For everyone who loves Jane Austen...the second tantalizing mystery in a new series that transforms the beloved author into a dazzling sleuth!
Jane and her family are looking forward to a peaceful holiday in the seaside village of Lyme Regis. Yet on the outskirts of town an overturned carriage forces the shaken travelers to take refuge at a nearby manor house. And it is there that Jane meets the darkly forbidding yet strangely attractive Mr. Geoffrey Sidmouth. What murky secrets does the brooding Mr. Sidmouth seek to hide? Jane suspects the worst--but her attention is swiftly diverted when a man is discovered hanged from a makeshift gibbet by the sea. The worthies of Lyme are certain his death is the work of "the Reverend," the ringleader of the midnight smuggling trade whose identity is the town's paramount mystery. Now, it falls to Jane to entrap and expose the notorious Reverend...even if the evidence points to the last person on earth she wants to suspect...a man who already may have won her heart.
Nearly as wry as Jane Austen herself, Barron delivers pleasure and amusement in her second delicious Jane Austen mystery (Jane and the Unpleasantness of Scargave Manor, 1996). While headed to Lyme Regis for a seaside holiday in 1804, the Austen carriage overturns and Jane's sister Cassandra is injured. The family finds shelter at High Down Grange, home of sardonic Geoffrey Sidmouth and his beautiful cousin Seraphine LeFevre. The narrative is structured as a journal in which Barron's Jane notes her distress at finding herself attracted to the sensuous Sidmouth. The Austens' trip is historically accurate but sparsely enough documented to allow Barron great latitude in creating a tale that makes the most of the period when the Napoleonic Wars raged and the coast was rife with smugglers. At the local Assembly dance, Jane gathers gossip from the Crawfords, Barnewalls, Lucy Armstrong and Captain Percival Fielding, an injured naval officer, who hints that Sidmouth is the "Reverend," a notorious smuggler. When Fielding is murdered and Sidmouth arrested, a customs agent asks Jane to conduct an undercover investigation. She eagerly agrees. With indefatigable daring and intelligence, Jane discovers the true natures of her new acquaintances and the meaning of heroism. While Austen denied that her characters were based on real people, Barron cleverly turns to characters from Austen novels as models for her own: Mrs. Bennet for Mrs. Austen, Willoughby for Sidmouth, Elizabeth's relationship with Darcy for Jane's with Sidmouth. Worthy of its origins, this book is a delight.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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November 02, 1997
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Excerpt from Jane and the Man of the Cloth by Stephanie Barron
Bath being unbearably hot this August, and my father's health indifferent, we determined to exchange our rooms in town for more salubrious ones along the coast. We had little inclination to try the bustle and vulgarity of Ramsgate , though my brother Edward would take a large establishment there; Brighton was not even to be spoken of; and so to Dorsetshire we would go, and to Lyme Regis in particular, having made a several-weeks' trial of its delights the previous autumn. No coaching inn should be good enough accommodation on the present occasion, however; none of your Three Cups or Golden Lions would do for us--no, the Austens of Bath should travel in style, and take furnished lodgings. A cottage on the water, where my mother might gaze at the sea, and consider her Naval sons, and my father might indulge his passion for botany in walks along the shingle, should do very well. Cassandra and I meant to be happy with frequent turns about the Cobb , and even more frequent dances in the town's pretty little Assembly Rooms; our memories of the place were so cheerful, in fact, that the plan met with immediate approval. Bath was forgotten; Ramsgate consigned to those of little sense or taste; and Lyme become the object of all our fondest hopes. Being possessed of a fortune that no longer admits of a private carriage, but finding ourselves above the meaner conveyance of mail coach and stage--the former being adjudged too swift and precarious for my father's temper, and the latter too crowded and vulgar for my mother's--we were forced to adopt the only alternative, a post chaise initiating in Bath, with horses changed dailyen route. Having descended towards the southern coast by way of Shepton Mallet, Somerton, and Crewkherne, as recommended byPaterson's,we were even yet embarked today upon the final stage of our journey, with a new postboy, hailing from Lyme, mounted before; when the appearance of a murkiness upon the horizon gave rise to general alarm. Our fears were rewarded, as such fears generally are, with the sudden convergence of a gale above our heads; and the fierceness of the wind and rain that then ensued was indescribable. Though it was not much beyond six o'clock, the light had failed utterly, leaving the interior of our coach in a gray dimness through which the faces of my sister and mother, seated opposite, shone palely Cassandra, who is ever indisposed by the motion of a carriage, and who, after long days of travel, was at the last extremity of her endurance, was in very ill looks; and her temper could hardly be improved by the proximity of my mother, whose general alarm at the fearful neighs of the horses, as the storm built wrathfully above our heads, and the postboy's resultant curses, had taught her to seek comfort in a fierce pinching of Cassandra's hand within her own. I observed the whitened knuckles of her grip, and silently thanked the force of chance that had placed me beside my father. "We shall be overturned! I am sure of it! Overturned, Mr. Austen!" my mother cried. "Now, my dearest," my father said, in a tone of gentle reproof, "you must not give way to womanly fears. The Lord looks after His own." "Then He must be looking after them in town," my mother replied, in some exasperation, "for He is assuredly not along the Lyme road at present. We shall be overturned, and all of us killed, and I should like to know what you will say then, Mr. Austen! I am sure you shall be very sorry you did not listen to your wife!" "Now, my dear," my father said again, and took up once more his book. A fearsome jolt then occurring, I was thrown abruptly against the coach window, and seized my chance to gaze out upon a storm-tossed world. The pitted road, but poorly maintained in the best of times, was awash in muddy water; the adjacent trees lashed into silvery indistinctness by the combined ef