Jane and the Waterloo Map by Stephanie Barron Blog Tour + GIVEAWAY

Waterloo cover x 350When I was first asked to join the blog tour for Jane and the Waterloo Map by Stephanie Barron, I was super excited. It’s been a while since I’ve read the other books in the Jane Austen Mysteries series, but I remember loving the idea of Jane Austen as a sleuth. It’s obvious that Jane was observant in real life, as her observations and commentary on the societal events of the day were both astute and very progressive. Therefore it’s not exactly a stretch to think that she would be observant enough to solve mysteries. From the great success that Barron has had so far, it’s clear that many other people agree with me and have loved to see Jane in this new and exciting role. This time we follow Jane as she embarks on an exciting treasure hunt that has very dangerous and real implications. (Below the book blurb and author bio are giveaway instructions so you can win your own copy!)

Book Blurb:

November, 1815. The Battle of Waterloo has come and gone, leaving the British economy in shreds; Henry Austen, high-flying banker, is about to declare bankruptcy—dragging several of his brothers down with him. The crisis destroys Henry’s health, and Jane flies to his London bedside, believing him to be dying. While she’s there, the chaplain to His Royal Highness the Prince Regent invites Jane to tour Carlton House, the Prince’s fabulous London home. The chaplain is a fan of Jane’s books, and during the tour he suggests she dedicate her next novel—Emma—to HRH, whom she despises.

However, before she can speak to HRH, Jane stumbles upon a body—sprawled on the carpet in the Regent’s library. The dying man, Colonel MacFarland, was a cavalry hero and a friend of Wellington’s. He utters a single failing phrase: “Waterloo map” . . . and Jane is on the hunt for a treasure of incalculable value and a killer of considerable cunning.

Jane and the Waterloo Map by Stephanie Barron
Soho Crime (2016)
Hardcover: 320 pages
ISBN: 9781616954253

Author Bio:

Stephanie Barron headshot 2016 photo credit Marea Evans x 150Stephanie 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.

Grand Giveaway Contest

Win One of Three Fabulous Prizes

Waterloo Map Blog Tour Prizes x 500

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!

JANE AND WATERLOO - Blog Tour Horizontal

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#48 A Review of Jane and the Man of the Cloth by Stephanie Barron

For those of you who have never heard of the Jane Austen mystery series, let me enlighten you.  Stephanie Barron, author of the series, is at a friend’s house when a huge discovery is suddenly made.  A trunk filled with letters and journals belonging to THE Jane Austen is discovered that fills in the details that have been missing about her life, post 1804.  These journals and letters reveal that during her time Jane was a bit of a sleuth, finding mystery and intrigue at her every turn.  Now, we all know that these journals and letters are fake, but imagine if they weren’t?  Imagine being able to read the correspondences that Jane wrote during those missing years?  It’s a pretty clever if you ask me!

Our mystery begins with Jane and her family traveling to Lyme Regis on the Dorset coast to seek cooler temperatures in the harsh summer heat.  Suddenly, the carriage in which they are traveling overturns and Jane’s sister, Cassandra, is injured.  With nowhere else to turn, Jane and her family look for help at the closest estate, known as High Down Grange.  The estate is owned by Geoffrey Sidmouth and his cousin Seraphine LeFevre.  For all their kindness in helping Jane and her family in their hour of need, Jane finds something odd about Mr. Sidmouth and his home.  During her stay at the Grange Austen sees many things that make her question what truly goes on in that household. They remove to their own cottage a few days later and Jane thinks things are back to normal.  Boy is she wrong.  She wakes up one morning to find a man has been hung on make-shift gallows.  This begins to set Jane off on a path of sleuthing, where she tries to find out who this man was, and why he was murdered.  The more that Jane uncovers, the more she finds herself surrounded by smuggling, assassins, and even more murder!  Can Jane get to the bottom of the mystery and find out the true nature of Sidmouth before she becomes too entangled in this dangerous web? 

I was sadly disappointed at how long it took Jane and the Man of the Cloth to pick up pace and engage me as a reader.  I devoured the first book in the series and was truly saddened by this one.  I felt like there weren’t enough characters or events to drag me into the story the way Scargrave Manor did.  Scargrave Manor moved at such an excellent pace by inserting multiple murders, threatening notes, multiple wrong accusations, and secret love affairs.  Here, all of the “action” is thrown into the last 100 pages.  It took me forever to get through the monotonous beginning of the novel, and when I finally did, it really took off.  There is one scene where Jane leaves her house in the dead of night and follows smugglers in the dark; my heart was racing the entire time.  If this sense of adventure had permeated through the whole book, I would have been elated.

