It is a truth universally acknowledged that Jane Austen had a special fondness for scoundrels and scallawags. How else explain her fully-realized portraits of Wickham (in Pride and Prejudice) or Willoughby (in Sense and Sensibility) or Frank Churchill (in Emma)? These rascals are, in many ways, the most interesting characters in her books. Now comes the sleuth alter-ego of Jane in her second adventure, and in her journals, she makes no secret of her attraction for the man who is also, apparently, the head of the local smuggling band known as The Reverend, rather than Captain Fielding, the upright Revenue spy. En route to their holiday stay in Lyme Regis from their home in Bath, the Reverend Henry Austen and his wife, plus their two daughters, Cassandra and Jane, are considerably shaken up when their hired carriage overturns within a few miles of their destination. Cassandra suffers the most serious injury, and needs immediate attention. In the driving rain, Jane and the postboy set out on foot for the nearest habitat -- High Down the home of Geoffrey Sidmouth. After an initial not-at-all-welcoming greeting, Sidmouth makes himself, his staff and his home available. It is some three days later that the Austens are able to journey on to Winds, their hired cottage in Lyme. Jane's writer's curiosity stands her in good stead as she sorts through the various miscellaneous characters rampant in Lyme, ranging from visiting second-rate nobility to smugglers, from retired Naval captains to French emigrees. Ms. Barron's masterful technique in editing the pseudo-Jane's early diaries and journals is witty, pungent, and to the point. Any reader of either mysteries or Regencies, or even 'literature' will delight in this new look at our most famous woman author. Any reader of Jane Austen's books will easily recognize events and characters she later put to good use in those volumes bearing her own name.
This is the second book in the Jane Austen Mystery Series by Stephanie Barron.
In a newly discovered secret journal, Jane Austen documents her adventures as an amateur sleuth. In 1804, twenty-eight year old Jane and her family visit the charming seaside village of Lyme Regis for a September holiday, before returning to their home in Bath. On their way to Lyme, their carriage is overturned by a storm and as Jane's beloved sister Cassandra is seriously injured, they are forced to seek refuge at High Down Manor, the home of the mysterious Mr. Sidmouth. Jane hopes for a quite holiday with peaceful walks and enough time to work on her novel "The Watsons", however, when a man is found murdered and everything points to a notorious smuggler, Jane begins to investigate the case in order to expose the smuggler and bring the murderer to justice. Jane Austen, with her wit, her brilliant abilities of perception and her understanding of human nature is more than capable of solving any mystery; however this time, apart from the great danger she has to face, she must also tame her heart as everything points to Mr. Sidmouth and Jane despite her prejudice is dangerously attracted to him.
This series is excellent and this second novel was no exception. Set in England during the Napoleonic Wars, it is filled with action and historical events while still being a plausible and entertaining story for Austen's fans. Stephanie Barron has, once again, created a gripping mystery plot, brilliantly set in Austen's time, with a very convincing Jane as its heroine. As the story is narrated by Austen in her journal, the language is very similar to her existing letters and so realistic that reading it, I would often forget that it is indeed a work of fiction. The atmosphere of Lyme and the everyday life of the time is excellent, drawn with beautiful imagery and historical detail. The well developed characters are based on the types of characters created by Austen herself, and thus are very convincing and typical of their time.
In addition, the book includes excellent and very useful footnotes by Stephanie Barron, explaining some references to Austen's life and providing valuable information on the customs and the history of the time, in the form of "editor's notes".
Loved the actual story, but was very unhappy with the condition in which the book arrived. The description said that the book was used but in good condition. However, when it arrived it was incredibly dirty, and as soon as I began to read it pages started falling out!!