages as they are printed. It is quite a task to take longhand prose and change it to printed word. She expects the whole process to take about a month. Her stay coincides with the London Season, a season in springtime for the gentry to see and be seen in the very fashionable city of London. Young ladies arrive from their country estates for their “coming out” during this time. It is a time of intense socialization amongst the ton (the wealthy class).

Amidst the soap opera drama this season unfailingly brings about, murder most foul is committed. Jane is soon to quit London and head back to the simplicity of Chawton. The death is ruled a suicide, but not before the press smears the name of a prominent political figure, the very real Lord Charles Castlereagh. The body of the beauty is laid upon his doorstep. Although the death is ruled suicide, Jane and Eliza are accused of perpetrating the deed owing to events that imply their involvement. Lord Castlereagh hires a runner (bondsman) to seek out the two and discover their connection, pin the murder on them and clear his name. Jane, ever the negotiator, convinces the runner to allow herself and Eliza to remain free if she can produce the real murderer in a week’s time. He grants Jane the time, though not out of compassion. His goal is simply to supply a plausible murderer and restore Lord Castlereagh’s character.

Jane’s investigation takes her throughout some of the more interesting sites of 19th century London. Apparently, men of means not only flaunted their wealth and power through liaisons with beautiful young women (some barely women and certainly not by today’s standards), but were expected to do so. The young women did all they could to secure a man of fortune and to have “carte blanche”, to be “kept,” as a mistress. Her prosperous beau would give her a home, a wardrobe, servants, anything she desired in exchange for the satisfaction of his physical wants. These “ladies” have many nicknames, one of which is “barque of frailty.” One young woman in particular gains the attentions of Jane as an object of suspicion.

Lord Harold, although missed (not just by Jane mind you. What a great character!), does continue to play a role in the mysteries that are drawn to Jane as a moth to the flame (poor Jane. Nowhere can she rest without a murder being committed!). Lord Harold’s associations of the past are links Jane puts to good use as she works to save herself and Eliza from the hangman’s noose. We meet Lord Hastings, a gentleman who figured prominently during Lord Harold’s time away from England as a young man. Hastings holds an important bit of the puzzle. Jane, sly as she is, expertly retrieves the fragment.

As she has throughout, Ms. Barron keeps me guessing. Just when it seems I have it all figured out, she leads me down another route to the real and logical conclusion. I will be sad when we reach the end of Jane’s detecting days.


Being the 8th Jane Austen Mystery, by Stephanie Barron. We parted from Jane and family in early November 1808 and now find them once again moved and it is early June 1809. Edward Austen has given them a free-hold cottage in Chawton, Hampshire, part of his estate. In general, the people of Chawton are not altogether welcoming (one even lays claim to be the “true heir” to the Knight family in contest to Edward’s inheritance), but Jane, Cassandra and their mother pay no mind. The cottage formerly housed the town bailiff and his wife. Shortly after the passing of the bailiff, Edward “evicted” the man’s wife, instigating feelings of less than good will toward the Austen family. The coldness directed toward the Austens fails to dissuade the family from settling into their new country life.

Not all neighbours are unneighbourly. The Proutings and Middletons welcome the Austens warmly to Chawton. Mr. Prouting proves himself to be invaluable once the murder victim of this installment is discovered. As the magistrate of the village, it is he who works in conjunction with Jane to find the murderer. And although Lord Harold is no longer physically amongst the living, his presence strongly figures and is key to the motive.

It turns out the Gentleman Rogue was in the habit of preserving all of his correspondence and writings. It is apparent from the coldness Jane receives (or hears about) that his personal papers are of more value to many of his relations, close friends and especially enemies of said persons than any monetary holdings Lord Harold left behind. Knowing Jane’s writing abilities (and his high regard for her mental gymnastics), Jane is the one to whom his papers are bequeathed. Jane is now in possession of a prize many want for themselves for fear of what the prize may reveal or to perhaps reveal the contents themselves. It is a prize worth murder. It is so valuable, a search for it is undertaken before the Austens even move into their new home with murder as the end result!

Through her uncanny ability to unravel the tangled mess of a murder mystery, Jane saves her family from a life of isolation in the village of Chawton. A simple quiet life for Jane and family is in store.