This series is an incredibly creative idea on Barron’s part; after reading one of the novels in the series it was clear to see that Barron really did her homework not only on Jane, but also about the events of the period.  Jane and the Man of the Cloth is filled with footnotes expanding upon allusions in the text that relate to Austen’s writing of Persuasion or The Watson’s. Not only does Barron make references to Austen’s published works, but to letters or journals that have survived over the years.  The wealth of information provided in the books as well as the style of the writing really does give the illusion that it’s Austen’s hand doing the writing and not Barron.  I think that this has to be the highest praise I can give Barron and the series.  It’s so realistic and characteristic of Austen it’s scary!

If you’re into mystery, and have yet to give the wonderful world of Jane Austen fan fiction a try, this might be the series to introduce you to this wonderful genre!

3 out of 5 Stars

This is my second completed review for the Being a Jane Austen Mystery Reading Challenge  

This is my twenty-first completed review for the Historical Fiction Challenge

Jane and the Man of the Cloth by Stephanie Barron
Random House (1997)
Paperback 335 pages
ISBN: 9780553574890

Elizabeth’s Review of Jane and the Man of the Cloth by Stephanie Barron

A Guest Review by Elizabeth Michaels

 Jane and the Man of the Cloth is the second in Stephanie Barron’s series of ‘Jane Austen Mysteries’.  As in the first book, she continues to fill in the gaps of Austen’s life, this time beginning in 1804.  Barron sets her scenes well, and fleshes out the characters of Jane, her sister Cassandra, and their mother and father. 

 The Austens have left Bath for a small vacation to the coastal town of Lyme Regis (the town immortalized in Jane Austen’s Persuasion).  Before they arrive, Cassandra is injured in a carriage accident, forcing the family to take refuge at a farm, High Down Grange, just outside town.  Immediately intrigue abounds, not only in the master of the manor Geoffrey Sidmouth, but in his beautiful young French cousin Seraphine as well.  There is also the matter of the decidedly non-farming activity that occurs during the night. 

 When Cassandra is strong enough, the family move to their lodgings in Lyme.  A few mornings later, a man is discovered swinging from a new gibbet set up at the end of the Cobb (a stone walkway jutting out and forming part of the town’s harbor).  Though an inquest is held, Jane can’t help but notice that no one cares very much to find the guilty party responsible.  In fact, the townspeople all seem to agree that the executed man only received his just deserts from the one they call “The Reverend”.  Jane remembers overhearing the dead man insulting Seraphine – and she knows Mr. Sidmouth has a reputation for a fierce and unforgiving temper.  She also knows he and his cousin openly hate a Captain Fielding – for no apparent reason.  Can Geoffrey Sidmouth be responsible for the hanging?  Can he be “The Reverend?”  Due to her growing attraction for him, Jane finds it difficult to admit such a possibility.

Meanwhile, Lyme’s social life continues, with the Austens as active participants in all activities but smuggling.  Everyone else, however, has a hand in this illegal occupation, whether in shipping, storage, carting, selling, or even bringing the practitioners to justice. Jane, while walking one morning, observes Captain Fielding doing just that.  His dragoon of soldiers overtakes a party unloading a ship, injuring some smugglers, including their leader.  In a dashing move, Geoffrey Sidmouth gallops out of the mist and rescues the man.  That he had been watching the smuggling is only too obvious.  Jane is horrified at his apparent involvement, as well as at her increasing feelings for him.

A few mornings later Captain Fielding is found dead on the road outside Lyme.  Highwaymen are allegedly suspected, but the physical evidence rests heavily against Mr. Sidmouth and he is arrested.  Jane cannot deny the whispers of her heart, and must for her own peace of mind ferret out either his innocence or his guilt – but how?  Enter Lord Cavendish, the Customs man, under orders from His Majesty to stop the smuggling business in Lyme.  He asks Jane to help him not only bring the murderer of Captain Fielding to justice, but also to help uncover the identity of “The Reverend”.

From here, I think the story falls apart for several reasons.  For one, I really don’t think the Customs man would ask a visiting spinster lady to undertake those tasks.  Later on, Jane is remarkably lucky to investigate a smuggler’s tunnel in the dead of night, with two ruffians about, and not get caught.  She also gains too-easy access to the Lyme jail to interview Geoffrey Sidmouth.  And in the end Jane is saved and justice is served by the very last moment appearance of Lord Harold Trowbridge – a sad case of deus ex machina.

 One personal note about this book.  Apparently the Austen family actually visited Lyme Regis several times.  In 1803 or 1804 Jane was seriously attracted to a clergyman, but that one fact is all that is known.  Barron’s character Geoffrey Sidmouth reads very much like Mr. Darcy from Pride & Prejudice, and I gather Barron’s thinking was that Jane’s romance inspired the character portrayal.  So I, while turning these pages, quite frequently felt as if I was passing between several dimensional planes – from Jane’s real romance, to Pride & Prejudice, and then to the Stephanie Barron book in my hand.  And back again!  That to me indicates exceptional writing talent, and makes Barron’s use of the deus ex machina especially disappointing.

