I am excited to participate in this blog tour for Jane and the Year Without a Summer by Stephanie Barron!
I enjoyed this novel, my first of Stephanie Barron’s Jane Austen Mysteries. Although this is book 14 in her series, it easily reads as a stand alone novel. This is a bit outside my usual genre but it was a fun change of pace for me.
I received a complimentary copy of the novel from the publisher/author. All opinions are my own.
Book summary: “May 1816: Jane Austen is feeling unwell, with an uneasy stomach, constant fatigue, rashes, fevers and aches. She attributes her poor condition to the stress of family burdens, which even the drafting of her latest manuscript—about a baronet’s daughter nursing a broken heart for a daring naval captain—cannot alleviate. Her apothecary recommends a trial of the curative waters at Cheltenham Spa, in Gloucestershire. Jane decides to use some of the profits earned from her last novel, Emma, and treat herself to a period of rest and reflection at the spa, in the company of her sister, Cassandra.
Cheltenham Spa hardly turns out to be the relaxing sojourn Jane and Cassandra envisaged, however. It is immediately obvious that other boarders at the guest house where the Misses Austen are staying have come to Cheltenham with stresses of their own—some of them deadly. But perhaps with Jane’s interference a terrible crime might be prevented. Set during the Year without a Summer, when the eruption of Mount Tambora in the South Pacific caused a volcanic winter that shrouded the entire planet for sixteen months, this fourteenth installment in Stephanie Barron’s critically acclaimed series brings a forgotten moment of Regency history to life.“
What I loved most was the engaging voice that Barron gives to Jane Austen. I love Austen’s books and her writing style. This story fits so well into her own written work. I loved the subtle phrases that come from Austen’s works and the connections between the people she encounters and the characters I remember from her books. We meet her always ailing sister in law, a pair of lovers who have been parted for years, spinsters, doctors, and love interests. This story reads like Jane Austen’s stories. I felt transported into her world only this time Jane is a character herself. It’s such a fun story to experience as an Austen lover.
Barron has certainly done her research and offers a incredibly detailed account of life in Regency England. I appreciated her footnotes about historical details and people. She created her whole world based on research. the Potter Boarding House, the Cheltenham Assembly Rooms, the York Hotel, the governing magistrate, the Battle of Waterloo, even the weather caused by a distant volcano are all based in what really happened back then. I loved getting to know Jane Austen within her time period. I was really intrigued by how Barron incorporates details like anorexia and divorce in this time period. She weaves this tough issues into her story with grace and aplomb. Seeing her interact with her dear sister Cassandra, observing her failing health, understanding how anonymous she still was in her lifetime. The details create an engaging story that is hard to put down.
The action in this story is fast paced and never lets up. From the beginning of the story, we are thrown into a thrilling murder mystery. I was surprised by how easily this story kept my attention. I was engrossed in discovering who had committed the murders. In fact, I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough at times. What was going to happen? Would Jane be safe? How would she uncover the villain? While the amount of violence was a bit over the top for my taste, I relished the adventure of discovering the murderer alongside Jane. I enjoyed how her skills that we see in her novels were on display in this one. She is very good at reading people and expressions. She understands the importance of details. And she is able to gain accurate pictures of others’ character. It was really fun to see Jane Austen in a murder mystery — much different than her novels!
Like in Austen’s novels, this book offers readers an engaging cast of characters. People from various walks of life all converge on Cheltenham Spa for relief from a variety of ailments. (Can I just say that the spa water sounds disgusting! How far we have come in the medical world!) I was immediately drawn to Captain Pellew and Mrs Smith and enjoyed unearthing their connections and histories. I was surprised by the histories of some and mystified by others. Some read just like the annoying or social inept characters of Austen’s novels. And others celebrate the best of humanity and of love. I enjoyed getting to know them and seeing how they interacted and worked together.
This exciting murder mystery takes us through countless twists and turns with a surprise ending too! I am impressed that after 14 books, Barron can still offer readers plenty of surprises. While I enjoyed the story, the violence was a bit intense for me especially within a Regency setting. Also a few details didn’t get wrapped up completely for me. But overall, an engaging story with well developed characters!
Do you have any favorite historical mysteries?
Which are your favorite Jane Austen inspired novels?
Francine Mathews 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 twenty-five books, including five novels in the Merry Folger series (Death in the Off-Season, Death in Rough Water, Death in a Mood Indigo, Death in a Cold Hard Light, and Death on Nantucket) as well as the nationally bestselling Being a Jane Austen mystery series, which she writes under the pen name, Stephanie Barron. She lives and works in Denver, Colorado.