In this installment, Ms. Barron employs a device previously used in JANE AND THE STILLROOM MAID. Excerpts from the "Stillroom Book" concluded most chapters. This time around, we are given glimpses into Lord Harold’s life as a younger man in the letters to his mother (as a school boy) and later in life in letters to his close associates (we even learn of a scandal of a personal nature). Through the letters, some holes are filled in. These letters give more depth to the character that is Lord Harold Trowbridge.

Ms. Barron has succeeded once again in keeping her audience enraptured.


Being the 7th Jane Austen Mystery, by Stephanie Barron. Jane, Cassandra and Mrs. Austen have settled into their new home in Castle Square, Southampton. It is October 1808 and much has happened since we last read of Jane: Frank and Mary have moved to Portsmouth and no longer live in the apartments at Castle Square; Jane’s beloved sister, Elizabeth, wife to Edward (Neddie) has died as a result of the birth of child number 11; and the Dowager Duchess of Wilborough, Lord Harold’s mother has also passed. Jane, although an aging spinster, has much to fill her time and heart.

To add to her worries, Lord Harold, always the Gentleman Rogue, reappears after 2 years (yeah!). The passage of time has not dampened the suppressed affection between the two. The subtle hints and insinuations Jane and Lord Harold pass back and forth elicit sighs and a desire to hear the two speak forthrightly with each other (regarding their feelings, of course!). But alas, propriety and social boundaries continue to bar the would-be couple from declaring “l’amour.” More importantly, the effect, should the two submit, would be disastrous to their partnership. A marital alliance would alter Jane’s social duties and quite possibly the rapport Jane and Lord Harold (and the reader) enjoy now. So, it is better for things to remain as they are.

The war with Buonaparte continues as does Lord Harold’s service to his country. He is back in England for his mother’s funeral. Enroute to London, he stops in Southampton to keep an eye on a possible traitor to the Crown, one Mrs. Sophia Challoner. The Gentleman Rogue had fallen to her charms in Oporto, Portugal. He believes to have witnessed in her actions, a treasonous motive. Sophia left Oporto, and settled herself at Netley Lodge, her late husband’s home. Upon his undercover arrival to Southampton, Lord Harold enlists Jane to spy on Mrs. Challoner as he is known to her. He fears Mrs. Challoner may inflict serious harm to the British cause in the war against Buonaparte. Needless to say, Jane accepts. What a diversion for a dowdy spinster such as Jane!

Lord Harold has brought along with him a new valet acquired while gallivanting around the Iberian Peninsula (okay, not just gallivanting, but reports that head back to England surely imply as much!). Orlando is a man whom Lord Harold felt was wrongly sentenced to hang by the French government of Oporto. He was accused of stealing bread. Orlando serves Lord Harold out of gratitude for the saving of his life and appears to be more than ably suited to the task of serving L.H. as more than just a man-servant.

Events begin to explode soon after the arrival of Lord Harold and Sophia Challoner, literally. A 74 (a third rate ship carrying 74 guns) under construction at the dockyard is set afire. It was nearly complete after 3 years of building. The shipwright is soon discovered with his throat slit. The investigation begins. Is there a link between Mrs. Challoner and her associates’ suspicious behavior? Or is there another behind the dastardly deed?

This is my favorite installment in the Jane Austen Mysteries thus far. Jane and Lord Harold’s understanding between each other deepens. Very mysterious and peculiarly behaving characters and enigmatic events keep the pages turning. The culprit is exposed in the end with very tragic results. I am not generally one to re-read a book, but this may be one.


Being the Sixth Jane Austen Mystery, by Stephanie Barron. The Misses Austens and their mother are now removed to Southampton. Following a recuperation from whooping cough (in spite of their escape from Mr. Cooper’s ill children, Jane still managed to contract it), the ladies make their move to reside with Post Captain Frank Austen and his new (and expecting) bride, Mary. The five of them are living in rooms of an inn until their larger hired lodgings at Castle Square are ready. Their loyal servant, Jenny (with them since Lyme-see Jane and the Man of the Cloth), is with them and plays a not insignificant role in solving this book’s murder mystery.