2 out of 5 Stars

Jane and the Man of the Cloth by Stephanie Brown
Random House Publishing Group (1997)
Paperback 335 pages
ISBN: 9780553574890

A Review of Jane and the Unpleasantness at Scargrave Manor by Stephanie Barron

Cover ImageAuthor Stephanie Barron’s friends, the Westmorelands of Maryland, find a trunk of letters and journals during a renovation of their estate.  One rainy Saturday, Barron and the Westmorelands begin sifting through all the paperwork, thinking it’s old family documents.  To their surprise it’s journals and letters left behind by the Westmorlands’s distant relative Jane Austen!!  These letters and journals are supposedly the pieces of the puzzle that is Austen’s life post 1801.  It is this fictitious “editor’s note” that sets the tone for Barron’s charming series about a sleuthing Jane Austen. 
 
Scargrave Manor, the first in the Jane Austen mystery series, follows Jane on a trip to Scargrave Manor to visit her newly married friend Isobel Payne.  During Jane’s residency at the manor, a ball is thrown to celebrate the nuptials between Isobel and new husband Frederick, Earl of Scargrave.  It is during the ball that you are introduced to a slew of characters that one can guess have such a lasting effect on Jane that she chose to immortalize their characterizations in her own novels.  Shortly after the Earl toasts his new bride and their guests he begins experiencing pain that unfortunately leads to his untimely end.  Thinking it was just a flare up of his stomach dyspepsia gone awry they begin making arrangements for the Earl’s funeral.  Isobel soon comes to Jane’s room with a mysterious note she received which threatens to go public with her infidelity to the Earl and her part in his murder!

It may plese you to think that you are free of the soupcon, milady, you and the tall lord who is so silent and who looks thru me; but the hanging, it is too good for you.  I must keep myself by the side of my Saviour, and no one is safe in your company; and so I have gone this morning and you shanll not find me out ware.  The next leter, it will go to the good Sir William; and then we will see what becomes of those who kill. 

Jane quickly figures out that the note is written by Marguerite, a servant, due to the crude spelling and language.  Jane promises Isobel that she will do everything she can to prove Isobel’s innocence and bring the real killer to justice.  With a house filled with suspects and more murders, it’s up to Jane to figure out the real culprit and motive.

The first time I read this book I didn’t see the little note that the “editor’s note” was really fictitious and I read almost half the book thinking that it really was based on Jane’s lost journals.  (HAHA you can all laugh at me)  This series is one of the most creative Austen fan fiction junctures that I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading.  Barron is truly fantastic at keeping true to Austen’s writing style.  Her writing flows with such eloquence and beauty, it’s hard not to be drawn into the story.

Barron’s characters are remarkably layered.  Just when you think you’ve figured out whodunnit a character begins showing another layer.  Barron writes such a controlled story you really are kept guessing as to who the murderer is until the final pages of the book.  These are the types of mystery books that I love reading;  intelligent ones that are meant to keep you searching for clues and connections the entire time. 

There are now 11 books in the series and I cannot wait to gobble them all up. 

4 out of 5 Stars

This is my first completed review for the Being a Jane Austen Mystery Reading Challenge  

This is my second completed review for the Historical Fiction Challenge

Random House (2008)
Paperback 304 pages
ISBN: 9780553385618
 
For more reviews of Scargrave Manor click here
Check out Stephanie Barron’s Website Here
Check out Stephanie Barron’s Blog Here

A 2011 Reading Challenge – Jane Austen Mystery Series

Being a Jane Austen Mystery Challenge 2011Trying to read 100 books a year obviously shows that I like a reading challenge, wouldn’t you say?  Austenprose (a fabulous blog dedicated to all things Jane Austen) is hosting a challenge that I couldn’t turn down.  Over the course of the next year I’m going to be reading the entire Jane Austen mystery series by Stephanie Barron.

I will be entering the challenge with the aficionado level.  This means I must read all 11 books in the series.  This past year I was fortunate enough to be introduced to the first book in the series and loved it!

For those interested in joining the challenge, more information is available at Austenprose.

For an added bonus check out author Stephanie Barron’s blog, where over the course of the challenge she’ll discuss what it was like to write and research the series!

Thanks to both Austenprose and Stephanie Barron for the opportunity to delve into this wonderful series!

As a side note – if anyone is aware of any other reading challenges they think might be of interest to me out there on the web, please leave a comment with the link to the challenge and I’ll check it out.