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.