As Frank is generally expected to be away at sea, it is only logical for his sisters and mother to find a home with him and Mary. The Misses and Mrs. Austens need a more fixed place to call home and Mary will need assistance once her confinement begins and the baby is born. All are looking forward to a more permanent home.

The character Jane Austen has been quite endearing throughout this series. She is unconventional, constantly breaking the bonds of womanhood in word and deed. Yet she still retains her femininity and revels in it. Of the six mysteries thus far, Jane and the Prisoner of Wool House opens with the best line: “Had I suffered the misfortune to be born a man…” In that one phrase, Jane reveals her pleasure in being a woman despite the encumbrances placed upon the females of our species. She may not fully agree with the social norms of her day, but she would never trade womanhood for manhood!

In Jane’s previous adventure at Derbyshire, we had a reprieve from talk of Napoleon’s war. This time around, being at Southampton and surrounded by those in, or connected to, the Royal Navy, we are just about embroiled in the war. Before the story even begins, a war crime accusation is made that affects the Austen household. Additionally, prisoners of war are being held in the Wool House (former dockside warehouse) where Jane ends up ministering to the sick French prisoners. She befriends one prisoner in particular, a man who says he is a ship’s surgeon and witnessed the alleged war crime of which Frank’s friend and peer Thomas Seagrave is accused. The Frenchman has a vital role in the unraveling of the truth. Seagrave is then later gaoled (jailed) for the murder of his accuser.

Jane has yet another close relation to convert to her way of doing things. Frank confides in Jane the particulars of the accusation and his concern for his friend. Regardless, he attempts to shield her from other details and not let her get involved. Naturally, this is in vain. Jane is hardly one to be left out (she does respect the protocol of the navy and does not press to attend Seagrave’s court-martial). Jane ends up giving counsel to Frank as he becomes Jane’s Lord Harold in solving the crimes. He goes where Jane cannot-this time it isn’t the upper classes of Lord Harold’s peers, but the seedier sections of town and the naval vessels and higher offices of the navy. Even though Frank is a member of the Royal Navy, Frank displays naiveté where none is expected from an experienced sailor. Frank is appalled at the supposition of treachery on the part of a high-ranking official. Jane compares Frank to her “cynical friend, Lord Harold Trowbridge…” calling Frank’s position as post captain, innocent. It must be a post captain is not as worldly as someone of Lord Harold’s rank and employment, or, Frank has not had much exposure to war-time conspiracies.

As for Lord Harold, he is not to be expected in Southampton. It was made clear in their parting at the end of the previous summer that their paths would not meet. Mrs. Austen and Cassandra are pleased with his absence. Jane barely mentions him at this point in her writing. Perhaps she is too occupied in securing Seagrave’s freedom and compassion for others involved to pine for him.

Being unfamiliar with the Royal Navy, I frequently found myself looking up naval terms and terms used for the different waterways around Southampton and nearby Portsmouth (some of the action takes place there as well). Ms. Barron’s physical descriptions of the land and ports and the activities occurring around them make it easy to imagine what life was like for the landlubbers and sailors (while in port) in the early 1800s. I could feel the chill of the cold February air biting through the layers Jane wrapped around her slight frame and smell the salty air. I’m not sure which I prefer better, Ms. Barron’s remarkable imagery or the stories themselves.

Referring back to the first sentence once more, Jane continues on saying, “…I should have torn myself early from the affections of my family and all the comforts of home, and thrown my fate upon the mercy of the seas.” Jane is a puzzle. She is not fond of being on the water, but embraces coastal living and braves a clandestine trip overwater. She wants the comforts and stability afforded a married woman of her station, but rather enjoys her independence that would be lacking if she were married (unless, of course, she was married to the right man ). Jane is a series of contrasts, born well before her time. In further reading of Jane’s own publications, it is amazing how well Ms. Barron is portraying Jane as a character. It is easy to imagine Jane saying and doing all that Ms. Barron has conceived.


