Synopses & Reviews
For everyone who loves Jane Austen...a marvelously entertaining new series that turns the incomparable author into an extraordinary sleuth!
On a visit to the estate of her friend, the young and beautiful Isobel Payne, Countess of Scargrave, Jane bears witness to a tragedy. Isobel's husband—a gentleman of mature years—is felled by a mysterious and agonizing ailment. The Earl's death seems a cruel blow of fate for the newly married Isobel. Yet the bereaved widow soon finds that it's only the beginning of her misfortune...as she receives a sinister missive accusing her and the Earl's nephew of adultery—and murder. Desperately afraid that the letter will expose her to the worst sort of scandal, Isobel begs Jane for help. And Jane finds herself embroiled in a perilous investigation that will soon have her following a trail of clues that leads all the way to Newgate Prison and the House of Lords—a trail that may well place Jane's own person in the gravest jeopardy.
About the Author
Stephanie Barron is the author of eight previous Jane Austen mysteries. She lives in Colorado, where she is at work on the next Jane Austen mystery.
Reading Group Guide
1. Jane Austen was born in 1775, on the eve of Englands war with the American colonies, and died in 1817, two years after Napoleons defeat at Waterloo. Her life was in many ways defined by warfare. How might this have shaped Austens attitudes toward men? Toward womens traditional roles?
2. In Barrons novels, Jane Austen is regarded as a gentlewoman-a person of good birth and social standing-who unfortunately has no money. Her desire to write novels is partly motivated by a desire for financial independence and a life beyond the narrow domestic roles accorded to women in her day. Is this struggle different today?
3. The fictional Jane of this mystery series walks a fine line between knowledge of the broader world and its evils-murder, adultery, jealous, scheming, avarice, political treason-and a sharp awareness that a lady of her period was expected to know nothing of any of them. Is Jane a hypocrite? Is she unusual in her knowledge of the world? How does her compromise between experience and the limits of social convention surface in her fiction?
4. Lord Harold Trowbridge holds an immense attraction for Jane in these novels. What does he represent in her life-the desire for power? For deep emotional and physical experience? The desire to save him from himself? Or merely Janes yearning to be known for who she truly is? Is Jane more honest with Lord Harold that with others in her life?
5. Jane lavishes affection on her elder sister Cassandra. Is Cassandra worthy of it?
6. Janes involvement in the lives of others suggests the possibility that she a) an insufferable busybody; b) has too much time on her hands; or c) is extraordinarily perceptive about human nature-which allows her to map the motivations behind (occasionally criminal) actions. Discuss. Is Jane a perceptive person? Is this evident in her novels as well as her detective adventures?
7. In an era when women were expected to marry and have children, Jane did neither-publishing books instead. Was she a rebel? How did she make the best of a social fate she neither chose nor controlled? Which qualities make it more or less likely that she would enjoy the challenges of amateur detective?
8. Janes fictional women usually triumph by the power of their wits and the energy of their actions. Does this reflect Janes real life? Is it a hopeful view of existence? Do you think Jane was a content person? An ambitious one? A wise woman or a blind one?
The Jane Austen Mysteries by Stephanie Barron place a beloved nineteenth-century author in an unfamiliar role: that of amateur detective. The series follows Austens life from the age of 26, in 1802, up to the year of her first novels publication in 1811. The questions offered below are intended to spark conversations among interested readers.