Being the Fifth Jane Austen Mystery, by Stephanie Barron. Jane, her mother and Cassandra are off to Staffordshire to spend some time with Mr. Edward Cooper, cousin to Jane and Cassandra and rector at Fellow of All Souls. The visit is interrupted by an outbreak of whooping cough amongst the Reverend’s eight children, precipitating a journey to Bakewell, Derbyshire, escorted by Mr. Cooper. All appearances lead one to believe this to be, at long last, a true respite from the bothers of Jane’s previous travels. No noisy children, a turn in an inn, country air with long healthful walks among hill and dale; all of this is at Jane’s disposal. As usual, however, rest and an easy mind are not to be Jane’s. A fishing excursion to a quiet spot a few miles outside of Bakewell is interrupted by her discovery of the body of a gentleman (we find out very quickly it is not a man, but a woman), shot and mutilated. Thus, Jane’s vacation comes to an end as she endeavours to find the murderer. She is plunged yet again into the life of high society, partnering with her Gentleman Rogue once more, out to save the life of an innocent man.

Mr. Cooper, besides being the responsible male (responsible for Mrs. Austen, Cassandra and Jane, the delicate and fairer of the sexes), provides comic relief amid the seriousness of the murder investigation. His great joy in life is to praise God through song, as loudly as his lungs allow. Unfortunately, his voice is one not fully appreciated by discerning ears. Propriety keeps Mr. Cooper’s companions enduring his vocal outpourings of faith. Finally, an encounter with Lord Harold silences him and puts Lord Harold another rank lower in the eyes of Cassandra and Mrs. Austen (although everyone is glad of the break). Mr. Cooper is the only real male wary of Jane’s participation with the murderous affair, not only because Jane is a woman, but out of concern for what his patron will think about Mr. Cooper’s own involvement. Naturally, Jane prevails in her sleuthing (after all, she discovered the body and can’t allow an innocent to take the blame). Poor Mr. Cooper is just about cast into the shadows; many conversations pass as if he isn’t even present in the room.

Other characters introduced to us seem less inclined to keep Jane out of the investigation. Lord Harold is in Derbyshire; he has influenced their thinking. If he is able to convince gentlemen unknown to Jane or her to them, it is apparent he is well respected. Jane is merely a visitor to the region and knows absolutely no one outside of her own party. With the influence of Lord Harold and her own astute skills, she quickly reveals herself to be an asset in the investigation.

The presence of Lord Harold comes as a surprise to Jane as hers is to him. They have not seen one another since Bath the previous Christmastide (Jane and the Wandering Eye). Jane has kept tabs on him through the public journals. Stories of his political excursions and rumours of his romantic dalliances have kept Jane wondering about him. Through this admittance, she divulges how enamoured she is with him, even though he is out of her league (she frequently reminds herself of this throughout the series). Jane’s presence in Derbyshire is by chance; Lord Harold’s by design. He is paying a mourning call upon the Ducal House of Devonshire. Upon hearing Jane is near, he is inclined to see her. His niece, Lady Swithin (Desdemona of Wandering Eye), desires some time with Jane. It is interesting that Lord Harold comes to extend the invitation to Jane rather than Lady Desdemona. There could be many reasons of propriety for Lord Harold to make the call. In the course of their conversation, Jane unveils to the Gentleman Rogue that the Austens shall not return to Bath. Instead, they will go to Southampton to reside with her brother, Post Captain Frank Austen. Lord Harold reacts strongly, certainly out of surprise and perhaps a bit of disappointment. However much of a difference exists between Lord Harold and Jane’s social status (and Lord Harold’s romances. Just how strong are his feelings for Jane?), they both appear to harbor a little more than fondness towards each other. Later, Jane further reveals her adoration of Lord Harold, admiring him as a part of the beauty of the landscape (pp. 145, 149). Their parting in the end is filled with veiled affection.

The victim in this case turns out to be a woman. She was Tess Arnold, the stillroom maid at Penfolds Hall, an estate near to where she was found. The stillroom maid was responsible for food preservation. Tess concocted home remedies for a variety of ailments as well. Some called her a witch. The fact that she was found attired in the clothing of the master of the house does more harm to her reputation, even in light of the savageness committed upon her body. Ms. Barron includes excerpts from Tess Arnold’s “Stillroom Book” at the end of each chapter, sometimes a rather ironic remedy apropos to an “ailment” in the chapter.

I have finally begun reading Jane Austen’s own work. I am now able to fully appreciate the literary style used by Ms. Barron. She really is able to channel Jane and write the journals in much the same way Jane would have written. I was previously perplexed by the conversation style. There is confusion in conversation as to who is speaking when. At times, a couple of readings of a conversational passage are needed to discern the speakers. Now, becoming familiar with Jane’s style, I have found this to be pervasive throughout her own writings. Nevertheless, even having cleared that up, it continues to confuse this reader!

The Austens travels this time around take them to the Midlands of England. This is the farthest they have traveled to the north so far. The landscape is quite different from the southern portion of the nation. A web search of the area shows many places and sites worth visiting, including Chatsworth, the home of the Duke of Devonshire. Although it is somewhat altered from how it was in Jane’s time, it is still open for tours-the one way Jane expected to see Chatsworth. She saw Chatsworth as a guest of the estate, thanks to Lord Harold!


Being the Fourth Jane Austen Mystery, by Stephanie Barron. We find Jane in the last phase of mourning. 8 months have passed since Rev. Austen succumbed to illness. Jane and Cassandra are now in Kent, having a lovely visit with their brother and his family. Edward Austen-Knight welcomes his sisters to his home, Godmersham Park and his wife's childhood home, Goodnestone Farm. Their mother is staying in Hampshire. The three women could not agree on what to do with themselves, their circumstances having been drastically altered by the death of Rev. Austen. With his passing, the three will ultimately find themselves passing from relative to relative, with no real place to call home. A widow and two unmarried daughters will have very little means to care for themselves financially.

Genuis starts out with Jane proclaiming, "Accustomed from birth as she has been to the modest lot of a clergyman's daughter, Miss Austen may only witness the habits of her more materially-fortunate brethren...Unless...the more materially-fortunate brethren determine our Jane to be worthy of a little dissipation-on-loan." Once again, she is in the midst of wealth, enjoying the accoutrements and company. As much as she humbles herself and worries about her appearance amongst the fashionable, not one above her station seems to notice. In fact, throughout the series (so far), station in life has not mattered. Jane is welcomed everywhere she goes!

This time, Jane finds herself at the Canterbury Races during August Race Week. Excitement fills the air, not only for the race-meeting but for her brother Henry who owns the horse favored to win. We catch a glimpse of the victim-to-be very early on in our adventure. She is a French vixen, new to Kent, but well-known and not necessarily well-liked. Her behavior is garish, striking a man with a whip and later joining the end of the race, leaping the fence wearing a flashy red riding habit. Other men joined her, leaping the fence and racing along behind the main race (I have not found a source for spectators joining the action. Let me know if you do; I am curious about this piece of the story). The exhilirating conclusion to the race is soon replaced by the frenzy of a murder discovered. Immediately, Jane is thrust into the fray; her brother Edward is the magistrate. He knows all about Jane's previous acquaintanship with murder and eagerly welcomes her participation.

In addtion to the murder mystery, a matchmaking plot is being hatched. Not very well, either. Edward's bride, Elizabeth (Lizzy) Bridges Austen has a brother in need of a wife. Edward Bridges is an ordained clergyman. His lifestyle states otherwise. He is fond of gaming and lives a fast life. His mother and Lizzy hope to have him settled before he ruins himself and his family. Cassandra is the first to be subjected to his charms. She is spending most of the book at Goodnestone with Lizzy's mother and unmarried sisters. Jane is on hold in case Cassandra declines the marriage proposal. As Jane is expected at Goodnestone in short time, she must quickly seek out the guilty party.

Amidst the rumors of a Napoleonic invasion and the victim's scandalous behavior, the possiblity of war-time conspiracy is brought in to play. Her sudden appearance in Kent and her dealings with the men of the area are cause for suspicion. Jane has no qualms about seeking justice at all costs. She leaves no path untrod.

Ms. Barron exposes us to several well-developed characters. Through dialogue and Jane's descriptions, we really get to know the main characters in each of the mysteries. The real Jane spent so much of her life observing others; Ms. Barron carries that over into the "journals" quite well. This is a fun "peek" into Jane's life and travels.

Colonial Williamsburg Part II

Despite the length of our stay, we did not see and do everything there is to do in CW. Numerous craftsmen and women ply their trades just as the earlier citizens of Williamsburg did back in the day.

Here is the weaver's shop. Not much was happening here. They were preparing the loom for the next project. That takes many hours to prepare. Weaving, spinning, dyeing, any part of textile production took place at the weaver's shop.

The printer and bookbinder was interesting. The demonstration and talk was very informative (as are all of the trades we visited, much to our surprise).

The food is well worth the cost. We dined in Shields Tavern and Chowning's (pronounced chooning) Tavern. We knew for a family meal, it would be pricey, but as you can see, the amount of food (and the quality) deems the price not out of line.

Evening programs round out the day. We saw a witch trial and went on two ghost tours-one was a pirate tour. This picture was taken in the gaol (jail) cell where Blackbeard's pirates were held until their executions.


Being the Third Jane Austen Mystery. Poor, dear Jane Austen. A season's joyful diversions seem to be continually interrupted by murder. This time, she is at her reluctant home in Bath* during Christmastide. Under the guise of her attachment to her sister, Eliza, she attends a rout at which a man is found murdered and the grandson of the hostess, Dowager Duchess Wilborough, is found holding the murder weapon. The accused, Lord Kinsfell, is also the nephew of the Gentleman Rogue (as Jane has christened Lord Harold Trowbridge). It is under Lord Harold's direction that dear Jane has made an appearance at the rout. Jane is to keep watch over Lady Desdomona, sister to Lord Kinsfell and niece to Lord Harold. It seems the young woman has spurned one of the most eligible bachelor's of the day and he is quite put out.

As in previous adventures, Jane manages to find herself in the company of the privileged class, despite her status as a clergyman's daughter. Be that as it may, she is welcomed and even sought out for her company and willingness to pursue truth, however her methods. In an earlier volume, Jane writes, "I was not, after all, most ladies," in reference to her intermittent lapse in manners. Her new friends of the titled classes hardly seem to notice the difference in status or breaches in etiquette. However, her family is of a different mind, especially her mother and sister Cassandra. Her father does not know all the details of Jane's comings and goings, but is concerned enough to admonish her (with a wink of his eye). Attempts are made to keep her mother in the dark, usually without success. Cassandra is most certainly displeased by Jane's behavior in this lastest installment, particularly when it comes to a certain Lord Harold and the blemish on Jane's reputation his presence prompts. Nonetheless, our Dear Jane is tenacious enough to handle any supposed blight on her character.

"Deceit has ever been foreign to my nature," is a phrase penned by Jane. And yet, Jane is found employing this method time and time again as she exposes the individuals and the evidence they leave behind. Lying is an unwelcome practice; on the other hand, it achieves welcome results. Jane is not too proper to avoid employing the technique.

Although I continue to be entertained by Stephanie Barron's prose, there is one element I question. Having completed the first three mysteries, I have observed early on in each story, characters are introduced almost as an aside. These characters remain shadowy, emerging much later on in the narrative, frequently as a major player. Is this really problematic? Or maybe even unfair to those who try to solve the mystery before our heroine? Perhaps. But, taking into account we are reading Jane Austen's "lost journals", don't we all have individuals wending their way in and out of our lives, too?

Now, onward and upward! I'm off to the next installment!

*I have to include this passage: Lady Desdomona in a description of her brother, "He abhors the stupidity of Bath above all things." To which our Dear Jane replies, "A man of taste and elegance, I see."


Being the Second Jane Austen Mystery. It did not take too long to become familiar with the Georgian Era mode of speech. I breezed through this mystery, much as Jane enjoyed a few brisk sea-breezes, but hardly breezed through the twisting and turning path upon which Stephanie Barron leads us.

Our heroine, the august Miss Jane Austen, finds herself embroiled in another bit of murder and intrigue. Embarking upon what was to be a respite by the seashore, Jane and her family start their vacation out on rather shaky legs. An accident delays their arrival into the village of Lyme Regis and introduces them to an enigmatic host and his household at High Down Grange. We soon learn more about the dark master of the estate, through his own doings as well as from other suspect characters Jane comes to know.

Barron brings back to Jane's acquaintanceship a shady character. His presence is not unwelcome, to Jane and (perhaps) the reader. Is he to Jane as Captain Hastings is to Poirot? Or is the opposite true? Jane is hardly slow to see things as they are or could be, but the Era still dictates that a woman is the weaker sex. Jane scarcely submits to the male domination of her time. However, to be true, there must be a male character to call in the calvary and make the arrest. Much the same as Poirot summarily extends credit to Inspector Japp and other legitimate law enforcement officers in many cases.

One other item of note. When I am introduced to a new author, I prefer to read all works in order of publication. Sometimes the books are meant to be read in order, sometimes not. I have found that reading them in order of publication allows me to observe the evolution and growth of the writer. This particular series of books, being a series, I will definitely read in order. The series is "based" on Jane's journals and letters. Therefore, we see not just the growth of Stephanie Barron as "editor", but the maturation of Jane Austen, et alli, as characters.

Colonial Williamsburg

I am now hooked. Dress me up in long, hot skirts and serve up some Sally Lunn and braised leg of pork!

CW has been on our list of places to visit almost since the day we moved East. It took 13 years, but we finally made it! Now that we have visited, it will stay on our list of places to go (again and again and again...). We had a leisurely 6 1/2 days to spend in the Historic Triangle, thanks to hubby's work travels (thank you hotel rewards!). That was enough for our daughters, although my husband and I could have stayed longer.

The plentifulness of experiences available are incredible! Every facet of human life in the late 18th century is played out daily by the people who live and work in CW. Everything is as authentic (except where legal code demands otherwise) as historical research has revealed. All around town, artisans ply their trades, politicians and citizens have meaningful discourse over the issues of the day, ((late 1700's day) with each other and visitors) and servants and slaves attend the gentry. Nowhere will you get a better history lesson than at Colonial Williamsburg. Learn by immersion.

Important events in our nation's history are dramatized daily. Events are portrayed as the citizens of Williamsburg would have learned about them in colonial times. To see them acted out in front of you as our founders and ancestors may have experienced those events, is vastly different from reading about them or even seeing a movie portrayal. One can get a better understanding of the impassioned emotions that induced a revolution. Main acts take place on Duke of Gloucester Street while other acts are played out behind the coffee shop. Citizens of Williamsburg react to the threat of war, the glimpse of freedom from the royal government and their futures as citizens of the new United States. A reading of the Declaration of Independence starts off one day that ends with the dramatization of the march to Yorktown and Victory. Slaves, too, play a prominent role in the history lesson. We learn how they reacted to the realization that freedom from the King did not translate to freedom from slavery. All, very poignant and important to our understanding of what it took to become the United States of America.

I believe a few days in Colonial Williamsburg is worth more than a trip to Disneyworld. The educational value is worth more than the cost of a college history course. CW is the closest thing to time travel.

Being the First Jane Austen Mystery...

Having never read a single word of any Jane Austen novel, I wasn't sure what I was getting into when I spied JANE AND THE UNPLEASANTNESS AT SCARGRAVE MANOR on the library shelf. I am glad I checked it out. I am a relatively new fan of mysteries. Just over a year ago, I decided to try out Agatha Christie. My daughter's high school drama department had just completed a production of "Mousetrap" and I wanted to see how well I would like her books and stories. I have now read all of the Agatha Christie works available through our local library system and needed something more to read. On the "New" book shelf, I happened upon the 10th Jane Austen mystery by Stephanie Barron and picked it up. I am not unfamiliar with Jane Austen, just not previously a reader of her works. As a result of my enjoyment of the first "Jane" mystery (and I am well on my way through the second), I will have to read some of Jane's own works. It was a bit tough getting used to the language style and it took me a little longer than usual to complete SCARGRAVE (in comparison to my normal reading speed), but the plot was well arranged and I especially enjoyed the inclusion of footnotes. I have to say it is a mystery along the lines of the great Agatha Christie, with many colorful characters and twists and turns. I believe the sleuthing Jane Austen and Hercule Poirot or Miss Marple would get along famously. Barron does an excellent job.

The Jane Austen Mysteries

I intend to read all 11-starting with number one, Jane and the Unpleasantness at Scargrave Manor and ending with number 11 (as soon as I can get my hands on it), Jane and the Canterbury Tale.